Child abuse in public unnerving
It was a disturbing sight. A mom was dragging her son, age 4 or 5, across the parking lot by the scruff of his neck. She jerked him along with such force that his blond roostertails bounced violently and his feet occasionally left the ground. Cer...
It was a disturbing sight.
A mom was dragging her son, age 4 or 5, across the parking lot by the scruff of his neck. She jerked him along with such force that his blond roostertails bounced violently and his feet occasionally left the ground.
Certainly she had to feel tired, overwhelmed and frustrated to be so angry.
Still, it was hard to watch a parent so out of control of her emotions.
I wondered what would happen to the child when she got him alone.
I briefly toyed with pulling into the parking lot to make sure things didn't escalate, but quickly changed my mind.
"Who knows what really happened here?" I thought. "Maybe he had done something that really shook her up, like going to a friend's house without telling her or running out in front of traffic."
But that same evening, I witnessed another family in distress.
While shopping at a local grocery store, I noticed a couple standing in the self-service checkout line. It was easy to notice them, because the woman spent the entire time yelling at their two kids.
This wasn't your basic, "I'm tired and the kids are driving me nuts" brand of yelling like my mom used to do. This woman's voice was filled with a disdain and vitriol that surprised me.
"What the (expletive) is wrong with you?" she snapped at one child. "Leave it alone!" "What did you do now?" Then, for a second time: "What's wrong with you?"
As I walked out to my car and put the groceries in the back, I felt a little sick to my stomach. I rarely witness parents who lose their temper in public. It's not like I'm out looking for them.
Now, in one day, I'd seen two such incidents.
As someone without kids, I sometimes feel ill-equipped to judge such situations. It's easy to "backseat parent" when you've never had to stay up all night with a sick baby, or to reason with a toddler in the midst of a full-scale meltdown.
I have seen friends and family members struggle with this demanding, exhausting, around-the-clock responsibility. I know that even "good parents" with strong support systems sometimes lash out or do the wrong things.
But does that mean it's best to ignore behavior that seems potentially harmful to a child? What's the right thing to do when you witness strangers who are treating their kids badly? Will you make it worse if you say something?
In search of guidance, I called the experts at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead.
Greg Diehl, the center's executive director, offered this advice: It's best not to personally intervene, as you never know when the situation will escalate. Instead, if you witness blatant abuse -- an adult shaking or striking a child, for instance -- call law enforcement officers. They are trained to deal with potentially explosive family situations.
If you're a parent who is worried about your temper, realize that help is available out there. Quality Resolutions of Fargo, for instance, specializes in anger management seminars, as well as individual and family therapy.
For information on their programs, call (701) 232-4177.