Where Is The Line?

September 5, 2010 at 14:34 1 comment

I witnessed a spanking yesterday. More traumatic than that, so did Oliver.

Oliver and I sometimes like to go to the book store down the street from our home. There is a play area there with trains & bouncing balls and scooters to play with. Oliver loves to interact with other children & find colourful board books for me to read to him.

It was a Saturday, so there were quite a few other children there. One of whom, a high energy, yet perfectly polite little girl of about 4, was riding one of the plastic scooters around the train table yelling ‘beep beep excuse me’ in a sing song voice while the other children giggled and jumped out of her way.

When she came close to Oliver I put my hand out to gently stop her scooter & told her that Oliver was just learning to walk & not yet fast enough to jump out of the way. She smiled, apologized, and started to move away.

A woman, who I can only assume by the striking resemblance between her and the little girl to be her mother, came over.

‘What happened?’

‘Oh, it was nothing’ I told her ‘she just about ran into my son, but it was an accident’

Without another word, the woman grabbed her daughter roughly by the arm, turned her, and slapped her on the lower back hard enough to make a loud slapping noise through the cotton of her T-shirt.

The little girl hardly even flinched, got back on her scooter & rode away. There were no words exchanged between mother and child. Only one violent slap.

‘That wasn’t necisary’ I told her in shock. ‘She didn’t do anything wrong, it was an accident!’ the woman shot me a dirty look & returned to where she had been reading a book. Her back turned to her daughter.

The spanking seamed to have little effect on the young girl. She simply went on about pretending to run other kids over.  Oliver, who’d witnessed this whole exchange, was inconsolable. No amount of distraction by toys books or nursing would settle him & we had to leave.

Since then I have been trying VERY hard to find compassion for that mother & her daughter. I am trying very hard not to judge this woman harshly, or make assumptions about her & her family based only on one incident. But I am at a loss for how to do that. I am still so shocked and outraged that I am failing to do so.

I KNOW that parenting is hard. I KNOW that there are days when I am so frustrated with Oliver that one seemingly innocent action can make me throw up my hands & leave the room for a breath of fresh air. Maybe that’s where this mother was when she struck her daughter, in which case the obvious shock & disgust in my reaction probably hurt her. Maybe I should have reacted in a more productive way, but I am not sure what that would look like.

I UNDERSTAND that my opinions on parenting differ from others and that some people view spanking as a perfectly reasonable method of punishment despite mounting evidence that it is an ineffective and detrimental parenting tool.  I am assuming, by the cold & matter of fact way that this woman struck her child, that this is the case. Her demeanor when she did so was not one of frustration; it was one of business as usual, and that alone made me long to intervene in some way.

I think that assumption was confirmed by the child’s reaction. It’s the part that gave me nightmares about the incident. That little girl was completely unaffected. She did not pout, or yell, did not respond with sadness, anger, fear, or even defiance. That little girl was struck by her mother, someone she should be able to trust to protect her and never to harm her, and she showed absolutely no emotion.

How many times do you have to strike a child before they start to accept it & move on as though nothing happened?

How long before they become so desensitized to violence that they remain unresponsive where a child who only witnessed the act becomes upset & remains unsettled for over an hour?

At what point can we stop hiding behind ‘it’s a parent’s choice’ & ‘differing views’ & ‘it’s not our business’ and call abuse abuse?

Have you ever witnessed a parent striking a child?  What did you do? What do you think is an appropriate action to take when witnessing something like this?  Where is the line between unfair judgment/none of my business and doing the right thing?


Entry filed under: attachment parenting, bad day, Parenting, Uncategorized.

Regarding Extended Breastfeeding Me At The Connected Mom: Signs I Missed That My Practitioner Would Not Support A Natural Birth

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. b  |  September 5, 2010 at 21:40

    That’s crazy…that the girl had no reaction. Even most spankers I know offer other measures of punishments or warnings first. And why issue any punishment without a talk with the child first? This, I do not understand.


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