"If we are to attain real peace in this world, we will have to begin with the children."
In her suburban clothes and SUV, Madelyne Toogood, caught on videotape abusing her young daughter, looked like "everymom" rather than the angry monster that spewed forth her rage. Thousands of children are being hurt by the very people they look to for protection. Their beautiful sensitive spirits are crushed along with their bodies being bruised while everything appears "normal" to the outside world.
All parents can use this terrible visual image as a reminder to do whatever we need do to develop more patience and lessen our stress so that we don't face the same breaking point as Ms. Toogood. We might come up with habits, such as counting to 10, taking a deep breath, or leaving the room to diffuse the anger that's just far too big for our children's precious minds, bodies, and spirits. If we are unable to control our stress and anger, we must take action and get help immediately. Anger management courses, counselors, and therapists, are all there to help us cope.
While it may not be as dramatic as Madelyne Toogood's abuse, we often witness children suffering in our everyday lives. At the end of a stressful day, a tired parent stopping at the grocery store for dinner items with his cranky child loses patience and his child suffers. We'd like to speak up, but we hesitate. Is it our business to intervene? And if we do, will we antagonize the parent, putting the child at even greater risk?
There is a way, however, of offering help instead of attacking the parent with criticism and threats. "How could you treat your child like that?" may illicit a different reaction than "It looks like you're having some difficulty. Is there anything I can do to help you out?" Then follow through with specific ways you might help, offer to find groceries, entertain the child for five minutes, give the child a small treat to keep her occupied. A friend of mine carries stickers and honey sticks in her purse for just this reason. The child is happier from this unexpected gift and the parent is usually quite grateful.
If you find yourself in a situation where a child is being compromised, take a moment and tune in to your inner guidance. "How might I help here, God? Give me the courage to speak up." Then follow through on your guidance. You give as clear a message by walking past a distraught child as you do by intervening. If you ignore the situation you send the message to the child that no one cares about his suffering, and to the parents that you approve of their actions.
One mother of two says, "When I see a child being spoken to harshly, shoved, ignored, mocked, or even crying, I make eye contact with the child and send him light. I pray to his guardian angel to step into the situation and provide the child with comfort. Then I decide how I might approach the parent or caregiver."
Adults have told me that they clearly recall the time a stranger stepped in on their behalf, and how much it meant that someone cared enough to recognize their situation. Many have said that this one intervention changed their lives and gave them hope--that this person who spoke up was an angel in their lives.
So, turn your attention this week to ways you might bolster your patience with your children and better handle your stress and anger. Also, open your heart to any child placed on your path who might need your intervention.