As a parent it is a fine line that we walk some days, that place where you see something that really bothers you but you don’t want to cause a scene or make a situation worse. Your heart tells you that you should try to help but your mind screams “HECK NO! It’s none of your business“.
What point is it your business? When it is something illegal because then you have the law to back you up? When a child or someone helpless is involved? When you have credentials or a degree to back you up? This is such a hard question for anyone who has witnessed a child being yelled, pinched, spanked, abused.
Too many times to count in the news we hear stories of innocent children abused, murdered, tortured, neglected and when the news reporter interviews neighbors, friends, and family everyone claims to have known about the troubles for awhile. They speak of tell tale bruises. dirty clothes, behavior. Everyone knew what was going on but no one wanted to speak up because they felt it was none of their business. I wonder how many children would still be here is people stepped in and protected those little ones?Are those people sorry or sad that they didn’t come forward sooner? Should they be held accountable as teachers are?
An even harder issue is when you see children being abused out in public, spanked, yelled at. People look and stare, mutter to each other, but rarely does someone step in and try to help because no one wants to get involved. But does anyone think to themselves, “If this is how things are in public, what happens at home?”? Maybe a quick hug to the frustrated parent would calm the situation… who knows? This is a place even I have not gone, and I know firsthand what happens when everyone looks the other way.
Before I was put in foster care permanently my family had had some run ins with Child and Family Services due to incidents. My uncle had reported us as being abused and neglected, my youngest brother (then only 2) wandered outside wearing only a diaper on a cold winter night and was picked up by the police- my mother was working and we had no babysitter. I was a witness to a horrible gun incident that left my step-father paralyzed… the list goes on. These incidents continued until I was 14. Honestly I am amazed that in that time nothing worse happened to me. Still, it was enough for the county to remove my siblings and myself from my mother’s care, to have her parental rights terminated, but it took so very long for enough people to step up and tell the authorities that the situation was dangerous.
I am not advocating that people start calling CFS for every little infraction, this is where good judgement comes in. But pulling a struggling family close instead of looking the other way is a step in the right direction. It is so much easier to gauge a situation if you are involved instead of relying on hearsay and gossip. Share information on how to de-stress, talk about the dangers of spanking and allowing babies to cry it out, ask the parent if he or she needs anything like a break or help. No parent is perfect and I know that I have regrettably lost my temper under stress. Of course I knew that it was wrong to yell, but at that very moment all my gentle parenting skills flew out of the window. A hug or some understanding would have gone a long way with me and probably put me back into a good place.
It is your business if you see a child or another helpless person being mistreated. You never know how far your kind word or offer to help may go.