By Andre Showell
It’s easy to understand how the arrest of Creflo Dollar could send shockwaves throughout the nation. The well-known televangelist accused of choking his teen daughter during an argument, has found himself in the middle of a media firestorm. But the issue is also sparking debate from parents who wonder if the minister’s attempt to discipline his child was justified or crossed the lines of what is appropriate.
If a revered member of society known for espousing the virtues of family values and morals can be arrested for disciplining a wayward child, what does that mean for the average mother or father who may already feel that their authority is being challenged by an evolving society?
Dollar has stated in a recent sermon that he, in fact, did not choke his daughter but merely restrained her. While only the people involved know the truth, this situation does bring attention to a type of parenting framework that doesn’t shy away from corporal punishment as a way to keep unruly children in line. Many old-school or traditional African-American families view spankings or beatings as a necessary tool. For years, time-out sessions, or various forms of “grounding,” have been viewed as weak or less effective than good old-fashioned spankings. But at what point does corporal punishment become criminal abuse?
And to what extent do child endangerment laws conflict with deep-rooted beliefs about a parent’s role as chief disciplinarian in the home? I didn’t receive spankings as a child, although my other siblings did. The threat of getting hit by my 6′6″ father or 5′10″ mother was enough to keep me in check. And while some psychologists would suggest that fear is not the healthiest way to curb a child’s behavior, in my case, it probably did.
Notable Black organizations like the NAACP and the SCLC have issued statements of support for Rev. Dollar as they raise questions about whether Dollar should have been arrested in the first place. Parents already worry that they are not doing enough to protect their children in an increasingly dangerous world. Now they will be forced to make one of two choices: either adopt new modes of discipline or the law will adopt its own brand of discipline on parents.