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Upside Some Kid's Head on Euclid Street

We're walking along Euclid Street in Adams Morgan last night on the way to eat at Mixtec, my son and I, and we're a few steps behind a mom and her two kids, maybe 8 and 6. The younger one is telling the mom that somebody hit her at school today. Mom wheels on her daughter and delivers herself of this little lecture:

"You get yourself in that bitch's face and you hit that f---in' bitch and you hit her upside the head, that f---, you hear me, you f---in' slam her so hard she don't know which way to look. F---."

Whereupon her two little kids sheepishly look around to see who has heard this choice moment in parenting. The kids say nothing and mom goes on, her voice a tad less agitated now, but her language still more than enough to turn heads.

My son, who is 10, sidles up to me and says, "Nice language."

Yeah, I say.

"Nice mother," he adds.

And all I can think about is the dad in Germantown who is accused of teaching his eight-year-old son the ways of the gun that the boy then took to day care, where he blew a hole in a seven-year-old girl's arm.

Here on the blog in the aftermath of the Germantown incident, we got off into what I suppose was a predictable debate about guns and who should have them. As Virginia legislators must be asking themselves, at least in private, maybe there should be some thought given to whether everyone should have the same access to firearms.

But if we're going to debate licensing, maybe the subject that most cries out for such regulation is parenting.

What do you do when you see public displays of horrific parenting? Do you ever speak to the parent? I never have, though on occasion, I have shamed parents out of especially brutal physical attacks on little kids with a method that I acknowledge is crude, but turns out to be reasonably successful: Applause. Which tells me that somewhere deep down, even the most out of control parents still harbor the ability to be shamed.

By Marc Fisher |  January 28, 2006; 11:15 PM ET
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I have heard advice that you should engage the parent in conversation, say "you must be tired and frustrated" if they are berating or otherwise taking out their anger on their child. It can disarm them and make them step back and see what they are doing from an outside perspective. I've never tried it though.

Posted by: E | January 30, 2006 12:10 PM

I like the idea of applause, and I'm going to try it next time I see a display of particularly moronic behavior. Some people should not be allowed to have children.

Having said that, though, I will also say that if I think a child is in physical danger, I will step in, and to hell with the consequences. That may get me arrested one day.

The worst example I ever saw was at Club Met on Eleuthera. The little kids were lining up on the dock to take a spin around the bay with a water-skiing instructor holding them. One little boy balked, whereupon his loving mother threw him down on the dock, slapped him, sat on him, and forced a lifejacket onto him, all the while screaming at him that he was an idiot, a coward, and he was ruining their vacation. She finished with something to the effect that she and his father (who stood by the entire time like a lump, holding a video camera but -- I fervently hope -- not filming) had better things to do than waste time with him, because he was making them late for their appointment to go sailing. The parents then proceeded to stomp off in a huff, leaving the child in a hysterical heap. The Club Med staff were dumbstruck, so it fell to me to go talk to the little boy, who turned out to be 5 years old, and get him calmed down enough that he could rejoin his group. I felt physically ill, and I barely restrained myself from attacking the parents. If there is any justice, their child has murdered them by now.

Posted by: Andy | January 30, 2006 1:10 PM

Oops, should have written "Club Med."

Posted by: Andy | January 30, 2006 1:11 PM

I've often asked myself this question of whether or not to intervene in this case. Frankly, if the mom is telling her small children to f--- other small children up, she'd have no qualms with f---ing me up, too. I think I'd leave her alone. But I have called the non-emergency police line on more than one occasion in my life about parents hitting children in public or verbally abusing them. It's a tough situation all around, and it really makes me wonder how we went so wrong so quickly as a society. And just think, most of this time, we've been under supposedly "pro-family" Republican rule. Hmm... maybe it's tougher than a snappy slogan to fix families...

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | January 30, 2006 1:40 PM

I'm no Republican, but I don't think we "we went so wrong, so quickly" as a society so much as the abusers just used to only do it at home. A skeleton in the closet, if you will. Now, people feel more anonymous in public and are willing to expose their true selves, strangers be damned. Not to mention, just talking about it online makes it seem more widespread than it probably is. Much like all these missing blondes and kidnappings and murders and the like aren't necessarily more common these days, just better reported.

Posted by: Kevin in AK | January 30, 2006 2:12 PM

The incident which Marc described shows that, while anyone can have a child, it doesn't mean that they can be a good parent. People rear their kids based upon how they were raised. (i.e. they learn from their parents.) And if no parent is around, then people learn from a variety of sources, which may or may not be good. TV, the bible, friends, the streets, or whatever the parents feels is 'right'.

I doubt if I would have intervened on that mother. Who knows what her motives were. or the child's action or inaction in the past. Perhaps the mom was trying to toughen up her child, in the best fashion she knew. (It doesn't make it right, just all she knew.) Perhaps the child had allowed someone(s) to take soemthing of value. I don't know. This was a example of free speech at its terrible finest. I just pray that when I chastise my child, I am not perceived as such a monster (or a pushover) by society. And I pray I don't do it in anger.

Posted by: Klezor | January 30, 2006 3:04 PM

It is funny I should come across this today. I have run out of options to get my children to listen and was having a discussion with them about what to do next. Then one of my husbands co-workers wives and their 3 kids come over for dinner and a play date. Well, the mother proceeded to cus, threaten and spank her children with a wooden spoon. Later she is apologizing for their (the children) embarrissing behavior. After they left I looked at my children and they both said at the same time "Mommy, I promise I will always be good so you don't act like that with us". So sometimes good things come out of bad, I'm not saying my children will stick to their promise, but hopefully all I will have to do is remind them of that other mom.

Posted by: Deena | February 2, 2006 2:47 PM

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