Abusing Your Kids in Public

Sorry friends, this is a real story and not just me laughing at my awful parenting. I’ll write that one some other time.

I just spent the weekend in NYC with my husband, it was lovely. Last week I read a blog that said in NY there’s something new around every corner and it’s so true. You simply can’t take it all in even if you stroll (like Dave and I did…all day…for almost ten miles…).

We were having our free continental breakfast (a requirement for any hotel Dave stays in) on Saturday morning when I noticed a family and their children. The boy was about four, the girl about two. They seemed to me to be doing fine, though the boy was complaining that the girl hit him. She was clearly done with her meal and was trying to climb down from the table. The father came over and told her to stop and sat her back down on the bench.

She tried to go right down under the table again. She was laying on the bench and without warning, he spanked her. She immmediately did what most kids do when you first spank them – she giggled. I think they do this for a couple of reasons. One, because they’re just kind of shocked and don’t know HOW to respond, so they just automatically give a nervous laugh. Two, I think they are so upset that their parent just hit them that they choose to take it as a joke – Daddy can’t really mean this, he’s just playing. They’re trying to give everyone the out.

But Daddy meant business. And of course when you’re trying to “discipline” your child and they laugh at you, it just enrages you. Now that he set the tone there was only one way this could go: escalating.

He was nagging and harassing her to sit down, she was beginning to cry. She played with her food, he told her to “Cut it OUT!” (I could write this script without ever seeing it.) She got some food on her spoon and flung it, he continued to yell at her. She was a whiny mess at this point. Finally he said, “Alright, that’s it.”

They were sitting in the corner booth. This guy took his two-year-old, tiny little daughter, and shoved her into the corner. He put his arm across her chest so she couldn’t wriggle out, and proceeded to sit on her lap. She was pinned into the corner of the booth and he had half his bottom across her stomach and legs.

I had been in the middle of telling Dave a story and at that point my mind went off the rails.

I tried to get it back, we finished our food, and as we left the room I explained why it seemed that my brain had exploded.

Dave was trying to lighten me up and said, “Why don’t you go over there and tell him what he’s doing wrong? Tell him the guru’s here.”

I laughed but told him to shut up.

Then he said, “Tell him he has to read Sitting on the Baby.”

And then it dawned on me, and I said (not laughing), “Oh no. He really WAS sitting on the baby.”

I always say that I can’t make this stuff up. And you know what? I don’t like being right all the time (I’m joking). People will tell me it’s not a big deal, a lot of people spank, you see it all the time, it’s none of your business, what can you do? But whenever I see a parent really mistreating their child, I always wonder: if you’re willing to do that to your kid in public, then what are you doing behind closed doors?

It was one of those situations where the superhero inside me was stepping in and righting all wrongs. But of course in the real world we walk away for all those reasons listed above. And I don’t believe that sticking my nose in an angry dad’s face and causing a scene in the breakfast room is the best way to start my weekend adventure with my husband.

I’d like to ask for your input. Friends, what do you do when you see this kind of stuff? Stay quiet and pray for the kids, like I do? Or do you have the guts to say something? And have you gotten in trouble for it? Did you ever have a happy ending? I’d love to hear your opinion.

10 thoughts on “Abusing Your Kids in Public

  1. Pingback: Stop Judging My Kids « Sitting On The Baby

  2. I have actually voiced my opinion to an adult that was spanking a 1 year old in the store. I feel that as a mother, and well just as a human being it was only right to advocate for that child. Sadly you’re right with the thought of what happens behind closed doors when they are displaying this abusive behavior in public. I think what’s wrong with our society today is that too many people don’t want to get “involved”. But if we don’t bring awareness to these parents, than who will. We’ve all been at that breaking point and most of us can stop and think. Other people just let their emotions get out of control, and by letting them know that their behavior is not okay, we could be making them stop and think.

    • You’re so right Bethany – people sometimes don’t know when they’ve gone over the edge. I applaud your bravery! Thanks for standing up for that little one.

  3. Poor kid. So sorry to read the way she was treated by her dad. I would be quite upset but not sure if I’d want to deal with some angry dad.

    • Thanks KC – it is heartbreaking when we see this, and I’ve since talked to a lot of child experts about it. The best idea I heard was that when you see someone losing it, you quietly ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Be prepared to run if they go nuts on you, but it also might just be enough to snap them out of that moment. Best! – Amy

  4. My grandson was throwinga fit in the grocery store..you would not believe all of the dirty looks I got..everybody just waiting to see me blow up or spank him..instead of doing any of that..Iturned and got the chips he wanted..opened them and gave him one for each hand…this made him happy and he stopped…then I very happily paid to them when I checked out…the problem I saw here is that there were too many people acting angry and suspicious that I was hurting him because he was screaming when in fact..i left his snack in the car..and he was freaking out….and also in fact I havent touched him in any manor ..but everybody’s red flags were going up just because he was screaming..I thought to myself..im hated and havent done anything wrong.

    • Thank you for sharing your story Marnie! We live in a culture where people seem to constantly be judging each other. I think you did just the right thing – a little bribery to get through a tough moment isn’t a bad thing as long as it doesn’t become a habit. I haven’t looked at this post in a while and it may be kind of judgy, but I think a lot of people can tell and get uncomfortable when a parent is going overboard in public. As I just wrote to someone else, I wish I had a great way to approach and handle this kind of situation! Usually if it’s a mom in a store I tell her, WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. 🙂

  5. My friend, and assistant’s birthday in early June, so a couple (6) of us gals went to a restaurant/wine bar.
    I kept hearing miffed and exasperated parental voices from behind me.
    This couple was screaming at their school aged kids. The kids were not bothersome at all and I thought that the couple was being yelly t them!
    This couple made me mad as hell and practically interrupted what pleasantness us gals were having.
    In hindsight, I had a theory about this couple as attention-nabbers.

    • It’s so frustrating and sad, especially when the kids look like they’re doing nothing wrong. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish I knew a good way to intervene when things like this happen.

      • I have an 8 year old who is in PeeWee football so my 6 year old son and 9 month old son spend lots of time outside, in the heat, sitting around at practice and games. It’s rough. Anyways, one approach I’ve noticed amongst many of us side-lined families is to say something to the child like “Are you giving Mommy/Daddy a hard time? That’s not very nice!” Just something simple, polite, and from a stranger/not parent can catch both the kid and parent off guard and take away some of the intensity of the moment but doesn’t necessarily seem like you’re calling out their parenting.

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