When I Will Look the Other Way as You Knock the Shit Out of Your Kid in Public

So, I’m up the hill at the little grocery store which is packed with people coming home from work and there, in the meat aisle, is a woman pushing a cart. A boy of about nine or ten is standing in the basket of the cart, reaching up to try to touch the signs  that hang from the ceiling.

She tells him to stop. He petulantly says no. She says she is not kidding and that he could get hurt.

And then he swung his leg up and kicked her in the face. Not hard, but he kicked her in the face. And we all turned to look. And he just smiled at her like “What are you going to do about it?” and her face didn’t change at all, but she just kept pushing the cart.

And I thought, should I do something? If so, what? And then I thanked everything I could think of that I didn’t have a kid like that.

15 thoughts on “When I Will Look the Other Way as You Knock the Shit Out of Your Kid in Public

  1. Well by that age my mom had already broken me of such foolhardy notions. But if I had kicked her in public, she would’ve dealt her retribution in private.

    Of course I would’ve immediately began begging for mercy to try and mitigate the damage.

    A kick plus lack of real or feigned sorrow concerns me.

  2. That’s why everyone’s opposed to corporal punishment until they actually have an unruly kid. That child needed to struck right there in front of everyone. No one wants to say it but that’s the reality.

  3. Yeah, I don’t know what that kid needs or not, but I honestly don’t think I would have realized I had knocked him into next week before I had done it, that would have just made me go mad blind with rage.

    And, yeah, that he wasn’t even sorry or frightened, but just like “What?” It made me feel like I was seeing a budding serial killer.

    I hate corporal punishment, I really do. But I was shocked she didn’t even change her expression.

  4. Shit, I have had to deal with my cranky kids in grocery stores in my life, but that was when they were two or three. Kids can be like that when tired and bored; it comes with the territory.

    A ten year old? There are bigger, longer lasting problems than this with these people. Fuck NO.

  5. Yeah, my nephews have their moments, but, man, really, it’s that creepy smile I can’t get out of my head. He just had no fear and was so proud .

  6. If a kid that old is in the basket of the cart — never mind standing or not — there is something amiss with him that the mother has decided to contain. He might be emotionally or behaviorally disturbed and this was just the tip of the freakin’ bad behavior iceberg. However, it is exceedingly rare for a child that old to be in the cart — on the cart riding it like a pushcart or hanging onto the basket end like it’s the prow of the Titanic or something, but not actually in the basket.

    I think she’s probably had to deal with this sort of thing a lot. That would account for the “not fazed” reaction.

  7. Well, yeah, I can think of three reasons; 1. she was afraid to smack him/punish him in front of other people, 2. she really just needed her groceries and decided that was a priority (because punishment=screaming=leaving the store and there was No Food in the house). 3. Like gettofit said, he might be mentally disabled and so not aware he was acting inappropriately.

    More horrible is maybe that she gets worse from her husband and is past caring.

    I try not to look too much at other people’s kids at the supermarket, generally. I always see something that horrifies me…babies drinking Koolaid, being hit by parents, tiny children up waaayy too late at night and miserably tired. It all makes me horribly sad.

  8. In response to Kleinheide

    OK, I am *not* a fan of corporal punishment; I don’t think it’s always abusive but I think 99.99% of the time it’s inappropriate.

    I am 25, and I have an 8yo sister and a 10yo brother. They are unruly children. They are unruly because their parents have fucked them up, just like they fucked me up. Surprise surprise. (Different father so slightly different issues but generally same diff.)

    They are 200% better behaved around my partner and I. You know why? Because we are CONSISTENT, we don’t yell at them in anger and any punishments or bribes are followed through on. We used to have them every 2nd weekend for a while, and I really need to start it up again. We have dragged Olle to his room by the arm, and carried him out of shops kicking and screaming when he was littler. We have never, ever had to hit him.

    Re: the OP, this is a little terrifying.

    In that woman’s position, I would have used my “I am fucking serious about this” voice (which is similar to my drill voice I used in the Navy; and not a yell) to tell him it’s unacceptable and manhandled him out of that trolley and out of the store. But I am strong, and know I could do it.

    Since we *don’t* know the full situation I really don’t know what the best thing would have been to do, because if that child behaves in that manner because he has been beaten, smacking him around will not help.

    Note: my opinion is that smacking is a problem if done in anger, and a vast majority of people fail at being calm when using it as punishment, and if used regularly it either completely loses it’s usefulness or is traumatising.

    My partner and most of my friends are in their late 30s-early 40s and were brought up with smacking; and fall firmly into “smacking didn’t mean anything, it didn’t work as discipline” or “I’m really quite fucked up from the abuse of power that was being beaten by my parents”. Or sometimes, a mix of the two!

    Sorry for ranting in my first ever comment on my site but I am so sick of people being totally black and white in general, and smugly recommending hitting as the solution to everything when it comes to children.

  9. Yeah, I also kinda object to Kleinheider’s assertion that this is somehow evidence that kids “need” to be physically hit.

    This is evidence that kids need to be disciplined for sure, but the leap to physical punishment isn’t one I’m seeing the need to make.

    Particularly in this situation when the behavior being corrected in physical violence, it actually seems COUNTER-productive to discipline with physical violence. That doesn’t teach the child that violence is wrong, only that you only commit violence when the other guy is smaller. That’s not the lesson I’d want my child learning.

  10. B, I have to agree with dolphin here – I’m pretty firmly in the camp of “hitting someone to teach them that hitting is wrong is ineffective.”

  11. Yeah, but that’s not actually what I’m getting at here at all. I mean, most of y’all read me. You know I think hitting your kids is, at best, unproductive and not the best way to handle situations and is, at worst, abusive and fucks kids up.

    Now, granted, I’m more than happy to have the conversation drift off into whether or not hitting your kids is right or does anything, because it moves the conversation away from the unpleasant thing I’m actually saying. But let me be clear.

    I am against corporal punishment. I think it’s wrong.

    And yesterday, I saw a kid do something that, if his mom had knocked him out of the cart and into the frozen foods section, I would have gotten on with my day without giving it a second thought.

    In fact, if my kid had done that to me, especially with that smile, I think that I would have reflexively knocked him to the ground. That that would have kicked in long before the “what’s the best course of action here that will lead me to getting out of the store with the least amount of trouble and will be the least damaging to my child?”

    Hence leading me to be glad I don’t have to parent a kid like that, because, in that moment, it would have been all bad impulses and it would have taken time for the good person in me take control of the situation.

    And, as it is, I would have looked the other way if that’s where this had lead her.

    I think she did the right thing at the moment.

    But that’s not what this post is about.

  12. Yeah, I was thinking you had written about that before, which is why the headline kind of surprised me. If I’m reading you correctly now, you’re drawing a distinction between, if the parent had responded in kind, “I think this reaction is appropriate” and “While inappropriate, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to intervene. In fact, I could see how my own impulses would cause me to respond similarly.”

  13. Sounds kinda like what one of my kids would do. Except my kids are 3 and they would know better than to smile about it afterward. I really think it’s pretty reflexive for a 3 year old to resort to violence, but a 10 year old should know better.

    After dealing with the ‘terrible twos and threes’ for awhile I’ve come to the conclusion that corporal punishment in all its forms is only about satisfaction to the adult. I’d probably have reflexively hit back if I’d been in that mom’s situation, but would it have taught the kid not to hit? Nope. It would have taught the kid not to hit someone bigger than him. Also a good lesson, but not really the one the kid needed.

    I think having twins has helped me feel better about the lack of corporal punishment in our house. They regularly lecture each other just like their mother and I do. If they saw us spanking or smacking hands they’d think they could do it to and it would all ‘Lord of the Flies’ up in there before you could blink.

  14. And when he’s 17 and raising hell and the cops have picked him up a few times she’ll say to her friends, “I just don’t know how to control him!”

    And the one and only correct response to that will be, “Maybe it’s because you waited until he was 17 to try.”

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