When The Bully is a Parent

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | August 14, 2012

Enlist other witnesses to stand together to show the abusive parent others disapprove as well.

People tell me my ‘southern’ comes out when I’m mad but some time back I could have spit nails in Walmart over the stupidest thing. We were shopping for back-to-school supplies and passed between the electronics and clothing just in time to see a very large man loudly berate, then lightly tap his son on his head. The boy, maybe ten, raised both his arms to protect his head and tried to duck as the man then attempted to kick his behind. The man looked around and saw he had an audience and mumbled something about “a brat” and shoved him along.

The man must have felt the eyes burning his face with about five or six other shoppers staring him down. He made the boy look so small and helpless and he only wanted to disappear between the racks of clothes to hide his shame. What could the boy have done to deserve such humiliation? We all watched that big brute retreat with his family as we stared in disbelief not knowing what to do or say. All I could think was, “Just imagine what happens at home behind closed doors?”

What can you do when you witness a situation like this in public? You could whip out your handy-dandy cell phone and call… whom? By the time anyone shows up we would all be standing there looking silly because the brute herded his family angrily away. Even if the proper authorities arrived in time to meet Mr. Big-and-Mean, would they do anything? They would probably not do much since there were no visible bruises and what you saw was merely a snippet of time.

What else could I/we have done? Twenty-twenty hindsight is your friend so here are some options for you to think about for next time:

Empathize with Mr. Big-and-Mean:

“Shopping for back-to-school can be so exhausting— maybe everyone needs a break.”

“It’s okay to have a bad day— it’s what we do that counts.”

“I don’t like spending so much either— it’s onlyonce a year.”

Compliment Mr. Big-and-Mean:

“Your son has your eyes! Wow, shopping is such a drag.”

“You’ve handled shopping great so far— it won’t be much longer now.”

Look at his shopping cart and say, “Looks like you found some good deals today!”

Confront Mr. Big-and-Mean:

“That will not make you or your son feel better about shopping.”

 “Losing your cool may not be best way to handle a stressful situation.”

 “You can always apologize to your son but you are not setting a good example.”

Only you can judge the situation to decide how to handle it but your focus should be the outcome for the child. Try to provoke thought, not anger. It is good to distract the abusive parent and hopefully cool the situation but never put yourself or your own children at risk. Try to enlist other witnesses to stand together to show the parent others disapprove as well. The child will begin to understand what the parent did or said was wrong. If you feel the parent is moving the abusive situation to another location you could try to get the license plate to give to the authorities. If you feel there is imminent danger dial 911 and tell them factually what happened and let them make the decision what to do next.

The situation above is not fiction. The abusive parent just happened to be a father but many mothers fall victim to the same stresses of parenting as this man. If you have ever found yourself saying abusive comments or striking your child out of anger, please get help. It is much more fun being a parent when you are not hitting your children.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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