“Coach Accused of Punching Son” The headline in the LA Times caught my eye. A youth baseball coach is facing a simple assault charge for punching his 9 year old son in the face after the boy was ejected from a game. Are they kidding? I read it again. [Coach’s name] of suburban Harrisburg was charged after he allegedly struck his son twice with a closed fist… I read it one more time to make sure I was reading it correctly. Yep, that’s what it said alright.
What could a 9 year old possibly do to cause an adult to punch his son—or anyone—with a closed fist—with a pinky finger? I just can’t make sense of this one. Did he play poorly? Did he not try hard? Was he goofing around? Did he not do as his father, the coach, asked? Was he being a smart alec? Did he stick his tongue out? What? Even if he yelled an unmentionable at the top of his lungs, I still can’t fathom a man hitting a child, any child.
There are so many directions one could go in reacting to this heinous behavior. I could address parents who are overly invested in their child’s performance at school, on the ice rink, on the ball field. I could discuss the parent who makes it his child’s job it is to meet his dream of achievement. I could even go on and on about anger management.
While I don’t know what really happened on the field that day, I do know one thing for sure: Lots of children must have witnessed that scene, and for sure his own son did. I can promise you, that boy got more than black eye from his father.
Parents are children’s primary teachers. Children learn more from watching their parents than by anything that that is said to them, even if it is accompanied by a wagging index finger and eyebrows knitted together. “Do as I say, not as I do” is an expression of the past, and it just doesn’t work. Parents model, day in and day out, how to be in the world. You can talk until you are blue in the face, but what you do is what your children will learn. Not only will your behavior communicate your expectations for behavior, but it is also how your child develops his own system of values.
Children spot hypocrisy more quickly than you can imagine. Yelling at your child not to yell at you because it is disrespectful is a message and a lesson. Jay walking because you are in terrible hurry erases your warnings of never to jay walk. Speaking rudely to a waitress, to your own mother, to your own spouse negates your preaching the importance of treating people kindly and with respect. It is your actions that model the lessons you want your children to learn.
I wonder what lesson’s Mel Gibson’s 8 children learned from him last week.