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WWYD - witnessing potential child abuse in public?

(115 Posts)
Lilwelshyrs Sun 09-Nov-14 23:22:43

Saturday - busy London cafe in the pouring rain. DH and I are sat outside under the canopy as there is nowhere to sit down inside. Next to us is a family - mum, dad ds and dd.
DH and I are chatting away when our attention is pulled to a small commotion to our right. I look round and the dad has grabbed his DS by what looks like his collar and is very aggressively telling him off for being silly in the rain. The boy has been lifted off the floor and looks very uncomfortable. He's approx 7/8 years old. Dad is saying things along the lines of "how many times do we have to tell you to stop it?". Mum just stands not looking.
Then DD sticks her leg out into a stream of water dropping down from the canopy. Dad flips and doesn't exactly shout, but instead goes right into her face and tells her off - not a simple "you don't do that - you will get wet and cold"... It was nasty. DS is crying.
My DH and I make a loud comment on how there is no need to be like that with children - we didn't intervene.
Then Mum walks away with DS and dad and DD are left in silence. DD is about 4 years old. When mum and DS come back, it's clear he's been crying. I hear him saying "dad really hurt me".
Dad sort of apologises but follows it with a "you deserved it" type of comment.

DH and I were in total shock as the family walked away.
That was Saturday afternoon and I have been wracking my brains with what I should have done.

Should I have done anything?
Things ive read say that I should alert authorities and keep the children in my sight whilst waiting for them to appear... Others say that you are supposed to say something. Frankly, I was scared of jumping in... Should I have done? I was in such shock at the time and I've never come across it in public before.

I have been on the recieving end of aggressive verbal abuse as a child - at the hands of my step father. Neither my dad or my mum stepped in out of fear. So I know what it's like.

What would you do?

Changeitplease Sun 09-Nov-14 23:33:33

Sorry I couldn't see any child abuse or maybe I fail to see it in your thread. Dad seemed potentially concerned of kids getting wet specially as they had to take shelter in rain. Kids can be very naughty and such situations can be very stressful for parents. It's not always so picture perfect and being parents some times you have to be tough. His comments only reflect the fact that he didn't want then to be wet and cold maybe said a bit roughly. It seems you are projecting ... If I was the parent someone commented like you did I wouldn't take it kindly and I love my kid more than anything in the world but it's not your business

inmyshoos Sun 09-Nov-14 23:38:03

Sounds like a typical day with young kids. Having someone at a table nearby commenting loudly about it would NOT help.

If telling a child off is abuse then mine are all abused!

Fairenuff Sun 09-Nov-14 23:39:34

the dad has grabbed his DS by what looks like his collar and is very aggressively telling him off for being silly in the rain. The boy has been lifted off the floor and looks very uncomfortable.

Lifted off the floor by his collar? If so, that is definitely abuse. The fact that the mother didn't try to intervene would suggest that this is not unusual for that family.

WorraLiberty Sun 09-Nov-14 23:44:08

Was he actually lifted off the floor though? That's not an easy thing to do to a 7 or 8 year old.

If you can be 100% sure then YANBU.

YABU to make a passive aggressive comment though. Either get involved or don't but if you were scared, then that was a silly thing to do.

Lilwelshyrs Sun 09-Nov-14 23:44:34

If my DH spoke to my kids like that, he'd be out the house!
The dad was very passive aggressive and whilst I can't remember word for word what was said, I know it wasn't a normal telling off.

I totally get that parenting is hard and that kids need to get told off, but I have never witnessed anything like that before.

Lilwelshyrs Sun 09-Nov-14 23:48:15

Also my point is - what should be done?!
What do you do if you spot abuse in public?!

AesSedai Sun 09-Nov-14 23:51:10

No abuse that I can see. 'Abuse' is a very overused word by some MNers.

No you should not have done anything.

BackforGood Mon 10-Nov-14 00:02:37

I agree completely with AesSedai
Might not be 'ideal parenting' but I also think abuse is a much overused word, which then confuses the issue of real abuse.

Changeitplease Mon 10-Nov-14 00:05:13

Lilwel - do you have any kids

This is so dangerous for someone like you going around with thoughts on abuse, calling social services, takings kids away in such small scenario ...

theeternalstudent Mon 10-Nov-14 00:05:30

From what you describe I would say yes this was abuse. Lifting a young boy off the floor by his collar and hurting him is more than normal chastisement.

It also sounds like the comments that you and your DH made were enough to stop the dad from losing his temper any more. Well done for saying something. However, without being there I'm not sure if there is enough going on to get the police involved. I think that the intervention that you made was enough in this instance.

Horrible to witness though, even worse for the children involved sad

ChippingInAutumnLover Mon 10-Nov-14 00:09:47

It's not pleasant, but it's not abuse. You didn't need to do anything and it's best not to make pointed comments either, that really doesn't help anyone.

What you should do, is find someone to talk to about your childhood flowers

lougle Mon 10-Nov-14 00:28:39

I don't see abuse either. Perhaps not ideal parenting but it's not easy to stay unflappable. Perhaps the dad did hurt the boy a little, but I would expect the dad to grab a body part if hurt was intended.

Also, to be fair, the boy is bound to say his dad hurt him: it's a good way to deflect blame for being persistently disobedient.

Daria01 Mon 10-Nov-14 01:28:24

I think the dad overreacted in the way he handled his son. If somebody grabbed me by the collar and lifted me up off the floor, I'd be terrified of them!

What concerns me is if they're prepared to do that in public, then what do they do at home when pushed to the limit? Perhaps nothing, but it's definitely not 'normal parenting'.

There's nothing you could have done in that scenario. If you'd challenged him, he may well have become even more aggressive, or turned on you. Hopefully it was a one off.

BabyDubsEverywhere Mon 10-Nov-14 02:06:29

If I lifted my 7 year old by his collar it would rip!
(perhaps I buy cheap clothes or my 7 year old is particularly heavy - but I don't think so confused )

Abuse is a bit strong... very pissed off parent and perhaps not dealing with normal naughtiness well more like it. Not ideal but not really abuse!

differentnameforthis Mon 10-Nov-14 03:47:29

If I lifted my 7 year old by his collar it would rip! And if I lifted mine by her collar, she'd likely fall out of it, or it would lift over her head.

I have hurt my dd while telling them off...just yesterday dd2 (6)was running in the house & I grabbed her to make her stop, scratching her with my nails.

It was unavoidable & she told me I hurt her & I apologised with a comment that might have sounded as if she deserved it "if you hadn't have been running in the house, I wouldn't have grabbed you & hurt you"

I assure you op, she isn't abused! She was hurt because after several times of TELLING her to stop & that she would slip on the wet floor, I had to get physical to stop her.

skylark2 Mon 10-Nov-14 07:52:47

We weren't there, we can't know how bad it was. And you don't know what the kid did in the first place. If my 7-8 year old had, after repeated warnings, done something downright dangerous (maybe run across the road) then yes, I would have reduced them to tears there and then. There are some things that kids need to learn not to do because there will be consequences. IMO the best way to do that is to apply consequences (less severe ones than being hit by a bus).

I wouldn't classify "very passive aggressive" as abuse.

fluffyraggies Mon 10-Nov-14 08:14:39

Perhaps the 7/8 year old needed a damned good telling off? Had you been in the parents shoes all day you might have lost your rag with him as well.

Sorry but i don't see 'abuse' in this situation. I see a parent loosing their temper in a cafe, which, while not ideal, doesn't warrant 'stepping in' by stranger.

Why is it when children are in real and constant danger no bugger gets involved? Kids getting starved and beaten and folk turn a blind eye sad

A dad getting shirty in a cafe is not abuse.

Also muttering and tutting across a cafe is just as 'passive aggressive' as anything the dad did.

Fairenuff Mon 10-Nov-14 08:29:15

The parent should not be losing their temper with the child and certainly should not be behaving aggressively towards him. If another man did that to the father, he would be reporting it to the police but he thinks it's ok for him to do that to his son. Why? Because the child is small and defenceless?

I can't believe the number of posters who think this is normal or acceptable behaviour from an adult who lost his temper. It's not.

What if your child's teacher did that to your seven year old because they were 'very pissed off' and 'perhaps not dealing with normal naughtiness well'? Anyone would be up in arms over it but because he is the child's father it's ok? No, it's not.

Talking to the boy, telling him off, a quiet stern word, taking him home, telling him to sit down quietly, putting a sanction in place when they got home, all of these actions would be fine. Lifting him up by the collar is not fine.

fromparistoberlin73 Mon 10-Nov-14 08:34:21

i think you are maybe over sensitive after being on the receiving end of abuse as a child

NO they did not behave right- but I think you saw shit, poor, angry parenting rather than child abuse TBH

its really horrible to see-

skylark2 Mon 10-Nov-14 08:36:46

"If another man did that to the father, he would be reporting it to the police but he thinks it's ok for him to do that to his son. Why? Because the child is small and defenceless?"

No, because children are not adults.

We don't treat children as if they are adults in any other situation - why would we do so when discipline is involved? Surely you don't think that a child who takes money from an parent's purse should be reported to the police and arrested for theft? That's what you'd want to happen to another man who did it to the parent, right?

SurfsUp1 Mon 10-Nov-14 08:38:26

Oh wow - this sounds like a bad day for a normal family TBH.

When I'm furious with my children in public I don't treat them any differently to how I would treat them at home, so if people assume I'm somehow "holding back" then I guess they'd imagine I must abuse my children behind coded doors.
I don't.

You clearly don't have children and you better roll down your judgey pants and stow away that little halo of yours before you do!

Children will push you to your absolute limit some days. Sometimes that will happen in public. Sometimes the incident that pushes you to snap will only be small but will be the culmination of a day of incessant, ceaseless, button pushing and patience testing, so to bystanders you'll look like a total nutter when you finally drop your bundle over this little issue. <Shudders at the memory of crying on knees in the dairy isle telling DSs that I just can't go on like this>

LaundryFairy Mon 10-Nov-14 08:41:32

OP I understand your feeling of discomfort at what you witnessed. I had a very similar incident years ago at a wildlife park - father holding DS (about 6 years old) by collar up against a wall and shouting at him for how he was behaving. Ok, technically not abuse but way, way off the scale of reasonable reaction to child's behaviour. Father was a big man and I had my own, very young DS with me at the time so I did not feel brave enough to say anything. But I have always wondered - if that is what the father was like in public, what could he be like at home? I sometimes wonder if I should have tried to note his car reg and reported it as a concern over the child's safety, but a part of me doubts that it would have been followed up on or taken seriously.

formerbabe Mon 10-Nov-14 08:45:32

But I have always wondered - if that is what the father was like in public, what could he be like at home?

I would have thought people who are abusing their children would be more likely to be on their best behaviour in public?

sickntiredtoo Mon 10-Nov-14 08:48:13

Oh for goodness sake if shouting at and telling off a child were reportable abuse, then nearly every parent and teacher in the country would have a criminal record.

'If another man did that to the father, he would be reporting it to the police '
he would be reprting someone shouting crossly at him to the police? What on earth crime wiould that be?

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