Witnessing abuse

Filed under: Just For Moms, Babies, Toddlers Preschoolers, Places To Go, Development/Milestones: Babies

One of our readers wrote in recently to ask what others would have done in a situation in which she found herself. She was at a restaurant and had to visit the ladies room. She describes what happened next: "On the way I passed a table where a child I would estimate at about 1 year old was crying. While I was in the bathroom stall I heard the door open and someone (assuming the mother) enter the restroom with the crying child."

"Then I heard a loud 'slap' and the child started crying harder," she writes. "I was in shock and tried to convince myself I did not hear what I thought I did. When I came out of the stall the mother was comforting the crying child, and then, as I was drying my hands she slapped the crying kid again." Naturally, she got upset and fled the bathroom with "tears running down my cheeks."

She didn't say anything to the mother or to the staff of the restaurant, but now wishes she had. She wrote to ask what others would have done in that situation. To complicate the issue, there was also the case of a woman beating her son in a Wal-mart when shoppers called the police, but that was, I think, a clear case of illegal abuse. The restaurant incident was not likely illegal and there are some who would even say it that it was acceptable.

Perhaps I should disclose, at this point, that we don't spank or hit the kids (although there are plenty of times I've thought about it!). I was spanked growing up and while it didn't seem to accomplish anything, it did convince me I didn't want to spank my kids. Now, I probably would have said something, because that's the sort of pushy, think-about-the-kids, don't-care-about-grown-ups kind of person I am, but as one our team members pointed out while we were discussing this, that might have led to more serious repercussions for the kid at home.

Another team member suggested acknowledging the parent's frustration first -- "It can be so hard sometimes" -- as an opening to pointing out that there are other, better ways to handle issues. I'm not sure there is a right answer. Still, I'll throw the question out there -- what would you have done? Would you have said something or would you have let it go?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.