Last year when I was writing my book, I saw a story on the news about a woman named Sarah. Sarah said, “One day I was verbally abusing my daughter at a grocery store and a stranger confronted me about my behavior towards my child. That was the wake-up call I needed to get help.” Because a total stranger had the guts to stand up to an abusive parent, Sarah has not only rehabilitated herself, but she has also mentored hundreds of other women in the Austin area as well.
Today I was at the YMCA registering my daughter for soccer. As we were preparing to leave I heard a loud POW POW POW followed by a child screaming. I turned my head to find a mother spanking hitting her 3-year old as hard as she possibly could. Several staff members and myself looked at each other in disbelief. As the mother was leaving I said (in the most calm and professional voice I could muster up):
ME: Ma’am, is that the proper way to treat a child?
MOTHER: (hysterical) YES-IT-IS! SHE DESERVED IT!
ME: Ma’am, no child ever deserves to be hit. Ever!
MOTHER: It is completely necessary for me to hit my child! You have a big problem, lady! Something is wrong with YOU!
ME: There are a dozen alternatives to disciplining a child other than hitting.
MOTHER: It is none of your business what I do to my children!
ME: When you are in public, IT IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS!! When I witness a child being abused, it is ABSOLUTELY my business!
Then the woman stormed away. As I turned around the entire YMCA had frozen in silence. One staffer said, “Even though the lady was irate, I know what you said to her will make an impact on her.”
Sadly, this is the 4th time in less than 2 years that I have confronted an abusive parent in public. These are the reason I have chosen to calmly but assertively stand up to physically or verbally abusive parents:
1. If they are willing to treat their children so inappropriately in public, what in the world are they doing to their kids at home?
2. The reason parents physically and verbally abuse their children is because NOBODY has probably ever confronted them about it.
3. The children need a voice and someone to stand up for them
4. I feel if I witness child neglect and choose to walk away without doing anything, then I am just as guilty as the parent whapping their child.
5. The parents I confront just might be the next SARAH
6. I truly believe that if a child is being harmed in public, then yes, IT IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS and we must get involved.
Do I fear being harmed by an irate parent? Well, I’d rather die trying to save a child than from the swine flu.