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Author: spatton

“I’ll Beat Yo’ Ass!” Thank God Kendrick Lamar Doesn’t Celebrate His Mama’s Whuppings

I finally got a chance to listen to Kendrick Lamar’s “Fear,” a feature song from his new album ‘Damn.’

The song takes us on a journey through his developmental stages of fear, beginning with his childhood at age 7, then 17, and 27. Each stage represents a window into Lamar’s awareness of how the toxic smog of white supremacy poisons Black life at every turn, especially our intimate and social relationships with each other.

Lamar’s lyrical analysis of his own life cycle reveals that Black folks never age out of fear because at each developmental milestone we are met with new amped up forms of devaluation by the state, other Black folks who are walking around as victims of unrecognized traumas, and from the people who are supposed to love us and provide a refuge from hate and violence.

In a recent Facebook post, I griped about how I hear so many Black parents sowing the seeds of fear in their children early on. I wrote:

It really unnerves me when I hear black people say, “I want my child to fear me.”


There’s already so much racist ugly in the world for them to fear. There’s already so many mean-spirited people in the world who hate and want to destroy us. Why, as their giver and nurturer of life, would you want to put yourself within that spectrum of angst and devaluation?

And from a scientific perspective, fear is a form of chronic stress that activates biochemical responses in your child’s body which moves them into maximum alert in times of threat, and they don’t always immediately return to normal levels.

Fear causes inflammation throughout the body and prompts biological changes that can affect the immune, vascular, metabolic and endocrine systems, and can prompt their cells to age more quickly. This cumulative wear and tear – known as an “allostatic load” – can negatively impact your son or daughter beyond childhood, and even the future health of their children because stress also causes genetic changes.

Fear is killing black people. And I’m not being hyperbolic. Just take a look at any report on health disparities. The foundation is often laid with the accumulation of toxic stress that begins in childhood.

The fear, the pain and damage of unresolved childhood traumas is the bitter root of most of what ails our communities: child abuse, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, misogyny, misandry, phobias, substance abuse, and dare I say so much of our political fecklessness. So many of us are walking around saying, “I turned out fine.” But really, so many of us are victims of unrecognized trauma.

If we prime our children to fear the people who love them most and teach them that obedience is survival and their greatest virtue, then how can we expect to raise future generations of young people to engage in effective resistance against our enemies?

Fear does not equal respect.

A few days later, a number of folks sent me messages on Facebook: “Did you hear Kendrick Lamar’s new song? He talks about beatings.” So I begrudgingly decided to check it out, thinking that it was going to be yet another one of those rap songs by a Black male artist thanking and celebrating his mama for hurting his body to prepare him for a cruel racist world.

Here’s that verse folks were telling me about:

“I beat yo’ ass, keep talkin’ back

I beat yo’ ass, who bought you that?

You stole it, I beat yo’ ass if you say that game is broken

I beat yo’ ass if you jump on my couch

I beat yo’ ass if you walk in this house with tears in your eyes

Runnin’ from poopoo and ‘prentice

Go back outside, I beat yo’ ass lil nigga

That homework better be finished, I beat yo’ ass

Yo’ teachers better not be bitchin’ ’bout you in class

That pizza better not be wasted, you eat it all

That TV better not be loud if you got it on

Them Jordans better not get dirty when I just bought ’em

Better not hear ’bout you humpin’ on Kiesha’s daughter

Better not hear you got caught up, I beat yo’ ass

You better not run to your father, I beat yo’ ass

You know my patience runnin’ thin

I got buku payments to make

County building’s on my ass

Tryna take my food stamps away

I beat yo’ ass if you tell them social workers he live here

I beat yo’ ass if I beat yo’ ass twice and you still here

Seven years old, think you run this house by yourself?

Nigga, you gon’ fear me if you don’t fear no one else”

I won’t dissect the entire song, but I’ll focus on that first verse because it is yet another testimony of a Black male rapper reflecting back on his mother’s cruelty and how that pain has continued to reside within his body and spirit as a grown man.   What it reveals is how a Black boy had to grow up under constant attack, on guard, and unconsciously reacting to his own repressed past.

Sadly, like many young Black males, Lamar’s first experiences with cruelty and humiliation came at the hands of his mother. But unlike other artists before him, Lamar does not celebrate his mother’s cruelty by calling her a “queen,” thanking her for the beatings, and crediting mother-perpetrated violence for his success.

Lamar is different from the Black boys and men that have for generations accepted the internalized “lie” that slavery, Jim Crow, and racist policing practices requires cruelty to protect Black children, especially males, from their own impulses. While his mother tried to conceal her cruelty to justify the beatings, a more honest truth emerges from Lamar’s lyrics: he never associated the beatings and the fear with safety and comfort and love.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Black mothers who whup their sons and terrorize them in early child do not truly realize the damage they are doing. And yet, the racist notions of Black boys as deviant and violent are ultimately reinforced by parents who are doing their best to minimize the stressful realities of poverty, racism, sexism, and inequality.

Like many folks in the Black community, his mother may have rationalized her violence against her son by calling the harsh discipline an expression of love that ultimately kept him safe and led to his success. But this kind of denial and justification, and even much of the joking about being whupped, feeds the cycle of abuse in Black communities and drives the truth about our traumas underground.

Think about Ghostface Killah’s song “Whip You with a Strap,” from his 2006 album Fishscale. He recalls his mother’s response to his temper tantrums:

“Take me across her lap, she used to whip me with a strap

When I was bad


Take me across her lap, she used to whip me with a strap
When I was bad

Picture me snotty nose sittin on my aunt’s lap

The kid like 5 or 6 shit I will curse back

I got it from the older folks sittin in the living room

Everybody had cups stylistic song boom

But then came Darryl Mack lightin’ all the reefer up

Baby caught a contact I’m trying to tie my sneaker up

I’m missing all the loops strings going in the wrong holes

It feels like I’m wobbling, look at all these afros

Soon as I thought I was good the joke’s on me

I heard a voice “get in the room, I get angry”

Sting my feet catch a tantrum

Spit, scream, fuck that

Momma shake me real hard, then get the big gat

That’s called the belt help me as I yelled

I’m in the room like (panting)”huh, huh, huh” with mad welps

Ragged out, bad belt yes her presence was felt

Then get my black ass in the bed it’s time crash out (crash out)

Take me across her lap, she used to whip me with a strap

When I was bad


Despite the alcohol, I had a great old Mama

She famous for her slaps and to this day she’s honored

But when I was a lil dude her son was a lil rude

I picked the peas off my plate and pour juice in her nigga food

Get beat, then I’d run and tell grandman “mama hit me for no reason”

She whipped me hard when I finished eatin

And felt that belt stingin after I wet that bed

Hid my drawers and start cryin, when she felt that bed

Caught another when I told her those the fake pro-keds

In the corner weavin and screamin trying to block my head (ahHH!)

Nowadays kids don’t get beat, they get big treats

Fresh pair of sneaks, punishments like have a ceas

Back then when friends and neighbors would bust that ass

And bring you back to your momma she got the switch in the stash

That’s back to back beatings

Only went outside for free lunch with welts on my legs still leakin yo

Take me across her lap, she used to whip me with a strap

When I was bad


While the cruel Black Mama is often placed on a pedestal, innocent black women ultimately become the targets of this repressed rage accumulated since boyhood. As Howard University Law School professor Reginald Robinson has noted, “that cruelty gets repressed, surfacing again as nearly autobiographical lyrics because these artists uncon-sciously need to reveal the truth of their cruel sufferings to others, and they need others like enlightened witnesses to validate their lyric-based personal histories, without at the same time directly confronting their cruel mothers.”

He further explains that these artists, who may not have been touched lovingly as children, become hyper-masculine as a defense mechanism as they relive their painful childhood experiences through their music. They’d never admit to it, but these men really want to assault the mothers who were the first to hurt and emasculate them.

It’s important to emphasize that black men are not born hating black women. It is the trauma they suffer that teaches them the need for self-preservation. But there are very few spaces for black men to talk about their trauma and pain other than through comedy, rap music, or nostalgic anecdotes about being whupped and turning out fine. Even speaking about their abusive experiences at the hands of Black women is often considered misogynistic.

I hope that folks will really listen to each verse of “Fear” and understand how the insanity of white supremacy requires the destruction of Black children physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. And the greatest trick of all is to invite their loved ones to participate in the process.

If we are ever going to become more politically effective warriors in the fight for racial justice, producing children who live with toxic fear in their body is the very last thing that Black America needs.

There Is No Difference Between Spanking and Abuse. Both Have the Same Karma.

It never fails. Every time the subject of corporal punishment is discussed, I always hear a chorus of people parroting the same line: “there’s a difference between spanking and abusing a child.” That’s because many people define abuse by visible injuries on a child’s body.

But there is no thin line between spanking and abuse. They both exist on a continuum of violence. The only difference between these two forms of violence is that one stems from a parent’s intent to teach or protect, and the other from malicious neglect. But while adults play semantics, children’s bodies do not process the violence differently based on wordplay or the intent behind the hit. Just ask a child if they can describe how a spanking better than a whupping or beating.

Fifty years worth of scientific studies has shown that all forms of hitting, even when there are no bruises or other injuries left behind, causes structural damage to a child’s developing brain, can compromise their immune system, places them at risk for delinquency and incarceration, poor intellectual, psychological, and chronic health problems later in life.

Studies of brain scans by doctors at Harvard Medical School reveal the devastating effect corporal punishment has had on young adults. The brain scans of corporally punished young adults (not subjects who were bruised or severely injured) show nearly 20 percent reduction in the volume of gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex of their brains, compared with those who were not hit.

When a child is threatened with a whupping or is hit, their body is flooded with certain stress hormones, which can damage the hippocampus, which may in turn affect their ability to cope with stress later in life. Gray matter is associated with intelligence, executive functioning, emotional regulation and memory. Harm to that region is linked to depression, alcohol and drug addiction, aggression, and other mental health disorders. Structural changes to a child’s developing brain can also cause impulsiveness, emotional volatility, and slow brain processing speed, which can contribute the likelihood of an individual ending up in jail.

A growing body of research suggests that what happens outside the child’s body can profoundly affect their biology within. When a parent threatens or hits a child, they can see the fear on a child’s face, see their body flinch or attempt to defend themselves, and hear their cries and pleading. But what they can’t see is the biochemical responses — the fight or flight response — they’ve ignited under their child’s flesh.

The hitting stops. The child stops crying. Their eyes are dry again. The heart rate is back to normal. You’ve put the belt away. Your breathing and heart rate is back to normal. But the biochemical responses that have been activated in your child’s body (from the moment you threatened the child) don’t always immediately return to normal. For the next few minutes, or even hours, the brain, liver, kidneys, heart, adrenal glands, gut and other parts of the immune system continue to cope with the stress. When stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction, or the sympathetic nervous system moves into maximum alert in times of threat, stays turned on.

The Sympathetic Nervous System moves into maximum alert in times of threat.

Let me say this again, threatening and hitting a child is a form of chronic stress that raises levels of hormones and causes inflammation throughout the body and prompts biological changes that can affect the immune, vascular, metabolic and endocrine systems, and can prompt their cells to age more quickly. This cumulative wear and tear – known as an “allostatic load” – can negatively impact an individual beyond childhood, and even the future health of their children because stress also causes genetic changes.

No wonder America is last in many categories of health and wellness throughout the industrialized world. And African Americans suffer even higher rates of chronic health problems that other racial groups in this country because of racial discrimination, poverty, bad environments, poor access to healthy food, and adverse childhood experiences, which includes the fact that the majority of black folks believe in whupping children.

So when you hit your child, to any degree and no matter the intent or whether or not it results in injury, you contribute to the rapid deterioration of their health and place them at risk for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, joint degeneration, cancer, a lowered lifespan, and future generations of children who inherit genetic changes.

Hitting your child might get your child to act right in the short term, but are the risks to their emotional and physical wellbeing worth it in the long run?


Dear Mother Wit: My 3-Year-Old Is Hitting Me!

Dear Mother Wit, I have a 3-year-old son who hits me, scratches me, pulls my hair, throws things at me, punches and spits at me. Before my son was born I didn’t believe in spanking. I was never spanked. However, I was also a well-mannered child, the complete opposite of my son. I have tried every tactic to tame my son’s behavior such as reasoning with him and explaining why his behavior is unacceptable and the consequences for them, I’ve restrained him when necessary and I also use the time out method, I have been consistent with discipline, but nothing seems to work. Most times, my son tends to really hurt me. He has pulled hair out of my scalp, he has scratched the cornea of my eye and has caused me to lose most vision in that eye for a week. I just don’t know what else to do. Spanking seems to be the only option. What do you suggest?

Bruised & Confused

Dear Bruised & Confused:

Pinching, biting, scratching, and pulling hair is all normal behavior for toddlers because they haven’t learned how to control their emotions yet, they act out of a natural instinct, and children LOVE attention whether they get a positive or negative reaction.

You have a complicated situation. And you didn’t say, but I have to wonder: is your son witnessing or experiencing any kind of violence in your home or anyplace else? What I mean by that is, children who are around physical violence—especially those who see their parents or other adults fighting—grow up learning that this is normal and acceptable. I hope you’re not in any kind of abusive situation and that if you are, you get help right away.

Now let’s focus on your son. Your son is still a toddler at three years old. So when he feels angry or frustrated or even scared, he might hit, pull hair, and all that. And the worst thing you can do is spank or hit him (or do any of the things he’s doing to you) to punish him or to “show him how it feels.” Even though I know it can be tempting. You don’t want to hit and yell because you’ll be modeling for your son that this is an acceptable response to situations that make you angry.

You need stay calm and in control, and stop his behavior by removing him from the situation. If you have to, restrain his hands to protect yourself.

Some children hit their parent to get their attention and then we reward the behavior by teaching them that hitting is a good way to get it. But to get them stop this negative behavior you have to be consistent in your body language and tone. At a young age they don’t really understand a lot of talking so you have to firmly use simple words like “NO!” “We don’t hit!” “Hands are not for hitting.” Try doing this while holding their hands and counting backward slowly from 10. After doing this enough times your child will not like being confined and the message will catch on.

I noticed that you didn’t say when your son acts violently with you—are there things that make him angry, or is he doing these things randomly?

Acknowledge your child’s feelings and let him know that it is okay to feel mad but hitting hurts and it is not okay. Show your child what to do instead of hitting. Show him how to touch people gently and to use appropriate words to express his frustration. (Use the helpful feelings chart below) Give him positive reinforcement when he is gentle and kind.

A helpful feelings chart,

I want you to notice when your son acts like this. Write it down—take some notes with details to see if there might be a pattern. Also take him to the pediatrician and ask your doctor if there is anything going on medically or with your son’s health that could be causing this violence.

Next, think about what your son likes to do—toys or games he likes to play with, TV shows he likes to watch, things he likes to eat, etc. Explain to your son—calmly and gently—that hitting, spitting, punching, pulling hair—those are not acceptable ways to let you know if he’s feeling angry, tired, hungry, frustrated or scared. Teach him the words for those feelings, and encourage him to use them. At his age, you might also want to try a feelings chart that the two of you can use to see how he’s feeling, and then you can talk to him about better ways to handle those feelings.

Right now, your son doesn’t have healthy or safe ways to let you know what’s he’s feeling. Talk with the doctor, and if you feel helpless, ask for help. Ask if there are books you can read, videos you can watch, even classes you can take (parenting classes can really help in tough situations). The good news is that you’re not the first mother to experience this and it doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. You just need to take control of the situation before it gets even worse.

Your son might need more gentle, affectionate, soothing touch. Find out what calms him. Hold him, rock him, and make sure he’s getting plenty of love. And he might be a child who uses his hands to express himself. Look for fun, safe ways to help him express his feelings without hurting others (or himself).

Good luck! Be sure to check back and let me know how it’s going, okay? You might learn some things that can help other parents, and that’s what this is really all about.

With love,

Mother Wit

“You Won’t Have No More Trouble Out of Her!”

A white teacher shares a powerful memory of a Black mom who whupped her daughter in front of his class 40 years ago.

For the past week, I’ve been receiving scores of emails and tweets from readers about my latest piece for The New York TimesStop Beating Black Children. Some of those messages have been positive and some of them not worth reading to the end. But one letter from a retired schoolteacher left me in stunned silence because it took me back to my own childhood. The teacher, who is now in his seventies, gave me permission to reprint his letter but asked that I not reveal his name.

Here’s what he wrote on March 16:

“Professor Patton,

My name is XXXX XXXXXX.  I am White.  I grew up in a lower middle-class Jewish home where a hand was never laid upon me as a form of discipline. I employed that same form of discipline with my own three children. 

I also possess a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s Degree in the Psychology of Reading, am a Board Certified Reading Specialist in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where I taught beginning in the late 1960’s for forty-years for the School District of Philadelphia, working with Black children and other minority students of color during that entire tenure in the most impoverished neighborhoods of that city where my students’ families lived in abject poverty while coming to class with more psychological, emotional and physical baggage than any child attending elementary school should be asked to carry.  Because of where I grew up and went to school, I had no meaningful contact with children of color and their families until I began my first year of teaching, which was almost my last.

During that first year I asked for the parents of one of my students who I was having difficulty teaching to come after school for a parental conference to discuss the situation.  While I was teaching my class the day of the conference, the girl’s mother walked into my classroom without announcing herself, grabbed a hold of her daughter, threw her to the floor, took an extension cord out of her pocketbook and began to beat that child until she was crying hysterically, stopped, turned to me and said, “Mr. XXXXXX, you won’t have no more trouble from her,” turned and walked out the door. 

To say I was in a state of shock would be the understatement of the year.  Viewing just what took place, never having had experienced anything like that in my life, not ever thinking that anything like that could happen, I was briefly in a state of paralysis.  When what took place finally hit me, I asked two of the other girls in the class to take the beaten girl to the nurse’s office, called the principal to explain what had just happened and then went next door to ask a teacher’s aide to watch my class when I went to the men’s room to compose myself. 

At the end of the day of wasn’t sure if teaching was the right choice as a profession for me and wondered if I would even return the next day to get my personal possessions.  What changed my mind was speaking to an older more experienced Black teacher before I left school that day who had dealt with these kinds of situations over the years and somehow convinced me that I had the makings of a great teacher, that these children needed me as much as I needed them and that I should return the next day and pick up where I had left off.  I did, and eventually went on to have a successful forty year career doing something I loved, turning down promotions to better neighborhoods in the city that were not impoverished and whose students, whose families were not living in abject poverty.

The advice that of the more experienced Black teacher was the truth: I needed to be with my first students as much as they needed me to be their teacher.  I don’t know what potential that other teacher saw in me, but she was more prescient than I could have every imagined. One thing I didn’t recover from so quickly was asking for any parents to come in to talk about their children, as at least tens years or so went by before I did again. 

I have first-hand knowledge of everything you addressed in your article and couldn’t agree with you more.  After centuries of existence, there are still so many cultural, racial, religious, ethnic and socio-economics problems that our country faces that one can’t fathom even where to begin.  As I approach the age of seventy I am sadden by what I read in the newspaper and see on the news, because it seems the stories never change, only the names and with the election of that imbecile in the White House, I can only see things growing worse than they already are. 

I can only hope that members of one of our country’s demographics grow old and go the way of the Dodo and younger generations, who are more tolerant and compassionate will rise up in a world where we don’t see everyone that doesn’t look like us as the “Other,” a phrase Malcom Gladwell coined and that the words of Martin Luther King become reality when he said, “I have a dream that our children will be judged by the strength of their character, and not the color of their skin.”  I know I will not be around to see that come to be, but everyday I’m still alive, I hope that my three grandchildren, who are biracial and multiracial, will.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Yours truly,


This letter touched me because it brought up memories from my own childhood. It forced me to remember all those times when my adoptive mother slapped me in front of my teachers when they reported that I was a disruptive chatterbox in class or that my performance was slacking. I remembered all those times when I couldn’t sit comfortably in my desk the next day after being whupped for negative comments on my report cards.

A teen who was forced to wear a shaming sign because of his poor grades.

This white male teacher’s letter made me remember a scene from fourth grade when a classmate’s mother came up to the school and beat him in front of the class with a handful of switches. Situations like this built a wall of distrust between our teachers and us. They dimmed the light in our eyes. Shut down our curiosity. Silenced us. Made us resistant to learning. Kept us from asking questions and made us fearful of making mistakes, which is required for the learning process. In our mind, teachers were the enemy who had the power to have us whupped.

I hated my white teachers for sitting back and allowing these beatings to go down. I felt that they were complicit in our abuse. How could they be okay with standing there and watching our parents slap and beat up? Why didn’t they intervene? If they knew that our bodies were going to be hurt, then why did they keep telling our parents when we messed up? Not to mention, our parents never allowed us the chance to give our side of the story. They always took our teacher’s words over ours, and sometimes our teachers really were mean or racists who shouldn’t have been teaching black children.

All these years, until I received this teacher’s poignant letter, I felt that educators were willfully complicit in the pain meted out on Black children by parents, who did not have the tools to address their children’s behaviors at school. Sometimes these parents were still holding on to their own traumas they experienced at school. Maybe their parents handled similar situations the same way. My adoptive mother was whupped at school and never got past junior high. And so she hit me out of frustration and embarrassment. She was not intellectually equipped to help me meet the challenges of school life but she felt that she could beat good behavior and good grades into me.

Parents who engage in this kind of behavior want to show their child that they are “boss.” They actually believe that they are assisting the teacher by demonstrating that they “don’t take not stuff,” and are a good, responsible Black parent. Just as enslaved parents did on plantations centuries ago.

Situations like this can escalate into serious abuse, or even fatalities. In February 2015, a Florida woman was arrested for beating her daughter over bad grades and making her wear a shaming T-shirt. A year later, 14-year-old Jalen Daniel’s parents beat him to death over bad grades. A simple Google search turns up scores of similar stories.

For a long time, I assumed that teachers never thought about the power and impact of their reports to parents. But this letter shows that at least some teachers were deeply affected. Even more telling, that scene in his classroom kept him from communicating with parents about their child’s progress for fear that his students might be beaten.

In a follow-up note, he said that he never regretted his decision to stay and teach. “Working with the kind of children I described in my letter, who were still young enough to wear an aura of innocence and trust about them and were still able to see only the good in people, was not only a joy, but a refuge from the problems I endured in my own life which paled in comparison to what that had to suffer.  I always felt and still do that helping a child is the noblest thing an adult could do . . . I can’t think of anything worth fighting for more than the lives and futures of our children.”


Dear Mother Wit: My Child Is Playing With His Poop!

Dear Mother Wit,

I’m a young mom trying to raise two young boys.  I don’t know what to do about my son’s behavior. He only does this at school.  Today he threw his poop in another stall and I soooo bad wanted to kill him but your posts keep reminding me that I could be his first bully.  Please help.

Dear frustrated Mama,

Thanks for writing.  I realize this behavior is frustrating and just straight up nasty, but don’t hurt him.  The fact is, and this may sound strange, “diaper digging” is perfectly normal behavior in young children.  Every behavior meets a need: before you punish your son, investigate.

Before we can explore some tips to help guide your son through this phase, we gotta figure out the WHY behind your son’s poo play.

When a child plays with their own poop that means he or she is struggling with attempting to master his or her own body, to control their own functions, and is quite curious about what his body is producing.  And this is actually a sign that your son is interested in exploring potty training.  Your son might be taking his poop out of the diaper because he doesn’t like the feeling of being dirty, or because his nose is stimulated by the smell, or because he is simply curious.

How old is your son, by the way?  If he is playing with his poo past age 4 or 5 then you should be concerned and talk to his pediatrician.  I did a little bit of medical reading for you and found that there might be some medical causes.  Here’s a list for you.  Write these down on a sheet of paper, take it to your pediatrician and ask him/her to check to see if your son has any of these issues:

PROTOZOAL INFECTIONS can cause rectal digging behavior.

PICA the ingestion of non-foods, may be caused by nutritional deficiencies.

ENCOPORESIS (the medical term for chronic constipation, impacted stool and soiling) causes abdominal discomfort that is relieved by rectal digging.

HEMORRHOIDS are caused by straining to evacuate the bowels, and are the source of itching and pain around the anus, which leads to anal exploration and rectal digging.

RECTAL PROLAPSE occurs when the rectum slips out of position, and can be caused by prolonged encoporesis or low muscle tone in the pelvic floor.  Symptoms include fecal incontinence and a sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation, which lead to fecal smearing behaviors.

There may also be some underlying psychological issues at play.  I’m not suggesting that this is the case in your son, but we must explore this, Mama.  Fecal smearing past age 4 or 5 may be a sign of developmental delays or post-traumatic stress.  If so, your son may be engaging in this behavior as a form of communication.

So why do some children communicate with poo?  A number of shrinks and pediatricians have explain that it does the following:

— It gives a child the sense of control over his body and environment when other areas of life are out of control.

— It gives a child a sense of ownership over his actions.

— It helps a child express feelings of anger, frustration, helplessness and powerlessness.

— Allows a child to avoid unwanted social interaction.  And since you’ve indicated that he’s only doing this at school you may want to investigate what kinds of social interactions may be going down between him and other children or with his teacher.  He may be trying to communicate that something negative is going down in that environment.

— Allows the child to comfort himself, or it may be part of an obsession that is getting out of control.

So what can you do?

1. You have to use his poop play as a teaching moment and try to calmly say, “No playing with poop. Poop stays in the diaper or in the potty. We play with toys.”  Don’t get pissed off.  If you do that then your son knows that you will get pissed off every time this happens.  So he’ll keep doing it to get a lot of attention from you.

2. Limit your son’s access to his feces. Dress him in onesies, zip-up pajamas, or overalls.  This will at least buy you a few extra minutes to respond.

3. Closely monitor his bathroom routine, changing him or her soon after pooping or peeing.  And be sure to praise him once he has successfully used the bathroom.  Often parents only give a child negative attention when things go wrong.

4. Give him something messy to play with: clay, finger paints, shaving cream, and bread dough. Give him LOTS of praise for playing with this messy stuff verses the poo.  LOL.  A child that is deprived of sensory input who is then given frequent periods of supervised play with soft or sticky substances with strong smells to satisfying the craving for odors, can be alleviated from the need to play with poo.

If your son is not getting enough appropriate touching and stimulation of his senses, then frequent periods of supervised play with soft or sticky substances such as clay, shaving cream or bread dough can alleviate his need for handling feces.  Substances with a strong smell may also satisfy any craving for odors.

Remember, every behavior meets a need.  You need to move beyond your very understandable feelings of disgust and frustration and focus on what is behind your son’s behavior.  Your son’s behavior is a message that you need to focus on decoding.

Don’t hit the kids, hit the keyboard.  For alternatives to hitting ask Mother Wit!





A Conversation with Rev. Jesse L. Peterson

Yesterday I was invited to appear on “Manhood Hour” with black conservative minister Rev. Jesse L. Peterson.  We had an interesting, to say the least, conversation about corporal punishment, forgiveness and a range of other related topics.  Listen in  . . . 

Why I Believe Creflo Dollar’s Daughter

This week I was interview by Loop21 for my thoughts about Creflo Dollar’s alleged assault against his daughter.  Check out what I had to say in Tara Pringle Jefferson’s wonderful piece.  Courtesy of


By Tara Pringle Jefferson

When Creflo Dollar took to the pulpit on Sunday, the congregation at World Changers International was waiting to hear if he would address the allegations that he was involved in a violent altercation with his daughter only a few days prior.

He would.

Standing in the pulpit, Dollar assured his congregation, “I would never put any fault on my children. As Jesus would never put any fault on me. I love her with all of my heart. Amen. There are two things that are certain in the life of a Christian parent. Number one is that we win. And number two is that tests will come to try and shake your faith.” He added, “As a church family, I want you to hear personally from me that all is well in the Dollar household.”

But is it?

The police report says that Dollar’s 15-year-old daughter called 911 after her father assaulted her, an argument had escalated after he told her she couldn’t go to a party.

“The truth is she was not choked, she was not punched. There were not any scratches on her neck,” Dollar said to his members. “But the only thing on her neck was a prior skin abrasion from eczema. Anything else is exaggeration and sensationalism.”

So what did happen then?

“She was not choked.”

“She was not punched.”

Where is the responsibility or the denial of responsibility? What about, “I did not choke her”? “I did not punch her.” It’s almost as if he was distancing himself from the charges with his words, but of course he has a reputation to protect. As the founding pastor of a booming megachurch, he wouldn’t want any allegations to cause harm to his brand, er, calling.

News reports say his congregation wholeheartedly supported their pastor, which I suppose is their right. But what does it say about our society that we are more concerned with protecting Dollar than protecting his teenage daughter? Dollar’s supporters are quick to say, “We don’t know the whole story.” Or the ever-popular “Teenagers can really take you there,” insinuating that whatever happened was a result of what the daughter did or didn’t do, versus a grown man having full control over his emotions.

If you think I’m trying to paint Creflo Dollar in a negative light, believe me I’m not. What I am trying to do is examine why people are so quick to rush to his defense. There is a difference between the two. He may very well be innocent, but his daughter -— and her 19-year-old sister -— claimed something wicked went down in his house, so I’m going to believe them until I have a reason not to. I know teens can be difficult. My children are still young but as a 20-something mother, I was an unruly teen not too long ago. I remember how I would push boundaries and stay out later than I was allowed, and my parents were there to check me and my foolish decisions.

But never did they ever raise a hand to me.

We say physical discipline is about keeping our children on the straight and narrow, about giving them a chance to learn those hard lessons at home so they don’t leave our homes and fall into a life of crime. We say we want our children to fear us and to know that what we say is law, that there is no negotiating with children who do not pay the bills or buy the groceries. We cling to that oft-misused phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” to justify leaving our children with bruises and welts. We say, “I was spanked/beaten/whooped and I turned out fine.”

Kudos for you. But the research suggests — no, proves — that spanking doesn’t work. A 2010 Pediatrics study showed that the children who had been spanked were “more likely than the non-spanked to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against other people or animals.” Yeah, that sounds healthy and exactly what parents are going for when they reach for the belt or the switch.

Stacey Patton, child abuse survivor and creator of the Web, an online extension of her positive parenting workshops, has dedicated her life to empowering parents with other, non-physical parenting tools so they can leave forms of corporal punishment in the past.

“Black people need to understand that the problems our kids have aren’t because they aren’t being beaten enough,” Patton says. “We’re only becoming co-conspirators against them. It’s not helping them get along in society.”

Patton works with many social service agencies, spending a good chunk of time with children in the foster care system, where instances of abuse are high.

“You just see the kind of trauma they’ve gone through,” Patton says. “Our cultural conversation needs to change. We live in a society where it’s legal to assault children. We need to start talking about hitting children in the same way as we talk about hitting women.”

Patton knows that part of the problem is that people tend to parent in the same way they were parented — and they aren’t interested in new techniques.

“People who beat their kids do love them — I’m convinced of that,” Patton says. “They just don’t have the tools. I hear people say, ‘I’m not reasoning with a child’ — that actually means having good communication skills.”

Patton says the Creflo Dollar case is an example of Christian theology run amok. “It’s really irresponsible for a black pastor to stand up in front of his congregation and sanction being violent toward children,” she says. “‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’ — that’s not even what that scripture means. Nowhere in the Bible does a shepherd pick up a stick and beat the sheep.”

I’m not here to get Creflo Dollar’s head on a platter. What am I here for is for violence against youth to stop. If the allegations are true, if the daughter’s version of events are what really went down that night, will all those “let’s wait and see”-ers feel shame?

There comes a point where we have to believe our children. We have to do better by them and it starts with giving them jurisdiction over their own bodies. I have a firm rule in my household that I will not discipline my child in any way that I would not like my husband to do to me. So kicking, punching, spanking, slapping — all of those are out.

I read an amazing run-down of the Creflo Dollar case over at the Crunk Feminist Collective (worth reading in its entirety) that sums up my feelings on where we need to go from here: “It is because I believe in Jesus and feminism, that I don’t tolerate violence against women in any form from the men in my life, and I for damn sure, am not gonna sit up and hear violent ish coming at me from the pulpit. Black women have to become as serious about demanding that our churches are spaces where we can tell our testimonies about the violence done to us and be believed.”

Why Foster Kids & Adoptees Become Rescuers

By Dr. Stacey Patton

Last week I gave a keynote speech at the Supervised Visitation Network’s Regional Conference in Seattle.  My talk focused on the stages of grief that foster children move through when they are separated from their families of origin and how visitation professionals can appropriately recognize and respond to children’s behaviors and the emotions behind the behaviors.  Offstage I had a long conversation with a fellow adoptee who leaned into my ear and asked three important related questions:

“Why do you think so many of us grow up and become enablers?”

“Why do we have this need to rescue people in our lives?”

“Why is it so hard for foster kids and kids who’ve been adopted to succeed in intimate relationships as adults?”

I reacted to her questions first with a smile.  And then, I dropped my eyes to my lap and sat silently for a few moments, sinking into an abyss of uncalm waters inside me. 

Her questions made me feel as if she were penetrating through my tough-as-nails, I-will-never-again-be-anybody’s-victim-or-dependent-on-anybody-for-anything exterior that I project when walking through the world.  Though she was genuinely seeking some understanding for herself and the children she serves, I felt as if she had been reading all of my secret vulnerabilities.

Though her questions were painful, my fellow adoptee perhaps unknowingly provided me with an excellent opportunity to confront some truths and a chance to further free myself from the binds of my past. 

So here are the answers I came up with . . .

Like everybody else, foster kids and adoptees long for acceptance, love and a sense of connection with others.  But many of us are terrified of intimacy later on in life because we have experienced some form of abandonment in early childhood and because we’ve racked up so many losses on our journey through the child welfare system.  Life in foster care is unstable and unpredictable.  So many people come and go that it’s difficult to connect or trust others.  We’re always anxiously waiting to be shuttled from one place to another, and bracing for relationships to end.

Unfortunately, many of us have learned that vulnerability and dependency on others is not a safe position for us.  We grew up believing that we were unwanted, unlovable, abnormal, defective and unworthy.  We wondered: if our biological parents don’t want us, if they can’t love us for whatever reason, then who will? 

These negative feelings of self-worth got set during a foundational developmental period in our lives and make it difficult for us as adults to reveal ourselves to others or believe that anyone else can ever truly love us.  And we are always prepped, sometimes even expecting others to leave us eventually.  When it happens, sometimes we get depressed but we generally bounce back quickly because we remember that no other rejection can ever trump the severing of that first primal loss or rejection from our mothers.

Good friends have said that before they got to know me I came off as cold, detached, so together, always in control, and impenetrable.  In many respects they were right, but little did they know that this behavior was a defense mechanism.  Keeping distance from others was imperative for me to hide my sense of unworthiness and unaccepted truths about my abandonment and victimization.  My unhealthy beliefs about myself, instilled in childhood, ruled my emotions, outlook on the world, and relationships with others.  In my work with my foster brothers and sisters, fellow adoptees, and those who lost their parents during childhood, I have found that they too share similar challenges.

One of the most striking traits that many of us share in adulthood is our seemingly unconscious addiction to being enablers and rescuers.  Why is that?

Now, I’m no shrink and I won’t attempt to give you some armchair psychobabble.  I’m just speaking here from personal experience and my observations from my peers who navigate the world with these issues.

We may know it, or not, but most foster kids and adoptees often react to life as victims and we have a habit of putting people on pedestals, setting ourselves up in relationships where we unconsciously re-enact painful themes from our childhood and are ultimately left abandoned, betrayed or taken advantage of.  We were not adequately nurtured during childhood.  Some of us were abused or abandoned.  And so we find ourselves rescuing other people because we wanted somebody to come rescue the little boy or the little girl that we were.  And though we are physically grown, many of us have not exorcised the troubled inner child.  We let the little boy’s or little girl’s insecurities, memories, trauma, and fears rule the adult.

Being a caretaker or helper makes us feel like we matter, that we are important and worthy to others.  Our behaviors and actions towards others allow us to not accept that we were once child victims because we now have the power to fix things.  By rescuing others we think it will make ourselves feel good and protect others from feeling bad.  Ultimately we derive a false sense of being in control, which provides us sense of empowerment.  But that feeling doesn’t last long because we find ourselves involved in relationships with friends, family members and lovers who are lifetime victims or dependents who have no idea how to be there for us.

I’ve often found myself sacrificing my needs and feelings, saying that they are irrelevant and that I don’t deserve to tell others what I want or need.  As a rescuer, the only way that I think I can legitimately connect with others, feel valued, and meet their needs is through the back door of caretaking, serving and “fixing it.”  

For too long I’ve believed that if I take care of others well enough and long enough, then I will be fulfilled.  I will prove that I am worthy and lovable.  If I take care of them long enough, then they will eventually take care of me too.  It’s hard to admit that rescuing others is an unconscious addiction that sprang from my need to feel valued and to prevent others from walking out of my life.  It’s even more difficult to accept that after all the time and energy spent trying to fix things for others that we can’t expect anything back from them and that they will most likely wind up leaving us because they are needy and don’t have the ability to care for themselves. 

Rescuers are attracted to victims and dependents.  The end result is that we wind up becoming serial victims who are always trying to make ourselves indispensable because we are afraid of being abandoned or alone. 

Adoptees and foster kids sometimes falsely believe that our total value comes from how well we are able to please or do for others.  We spent our childhoods trying to convince others that we were keepable.  As adults, it may be difficult for us to see our worth beyond our services and what we can do for others.  And so in our relationships we may unconsciously encourage dependency.  We think: “They won’t leave us because they need us.”

Foster kids especially come from families where their needs go unacknowledged.  And adoptees sometimes dwell on their unmet needs that the biological parents who relinquished them failed to provide.  So it’s no surprise that they grow up to become adults who treat themselves with the same degree of negligence that they experienced as children and don’t give themselves permission to take care of themselves.  We unconsciously foster dependency in others that becomes harmful to our rescuees’ development.  The more we rescue others in our lives, the less self-responsibility our rescuees take for their own lives.  For us, having a victim in our lives is essential for maintaining the illusion that we are needless, that we were never victims.

The woman who asked me the questions that sparked this reflection told me that she and other rescuers she knew always have at least one person in their lives that was troubled, sick, fragile, inept and dependent on them.  Once those people eventually took responsibility for themselves, then the rescuers were abandoned and had to seek out new people and relationships to fulfill their emotional voids.  And the cycle continued.

So what can people like us rescuers do to keep from becoming victims of our own good deeds?  Here’s some things I’ve learned through some of my self-help readings:

  1. Continue to be loving, generous and kind.  We can continue being helpful and supportive to others without being a rescuer.  We must recognize that there is a difference being between helpful and rescuing.
  2. Act without expectations for reciprocation.  Empower rather than disable.  Encourage self-responsibility, rather than promote dependency.
  3. Remind yourself that others – friends, family members, lovers – can handle their own business.
  4. Remember that everyone has the right to make mistakes and learn through consequences.
  5. Trust that others have what it takes to see themselves through times of difficulty without you needing to “save” them.
  6. Do NOT help others in order to get validation or feel important.  It only fosters dependency and ultimately leads to setting yourself up for victimization.
  7. Learn to set appropriate boundaries, nurture and set priorities for yourself.  Stop obsessing, intervening and interfering in the lives of others in unhealthy ways.  Stop taking responsibility for others instead of yourself.

Certainly, there are valuable lessons and useful tips here not just for adoptees, foster children and people who’ve experienced some form of abandonment.  As we all journey through life we must become conscious of our emotions and behaviors as well as their origins so we can make changes, heal from pain, and re-claim our emotional and spiritual health.

Beating Black Kids Won’t Save Them From Prison

By Dr. Stacey Patton

In late September the disturbing YouTube video shown above began circulating on blogs and other social media platforms with scores of people defending Devery Broox, 25, for whipping his 7-year-old mentee with a belt because he was acting up in school.  Broox justified whipping the boy by intimating that he was trying to save him from the penal system.

But the irony here is that Broox found himself behind bars for child abuse after someone who saw the video online called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The video, almost eight minutes long, begins with scrolling statistics from the Sentencing Project and the latest U.S. Census report – 1 out of 8 black men are in prison; 1 out of 3 black men born today are expected to go to prison; there are 2,500,000 black people in college, only 910,000 are black men while 827, 680 are prison or jail.

In the next scene Broox appears with a belt slung over his shoulder, flexing his muscles and interrogating the young boy as he sits on a toilet seat with a look of terror on his face.

Text appears on the screen that says “Step 1: Investigation.” Broox begins his interrogation of the child. 

Then, “Step 2: The removal of SWAG.” Broox proceeds to shave the boy’s head while saying, “You want to act like a clown, I’ll send you back to school looking like a clown.  After I finish whooping your ass, we gonna work out like we just came out of boot camp.”

And then, “Step 3: Beat Dat ASS!!!”  Broox tells the boy to “drop your pants,” as they walk into another room.  At this point the viewer can hear the boy crying, pleading and screaming as he’s being hit with the belt. 

As I watched this scene play out in horror I could not contain my tears.  It brought back a flood of memories from my own childhood when I was interrogated, yelled at and put down as part of the prelude to my adoptive mother’s many beating rituals.  I saw myself in that little boy and I felt his fear.

My tears turned to disgust and anger.  I began to hate the so-called “mentor” who can be heard yelling, “Move your motherfucking hand” as the boy screamed, “It hurts!”

Thankfully, the video was sent to the Orlando Police Department and the Department of Children and Families later discovered the identities of Broox and the boy.

Both the boy and his mother initially told investigators that scars on the boy’s body were from a bicycle accident, but a doctor reported that the scars were consistent with physical abuse with a flexible object like a belt.

The boy later told a DCF investigator that Broox had whipped him with a belt and that Broox had told him to lie to investigators so he wouldn’t be arrested.  Clearly there was recognition here that there was wrongdoing on his part.  Broox’s actions reminded me of my adoptive mother who coach me on what to say to the police, doctors, social workers, teachers, people at church on anybody else who asked about welts, black eyes and old scars on my body.  I had to play my role in making sure my adoptive mother didn’t fall into the hands of the “racist” white social workers or police officers for beating me.  Besides, all they wanted to do was break up black families and keep black people down, my adoptive mother told me.

When Broox voluntarily went to the Orlando Police headquarters, he told the cops that his references to “beating” and “whipping” the boy in the video meant physical exercise, not actually harming him. Police said Broox told them the off-camera portion of the video was “staged” and that he never hurt the boy.  Broox was booked at the Orange County Jail and charged with one count of felony child abuse but has since posted bond.

Some people have cried fowl over Broox’s arrest.  Some of those commenting on various sites say that he did not cross the line by whipping this child.  Too many agree that it is necessary to whip black children to keep them from ending up behind bars. 

But they are wrong.

It amazes me how people can’t seem to connect how this kind of violence and soul murder of black children actually helps feed our children into the child welfare system and the prisons in this country.  Whipping children does not prevent them from becoming subject to the state!  I’ll bet you any amount of money that if you walk into a juvenile detention center or any prison across American and take a survey of the inmates more than 90% will most likely tell you that they were whipped as children.  And yet, they still ended up in prison.

My adoptive mother used to rationalize beating me by saying things like – “I beat you because I love.  I beat you so you won’t be killed by the police or the white man.  I beat you to keep you from ending up in prison or an early grave.” 

What kind of flawed logic is this? 

Every time I heard those messages and each time my adoptive mother struck me, she damaged my sense of self-worth, and she sowed the seeds of anger, resentment and anger towards her.  I did not respect her, I feared her.  I did not think I needed saving from the police or the white man, I needed saving from my black mama who I thought was going to kill me with a belt, switch, wire hanger, or whatever other object she decided to use.

I am so sick of black folks who perversely embrace and promote violence against our children because they are unwilling to learn healthier non-violent ways to grow their children.  What happened to this little boy in the video is abuse and it won’t help save him from a racist criminal justice system.  It only creates a double terrorism for him and legions of other black children who are popped, whipped, or beaten on a daily basis.

As Renee Martin of Womanist Musings put it so eloquently: “Black people are in prison because we live in a white supremacist state that is determined to impoverish and criminalize blacks, not because we need to beat our children more.  Don’t black kids have enough to deal with growing and learning in a society that fundamentally hates them, without piling even more abuse on their plates from the ones that are supposed to love and protect them?”




Speak Up or Keep Quiet When a Child is Being Hit?

Video Shows Dramatic Septa Bus Shooting:

By Dr. Stacey Patton

Some of you may have heard about that idiotic Philly mom who got upset and called her goon relatives to shoot a fellow Septa bus passenger after he threatened to call child services on her for hitting her child.  In that incident, which took place in early August, an angry 20 year-old Penny Chapman made a phone call to her brothers Karon and Raheen Paterson and directed them to “shoot that ni–a” when the bus arrived at her stop. 

Video taken inside the bus shows one man sliding a large assault rifle out of his jeans and passengers, including a mother and her 4 year-old son running for cover as bullets fly through the windows.  It also shows an 80 year-old Asian woman dropping to the floor just seconds before a bullet flies overhead.

Watching this horrific scene play out on my computer screen made me pause and think back to all those times I ever dared to open my mouth and say something when I witnessed a child being mistreated.  And for the next few days and weeks I found myself contemplating what I should tell others who’ve said that this video graphically illustrates the dangers of speaking up on behalf of a defenseless child.

“What do I do if I see an adult hitting, roughly handling, or cussing out a child in public?  Do I intervene?  Or do I keep quiet and mind my own business?”

Even before FOX aired this video, I often received these questions from email writers and audience members who participate in my child abuse prevention and positive discipline workshops.  The questions typically come from white women who encounter young or middle-aged black mothers slapping or verbally cutting down a child.  For years now I’ve been loudly beating my drum, telling my black and white participants to “Speak up!  If these people will hit a child in public, imagine what happens behind closed doors.” 

Many participants want to say something but are often afraid to intervene for fear of being told: “Mind your damn business, white lady!  Don’t tell me how to raise my child!”  

Others, black and white, are afraid of being physically threatened by the angry parent.  Some say they don’t want to make matters worse for the child who might get physically or verbally beat down even more when they get home.  And every now and then I hear a black audience member say they are hesitant to report abuse because they don’t want to see yet another black child end up a statistic in the child welfare industry.

When I was in my 20s and still working through my own anger issues and traumatic memories stemming from the physical abuse I endured as a child, I had no problem walking up to a parent and saying, “Don’t hit that child like that!  What’s wrong with you?  Why don’t you try to hit ME like that?  Pick on somebody your own size!”

In time I moved away from those kinds of heated confrontations by shooting child hitters a dark and indignant glare, turning my nose up at them, or simply shaking my head.   But over the years I’ve learned that kind and delicate intervention is the better approach.  If you come at a parent angry, judgmental or in a way that embarrasses them in front of others then it defeats the purpose.

I have found that sometimes a parent is so stressed out that they may not see that how they are treating their child is abusive.  If the parent is out of control, call the police right away.  Use a camera phone to record the incident if available.  Don’t give the parent a disapproving stare or confront them directly.  Negative reactions are likely to increase the parent’s stress or anger, and could make matters worse for the child.

Offer support, even just a smile.  If you see a parent struggling, hold the door open or offer to help with bags.  You can say something like, “Oh, my kid used to do that all the time.  That’s really normal.”

Here are some other simple tips that might help:

Start a conversation with the adult to direct attention away from the child.

“He’s really trying your patience today, huh.”

“My child sometimes acts out like that, too.”

“These little ones can really wear you out sometimes.  Is there anything I can do to help?”

Divert the child’s attention (if misbehaving) by talking to the child.

“I like your baseball cap.  Are you a Mets fan (whatever team logo) fan?”

“I like your T-shirt.  Did your Mommy pick that out for you?”

Look for an opportunity to praise the parent or child.

“Your child has the most beautiful eyes.”

“That’s a very pretty shirt on your little girl/boy.  Where did you get it?”

If the child is in danger, offer assistance.

If the child is left unattended in a grocery cart or a car, stand near the child until the parent returns.  If the child is in immediate danger, call the police!

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, please call Child Protective Services at 1-800-4-A-Child, 24 hours a day.  As long as your report is made in good faith, and without malice, your identity is kept confidential and free from any liability.

Yes, the Philly incident was pretty scary.  But we cannot use it as an excuse to keep quiet and mind our own business.  Thankfully the state prosecutor will make an example out Chapman and her goon brothers who are awaiting trial.   Hopefully what happened on that Septa bus last month will remain an isolated incident.

As members of the human family, we all have a duty to speak up when a child is being mistreated.  My hope is that eventually states will help our cause by making it illegal for parents to use physical force against their children, in public or private, just as they did in the fight against domestic abuse of women.

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