Dear Annie: Last weekend, my daughter, my grandchildren and I attended an exhibition at a well-known museum in Chicago. While waiting to enter, I saw a boy around 8 years old trying to comfort his toddler sister, who was crying. The mother was not present. However, when she returned, she snatched the little girl away and slapped the boy viciously on his ear. He cried out in obvious pain and ran to a nearby wall, sobbing.
My daughter and I could not contain our shock and dismay, but we did not approach. The woman came after the boy, and he ran. My daughter followed discreetly and heard the woman berating the child. He explained that he was trying to get his sister to stop crying, but the mother shouted that he had embarrassed her and should not have held the girl.
I am a retired psychiatric nurse. To hit a child in such a manner is child abuse. It is especially harmful to hit a child on the head or ear. Such a blow can damage the delicate structures in the ear and cause permanent injury. Ten minutes later, we saw them again, and the little fellow was still rubbing his ear.
This mother needs counseling. I would have notified security, but there were large crowds and a lot of noise, and I doubted they would help. Now, I feel I should have said something. At least let parents know they must not hit their children on the ear or head, or jerk them or shove them. If they are having problems with stress and child-rearing, there are social agencies that will help.
Dear Indianapolis: We pray this was a one-time loss of control on the mother’s part. No matter how badly a child is misbehaving, hitting him, especially on the head, never makes the situation better. In this instance, we would have approached the mother gently, said it was obvious her kids were a handful, and asked if she needed help. It is a tactic that can calm the mother down and let her know others are watching. It also shows the children that adults are willing to protect them. If the mother continued to be abusive, the next step would be to call the police.