Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stick-ing up for the child

What drives a parent to hit his/her child? Like many other situations, it's never only about one thing, I believe. It could be frustration, impatience, a general lack of self-mastery, "temporary insanity" and a host of other factors. Along with these, other people may have been ingrained with an orientation which includes hitting as a recommended form of discipline.

People have varied views when it comes to corporal punishment, but if a line were to be drawn somewhere, I think it would have to be somewhere near carrying it out in public. If a parent starts hitting the child where others can see it, this is clearly a violation of several principles (which I won't go into now).

Much as I loathe witnessing a child being harmed in this way (whether it's between an elder and the little one, or between kids), I'm always at a loss when I do see something like it. I related one incident here. Two days ago, I experienced the same don't-know-what-to-do, don't-know-what-to-say situation.

Anticipating getting back my computer, which had been in the repair shop for several days, I joyfully walked from the building parking lot toward the stairs leading to the shop. As I neared the staircase, I saw what seemed like a father and his son, the elder gripping the boy's arm. On his other hand was a walking stick which he was swinging, hitting the boy on the back repeatedly. The little boy -- who may have been around 7 to 9 years old -- was trying to wrench himself free of the man's grip while attempting (though a bit feebly) to avoid the whipping. He was crying and wailing protests the whole time I was there, watching while trying to figure out what to do.

Due to the boy's attempts to free himself from his elder, both were kind of circling a small area below the stairs. It's not as if there was no one else around to witness the episode, as a few steps away were a small flea market, some food stalls, a Chowking outlet (glass doors and windows afford patrons a clear view of the goings-on outside), and a police help desk (I don't remember if there was a police officer at the time). Fellows normally milled around the area, and that afternoon was no exception.

The blows from the stick weren't weak at all, and the father was visibly angry over something the boy had done.

For about one minute, I kind of slowed down and shuffled about, waiting for something though I'm not sure what -- probably for the whole thing to stop or for someone to step in and calm the man down. Neither happened, and by the time I had negotiated the stairs and reached the second floor, I could still hear the reprimands and the protests below.

The father was blind and the incident happened in an area where blind masseuses and their patrons are seated, going about their business (I've forgotten if the masseuses wore red or blue tshirts, but they were garbed in an identical color). Was the boy-smacking a regular occurrence as far as they were concerned? I don't know. Does the father's blindness justify the treatment he showed the little boy? I believe not. Would trying to calm the man and urging him to stop the striking have been putting one's nose where it didn't belong? I believe not, but I probably would've risked getting hit myself had I tried to intervene.

On hindsight, what probably would have been a good course of action was calling the attention of the security guard at the nearby parking lot. Whether it would have been fruitful or not is irrelevant; I could have made the effort. It didn't occur to me at the time, though.

What I find saddening, though, is that during those moments, nobody intervened to keep the little boy from getting further hurt. And I was one of those who didn't do anything.

I swear, if I'm witness to a similar incident again, I'll do more than watch and wait for others to act.

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What are your thoughts on the whole issue?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

child beating has no justification

WillyJ said...

sunnyday,
Very disturbing. The way you described the incident, it appears like physical abuse on the child.
The fact that the man administering the blows with the stick is blind, worsens the picture. Apparently giving blows with anger and force, he hits without being able to see where the blows are landing. So he is in danger of hitting the child in a sensitive area: the head; the organs...so that a mortal or serious blow is very likely here. You are right in assessing that the incident should have been reported right there and then to a person of authority in the area, to clarify matters with the man (father?), or probably pacify. A civilian intervening would not be unreasonable either, after all violence more so in a public place should be a concern of every citizen. We are not even sure the man is the father, if so then it looks like a criminal act to me.

From a Christian viewpoint, parents have the right to discipline their children, but this is done out of love and guidance, not out of unmoderated anger. I remember St. Paul saying something like "do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord". A shepherd's staff is used to guide with love, and not to inflict pain with anger.

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