Who’s to say when you should mind your own business

While in a PG13 rated movie splattered with gratuitous violence, you witness a parent slapping a toddler knowing full well the toddler is smart enough to know he shouldn’t even be watching the movie.

While parking your car in a Dunkin’ Donuts lot, you see two young children with the window opened just a crack as their mom stands on the long line for coffee.

Selfish parenting, child abuse and neglect is not only about broken bones, bruises and abandonment. With the publicity surrounding the Texas polygamist-sect kids, one has to wonder exactly what does constitute a reason to step in.
The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the state offered “legally and factually insufficient” grounds for the “extreme” measure of removing all children from the ranch, from babies to teenagers.

The state never provided evidence that the children were in any immediate danger, the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court approval, the appeals court said.

Think about the everyday situations you encounter where you aren’t certain if you should say something with the slight chance your response will be met positively; far more likely that you will be told to mind your own business.

The question is when is it our business? If the courts can’t figure it out – how can we?

Your thoughts? Please leave a comment, I’m really interested in what you have to say.

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2 Comments »

  1. Donna Hartley said

    If I really feel that a child is in danger, I try to tell the parent in a neutral manner so that I don’t put them on the defensive. I am hard wired to do this type of thing in many different situations.

  2. Matthew Cushing said

    Tina – As a new Dad I love reading your blogs and emails. I’m learning that parenting is a work in progress, and even the best laid plans need to be revised midstream. It’s a wonderful challenge.

    This topic is a tough one for me because I grew up at a time when a spanking was acceptable, seatbelts were optional, waiting in the car alone wasn’t uncommon, etc. I’ve also experienced extreme physical and emotional neglect through the eyes of my mother’s foster children. What those children went through (are going through) makes me especially sensitive to how adults treat their children.

    The way I see it, over the years we’ve made incredible progress protecting our children – almost to a fault. “Helicopter” parents have always existed but it’s on the verge of an epidemic. These same parents often think that their jurisdiction (and point of view) extends beyond their own children. On the other hand, we’ve created a world where people are afraid to do the right thing for fear of physical or legal consequences.

    I faced an awkward situation recently… I was babysitting my best friend’s son. While we were enjoying a cartoon together, the three year old suddenly punched me in the head. Stunned, I turned to scold him only to find him smiling at me. He meant me no harm – he just wanted some attention. Later that day I told my friend about the incident (as well as a few other incidents) and he suggested that I could have spanked the boy. As we continued the discussion, I learned that my friend and his wife (they’re both good people) had attempted to “modify” their child’s behavior in the following ways: Giving him a timeout, yelling at him, taking away his toys, spanking him, making him take a cold shower, rewarding him for good behavior with a complicated sticker/toy buy-back program, putting liquid soap in his mouth, and eventually removing the door from his bedroom so he had no privacy. Each method of discipline was recommended by their network of friends.

    I was horrified. Not only did I consider some of the tactics barbaric but I also thought that many of his son’s “indiscretions” were not only innocuous but very predictable for a three year old (the boy gets no attention from his parents). Their son has learned that the only way to shift their attention (good or bad) his way is through drastic measures. Rather than addressing the cause of his actions his parents are focusing on the action itself. In the end, their son gets the attention he craves while his parents think of new ways to punish him. It’s an unfortunate cycle —- but it’s only my opinion. I told my friend that he might find that giving positive attention on the front end significantly reduces the need for giving negative attention on the back end. He chuckled and said, “You only spent a few hours with him.”

    Bottom line, my friend and his wife are good people making decisions that I disagree with. They’re new parents too – and it’s a work in progress. Since their son isn’t in any physical danger the best I can do is share my opinions and ideas and offer support. It would be the same for a stranger. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to step in (i.e., notify DSS, law enforcement, etc.) unless I sensed that the child was in danger.

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