I was shopping one day and I heard this woman two aisles over berating her child. She kept yelling at him, calling him stupid etc. I did what I always do every time I see an adult being abusive to a child, I went over and told her to stop it. I told her to stop calling him names and speaking to him the way she was. She did what all parents do whenever someone criticizes their parenting, she told me to mind my own business.
I told her it is my business how she treats her child. We live in a community and how she treats her child affects not just her child but also other people. When he grows up and ends up in jail it will be people like me paying to house, feed and clothe him. When he is a teenager looking to get his kicks by beating someone up it could be me he chooses. When he ends up on drugs because he wants to forget all the abuse he went through and needs drug money it may be me he robs. People who are treated the way she’s treating her son end up in trouble later in life so it is very much my business how she treats him.
Parents think no one has a right to tell them how to raise their child but I beg to differ. Every person sitting in prison was abused in some way. They were physically, emotionally or sexually abused by parents or other people in their lives. If those people grew up to only hurt the people who hurt them in life, it wouldn’t be a problem for the rest of us but they don’t. They are afraid of their abusers so they don’t confront them or hurt them. They hurt other people who are easier to get at. It’s more acceptable in society to hurt a stranger than it is to hurt your parents so most people don’t do it. Instead, they murder the innocent person they meet on the street. Or the old lady on the next block. Or the stranger who was mean to them.
It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure people parent their children in a way that guarantees they won’t grow up to hurt other people later in life. People should speak up when they hear or see abuse. Silence is consent. When we say it’s none of our business we are deluding ourselves if we think it doesn’t affect us. It does, we just don’t connect the way people behave to the abuse they suffered when they were a child.
People know that physical and sexual abuse affects a child negatively. What we don’t acknowledge are the negative effects of laughing at children, belittling children and shaming children. Those things impact children just as much as physical and sexual abuse. Laughing at children, belittling children, and demeaning children is what turns them into the asshole sitting next to you at work. It turns them into the man who beats his wife. It turns them into the cop who kills someone just for the fun of it.
Raising children should be a community thing, not a personal thing. What someone does to their child is everyone’s business because that child grows up to be an adult who interacts with other adults and their behavior affects everyone they come in contact with so if I hear anyone berating a child, hitting a child, shaming a child I will speak up. I will come to their defense. I will tell them that the problem is them as a parent and not the child. I will insist that they learn better ways to deal with their anger and tell them to get help to become a better parent. If they don’t like it, too bad.