A mother shakes her child in public. A father yells at his son at soccer calling him hopeless. A carer smacks a preschooler. Do you intervene? Do you question their actions?
What about if a child puts themselves in a position you see as precarious. Do you speak up? Do you go to assist them? But what if they are with their mother? Do you question her parenting and step in?
It’s a scenario that I was faced with last week.
A child perceived to be in danger, the mother nearby but not seen to be protecting her daughter. A concerned member of the public. But in this case the daughter was mine, and the mother putting her in “danger” was me.
I know the stranger who spoke up did it out of concern, out of a desire to put the interests of a child above all else. Yet I must admit it left me feeling uneasy rather than comforted.
My four-year-old was standing on a wall where I was about to take her photo.
“You really should get down from there,” the lady said addressing my daughter. “You’ll break your arm”.
My daughter is shy and didn’t acknowledge the women but it didn’t stop the woman from speaking to her again.
“You need to get down it’s too dangerous. You’ll fall..”
As I attempted to tell the woman that my daughter was being watched carefully by someone – me – and I wasn’t concerned she once again addressed my little girl.
“I ASKED you to get down. You will break your arm and it will hurt. A lot.”
The woman was just a passer-by, she wasn't worried about litigation. She was a stranger forcefully speaking her mind. Finally I managed to tell her that I was pretty confident my daughter would be okay, that she was being watched and I knew her abilities. But the woman didn’t seem to listen instead focused on making my daughter leave the wall.