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In public

On Saturday, Graham and I were leaving Academy--a local discount sporting goods store--having bought birthday presents (a Mario Williams jersey and a football) for a two-year-old of our aquaintance. As we were walking out the door, we were held up by a large chaotic family that was also leaving. There seemed to be about four or five kids and a mother. The kids more or less stuck together, but with that many, it can get a bit unruly. Graham and I didn't really mind the hold up. It was a busy Saturday, and lots of people were coming and going. It was likely that there'd be congestion at the front door.

I couldn't get out the door at first, because the mom in front of me was too busy yelling at one of her kids. I didn't pay much attention until I heard her say, "I swear to god, I'll beat the shit out of you." to the kid. The kid was about ten or eleven years old. He was kind of chunky and wearing glasses, and my heart would have gone instantly out to him even if he hadn't been crying uncontrollably.

I walked as quickly as I could away from the door. The family had stopped to wait for another member of their group. I was muttering to Graham about what I had overheard, and when I looked over my shoulder to see if they were still there, I saw the mother's hand raised up towards her kid. I gasped.

Graham turned around and headed back to the front door. And then, as he put it, he went drill sergeant on the mother. I didn't really hear what he said to her, but whatever it was, it got her quiet really quickly. At first, he said, she tried to defend herself, saying that the kid talked back to her. He said, in language he confessed probably wasn't great for kids, that didn't matter what her kid had said, that violence and threatening violence against your kids is NOT OK.

It was still Saturday, Academy was still busy, and other people were still coming to and leaving the store. Graham said an older guy about to walk into the store backed him up a little. And most everyone else sort of kept a wide breadth.

When Graham was certain that his point had been made, he came back to the car, still seething with anger. We talked a little about it, and our only fear was that the mother would take out the public drumming down by Graham on her kid. But, I was just immensely proud of my boyfriend for calling someone on her immensely bad behavior. Most people, including myself, would have noted the bad behavior, tut-tutted and not done anything about it. And maybe it was interfering with a parent's right to raise their kid. Certainly parents have the right, and really the obligation to discipline their kids. But dammit, that kid was scared enough of his mom. She had his complete attention, and she didn't need to hit him. She'd already humiliated him, made him cry, and made it clear that she was not impressed by his behavior. I realize she was probably overwhelmed and frustrated, and I don't doubt that her kid did something that was probably against her rules. But getting to the point where she lost all control of herself and her emotions did nothing towards disciplining her kids. And I'm really glad that Graham called her on it.

Comments

( 5 comments — Say something )
erbie
Sep. 3rd, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
Yay Graham!

I think the parent's right to discipline their kid ends where the child's bodily integrity begins. I know a lot of people don't agree with me, but I don't think parents have any more right to hit their kids than they do to hit each other or other people. So thank you to Graham, for standing up for that kid. Whether he got worse for it later, he knows that someone saw what his mother was doing and that it was not right. That right there can make a world of difference to an abused child.
texaslawchick
Sep. 3rd, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
I think that some physical discipline is ok, but only to a point. I'm generally thinking of picking up a baby or toddler that has gotten too far into something they shouldn't have. Or pulling back a small kid that is about to wander into the street. Swiping away a kid's hand that is getting too close to something that is too hot or fragile or otherwise could get hurt. Sometimes the physical action by the parent or other caregiver reinforces the words of the discipline. But, by the time a kid is ten, he is old enough to be talked to, have his privileges revoked, be sent to his room or made to do distasteful chores. Kids that age certainly are well beyond physical discipline, and the only purpose that it serves is satisfaction for the parent. I grew up in a spanking family, but I don't recall a) it happening very often, or b) it happening beyond five or six years old. I do know that I got spanked once for lying to my parents. I don't know what the lie was, but I certainly remember the discipline and being very careful not to do it again for a good while afterwards.

I was also deeply disturbed by telling a kid "I'm going to beat the shit out of you" for a few reasons. First, if she follows through, that's way beyond any appropriate response to bad behavior by a kid. Second, if she doesn't follow through, on top of being afraid of his mother, that kid isn't going to know whether to trust his mother in the future.

Edited at 2009-09-03 08:44 pm (UTC)
erbie
Sep. 3rd, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
I think that some physical discipline is ok, but only to a point. I'm generally thinking of picking up a baby or toddler that has gotten too far into something they shouldn't have. Or pulling back a small kid that is about to wander into the street. Swiping away a kid's hand that is getting too close to something that is too hot or fragile or otherwise could get hurt. Sometimes the physical action by the parent or other caregiver reinforces the words of the discipline.

Oh absolutely. I am talking specifically about hitting the child, not about holding onto them for safety or blocking them from doing something. I don't by any means subscribe to the no-discipline idea. I absolutely believe in disciplining children; I just don't think it should ever involve hitting the child. I wouldn't hit my husband for doing something I didn't like; I don't think children should be any less entitled to bodily integrity because of their age and size.

(I was spanked as a child too, though also not very often. All it taught me was not to get caught.)

Edited at 2009-09-03 08:55 pm (UTC)
badrahessa
Sep. 3rd, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
Graham is made of awesome :)
ext_206180
Sep. 6th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC)
Beat the Kids
Stina,

Between my own kids and ll the nieces and nephews, cousins, and siblings I have had to spend hours and hours raising, I have about 30-35 years of child-rearing experience.

There is never, I repeat, never any time at which it is reasonable to threaten to beat the shit out of a child, let alone to do so. Props to Graham.

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