A video of a mother hitting and berating her son for participating in the recent Baltimore riots has gone viral and is popping up everywhere on social media. In an article in the New York Post, this mom is referred to as ‘Mom of the Year’ and a ‘national hero.’ In reference to the incident, the Baltimore police commissioner is quoted as saying “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kid[s] out here tonight.” Many people are applauding this mother for how she disciplined her son and labeling what she did ‘good parenting.’
My issue isn’t so much with the mother. Lord knows what I would have done in the heat of the moment if I were in a similar situation. What bothers me is mixed messages we are sending to parents. Under any other circumstances, there would be outrage against this mother and calls to have Child Protective Services get involved.
Over the last few months, there have been incidents of parents being reprimanded and arrested for making far less egregious offenses. Most recently, we saw reports about parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv allowing their ten and six year old to walk home from a nearby park unsupervised. Local police officers noticed the unattended children and picked them up.
According to reports, the Meitivs have been warned that if they leave their children unsupervised again, they run the risk of having their children taken away. There is no indication that the Meitivs mistreated or neglected their children in any way. So why the double standard?
Then there is the case of the South Carolina mother, Debra Harrell, who was charged with unlawful conduct toward a child, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail, for allegedly leaving her 9 -year old daughter at a park while she went to work. Ms. Harrell felt her daughter was responsible enough to be on her own and believed she had proper precautions in place.
Again, outside of the isolated incident, there is no indication that Ms. Harrell’s daughter was being abused or neglected in any way. Despite this fact, the 9 year old was temporarily placed in the custody of South Carolina’s Department of Social Services. (She has since returned to her family). Why is the Baltimore mom’s parenting style applauded while Ms. Harrell’s method of parenting criminalized?
When it comes to matters involving children it all boils down to what is in the best interest of the child. It’s not about whether or not a child deserves to be smacked around for making poor choices. If we are going to call a parent out for them making a judgment call about their child’s ability to be unsupervised in their neighborhood, then we shouldn’t be celebrating another parent for slapping and berating their child in public under any circumstance.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion on where they stand when it comes to what parenting style they prefer. However, when we begin to criminalize parenting styles and threaten to take people’s children away, there needs to be a clear understanding of what is acceptable parenting in the eyes of the law.
Why do you think we are celebrating the Baltimore riot mom?