Have you ever witnessed a parent verbally mistreating their child in public? For me, this is the most uncomfortable feeling ...Until recently I was always confused as to how to respond if at all. For the most part I would try to ignore it while in my mind pray for the child.
This past week I posted this article in my Face Book group, "Awakened Parenting Discussion Group" and decided to post it here as well for everyone to read. I believe it provides a positive reminder that we can all learn from. I know I did.
A few months ago I was in a local dept store (Christmas shopping) when I overheard a mom just screaming at her son (about 5). He wanted something and her lack of patience came across extremely hateful. I was mortified. I really don't know what came over me but I found myself going over to the aisle where they were looking at sporting goods. Although her voice had lowered when I entered the aisle they were in, they continued arguing about why her son couldn't have the baseball bat he wanted. I pretended to be looking at some baseball equipment and eventually she looked my way. I said nothing and just smiled at her. Although obviously distraught, she smiled back, nodding as if to say "KIDS!!”
I took the opportunity to respond by asking if SHE was okay. Immediately tears began to appear in her eyes...I could see that she felt bad for the way she had treated her son. I asked her if I could help...was there someone I could call for her. She said no, that she would be okay. A few moments passed as she gathered her emotions and wiped the tears from her cheeks...And then she added, "Just having someone show concern for ME feels good...I know I sounded like a monster but I'm really not. I am alone raising my son and sometimes I just don't feel like I am good enough to do it all. I shouldn't take it out on my son though."
At that point she bent down hugged her son and told him she was so sorry for screaming at him. My heart was breaking for them both.
I quietly went on with my shopping feeling much better about the situation.
About an hour later I was in the checkout line and someone tapped me from behind. It was the same mom. She said, "I just wanted to thank you for smiling at me rather than judging me. It was just the touch of humanity I needed to get my attention as to how I was making my son feel by being so hurtful toward him."
This was a huge lesson for me. I have spent the biggest part of my adult career advocating for children. Through my experiences of focusing so much on the well-being of children I had forgotten that for the most part parents do the best they can. This mom in particular reminded me that even though parents make mistakes, they are human too.
Do I condone hateful screaming at children? Of course not. But I think we tend to forget that parents need the same thing we advocate for our children...care, support and love. I never realized the most powerful and best tool I have is a simple smile.
For me, from now on, should I witness a parent verbally out of line with their children I won't hesitate to extend a smile and an offer of support...it may be just what is needed to diffuse a negative situation that could escalate to something worse.