By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | October 14, 2015
We have all seen parents losing it in public with their children, but what can anyone do to help?
We were shopping once 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 discovered he had an audience then mumbled something about “a brat” and shoved him along.
There were about five or six other shoppers staring him down. His stature made the boy look so small and helpless, looking as if he wanted to disappear with his shame. What could the boy possibly have done to deserve such humiliation? We all watched the father retreat with his family as we stared in disbelief, not knowing what to do or say. All I could think was, ‘I wonder 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 cell phone and call… whom? By the time anyone shows up we would all be standing there looking silly because the man herded his family away quickly. Even if the proper authorities arrived in time to meet the man, would they do anything? They might not do much since there were no visible bruises or marks and what you saw was merely a brief snippet of time.
What else could I/we have done? Twenty-twenty hindsight offers options for you to think about for next time:
Empathize with the parent:
“Shopping 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 money either, but it’s only once in a while.”
Compliment the parent:
“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 the parent:
“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 but your focus should be on the outcome for the child. Try to provoke thought, not anger. It is good to distract an 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 only moving the abusive situation to another location you could try to get the license plate number for the authorities. If you feel there is imminent danger dial 911 and tell them factually what happened. (Statements of emotion are not helpful: “I was so mad/scared/sorry for the child.”)
This situation plays out in stores every day. The abusive parent just happened to be a father but many mothers fall victim to the same stresses of parenting (and shopping) 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.
Plan ahead for a successful shopping trip:
• Limit the amount of time spent shopping in stores.
• Explain to children where you will be going, what you will do/buy and how long you will be there.
• Bring a small snack and bottle of water in case of hunger.
• Make sure the child is not tired or sick before going.
• Exit the store as quick as is reasonably possible when kids get cranky to avoid a meltdown.
• Be willing to put merchandise down and leave the store.
Understand these things:
• Shopping is boring for kids, even for a few minutes.
• Young children do not have self-restraint or patience.
• Young kids have little concept of time; to them five minutes may seem like an hour.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Tinker.
Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.
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