Normally, on a day like this I’d be making a Morning Coffee post. But not today. Something came up a couple of days ago and I have to deal with it first. There’s a lot to unpack, if you will, so let’s get started.
By now, you’ve probably seen it, the Facebook post showing a man dragging a little girl by her hair in a Texas Walmart. There are pictures at the link and I warn you, it is upsetting. As I’ve said, there’s a lot to unpack here and not a lot of it is pretty.
1) “I turned out fine.”
First off, we’re dealing with cognitive dissonance at its finest. It’s the same excuse parents will use when they hit their children: I was treated the same way and I’m A-OK! The thing is, you are not okay if you think that dragging a child around by the hair is an acceptable form of discipline and not abuse. Yes, you are screwed up in the head and yes, your parents messed you up mentally. They may not have meant to do so but they did. And perpetuating this is messing up your child.
Also, saying “I turned out fine” is extremely telling. It means that something similar happened to this man when he was a child. When things like this happen in a home environment, we see it as normal. Sadly, I was in the same boat many years ago, as I didn’t think my mother choking me was abuse. It took me a fair number of years to realize that no, choking a child isn’t simply harsh discipline. It is outright abuse.
2) “I won’t do it again!”
I’ll just leave this here. It says everything better than I can.
3) “He has a right to discipline his children.”
Again, our idea of discipline is majorly screwed up. Although the United States as a whole detests the idea of child abuse, we still perpetuate it by allowing parents to hit their children. We like to give this the euphemism of “spanking” or “corporal punishment” or even “sparing the rod” in some circles. We don’t want to admit that what we might be doing may hurt our children. We don’t want to admit that what we may doing is wrong.
It also doesn’t help that we as nation don’t like the idea of “big government”. We as a society don’t want to “get involved in other people’s business” when it comes to things like this. This is a family matter and as a whole, most Americans think that it should remain that way. However, a good number of Americans thought several decades ago that there should be laws against gay marriage. It seems the American public’s idea of what “big government” is can vary wildly. So maybe in a few years, this will be a moot point.
On top of this, most people fall back on the idea that they have some sort of ownership of their child. “It’s MY child and I’ll discipline as I see fit” is the hue and cry of a great number of these people. A good number of people see children not as humans but as belongings. They “belong” to the parents so what right does a stranger have to say “Stop hurting that kid”? We need to give children some basic human rights and maybe, just maybe, this sort of thing will go the way of dinosaur and the Neanderthal.
4) “CPS can’t do anything unless there are physical marks.”
Again, here in the States, we hate the idea of abuse. Cases of extreme neglect cause outrage. Children who are covered in welts and bruises are pitied while the parents are demonized. But we equate abuse with physical signs. If there aren’t any physical indicators, then we rationalize that the child is probably fine. We don’t see emotional or verbal abuse as abuse, as it leaves no scars. (Even a few years ago, when some letter writers complained of verbal abuse by siblings or family members, the two women who headed Dear Annie would tell the person to “grow a thicker skin” and stop being “so sensitive”.) We don’t see spanking as abuse because it leaves only a minor red mark. This man didn’t see his hair-pulling as abusive at all; he wasn’t yanking wads of hair from the girl’s head, how bad could it really be?
Again, we need to get a better understanding of what abuse is and realize that yes, there are forms that leave no physical marks. Then we might be able to better protect our children.
The last I heard about this story, CPS is investigating the man in question. I have no idea how that may turn out, whether he will be charged with any crime or have to take a basic parenting class. I have no idea if he will lose the right to see this child. I am glad that social media does exist; twenty years ago, no one would have heard anything about this. There would have been no national coverage. Say what you will about social media but in this case, I think it’s a blessing.
If there are any updates, I’ll try to post them.