What do you do when you see unkindness and unfairness to a child?

Not too long ago I was on a bus going from the Frankfurt, Germany airline terminal to the plane that required remote boarding. Standing on the bus in front of me was a woman with six year old and ten year old boys. The six year old was a very pleasant looking boy who decided to walk a little distance from his mother to look at something – I was looking at the boy, enjoying his spirit of play demeanor.

As he was walking the mother asked him to come back to her, in a very pleasant way, I was still smiling at this small family scene. THEN I couldn’t believe what I saw – after telling the boy to come back to her she grabbed him by his earlobes and pulled him closer to her, squeezing the earlobes very tightly. Of course the boy got upset, and the mother just squeezed the earlobes even harder. This happened two times.

After the second time I was so tempted to get up and squeeze her earlobes and asked her how she felt – of course if I did that I might still be in prison for assault. I wanted to say or do something, but the bus taking us to the airplane was not the place to do that (if there had been some obvious cruelty to the child that would have resulted in serious harm, my response would have been immediate in stopping that from happening). The one thing I felt I could do, I did, I stared at her with a “What hell do you think you are doing?” look.

I often see unkindness or unfairness in how a child is treated when walking on the street, in a store, or in some other normal activity of life, I have often wanted to do something to help the situation, but had a bit of apprehension as to how the parent would react to my doing something. One time my oldest daughter, Dhyana, and I were on a long checkout line in a supermarket. Behind us was a mother and a young child who was acting up and crying for something he wanted. The mother was losing patience and started to scream at the child and grab him roughly to stop his crying (like that would have really helped to stop his crying, by getting him more upset). To admonish the mother for how she was handling her child would only have antagonized her and make things worse for the child.

I love what my daughter did. She looked at the mother and very politely asked if she could do something with her child – the mother gladly agreed. Dhyana started talking to the child and had him look and touch different things near where he was standing on line. AND when he cooperated and did what Dhyana directed him to do, she very nicely thanked him. The child soon calmed down, and the mother was very grateful. Dhyana then mentioned how sometimes getting your child to focus on something other than what he was upset about can help change his attitude.

So often we observe something we know to be non-optimum and would like to do something about that, yet concerned how the person would react to our intervention.

What is the line that is crossed where you know you have to do something, what is the line when you just look away, shaking your head in disbelief, or just giving that “What the hell do you think you are doing.” stare?

Certainly treating children with unkindness and unfairness, is NOT a way to help them thrive!

5 Responses to What do you do when you see unkindness and unfairness to a child?

  1. Graeme Keon January 29, 2013 at 4:58 am #

    Great story Bernard. Your daughter’s handling defused the situation and probably saved the child from a beating when they got home.
    My wife takes a similar approach when parents drop off little kids at her art classes. Sometimes the newcomers are nervous and very reluctant to let Mom out of their sight, and when Mom’s growing impatience starts bordering on anger, Shirley has to intervene. She’s found that gently showing the child around the classroom, pointing out things of interest, letting them see and touch things, soon solves it and they happily say goodbye to Mom.
    But this of course is in a setting where she already has some right to take command of such a situation. Out in public it’s much more difficult and requires quite a degree of confidence and competence to handle smoothly. Dhyana’s actions were very commendable.

    • Bernard January 29, 2013 at 7:11 am #

      Thanks Graeme, Dhyana’s actions are very commendable. In other blogs I will relate other stories of Dhyana’s actions that truly inspire me and make me a very proud dad! There is a quote from my HOW TO GROW A CHILD – A CHILD’S ADVICE TO PARENTS book, “Look into your child and you shall see you shall see your reflection.” With Dhyana and my other daughters, my wife and I can honestly say, “Look into your parents and you shall see your reflection.”

  2. Grant January 29, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Hi Bernard, great blog entry. Good to see you blogging! I look forward to hearing more, blogs are a great medium for you!

    And well done to your daughter, eh?


    • Bernard January 29, 2013 at 7:06 am #

      Thanks Grant, I am very proud of all my daughters, and Dhyana, my oldest daughter helped create a beautiful path for her sisters to follow.

    • Bernard January 30, 2013 at 5:01 am #

      Thanks Grant, and I look forward to reading stories of your daughter – you have a true talent for writing and was wondering if you have a blog, if not, it would be great to see you creating one. Bernard

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