The news media has been abuzz with discussion about the “Mom of the Year.” This is the mother who found her son participating in riots and beat him and screamed at him in the street to get him to stop. Many people identified with this mother for her obvious grave concern about her child’s behavior. Some people even empathized with her use of physical force and abusive language to try to change her child’s behavior.
While I can empathize with any parent who wants to change negative behavior of their child, I could never call this mom the “Mom of the Year.” Physical abuse and verbal abuse are not appropriate methods to discipline a child. As I have discussed in other blog posts, it is undeniable and the science supports an end to physical and emotional abuse of children as a form of “discipline.” The truth is that corporal punishment– hitting, striking, kicking, etc. are abuse. They cause long-term emotional and brain damage and place children at physical risk of being seriously injured. This mother’s actions were out of anger. There is never an appropriate time or place to hit a child for any reason.
This mother also screamed at and berated her son with profanity. You can be sure this was not the first time. Her desire to motive his behavior to be different took the form of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is emotionally damaging and causes long term negative effects on children. Ironically, this type of abuse results in poorer behavior and decision-making. A young person learns only to curb his behavior when his parent isn’t around. This is not a way to instill in children morality or self-restrain or reflection.
Finally, the greatest educator is our example. Children learn by watching our behavior. They learn what is and is not socially acceptable. Children need a parent figure to be the one who is calm and has a handle on the situation when the child is out of control. This mother was totally out of control. You can see in the video that her son became the calm one, the adult in the situation. He avoided her blows but never struck back. This child needed a parent to talk to about his very real and understandable pain as the result of the conflict in his community and, likely, racism and lack of opportunity. He did not need a punisher who told him his expression of anger was unacceptable to her and would be met with physical pain.
Despite her fear of what could have happened to her son at the hands of police, this mother’s conduct was not within the bounds of the law of justifiable. Violence begets violence and her conduct is the reason CPS came to see whether her other children were at risk of abuse too.