THE BLOG
09/16/2014 06:23 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

NFL Has Opportunity to Enforce #NoHitting Policy

As a society, there are many things we did decades ago that today we not only reject, but find reprehensible. Our schools were segregated. Women smoked while pregnant. Wearing seat belts or bicycle helmets was not the norm and we put people with disabilities in institutions. Today, we're smarter and wiser and, as the old adage goes, "when you know better, you do better."

This applies not only to Adrian Peterson, the NFL player recently indicted in Texas for hitting his 4-year-old son with a switch -- causing bruises and cuts to the child's butt, groin, leg and back -- but also to those who condone his actions, including too many parents across the U.S. who find justification for "whooping" kids in the misquoted Bible verse, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."

After decades of research, we now know the psychological and emotional impact of using violence on children. The numbers are not good. According to a 2010 study by the National Institutes of Health, victims of child maltreatment are more likely to be involved in intimate partner violence, experience teen parenthood and have difficulties parenting their own children. Further, the study states that, "Although approximately 80 to 90 percent of abusive parents have a history of child maltreatment, and being abused puts one at risk of experiencing parenting problems, prior research suggests that approximately one in three individuals who were abused as children repeat the cycle in the next generation."

‪It's well documented that children subjected to violence in the home are far more likely to become battlers and abusers as adults. Antidotal stories of individuals who say they were whipped as a child and turned out "just fine" do not justify a policy of tolerating violence between an adult and a child.

To those condoning any violent act, especially those currently debating this particular case or the acts of violence committed by NFL player Ray Rice, I remind you that while violence between intimate partners should never be okay, there is nothing more heinous than corporal punishment as a form of discipline on an innocent child. Corporal punishment not only creates fear, but becomes a crutch for lazy parenting. It's a lot faster and easier to strike a child than to have a discussion, impose a time-out, engage in a family community service project, redirect the negative behavior by teaching positive replacement ones, or look for alternative ways to teach important lessons about boundaries, respect and obedience.

We can't expect adults to refrain from violence if, as children, they learn it's acceptable when cloaked in terms of "discipline." We cannot interact in ways that rely on or revert to any form of physical and emotional battering, even if we label it "discipline" or "tough love." After all, we teach 5-year-olds, "No hitting." We also criminalize physical assaults on strangers. Yet, in our society some give parents a special pass when they assault their children. This is illogical and inhumane. The standard should be higher, not lower, when it comes to violence against kids.

Debating the use of spankings and "whoopings" is obviously bigger than the NFL, but the recent occurrence involving Peterson and his son gives us an opportunity to educate and raise awareness about the value of non-violent parenting. It highlights the need for a national discussion on enlightened parenting, on moving past archaic and ineffective traditions.

To move past those outdated and hurtful traditions, we must be willing to drop our excuses for hitting children even if they include being hit by our own parents 20 or 30 years ago. A 250-plus-lb. professional adult football player must be willing to admit that he can find alternative ways to control the conduct of a 4-year-old child without switches, branches, blood and bruises. We don't allow adults to hit adults with the excuse, "this is the way I was treated as a child." Nor should we allow it as an excuse for how we discipline children.

The NFL has an opportunity to lead on this important topic. Whether it's a six-game suspension per the league's new domestic violence policy or some other penalty, the NFL has a chance to not just punt, but to score big by putting teeth in its pronounced #nohitting policy. Hitting a child cannot be hot news today and old news tomorrow. As a society, we must hold each other accountable and work together to break the cycle of violence in our country and around the world.