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Real Talk: Do We Go Too Far Disciplining Our Kids?

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Creflo Dollar Mugshot
Creflo Dollar, founder and pastor of the Atlanta-based megachurch World Changers International, was arrested on Friday and charged with simple battery and child cruelty after he allegedly attacked his 15-year-old daughter. She claims her father threw her to the ground, punched her in the face, and hit her with a shoe, according to the police report. On the 911 tape, she also said that “it was not the first time it’s happened.” Dollar’s 19-year-old daughter backs up her younger sister’s claims.

In an initial statement from his lawyer, Dollar said, “I love my children and I always have their best interest at heart at all times, and I would never use my hand to ever cause bodily harm to my children.”

He also addressed the incident on Sunday during morning services, where he was greeted with a standing ovation from his congregation. “All is well in the Dollar household,” Pastor Dollar said before denying the allegations and claiming the scratch on his daughter’s neck was from an eczema condition. “I never should have been arrested. Never.”

What exactly happened in the Dollar home Friday is anyone’s guess. I won’t make any assumptions as to what went down or how. I will say that I was appalled by the allegations and perhaps even more so by many of the reader responses to the story. I followed developments of this news throughout the weekend and saw headlines downplaying Dollar’s alleged misconduct as “spanking” or “discipline,” as if choking your kid is the equivalent of taking a hand to his or her backside. I also found many — too many — comments on news stories about this incident that supported Dollar’s alleged behavior. Numerous people practically applauded it, often quoting “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

The overwhelming support made me wonder how many children are currently being raised in violent homes. If the allegations against Dollar had been by his wife or anyone unrelated to him, or even if it were alleged that he treated an animal this way, there would be a massive outpouring calling for his head. But bafflingly, because it is his child, his alleged actions seem to be condoned.

I’m not a parent, and don’t pretend that raising a teen isn’t a demanding, sometimes frustrating experience. I don’t have any easy answers for dealing with the not-quite-adults, not-quite kids sect. But I have been a teenager not so terribly long ago, and unequivocally I can say that tackling, punching, or hitting them with inanimate objects to gain dominance and control is not the answer.

I’ll be the first to admit that raising a teenager isn’t a walk in the park. I was a willful and “smart-mouthed” teen, one whose parents once described as being a “handful”; they still roll their eyes recalling some of my behavior half a lifetime ago. Well into my teenage years, I got the belt and was hit, smacked and a whole lot more that would likely fall under current definitions of abuse.

I am not one of those adults who recall my parents’ discipline fondly, trades tales with laughter over how they used to wild out, or credits physical violence with making me a sensible adult. That was a difficult and painful aspect of my youth, one that obliterated my self-esteem, ability to trust others, and imbedded a rage within me that for many years I targeted toward others away from home.

Our collective cultural acceptance of beating our kids is not for their benefit or in their best interest. It’s primitive, a symptom of our own inability to handle frustration constructively. It is not okay to treat our children this way, nor should we sweep it under the rug when others allegedly do it too.  

Demetria L. Lucas the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life in stores now. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk
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