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My daughter-in-law described an experience that she, my son and their two boys had had on a recent train trip. A woman in the same carriage with her four children was lecturing one of them. She swore at her three year old son and told him and the rest of those in carriage with her that he was wearing his old ‘trackie pants’ (track suit) on this special occasion was because he had peed in his best pants.

Picture a four year old and a two year old who are used to a loving environment in which voices are never raised and where a firm voice and reason reigns supreme. Now picture these same children witnessing something totally foreign to their personal experience; my grandsons looked on in horror as this awful event played itself out.

They weren’t on their own. The adults witnessing this event cringed, as did the little boy at the centre of the affair. No one had the power to put a stop to the tirade. I suppose that something could have been said to the mother but she would either have responded with a ‘mind your business’ and a few choice swear words thrown in or she would have taken it out on the child, or most likely she would have done both. And of course there’s this unspoken rule of non-interference.

There’s nothing legal to be done when children are being verbally abused. No law against it as it’s a matter of interpretation; the same can be said about physical abuse at least when it comes to children. An adult can smack with impunity, using a hand, a ruler, a wooden spoon and it’s still a smack. There are some watered down laws in place but nothing too enforceable. The best the law can do (excuse the pun) is to give the offender a slap on the wrist and a lecture. It’s same unspoken rule in place, and the thought that the State would have to do something about the children. It would be seen as the State telling parents how to raise their children; I can’t see anyone putting up with them, and would lead to unwanted consequences.

This boy was three and too young to realise he was being humiliated, but there was obviously a pattern developing. He will pass on the lessons he learned at his mother’s knee to his own children and think it natural (didn’t hurt me, wont’ hurt my children). A child’s first port of call is his parents; usually it is the mother who is the primary carer in those vital first few years. If his mother shows herself to be a bully the boy will also turn out to be a bully. I wouldn’t want to be around when that child grows up.

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6 thoughts on “The unspoken rule

  1. This is sad, Mary. How unfortunate that your grandchildren saw that. I remember the first time a relative let our son see something that scared him. Up until that time, we never had a problem with him going upstairs to bed by himself; he was never afraid. After that, it was terrible for him. I don’t understand how people can be so insensitive to the feelings and emotional growth of children.

  2. Loving, secure and supportive enviroments are not enjoyed by all. That poor mother’s own life experiences were being played out for all to see. I had three children 17months apart, a husband struggling to start a business and little support from family. I was tired, frustrated and often unhappy, mothering did not come naturally to me. I know I took it our on the kids sometimes, but I at least understood socially acceptable behaviour. Society as a whole lacks those boundaries now.

    • Seventeen months apart, crikey. Forget about the other stresses in your life. That alone would have been a nightmare. Sandra, my little grandsons are on the whole well behaved children. But they do take up energy (mine) in their constant need for attention. I love it, but when I get home on visiting days (after giving them back) I am exhausted. Parenting is a gruelling, unpaid and sometimes thankless job. And a 24 hour proposition. Add the stresses of daily life (we all have them) and if a parent sometimes loses it (we’ve all done it), well that’s to be expected, we are all human. I’m not talking about that sort of parent. I’m betting that if you sometimes took it out on the kids, when you calmed down you understood what you’d done and tried to make up for it. I’m also betting that your children have turned out all right. Parenting doesn’t come naturally to anyone, but a parent owes a duty of care to his/her children. I wasn’t a bad parent, but given hindsight, and given what I know now, I know I could have been a terrific parent. I don’t know if she was a poor mother or not, but I do know that it’s the poor vulnerable little boy who deserves my sympathy more.

  3. You just have to feel sorry for the little boy being humiliated; his mother sounds like a loud mouthed moron. As you say, speaking up would probably make it a good chance that the little guy would cop worse later. If the blockhead treats her kids like this in public then what goes on behind closed doors? Perhaps the mother is just another part ot the same cycle that started with her parents.

    • You’re not the only one who has pointed out that the mother might be ‘just another part of the same cycle that started with her parents.’ Society doesn’t seem to have got any further than that which leaves the vulnerable child still out on a limb.

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