|This is not child abuse|
It takes a village to raise a child. I am a believer in this principle. I have three children, and I know that I could not do this on my own without the support of parents, family, community members, schools, neighbors, babysitters, doctors, dentists, nurses, grocers, and many others who add value to the lives of my children. We live in a connected world where it is often easier to get to know someone on the other side of the world than it is the other side of the fence. It is also easy to judge others when we lack all the information necessary to properly do so, and for this reason we need to make sure to make sure to get to know our neighbors, especially those with children. Values differ from family to family. The way I raise my children may not be the way someone else raises their children. If we are to support the children in our communities, we must first support their parents, which includes ceasing the practice of parent-shaming.
It is my belief that that lot a lot of damage can be done by well-intended bystanders. My child decided to play in front of our home on the street in a quiet New England cul-de-sac. A lady in a car saw my child and came to a stop. In a frenzy, she exited her vehicle, addressed my child and started dialing the police. After placing the phone to her ear, she lifted her head up and realized that I was there the whole time closely watching my child. Embarrassed, she spat a few unpleasantries at me, flipped her phone shut, and took off.
I sat there wondering what had happened. What good did she want to do? Did the woman want to put me in jail? Did she want to take away my children from me? Did she want me to receive a big fine from the government, thereby leaving less money for me to spend on my children? In any of these circumstances, my children would not benefit from her calling the police. She had judged me without assessing all of the information.
My position is that you can best support children by supporting the parents, not fighting or challenging them. To some people, the worst thing you could do to a child is leave them in a car. For others, it is commonplace. A recent study indicated that children are more likely to be smooshed by a car in a parking lot than to be abducted while left alone in a vehicle. I keep my kids with me when I shop, even when I make quick transactions, but not everyone does. My recommendation is that if you see kids in a car alone at a grocery store, and you have the urge to ‘help,’ don’t call the police. If you really feel as though the lives of these kids are your business, than just sit and watch the car for 5-10 minutes (Phoenicians on a hot summer day can ignore this example and dial away or break a window). When a parent come back, please leave without making contact. If a parent doesn’t show up in a timely manner, then please find a constructive way to try to assist that doesn’t shame the parents.
Most importantly, don’t judge other parents. Under very rare exceptions you may see actual real abuse. If this is the case than it is appropriate to protect children by intervening. I cannot emphasize enough public displays of abuse are extremely rare occurrences. Do not confuse any discrepancy with how you’d raise children and how someone else is raising their child with child abuse. Be understanding. Be compassionate, and if you want to support the children in your community, support their parents.
How do you distract your kids?