Monday, December 10, 2007

What can one say?

A big part of riding BART is the people watching, especially on days when I'm out of reading material and my work email volume is low. Last Friday evening, without a magazine and with most of the company heading for the weekend, I chose to people watch to entertain myself while I waited for the Pittsburg/Baypoint train at the Civic Center station.

I heard screaming and kids crying. I turned around and saw a young mother with 3 kids. Two of them were crying while the older kid just watched quielty. The mom yelled at them repeated to shut up. They kids (probably 3 and 5) continued to cry. Then, the mom slapped them each on the face hard and said, "I said shut up. Do you want me to smack you again?"

The 5 year old stopped and grabbed the oldest kid's hand. The 3 year old continued to scream and protest. The mom slapped him again and said, "Are you done?" He cried even louder and she slapped him yet again. I was getting uncomfortable watching this sight. She then pulled him aside, away from the other 2 kids, and grabbed his hair while telling him to behave.

I was very uncomfortable with what I witnessed, so were others around me. But what can we do? Everyone raises their kids differently and uses different methods to discipline them! I don't want to judge so quickly but her actions definitely raise many eyebrows. Does that mean she's not a good mother? I don't know. Does it mean she's abusive? I don't know. Perhaps she was just under a tremendous amount of stress that day? Maybe. With my limited observation, I can't jump to conclusions.

People see all sorts of things while riding BART but this will be hard to forget. The youngest kid finally stopped crying and they boarded the train. Perhaps it was just another day for that family? For their sake, I hope it was a one time thing.

12 comments:

SongMonk said...

While it's *possible* it was an isolated incident, I think we all know the truth.

But yeah, what can you do? Not much. :-(

Anonymous said...

How does one expect a kid to stop crying when the one continues to hit the kid? Behaviour like this never ceases to amaze me. It seems the 'mom' (and I'm using that word loosely here) is the one that needed to behave, and lead by example.

I agree with songmonk...behaviour like this is not isolated. If they're willing to act this way in public, imagine what goes on in private? Sad, sad - some folks just shouldn't be parents.

Anonymous said...

bartmusings are you yourself a mother? Just asking - not meant negatively in any way. I was wondering how you discipline your kids? I have a 5 year old girl and I never ever had to slap her or pull her hair. I smacked her on the butt one time a long time ago and she now knows that daddy means business when he needs to.

ConcordCommuter said...

I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter, and I cannot ever imagine smacking her across the face or talking to her that way. There is no excuse other than bad/lazy parenting.

Is what you saw reportable child abuse? I suppose, being BART, there isn't much that can be done, since the offender would be gone before anybody got there. Plus, there is the whole dilemma about which is worse: the child continuing to be abused by this parent, or the child being put in "the system" which almost NEVER has a positive outcome...

Anonymous said...

You witnessed abuse, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that it is legal to spank your child with your hand. But not with an object. How slapping your child fits in I really don't know. Slapping is not the same as spanking.

Anonymous said...

If someone smacked you in the face and told you to be quiet, that would be an assault. I don't get why it's okay for adults to strike kids. I can understand spanking on the butt with an open hand for a couple of licks. But hitting in the face? That's abusive. It used to be okay for men to "discipline" their wives but thankfully, no longer.

ABC Primetime did an undercover story about whether people would get involved if they observed abuse and, sadly, most people did nothing.

bartmusings said...

I agree with all of you guys! What I saw was absolutely unacceptable in my personal opinion. I would personally never ever do that under ANY circumstances. What left me and everyone else around me who saw the occurrence feeling uncomfortable was not knowing if that should be reported, and how can one report it? Or should we have gone up to the mom and tell her that's wrong? Yes, WE think it's wrong, but we don't define abuse. Is that abuse? It is certainly cruel and unfair to the child but is it legally abusive? I don't know if that would hold in court and I just didn't feel like I could do anything about it except feeling bad. If I were a judge or social worker who happened to be waiting on the same platform, perhaps I could say something.

The whole reason that all of felt uncomfortable is really because we knew that by doing nothing we are not helping, but yet, what could we really have done??

Perhaps one of you would have walked up to the mother and tell her to not do that to her kids. But I didn't, maybe it was a mistaken to not to, but I felt that I didn't have enough ground to tell her how to be a mother despite knowing that I would never do that to my own children.

Anonymous said...

BART Police seems to take reports of abusive parents seriously.

Anonymous said...

I might have said something but I definitely would have called BART police and maybe called the T/O from another car.

Of course, the worry is that the cops don't do anything and the kid goes home with the parent and gets really beaten. W treat kids as property and not people. It's too bad there are not social/mental health services available where cops can take families immediately for counseling or something. I guess that's an infringement on a person's rights or something.

When you read about a child that is killed by a parent or guardian and find out there were signs of abuse that people ignored, it really breaks your heart.

Andy said...

It's a fundamental problem anytime you witness illegal or suspect activity on BART....
Do you approach the person? Unless I was 6'4" and 250lbs I probably wouldn't.
Do you call the train operator? If you do it from the same car the person will likely hear you, back to #1. If you change cars, can you? Crowded commute times it's hard, and then you can no longer see the person.
Do you dial BART police or 911 on a cell phone? Again, they could hear you, and in all likelyhood they would just get off before police arrived, if they didn't kick your ass first....

Anonymous said...

It is possible that the crying started out as a tantrum, which is something I won't tolerate in my children. However, hitting as a method of stopping one is ridiculously counterproductive, as the child now has a legitimate grievance (and pain) to cry over.

Someone who hits repeatedly as a means of discipline is abusive, period -- even if it is a rare occurrence. It doesn't have to be chronic for it to be abuse. (Imagine: "Gee, your honor, I only lost my temper and burned him with the iron once.")

Can't help wondering whether, in this age of a camera in every cellphone, whether an appropriate response would be to take a video and post it on YouTube? Headline: "Anybody know who this is?"