Anonymous asks:

What to do or say if you see a parent spank their child in the grocery store?

While our family was at the grocery store yesterday, we saw a mother struggling with disciplining her young child (about 4 or 5 years old). First, she was scolding him. Then she grabbed his arm and told him to "Stop it!" (the child seemed to be playing with stuff on the shelves). When the child didn't listen after that stern warning, we saw her smack him, which caused the boy to cry, but also to back away from the shelves and follow behind his mom. We felt really uncomfortable observing this scene and hurried out of that aisle. But it's been bothering me ever since.

Should we have said something to that mom? If so, what? My husband said it's none of our business, and there's nothing we can do, but I'm having a hard time accepting that. Is he right: is it better to mind our own business in situations like that and just pray for that family? Or is there something else we can do or say to help the child (and his mother)?

In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago



Apr 18, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

I agree with you that watching a child being hit is difficult.  However, the situation that you are describing sounds more like  poor parenting than child abuse.  It seems that the mother lost her temper after two attempts to resolve the situation peacefully.  A more effective approach that hitting the child would be to leave the groceries behind, take the child by the hand and leave the store.

Spanking is not an effective way of discipline.  Moreover, it breeds feelings of resentment and hurt in a child.  Studies link spanking to aggression later on in life.  As to whether to interfere while a child is spanked in public, the answer is difficult.  Parents usually spank their children when they get pretty upset, and may not be open to hearing comments from strangers.  

If you feel very passionate about spanking, or rather not spanking children, try to educate the public about effects of spanking on children.  For example, write an article to your local newspaper, or submit one  to a parenting website.  The more people read about negative effects of spanking on children, the more will rethink their discipline methods.

Suggested reading:

Practicing Healthy Discipline
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