Where was the mother?

Let’s just do this one really quickly, shall we? So, many of you will have read about the case in which a man repeatedly slapped a toddler in a Walmart store in the US because her behaviour did not please him. Yes, repeated criminal physical assault on a child. Do you know whose fault it was? Well, check out a comment here .

Did you guess? Yes, the mother’s fault.

While I do not advocate what the man did – I’m glad it has sparked debate. What everyone is forgetting is WHERE WAS THE MOTHER?
He said: “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.” Mom did nothing! Didn’t report the man, making me think this happens to her all the time and she ignores it.

Do you know what? Yes, people do threaten, “jokingly” or otherwise, to physically assault a child for crying, quite often. Any parent of a toddler or former toddler here who’s never had that happen, raise your hand. No, thought there wouldn’t be many of you. And while, yes, it would be nice to think that if you reported it to the authorities every time, it would be taken as seriously as a similar threat to an adult, we all know it wouldn’t, don’t we? “Officer, he threatened to slap my child.” “Well, madam, perhaps if you slapped her more often she wouldn’t behave so badly.”

That aside, making someone other than a violent criminal responsible for his violent crime is… well, we’re all feminists here, right? I think we know when else that happens. Perhaps mothers, as women, shouldn’t be at all surprised that the burden of preventing violent crime is all on our behaviour.

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34 Responses

  1. Seriously?

    I know that when I ask my 2 year old daughter to be quiet she often yells back as loud as she can “I DO NOT WANT TO BE QUIET”. I guess we both deserve a beating.

  2. Apparently if some random dude walks up to you in Wal Mart and says “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you” and the mother (a) doesn’t report him to security and (b) doesn’t make her child shut-up, it is her fault if he then tracks her down several aisles over and gives her child a beating.

  3. Dude,
    Thought you were serious there, for a minute. Of *course* it’s the mom’s fault. Because when I’M shopping with my kids, I never turn my back on my child to actually reach and grab products off the shelf.
    Can’t believe people are actually blaming her for what this asshole did. Would they blame the father if it was the same case? Doubt it. There’d be some “pansy” comments for not “kicking the guys ass” (and comforting said slapped child instead, as I would first do: grab that baby up!), but no one would blame him.
    And I love that whenever someone says, “I’m not saying what he did was okay…” they indeed place the blame somewhere else.
    Thanks for linking to my post on Eco Child’s Play, btw.

  4. *blink*

    *blink blink*

    Did he just say… tell me he didn’t just say… oh gods he really DID say that! I’d say “unbelievable” but unfortunately it is all too believable.

  5. I think I’m almost more appalled at the various comments I’ve seen and heard advocating this than I am in the act itself. Almost.

  6. somehow, I knew this would be featured here… is that a good or bad thing? :/

  7. You only published part of my comment!
    My question was:
    How and why, after being threatened by this man, did she allow him, minutes later and aisles over, to get close enough to her child to grab her and slap her 4 or 5 times? The child was 2, was she shopping on her own?
    As to “Yes, people do threaten, “jokingly” or otherwise, to physically assault a child for crying, quite often. Any parent of a toddler or former toddler here who’s never had that happen, raise your hand”
    My hand is raised high, as are those of my sisters & brother! Where the hell are you from that this is commonplace?
    The man was clearly wrong but parents need to take responsibility for their kids.

  8. @mags:

    1) When I am shopping I sometimes turn my head momentarily to get something off of a shelf and the man could have come around the corner and attacked while the mom was briefly looking away.

    2) You said: “The child was 2, was she shopping on her own?”. Was who shopping on her own? The 2 year old? I assume not. The mother? I don’t see why it would be a problem for her to be alone with her 2 year old? Should she need to take her husband with her all the time? I sometimes shop alone with BOTH of my kids. I know friends with 4 kids that take them all shopping. Chances are one of them will act up every once in a while. That is life, not an excuse for a beating.

    3) Idiots say stupid things all the time. Most of them claim that they are “just kidding” and would be horrified if someone called security on them.

    4) Reality is that not all kids are calm and docile. If I left the store immediately every time one of my children refused to be quiet, I would be responsible for plunging the country into an economic downturn and starving my family. Having me or anyone else smack them isn’t likely to make them quiet. It will make them louder.

  9. @mags, really? You’ve never heard someone mutter “shut that kid up, or so help me…”? Or nudge their companion and make backhand-slap gestures while pointing at your, or someone else’s, kids? Or say, not-so-subtly: “What those kids need is a good spanking”?

    I don’t really understand your argument – you’re saying that if this woman had been a good parent, she could have prevented this man from assaulting her child? She might have left the child sitting in her trolley while she got something at the other side of the aisle. She might have been half the guy’s size. The child might have run off round the corner and been grabbed while momentarily out of her sight. I know I’ve taken my kids into situations where a determined predator could have grabbed them by force – because that is every situation other than staying locked in the house, and even then it’s not a done deal. Should I not let my toddler run a few metres ahead of me at the park? How can I hold both of my children by the hand and take something off a shelf in a shop? Or pay at the checkout? I could have them on reins, I suppose, but until what age? I suspect my “good mother” credentials would run out if I did that past toddlerhood.

    Seriously. Mothers do their best, almost always. And in retrospect, had she known that this guy was a violent predator who assaulted children, I can’t imagine for a second that the mother in this case would not have taken her child and run away, but she did not know, could not have known, at least partly because aggression, usually verbal, towards kids acting out is so common.

  10. to phdinparenting where precisely did you get your Ph.D.?
    It is NEVER acceptable to raise either your hand or your voice to a child! Hitting children teaches them to hit, screaming at them teaches them to scream!
    I really couldn’t care less if anyone was “horrified” that I called security if they threatened me, or anyone else for that matter!
    Sorry to disillusion you all but not all mother do their best. Many find it inconvenient, at times, to be consistent and discipline their children. A vast majority ignorantly believe the best thing to do is ignore the child, regardless of volume or location.
    Parenting isn’t always fun or convenient but if my child, or any child in my care, is having a tantrum in a public place I immediately remove the child from the situation.
    If ANYONE, says to me what that man said I would DEFINITELY call security AND police! A person who threatens violence towards a child needs to know that it is no joke – security and police will get that point across!
    In closing, I really can’t for the life of me figure out where you are all from that you hear threats against your children constantly… I would seriously stop and try to figure out the common denominator

    • I am incredibly confused about where you got the impression that PhDinparenting was advocating hitting a child. I didn’t see that addressed further down in the thread, and just wanted to make sure no one was left believing that, as it is FAR from the case.

      PhD in Parenting advocates for gentle, healthy discipline.

  11. Oh, look, a comment blaming the mothers who blog at I Blame The Mother. This should be fun.

    mags, if someone “ignorantly” believes something different to you, and acts on that belief, they’re still doing the best they know how to.

  12. Yes, actually, you’re right. I’ve actively trained my child to be an annoyance to adults. I’ve taught him how to walk so he gets in front of your shopping trolly in the supermarket, just to piss you off. I’ve shown him how to position himself next to an adult’s ear when he shrieks. I’ve gone out of my way to bring him up to annoy the fuck out of people just like you, in fact. It is all my fault that he and I get threats, or at least, dirty looks, in public. I confess. It is me! And all mothers! We all do this! We are the common denominator!

    /sarcasm

  13. if my child, or any child in my care, is having a tantrum in a public place I immediately remove the child from the situation

    And you know what? I’d try to, too. Not because I’d be frightened that he’d be hit, although since this incident, hell yeah, that does weigh on my mind a bit. But because it isn’t in his best interests to be upset like that and have people glare at him.

    But sometimes, it isn’t possible. If you have other children, for example; if you have a trolly full of shopping; if your child does not want to be moved (and no, I wouldn’t pull my “I’m the adult, you’re the child” card if I could help it; carrying my child to somewhere he doesn’t want to be by use of brute force isn’t on my agenda just so I can avoid not pissing people like you, or like the Walmart assault man, off) if … well, there are all sorts of reasons it might not be possible.

    I’d try to comfort my child right there. Right there in the middle of the supermarket. And you know what? To hell with people who don’t like it. Tough shit. My kid’s got as much right as you and the other adults there to exist and behave in an age-appropriate manner and to have his support needs met wherever possible.

    So, yes, it looks like “we’re all Mums who want to avoid unnecessary upset to our children” is the common denominator you’re talking about.

    • You need to check a dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘possible’.
      It is ALWAYS possible to leave a store, it might not be convenient but it is possible.

      • On that note, it is also possible for the person who is annoyed to leave the store. I don’t go around hitting people who drive me crazy in the grocery store, no matter how obnoxious they are being. And believe me, I’ve seem much worse than a crying baby.

  14. There are always going to be people who believe that women are responsible for any violence that is inflicted on them and their children. Sad.

  15. My goodness it looks like parenting class might be in order for quite a few of you here! Also perhaps a hand in removing that huge chip from your shoulders.
    Removing the child is not done to avoid annoying others it is done to teach the child that the behaviour is inappropriate. Do you really need a stranger to tell you that?
    I do it, my siblings do it and my mom did it with 4 of us and yes a full cart of groceries is and was sometimes left behind. BTW peer pressure helped, if one of us acted up and mom was alone we all had to leave.
    I have never, ever had anyone tell me to shut my children up but if someone did, after alerting authorities, I would most certainly keep an eye out for the lunatic. He wouldn’t be able to get close enough to me or my children to slap them.

    • mags: What happens if the precise reason my child is misbehaving in the supermarket is that he wants to leave? What am I teaching him then if we leave the store? Oh right, according to your logic I’m teaching him that he gets his way all the time. Or was I teaching him that his behaviour is inappropriate? I’m confused. Help!

  16. “it is done to teach the child that the behaviour is inappropriate.”

    Aha! I see, I think here we have the problem. See, I don’t see tantrums as “inappropriate”. In fact, I think they really are just age appropriate behaviour. Like crying in a milk-hungry newborn, or angst in a teen.

    And I prefer not to shame my child into believing his age-appropriate behaviour is wrong, especially not by peer pressure from older siblings or other adults!

    But thank you so very much for your online parenting class. I’d love to sign up so you can tell me how else I might curb my child’s natural age-appropriate behaviour by removing him from the situation or having his peers shame him.

    Hmm. Let’s see. Maybe I should put him outside the house for half an hour every time he does a wee outside of his potty. After all, that’s removing him from the situation.

    Or how about every time he runs around the house laughing hysterically – more age appropriate behaviour – I should find some older children to be cross with him?

    No. Tantrums are age appropriate behaviour due to not having the emotional capacity just yet to deal with conflicting needs/desires and abilities.

    Crikey, even as a 32 year old woman I’ve had moments where I’ve wanted to cry in the Asda because I just have no money left at all and I want to buy things I can’t afford. Or when I’ve been stuck in a queue for ages and ages. Or when they’ve run out of the last jar of supersaver value tomatoes and the only ones left are so expensive. It’s only the fact I have the emotional / developmental capabilities to overcome that internal conflict that’s stopped me breaking down and screaming and crying.

    Tantrums, weeing outside the potty and yes, sometimes, if I’m tired and have a headache, even running around the house laughing hysterically, are all age-appropriate behaviours that can be annoying. And I don’t intend to teach my child they’re inappropriate. Thanks.

    • So if you’re not willing to teach your child who should?
      Is the poor thing meant to figure it out on his own?

      Children have tantrums because they are unable to express themselves, it is a parent’s responsibility to teach children how to express their emotions constructively.

      It’s abundantly clear now why I’ve never, ever had anyone tell me to shut my child up but for some of you it is such a regular occurrence and nothing to be alarmed about.

      Poor kids!

      • I can help my child figure out what he wants to express right there and then in the supermarket, with love and compassion and understanding, thanks. I don’t need “peer pressure” or any kind of public shaming to get my child to shut up.

        And it really is stooping very, very low indeed to pull the kind of “I pity your poor kids” comment you just made.

  17. This thread is giving me a bit of a headache but I’ve got to say yes, yes, YES to everything Ruth just said.

  18. Ruth Moss
    you’ve changed your story and excuses so many times – Yes, I try to remove the child – No I won’t remove my child… Whatever.
    As to stooping low? The kettle called to say you’re black.
    Your sarcasm and foul language is pretty low indeed.

    If you think it’s ok for your child to throw tantrums in public, fine, have T-shirts made for all I care! The tantrum phase will last a whole lot longer at your place.
    Just don’t be shocked when people call you on it!

    • The language? Really? Oh crikey, next you’ll be asking me if I kiss my child with this mouth!

      I try to remove my child if possible, if I think he is too upset to stay in the store, if he wants to leave. It’s kinda up to him.

      And you know, it’s really funny, but my child doesn’t actually tantrum “in my place” very often at all. Maybe it’s my parenting, maybe I’m just lucky, maybe I haven’t hit the rough patch yet. I don’t know.

      I certainly know I don’t need you telling me how to parent or blaming mothers for children’s (perfectly natural) behaviour. Thanks. Goodbye.

    • Thank you for playing, mags. It’s quite clear that “I Blame the Mother” is something you’re very good at. And with that last comment, you are done here. The point of this blog is to do take-downs on mother-hating not to give a forum to the mother-haters. You’ve gone past giving us all lulz and are now just tedious. Thank you for playing, but now you’ve got to go. Bye-bye!

  19. Aww Lucy, you got there first. I was hoping to have the pleasure of doing that. 😛

  20. […] behave”, that particular infection is all too extant in the parents population as well. A recent dust-up on I Blame the Mother provides a disturbingly excellent illustration of […]

  21. I had not yet read the article about this original event, but I kept seeing it around the web. I had no idea it was a stranger that slapped the child! I thought it was the dad, which unfortunately didn’t shock me.

    I’m not sure “enjoyed” is the right word for this post and the comment thread, but I am glad you wrote it. Well done.

  22. Barelyknittogether makes a good point, and one I raised with my partner the other day – which is that the sad thing is, if this man had been related to the child in some way (father, stepfather or even uncle or something) then his assault of this poor child would have been considered ‘normal’ and ‘good discipline’ by many. There certainly wouldn’t have been this much uproar over it in the media, etc.

    What does it say about the world we live in when the only people with the ‘right’ to assault a child and cause him/her pain, are the people who are supposed to love the child most, the people who are supposed to be protecting that child from harm?

    What does it say about the world we live in, when we go mad over an adult assaulting a child… unless of course the adult happens to be related to that child and then of course it’s perfectly normal and acceptable and even ‘right’?

    • That is a very important point, BarelyKnit and Anji, and is where I start to feel like I’m on a slippery slope sometimes when it comes to “mother blame”. Here is how I have reconciled it in my own brain, for now anyways.

      I judge spanking/hitting. I thing it is wrong. I am judgmental of the belief that spanking is a correct, appropriate, or even superior way to discipline a child. However, I try not to judge individual acts of spanking. That is, I try not to judge/blame the mother who spanks because she doesn’t know better and thinks it is a step up from the top to bottom beatings she received as a child. I try not to judge/blame the mother who spanks out of frustration in the heat of the moment because her child is putting himself in danger and she has run out of options. I would like to hope that I will never spank. But I also recognize that there will be situations where not everyone can live up to the ideal.

      There was an interesting post on this on Her Bad Mother (and interesting discussion in the comments):

      http://herbadmother.com/2009/06/sticks-and-stones-2/#comments

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