Love, even tough love, does not condone any kind of violence.

The video clip of the woman in yellow has gone viral, a violent loop as she assaults a young man on the streets of Baltimore. She is his mother. She is attacking her teenage son. For this aggressive behavior, some have hailed her as “Mom of the Year”.

The lauding of this offense as exemplary parenting leaves me a little nauseated and very saddened. I am a mother. I understand that woman’s frustration. My four children took a significant number of toddler-through-teenage missteps on their way to adulthood. During the infancy of our first child, however, my husband and I consciously decided that we were not ever going to resort to corporal punishment. We had both been struck in anger by our parents when we were children, and we both knew that we wanted to be different now that we were the parents. We relied on alternate methods of disciplining our children, from time-outs to loss of privileges to the restitution process, but we never hit them. Somehow our children did not run wild. Somehow they knew that we were in charge and that they were to respect us, as well as each other, in our home. Our philosophical decision took some self-control on our parts—there were times of desperation when the thought of a good spanking was awfully tempting—and our own families sometimes ridiculed us for our childrearing techniques. Ultimately, though, we were operating from a deeply held value of and commitment to nonviolence. Love, even tough love, does not condone any kind of violence.


If we are to have peace in our homes, our communities, our nations, and our world, surely it does not begin with child abuse. When we ask God to, as the song goes, “Let peace begin with me,” we cannot then applaud a mother slapping her son upside the head repeatedly. “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids out there,” said the Police Commissioner of Baltimore, in admiration of her “smacking him on the head,” a statement I find appalling in the midst of a violent crisis. Resorting to violence has never led to peace. Have we learned nothing from those proponents of nonviolence we supposedly revere, from Jesus, from Gandhi, from Martin Luther King, Jr? We parents are responsible for our children’s earliest and most powerful lessons, and abuse only teaches them to abuse. “Don’t punish me with brutality,” sang Marvin Gaye. “Talk to me.” What an idea, that words can be more potent than fists.

My husband and I are not perfect parents: our children can attest to our failings. No doubt they will parent their children according to their perception of the ways in which we fell short. But the decent people our children have become prove that sparing the rod did not spoil the child. A teenager caught misbehaving in the street needs guidance and hope, education and prospects, not a public thrashing. Our children, all of them, need our collective mentoring and confidence and time. They need working models of compassion and peace. When we praise a beating as effective parenting, we are all the worse for it. The many anonymous Moms of the Year know that.

Valerie Schultz is a freelance writer, a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and the author of Closer: Musings on Intimacy, Marriage, and God. She and her husband Randy have four daughters.

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Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago
This seems a little unfair to the Mother in yellow. While I agree she doesn't deserve any "Mom of the Year" award, her circumstances are totally different from any middle- or -upper-class parenting couple. According to news reports, she is the unmarried mother of six children, from multiple fathers. So, a far cry from the Catholic ideal. Still, she raised her hand to her sixteen year-old who had a rock in his hand and would have very probably been arrested if she hadn't subdued him. While I do not use corporeal punishment on my children, I most certainly would if I thought it might spare them an arrest, or even death (as the Mother in yellow feared).
Joseph J Dunn
3 years 5 months ago
"If we are to have peace in our homes, our communities, our nations and our world, surely it does not begin with child abuse." I agree. In the CBS This Morning interview, the lady in yellow (sorry, I did not get her name) provided some background: She has long feared "losing her son to the streets." She described how many of his peers have already lost their lives to violence. She did not state her policy regarding corporal punishment of her children. What is apparent from her story and from the video is that she recognized her son standing, rocks in hand, at the edge of a group of protesters who were clearly confronting police officers. In that moment, perhaps what flashed through her mind were memories of Kent State (National Guard troops opened fire on students throwing rocks, killing four) or Ferguson, or any of the other places where fatalities have occurred. Seeing her son about to place police officers in imminent, life-threatening danger (and thereby placing his own life in imminent danger) she responded with speed and decisiveness. She diffused the life-threatening situation and moved her own son to safety. She commented that her pastor would probably have something to say about her methods. Perhaps her son will resent her conduct, which no doubt embarrassed him before the crowd (and everyone in the nation who saw the video). But her son is alive. So is the cop he might have struck in another moment or two. That is all that mattered to her, in that moment. Maybe that is all that should have mattered.
3 years 5 months ago
While I wouldn't call Toya Graham "Mom of the Year," I certainly wouldn't presume to know what was going through her mind when she saw her son donning a face mask and holding a rock. Therein lies the problem with this column. Ms. Schultz, in congratulating herself, that her "children did not run wild," and "knew that we were in charge and that they were to respect us," shows a complete and utter lack of empathy. First of all, the this teenager's "misstep" could have very well gotten him killed, or at the very least, thrown into a prison system that is much more violent than getting slapped upside the head. Did this even cross the mind of Ms. Schultz? How about the fact that Ms. Schultz has the temerity to compare her family to that of a single mother of six, living in an area beset by poverty and violence? Simply put, this column wreaks of privilege and elitism.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 5 months ago
This video is very sad and difficult for me to watch. The desperation of the mother. The public humiliation of the young man. The danger and heightened energy of the situation. What would I do? I don't know. I truly do pray for healing and peace for the mother and her son. The wounds of slavery and racism affect us all, but it's hard to deny that Black Americans still carry the bulk of the suffering.
Louis Candell
3 years 5 months ago
Valerie, you've been in California too long.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 5 months ago
Cops with guns tend to shoot young black men with rocks in their hands. This is not about discipline, this is about saving your son's life.
Vince Killoran
3 years 5 months ago
A general comment about the Baltimore riot: I wish my fellow progressives would stop circulating "riot porn" on Facebook and media postings such as HuffPost. The photos of young black men throwing bricks, against a backdrop of fires burning, accompanies articles and comments about how socio-economic conditions made them loot one of the few CVS stores in a working poor neighborhood. Of course, we must understand the context of social unrest, but many of these professed statements of empathy come close to excusing destructive behavior as a result of the loss of agency. They reinforce the view of urban youth as objects, not subjects. I would argue that there's a whiff of "white privilege" at work in this as well, i.e., white allies lionize the rioters, almost fantasizing in a hyper-masculine way. Kind of like white New Leftists did in the late 1960s with Black Panther leaders. Community groups such as BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development), faith groups, and unions are doing the necessary work of promoting justice and equality, not armchair commentators.
John Placette
3 years 5 months ago
Buzz words: assault, child abuse, violent crisis etc. Amazing. Did you not see what the "child" was doing before his mother stepped in? This was not abuse. This was parental disclipine - something that is truly lacking in a lot of our society.
Frank Gibbons
3 years 5 months ago
The sheer fatuousness of this article is underscored by the fact that the author quotes Marvin Gaye, a man who sexually and physically abused his much younger wife.


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