“Mommy, Daddy is the best.” Max said.
“Why do you think Daddy is the best?” I asked.
He responded, “Because, if he had a different son, I would be so sad.”
I love the relationship Kwabs and Max have. Recently, Max asked what BFF means and when I told him, he said, “oh, Daddy is my BFF.” I asked him why I am not his best friend and he responded, “You have to get your own best friend.” It is unfortunate that carrying him for 9 months, suffering through debilitating morning sickness, and undergoing a cesarean section do not qualify me for the best friend distinction.
Max considers Kwabs his best friend in part, because of the time they spend together. They love Home Depot, working in the yard, and watching Star Wars (all things I dislike). He feels safe with Kwabs and knows he will protect him if issues arise. He knows Kwabs will ensure he has food, clothes, and shelter. In essence, he knows his dad will provide for all of his physical and emotional needs while simultaneously engaging in fun activities. Although Kwabs is sometimes firm and has to discipline Max, he ensures Max knows that even when he is disappointed, his love for him remains the same.
Recently, a video of a father disciplining his teenage son for a school infraction, circulated on Facebook. In order to teach the son a lesson, the father decided to box his son. While wearing boxing gloves, he repeatedly and brutally punched his much smaller son in the head. At the conclusion, the son, covered in blood and crying, sheepishly apologized to his teacher.
I cried as I watched the video. I was outraged and hurt. Not only was the son abused by the man who should be his best friend, he was humiliated because it was posted for the world to see. More startling was the fact, the father thought beating his son was evidence of good parenting.
As I scrolled through the comments, I expected to read the same outrage I felt. I was wrong. While there were those who were troubled by the scene, numerous parents applauded the beating and made statements such as, “this is great, if he doesn’t beat his teenage son, then the police will.”
It was clear to me that there is confusion about what constitutes discipline and what constitutes abuse. If you cause your child to bleed profusely because of your brutality, you are guilty of abuse. You are no better than the hypothetical police officers who may beat him. Furthermore, studies show your actions will likely lead to psychological disorders that last long after the physical marks have disappeared.
It is not a defense to say you are abusing him so he won’t get into trouble with the law. Instead, you are teaching him that violence is an acceptable way to solve his problems thereby increasing the likelihood that he will encounter the police. It is also not a defense to say, “my parents did it and I turned out okay.” There are many things our parents did that are no longer acceptable e.g. not using car seats. Yes, we survived, however, sometimes we survived in spite of their actions not because of them. If they knew better, they would have done better.
We must recognize and confront bad parenting practices. Children deserve to grow up in homes where they feel loved and protected. They should believe they have the best parents in the world. It is natural to want to protect our children from violence outside of the home but it is never acceptable to mete out violence against them in order to do it.