I Don’t Care What Your Parents Did, Put Your Switch way

child-334307_1280As you have undoubtedly heard, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been indefinitely benched for his role in a possible child abuse situation. The team reportedly still must send him a paycheck – and his (albeit, dwindling) endorsement and royalties checks will still roll in – but the man cannot continue in his role as the NFL’s premier offensive points-producer until his child abuse case is finally resolved.

 

Some have balked at the punishment. Others – and this is beyond the scope of this post – have pointed to the so-called “cultural factors” at work behind the scenes, compelling a parent to engage the pain-inflicting “switch” device to correct a child’s unwanted behavior.

 

For those who do not know, the term “switch” — when used in the context of corporal punishment — can mean a number of different handheld instruments – but basically refers to a long, flexible piece of wood used to whip the child’s rear end, presumably until the child learns his or her lesson.

 

From what I understand, some parents implement the added humiliation of making the child cut and prepare his or her own switch prior to the beating.

 

Regardless, use of a switch – as opposed to an open-hand spank – often results in open wounds, severe bruising, or even damage to the child’s genitalia (as is alleged in the Peterson situation).

 

Now, according to various media debates and panels, using switches is still considered an appropriate form of corporal punishment in many American homes – so, why all the fuss over this single incident? Why isolate one father – who happens to be exceptionally well-known and admired by fans across the U.S. – to prove a point about what is, and is not, an appropriate form of discipline?

 

I may not have the answer to that question, but I am glad it is the case. You see, like any child advocacy issue, the greater the exposure of the problem, the more likely it is to diminish. Moreover, the more exposure garnered by the state or local officials handling the matter, the more likely other precincts in other jurisdictions will begin to reconsider the confines of parental discipline. Because, setting aside the overall debate over corporal punishment (which historically includes spanking and paddling), the use of a dirty, sharp-edged tree branch on the back-end of a preschooler can hardly be considered an effective vehicle through which a supposedly well-meaning parent can communicate the difference between right and wrong – allowing the child to self-correct and try again.

 

Actually, I would categorize this method under the heading of Lazy Parenting – using an instrument and force instead of correction and communication.

 

Think about it from the child’s point of view: At the very moment of discipline (i.e., switch connects with bottom), the actions or inactions of that child that gave rise to the punishment are the furthest thing from his mind. Instead, he’s thinking about survival:

How can I physically position myself to make this hurt less?

How many beatings am I going to have to endure?

How long is this going to take?

How long will this hurt afterwards?

Can I make it through this?

 

And so on….

 

What the child is not considering before, during, or after this type of punishment is:

What did I do wrong?

How can I adjust my behavior to please my parent?

How can I approach this situation better next time?

What is the right way to act so I don’t have to go through this inconvenient discipline next time.

 

So, when it comes to high-profile parents, should the bar be set higher? Absolutely. I have heard over and over this week about how Adrian Peterson, while being raised in East Houston, had to endure the effects of punishment by a switch – and was just using the methods with which he was accustomed.

 

Unfortunately, Peterson – like all parents – must make his own discipline decisions regardless of upbringing, background, or culture. None of us is entitled to a free pass on adult misconduct merely because we saw the same behavior from our parents growing up. Thankfully!

 

High profile parents – in any industry – are under a microscope, and their behavior (good or bad) reaches hundreds of thousands of people, leaving an impact. Unfortunately, many people only consider “child abuse” to be obvious, extreme, severe, life-threatening neglect or physical force, leaving noticeable marks, scarring and psychological damage. But to me, the parent-child relationship is inherently physically dominated by the parent who, by mere biology, is larger, stronger, and more agile than a child – particularly a four-year old. By that measure, any exploitation of that size difference in a way that breaks the skin, damages underlying blood vessels (i.e., bruising), or causes unforeseen internal damage (physical or mental) is abuse – regardless of what any statute or cultural traditions dictate. A child’s small stature should always serve as a reminder that discipline must always be scaled to fit the situation – and it is never acceptable to create an environment in which a child comes to expect brute force as a consequence for a mistake.

 

For more information on corporal punishment, including a state-by-state analysis, visit the Center for Effective Discipline.

Got Children? You Need a Testamentary Guardianship in Your Delaware Estate Plan

 

It’s uncomfortable. It’s emotional. But, it’s necessary.

(No, we’re not talking about divorce today).

A testamentary guardianship is a must have if you are the parent of a young child and are ready to get started on your Delaware estate plan. As we will discuss further below, this necessary component of your will directs what will happen with your children if the unthinkable happens and they are left without one or both parents. The stronger, and more specific, the testamentary guardianship – the better. Once you are ready to get started, contact Stephanie Reid Law right away for assistance with this responsible and realistic element to your Delaware estate plan.

Directing the upbringing of your children

The best starting point when deciding on the terms of your testamentary guardianship is making a choice about who should be appointed guardian(s) of your child upon your demise. If you are confident in the parenting skills of your co-parent, you may decide that you do not need to appoint a guardian to replace you. However, we always recommend including guardianship language in your Delaware estate plan to address the situation where both you and your child’s other parent pass away at the same time.

Choosing a guardian is never easy, and it can sometimes lead to a stressful, painful discussion with your co-parent. However, making a choice is necessary, and we suggest the following factors to consider when weighing your options:

  • Age and Availability: The guardian of your child should be someone who is able and available to fulfill the role of a full-time parent. Someone with strenuous work commitments, significant health issues or who is of an advanced age may be overly burdened by the task, and your child could suffer as a result.
  • Suitability: We all love wild Aunt Jo, and she may be your closest friend in the world. But will she make a good parental figure – particularly in the aftermath of a devastating loss? When deciding on your child’s guardian, aim to pick someone with a stable routine, a clean history and, above all else, the willingness to accept the responsibility.
  • Current Relationship: Does your child have a good relationship with the proposed guardian? Does your child get along with the guardian’s family and children? These are important considerations when deciding if your child will be a good fit in the family.
  • Child’s Wishes: If your child is old enough, and you feel comfortable approaching the topic, it may be wise to discuss your child’s wishes in the event the unthinkable occurs.
Arrange for your child's upbringing with a testamentary guardianship.

Arrange for your child’s upbringing with a testamentary guardianship.

What to include in your Delaware estate plan

In addition to choosing a proper guardian for your child, your Delaware estate plan should also include language articulating your wishes with regard to the upbringing of your child. One important directive is to establish a trust for the benefit of your child from the proceeds of his or her inheritance. Along with establishing a trust, you must also name a trustee to oversee and manage the inheritance corpus for the benefit of your child. This trustee can be the same person as the guardian, a different person, or an institutional trustee (i.e., a bank or financial institution).

From there, the possibilities are endless. If you have unrelenting faith in the abilities of your named guardian to raise your child, you may not need to include any additional information. However, if you have certain steadfast values and principles you would like upheld following your death, be sure to include these in your testamentary guardianship. For example, it is not uncommon for parents to place conditions on the receipt of any inheritance held in trust such as graduating from college.

Contact Stephanie Reid Law today about your Delaware estate plan

Testamentary trusts may be difficult to discuss, but the inter-family tension that can occur in the absence of a clear, delineated guardianship plan can cause unrelenting stress and turmoil for your child. If you are ready to discuss adding or creating a testamentary guardianship as part of your Delaware estate plan, contact us today!