We’ve all been there. The time when you are confronted with misbehavior from your child and have yelled or said something that you regret later. In the middle of the grocery store, I once told my eldest son that if he didn’t stop riding the grocery cart at full speed then I was going to sell him to the gypsies.
But what do you do if you spot a situation between another parent and child that escalates into an area that may be abusive or even just uncomfortable?
Celebrity Liv Tyler was recently in the news for telling a mother to stop hitting a toddler. The New York Times mentioned the story, quoting Tyler as saying, “When I saw that, I couldn’t take it. I had to do something.”
I think it takes a very brave person to step in and intervene in an area that seems sacred and personal…parenting. There are a number of scenes that I have witnessed and did nothing. There was a mother who slapped her screaming child at a local fast food restaurant because he was crying. There was the dad at the playground who talked on his cell phone while ignoring his baby who had fallen and cut her lip. While these events made me hug my own children a little tighter, I regret that I didn’t have the presence of mind or the courage to take action.
Just yesterday, I encountered another parent behaving badly. Again I was at the park. The mom had her hands full with an infant and a screaming toddler who obviously didn’t want to leave the playground. She was holding the baby under one arm while literally dragging the toddler by the arm across the ground and toward the car. They were about to leave the grass area and hit pavement. This time I didn’t want to do nothing.
I walked up to her with my three kids and said, “I hate it when it comes time to get my kids to leave the playground. Sometimes I want to sell them to the gypsies. Do you mind if I carry your little boy for you?” It was stressful for me to offer to carry her screaming child, but the mom seemed more relieved than angry, and I hoped that I made a difference in how the day went for that family.
What can you do when you witness a parent behaving badly? Donald Gault, the founder of an innovative project in the state of Minnesota that aims at teaching bystanders what to do in these situations, has some recommendations.
Find a way to use humor in the situation to lighten up the mood and be sympathetic. Don’t glare or make comments under your breath.
I have one more recommendation to add. Don’t put your own children in danger and know when to call authorities if the situation is really out of hand.
Have you ever witnessed a parent behaving badly?