How Far Do We Go?
How Far Do We Go?
I often find myself wondering just how far I should go to interfere with the “discipline” methods that some people use on children. There have been many incidents that have happened in my life where I was left dumbfounded.
One of those happened when I was a child so I really couldn’t have done anything but the others happened when I was an adult. Should I have said or done something?
I am embarrassed to say that, when I look back, there have been several times when I did not do or say anything and perhaps I should have. I was just not sure at the time that it was my place to interfere.
Honestly, I’m still not sure. Just how far does the obligation extend to protect those children who cannot protect themselves?
When I was a small child of maybe 7 or 8 I went to school with a little boy of about the same age. One day that little boy asked me if I would like to see his new puppies. Well, I was delighted to see his puppies; I love animals.
We walked to his house and I stayed out in the yard while he went in and got one of the puppies. He was standing in front of me when he suddenly dropped the puppy and, to my surprise, kissed me. I can honestly say that I certainly wasn’t expecting him to kiss me but I certainly was not upset that he had done so, in fact I was quite pleased. Remember, we were small children so it was all very innocent.
Suddenly his father bounded out the door, told me to “GO HOME!”, snatched up the puppy, grabbed his son’s arm and dragged him into the house. I could hear him beating his son, and I could hear his son crying, as I left the yard and walked down the street.
I really don’t know why the father was so upset, perhaps it was because the little boy had taken a puppy out of the house, or perhaps it was because he dropped the puppy, or maybe the biggest sin of all was kissing me. I will never know why he was beaten, although I believe to this day that it had nothing to do with puppies.
I couldn’t do anything to help that little boy but the memory of that incident and my feeling that it was totally unjust and horrible has haunted me since then.
I have always wondered what sort of thoughts and feelings were released in that little boy that day. Was he one of millions who have problems in relationships because his father couldn’t deal reasonably with him and use words instead of physical torture to explain that he maybe should, in future, ask the girl if it’s okay to kiss her? Who knows?
I was an adult when a similar incident happened. I was visiting a friend of mine one day. She lived in an apartment building across the hall from a woman who had a three year old son. When I came close to the door of her apartment I heard the little boy from the apartment across the hall crying. Then I heard the mother scream at the boy,”Pick them up”. Then I heard a loud WHACK, then the cry of the little boy. Again…”Pick them up”…then another WHACK.
I stood in the hallway for what seemed to be an eternity listening to what was happening inside that apartment. The mom was trying to get the little boy to pick up his toys. I thought to myself that instead of beating him if she turned picking up toys into a game or introduced a time out for the toys she probably would have been much more successful in having those toys put away.
It was painful to hear the sounds coming out of that apartment and I thought to myself that I should do something about what was happening behind those closed doors but because I didn’t know exactly what I should do I did nothing.
It scares me to think about just how that little boy might be treating his children since most people use the methods to raise their children that their parents used with them.
There was one time that I did do something. My ex and I were having coffee at Tim Horton’s with my brother and sister-in-law, and my six year old daughter. There were two women, obviously a mother and grandmother, and a little boy sitting at the table opposite us.
The little boy was colouring. His mother was berating him loudly for colouring outside the lines. It wasn’t just a gentle “That’s pretty good, with more practice you’ll get even better.” The words that that mother was saying to the little boy were shaking up everyone in the vicinity of their table. She told him that his colouring was terrible, that he knew he could do better, that he was just being lazy, the colouring was outside the lines everywhere, it looked awful, and on…and on…and on.
I finally couldn’t take it any longer; I walked over to the table and told the mom to stop treating the little boy like that. She told me that he was seven years old and knew he could do better. I said, “Exactly, he is only seven!” I was so nervous that when I returned to my own table I couldn’t remember exactly what I said. I don’t know if my input changed her behaviour forever but it did stop her at that time; she left him alone for the rest of the time that they were there.
I believe that it was the right thing for me to try to stop the mom of that little boy from demeaning him. I am, however, ashamed that I didn’t do anything in the many other instances that have occurred in my life.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the courage to stand up for my beliefs.
What do you think? Do you think that parents should be able to use whatever method that they want to “discipline” their children?
Do you think that it is the place of every adult in society to keep our children safe?
Do you have the courage to stand up for what you think is right when another parent is “disciplining” their child?