Just when I think for sure that I’ve met the most obnoxious child in existence, someone would bring their kid into my store and prove me wrong.
I’m (sort of) exaggerating. Honestly, it’s not so much the kids that I had an issue with. It was their parents.
Unless you’re new to this blog, you’ve seen my complaint about parents who would bring their children to the store late at night. That problem never went away in all my time working at Old Navy. And I still believe it’s a valid complaint.
Another problem is with the parents that treat their kids so poorly in public that it makes me genuinely concerned for how they must be treated at home. One night, I encountered two families that bothered me. Not only as a counselor who worked with small children, but as a human being.
For the first case study, I present a family of five. I’ll be honest, I judged the two youngest children in this family very harshly before I met them. As is often the case, they were running around the store unsupervised and were extremely vocal. When I first heard them across the store, I rolled my eyes. Then I observed the “adults” raising them.
The father brought his young son into the fitting room for him to try on some jeans. Once they got into their changing room, the father began to loudly berate the boy. Some of the things he said made me wonder if he thought the fitting room was soundproof. Soon after, the mother walked by with the younger daughter, yelling at her as well. At least those kids get their loud voices honestly.
What bothered me more is that the two young kids both seemed to have something holding them back. What I mean is, there may have been some kind of mental disability happening there, which made me feel guilty about the earlier rolling of the eyes. Now, I was not and am not in any position to diagnose those children, but a quick judgment based on what I saw and heard told me that things were not okay here. So to believe that the kids are handicapped in some way, and to know that their parents are yelling at them the way they were really made me worry about their well being.
By the way, there was a teenage daughter to round out this party of five, but she was pretty uninvolved. Who could blame her?
The second family involved what appeared to be a single mother with a boy and a girl around 8-10 years old. As far as I could see, her kids were very well behaved. Yet the mother was loudly yelling at each of the kids, calling them names and threatening them with mild physical violence.
Once she finally left the store, I approached my manager. “Do you ever get the feeling you should call Child Protective Services on some of these parents?” I asked.
She looked at me, sighed heavily and said, “All the time!”
If I’d had my counselor hat on, I don’t think I’d have hesitated to make that call. As a random sales clerk at a retail store, it’s a lot easier to decide that it’s not my place to get involved.
I’ve heard it said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. So I ask, what would you do in that situation? What have you done in that situation? I have no doubt we’ve all been there at one time or another. All you have to do is take a trip to your nearest Wal-Mart to see some pretty questionable parenting decisions. Where do we draw the line as observers? Do we keep to ourselves, complaining in private about such public displays? Or do we cross that line and get involved?
Let me know what you think in the comments…