I remember being 18 years old and walking through a craft store with my mother and sister. There was a little baby crying constantly the entire time we were there. Eventually the baby reached a stress level so elevated that he started having trouble breathing. I passed by the mother and saw this tiny infant slouched down in the front of the cart, face redder than any face I have ever seen and I immediately acted. I walked up to the mother and told her to hold her child before I called someone who would take care of the baby. She was immediately infuriated by my approach, but she picked up her son who immediately stopped crying and walked out of the store. I was congratulated by the store manager and multiple patrons, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d overstepped my boundaries. Many years later I realize I would do the same thing all over again.
The Best Policy is Follow Your Heart – Within Limits
There are limits to confronting parents about their parenting choices. Just because a parent does not believe in the disciplinary style you believe in does not mean they are putting their children at risk – and that’s what’s truly important – risk. If a child is being placed at risk for injury or harm in any way, there is no question whether or not you should step in and ensure the child is safe.
I remember being on the opposite side of the coin at the park one day. My little one had tripped over her own two feet and fallen on the ground. She was throwing a fit, crying and flailing, but I knew she was angrier about the fall than hurt. Another mother approached my child and picked her up, dusted her off and made a B-line for me. She told me I was a horrible mother for not attending to my child when she needed me – was I the woman in the store?
This is when I came to realize that parenting styles differ and there will be issues between parents from time to time, but I hold true to the idea that bad parenting is something of a community problem. We don’t always have the right to step in with our two-cents, but we always have the responsibility to protect the safety of a child.