15 August 2011

Temper Tantrums = Abuse???

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about a stranger disciplining your child. I also have blogged my thoughts about temper tantrums in public.

What I witnessed today was a whole different ball of wax. 

Jake is off on Mondays so that is the day we run errands and get groceries. Today we were at Walmart getting the tires balanced and picking up some things for when the boys and I go to Tennessee next week.

We were maybe two aisles into the grocery side when we heard ear splitting screams start on the next aisle over. We turned the corner and passed a mom and her two kids, the little girl was probably between 4 and 6 years old and was following her mom screaming because her mom refused to buy her cookies. It looked like they were only there for a few things because Mom didn't have a cart.

I mentioned to Jake that "at least it's not our kid this time." And Jake made a point of telling Aedyn "that little girl needs a spanking" in a very quiet voice. Neither of us wanted our copycat 2 year old picking up that behavior! We both agreed that if she were ours we would've visited the bathroom or gone to the car, but we agreed with the mom for not giving in.

The screaming continued and about 10 minutes later we heard a grown woman start yelling. We were several aisle away but could hear pretty much everything. "Would you make her stop screaming! She's been crying for an hour! Just give her what she wants! I'm going to call child services if you don't make her stop!"

Really lady?

We then saw the mom head to the check out line, the little girl still screaming. In the check out the mom picked the girl up and was paying when the lady who had yelled got in line behind her and began acting like she was dialing her phone and yelling at the mom. "I'm calling child services! I saw you pull her hair! I saw you push her!"

Jake asked as walked by, "You're really going to call the cops because the kid's crying?"

The lady answered "I saw her slap the little girl!"

"That's not what you were yelling two minutes ago."

"I work for child services! I'm a nurse and my brother's a police officer! She's abusing that child!"

"Could you just stop yelling?"

"She was yelling at me!"

"Call the cops if you're going to, but stop yelling."

"Would you want to someone to treat your child that way?"

"I want you to stop yelling, call someone if you need to but stop yelling." (Don't you love how my hubby can stay calm and not be taken off topic by people like this?)

At this point a couple of employees had walked up to the woman to find out what was going on. But just stood there and did nothing as they listened to all of this. By the time the woman turned around to yell at the mom again, the mom and the kids had finished checking out and made it out of the store. The cops never showed up. The woman shut up and began checking out.

I wanted so badly to ask her how old her children were, because she'd made it pretty clear that she either wasn't a parent or it was so long ago that she didn't remember what preschoolers were like. I also wanted to say a few other things too, but I did ot want to start a new fight over those issues, and I didn't wan my husband arrested when he punched her in the face, Because I'm pretty sure she would've been nasty and my hubby doesn't let anyone talk to me like that, much less yell at me!

We were talking about it as we walked to the car and noted that what the woman accused the mom of changed every time she opened her mouth. Lies or at least exaggerations? We didn't see what was going on, but I can guess that if anything the mom was trying to quiet her daughter after the woman's first onslaught and may not have behaved in the most patient way. Who could when they have someone yelling at them?

Then we began to talk about the little girl. Fifteen minutes is a pretty long time to keep a tantrum going for a child who's used to being waited out. Maybe her mom does give in often enough to make the tantrum worth it. Or maybe her mom is a single parent and the kid's dad gives her everything she screams for when he has her. Whatever the case, how does yelling at a child's mom help?

Don't you think that yelling at her mom might have scared her and made her cry more? Or on the other side, she was old enough to know what was going on, did the woman prolong the tantrum because the girl realized she had an adult on her side?

We also noted that NO ONE ELSE approached the mom, even after the woman started yelling. They let her do what she needed to do with her screaming child and they let her leave. On the other hand several people surrounded the yelling woman and tried to get her to calm down. NO ONE said anything to back up the woman's claims of abuse. (Typically if one person says something that everyone else is afraid to say then others to step up in support after the issue has been broached. Not the case in this situation.)

I can only imagine how that mom must have felt. I wish I could've said something to her, but she was long gone.

And that is why I think all social workers, case managers and every employee should be required to parent a child through preschool before they are allowed to handle any calls. And the first question a child services worker should ask a caller is "Are you a parent yourself? What do you think?

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  1. I agree (big shock).

    Many times I hear people talk about how parents should respond to their children and all I can think is, "You don't have kids, do you?"

    I would never beat our kids, but some of the ways that I get Aedyn's attention when he is acting up do require a little bit of a "hands on" approach and I sometimes struggle with the conflict between staying consistent with discipline and worrying about what people around us might think.

    I believe that the way we discipline our children is right, but I worry that in our "nanny-state" culture I could lose my children because some busy-body that never raised a kid decides to call child protective services on ME.

    And you are right,  if the lady would have started yelling at you she would have had a first-hand demonstration of what abuse looks like with all the hair pulling, slapping, and body slams she claimed were going on.

  2. Sounds like the lady yelling and "dialing" was a total nutbag. My kids wouldn't carry on a tantrum like that, because they know I don't give in. But, as you mentioned, there may have been many facets to this situation. The child could also have just been overtired. None of those things makes it okay for a stranger to yell at the mom. Maybe she is stretched too thin. Maybe she knew if she opened her mouth she would yell and she didn't want to. Kudos to your hubby for speaking up AND staying calm!

  3. It definitely a different "culture" parents with young children experience than those without children or with older children don't understand.  When something goes wrong with a child's behavior the blame is automatically placed on the parents.  Yet, when a parent is actively setting limits and appropriately disciplining their children there's always going to be someone to complaint.  I'm sorry but young children yell, misbehave, and go through tantrums.  We (parents) still have to run errands and be out in public.  That lady was out of line to threaten CPS on that poor mom.  No way should she have to give in to a temper tantrum just to shut her up. 

    Personally, I would probably have left if the tantrum was THAT bad.

  4. Wow! I'm glad you
    two were there to intervene on behalf of that poor mom and child. It is
    stressful enough when your children misbehave and more so when people give you
    "the look" or make comments. While it wouldn’t have been my method
    for handling this situation, ignoring behavior that’s purpose is to illicit a
    response from you is a good way to extinguish it. Too bad Walmart didn’t
    intervene themselves with the irrational screamer. I avoid the place unless my
    husband is with me. I seem to be a magnet for the crazies and stalkers there.

  5. P.S. I have encountered a crazy lady like this before. I was at the mall with my children when a lady asked my youngest (5yrs old at the time) if the bruise on her face was from mommy hitting her. She explained that she had fallen off her bike outside while playing with her friends. I stood there shocked but proud of my kid for so rationally answering such a bizarre question. The lady persisted telling her that she worked for DCF and it was okay to tell her. I stepped between the lady and my child and told her politely (don't know how I managed that!) to leave my daughter alone. The lady laughed and said well you never know, so I ask. I told her that I didn't think she was funny and that real investigators don't ask leading questions like that. She left the store with a laugh. I turned to the startled sales clerk and said if that was supposed to be a joke, it wasn't funny. He agreed and told the manager about the crazy lady. I guess I find them even when I'm not at Walmart, lol.

  6. Way to go! Good job stepping in when most people wouldn't have. Parents need support in those situations to react appropriately.

  7. Right, no one can know for sre everything that is going on, but I can't think of a single circumstance where the yelling would have been appropriate!

  8. I agree that I would have left too, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that it was something that had to be done right then.  I'm still glad she didn't give in though!

  9. Wow! Talk about crazy! I don't know how you managed to stay polite either, 
    I don't think I could have managed it at that point!


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