Monday, November 7, 2011

Child Abuse

What is child abuse?  Ask anyone and probably 90% of the answers you receive will include bruises, bleeding, physical or sexual abuse.  The dictionary defines abuse as:
  • to treat a person or animal cruelly, whether physically, psychologically, or sexually, especially on a regular or habitual basis
  • OR
 to speak insultingly or offensively to somebody


 to use something in an improper, illegal, or harmful way

The national definition of Child Abuse is:
  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation.

  • Now go back and read those definitions carefully.  You will find several types of abuse.  Anyone can tell you what sexual or physical abuse is.  But look closely at the most difficult type of abuse to prove.  Emotional.  It is the most overlooked form of abuse.  Here is an account of something I witnessed several years ago.

    I had been shopping and stopped by a national chain sandwich shop to get dinner for my family.  As I parked, I noticed a car parked in the spot to my left with a child approximately 3 years old.  There was no one else in the car.  The restaurant was packed and I waited in line, watching the child while I waited.  It didn't take long to determine who the parents were by the way they watched the child.  I thought, They will probably get their food and go out to the car

    I watched as they received their food and then proceeded to a table with their 7 year old son.  I looked out the window to see that 3 year old throw himself back on the seat sobbing uncontrollable.  This was before the days of cell phones and I was prepared to ask for the manager when I got to the counter.  I planned to say, "If you don't call the police, I will and I will report you also."  Before I got to the counter, a man in front of me received his food and walked quietly over to the couple.  He was dressed in jeans and a button up shirt.  I watched him as he quickly flashed a badge at the father and heard him quietly say, "May I speak to you outside?"  They stepped outside and talked for a while.  Then the officer got into a plain car and drove away.  The father walked over to his car, unlocked the door, hugged the child, talked to him for a minute and then brought him inside the restaurant.

    Now let me take a minute to say that one or the other of these parents had their eye on the child the entire time.  Technically, he was not unsupervised.  He was safe.  The doors were locked.  The car was in a well lit area.  The parents were no more than 20 feet from him.  I am quite sure the boy had been a monster that day and been threatened with everything imaginable.  I trust that this was a last resort effort to discipline.  However:

    What did it do to that child's emotional state to watch his parents and brother sit down in a restaurant and enjoy food, while he was ostracized in the car?  Did he feel abandonment issues that continued with him through his life?  Did he feel unworthy of his parents' love? 

    These are questions we need to ask ourselves when disciplining our children.  We all know what we are trying to teach them.  But the major question is: What are they actually learning?
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