I was at the airport with my own children in tow when I walked out of the newsstand adjacent to the toy store. Our calm was broken by a virtual tornado. We heard the screaming and tears first and then a woman emerged from the store whacking her crying toddler who had apparently wanted a toy and didn’t get one. I did what I always do when I see someone hitting a child, I approached her. “That is no way to treat a human being.” I exclaimed, my heart beating so fast as I ached for the child. “Mind your own business” she replied and kept whacking.
My husband, Mitch, and I used to disagree vehemently about how to handle scenarios like the one I saw at the airport. He comes from the “don’t get involved’ camp, but in all fairness, until meeting me, he was never confronted with these situations. I have found that there are those who see pain everywhere and those who don’t; I am of the former and he is of the latter. Over the years, my husband’s stance has softened as, through my eyes, he has witnessed these situations when he otherwise wouldn’t have.
And it was Mitch who finally gave me the line that seems to break through the hitters and the swatters and the strikers: "Children are everyone’s business” I now respond. After years of unsuccessfully confronting the moms who slap and hit their children- in aquariums, at Disneyland and in restaurants, I finally have a line that stops these parents in their tracks.
We are all part of a giant ecosystem and when we beat the next generation into obedience, we are hurting future generations. The science backs me up: Spanking leads to kids’ increased aggression, anti-social behavor and it alters children’s brains by reducing gray matter which has permanent mental health impacts. 30 countries have now banned physical punishment of children in all settings.
We can have debates on stylistic elements of parenting - you may be a carrots and hummus mom and your friend feeds her kids Doritos. My older daughter only wants to wear Rosie the Riveter t-shirts while some of my close friends have kids wearing princess dresses to the playground. These things we can argue and disagree about. But hitting is not a parenting philosophy - it's abuse. And abuse is everyone's business.