What you can do when parents and
caregivers abuse their children in public
Sympathize with the parent. Say something like, "She seems to be trying your patience," or "My child used to get upset like that."
Divert the angry attention away from the child. Strike up a conversation with the adult. Ask a question or directions, anything to provide a distraction and the time for the parent's anger to subside.
Compliment or praise the parent or child. Say something like, "What a big, strong boy you have! How old is he?" or "It's a lot of work to shop with a toddler. You have my admiration for managing it!"
Offer sympathy or help. Sometimes parents' anger is fueled by some embarrassment at the fuss the child is making. "Children sure can wear you out! Is there anything I can do to help?" "Taking kids out to eat is hard! I'm sure everyone here is remembering that and giving you credit for your patience."
Alert the store manager if you are concerned about the child's physical safety. Ask someone with authority over the parent to communicate that "This is a safe place for children. We do not spank here."
Quietly stand guard if the child is being neglected and is in jeopardy. For example, a child left unattended in a grocery cart or a toddler at a street or parking lot curbside.
DO NOT give dirty looks or make snide remarks. Disapproval or anger will only increase the parent's anger and make matters worse. If someone else in a store or restaurant is clearly disapproving, step in and be an obvious ally to the parent by offering a kind remark or some help.
Another parent-caretaker friendly handout on supporting parents in public places can be found at the website for Prevent Child Abuse Florida:
Copyright free and produced by Prevent Child Abuse - Florida: 904/334-1330
Adapted from materials produced for the Child Abuse Prevention month Coalition of Virginia