I received this troubling email from a reader, a grandmother. Here's what she wrote:
Recently, I had the unpleasant experience of witnessing my 20-month-old granddaughter being called an a****** by her father (my son-in-law) because she was not behaving. I spoke up in her defense and had him remove himself from my vehicle. For hours after this incident, he screamed and hollered about all kinds of things. In his tirade, he accused me of "butting" in his business and parenting and said I had no right to do it. I felt and still feel that it was necessary to stand up for the child. This has not been an isolated incident. I see this as verbal/emotional abuse. I am wondering how your readers feel about this incident and my response. Do I have any recourse other than what I already did at the time the incident occurred?
I recommended that our reader have a serious talk with her daughter about the situation. I also pointed her in the direction of Prevent Child Abuse - North Carolina, which provides a lot of information about the signs of child abuse and what can be done to stop it.
I also checked in with Sarah Currier, chief program officer for Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina. Here's what she tells me:
"We all have an obligation to ensure children have the safe, stable, nurturing relationships they need to thrive. That includes intervening when we see a child being maltreated.
This grandmother absolutely did the right thing by stepping in. When children are yelled at in a shaming way over a long period of time, it can cause “toxic stress.” This results in permanent damage to their developing brains, and leads to long-term physical and mental health problems.
When things have calmed down and her son-in-law can talk about the incident calmly, she can thank him for his efforts to be an involved father and talk about ways he can learn more about child development and age-appropriate discipline.
Suggestions can include talking to their pediatrician about child development, joining a parent support group, or attending parenting classes. While parenting can be challenging at times, no child deserves to be in a situation where their well-being is at risk.
County Departments of Social Service are the appropriate local point of contact to refer families when there is a suspicion of abuse and neglect. At any point, the grandmother can call the local department to determine whether or not the situation meets the legal definition of abuse and if a referral is necessary.
An additional resource is the free online “Recognizing and Responding to Suspicions of Child Maltreatment training available on the Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina website."
Do you have advice for this grandmother? Please share your tips in the comments box below. (If you don't see the comments box below, you'll need to log in or sign up for a WRAL account. You can do that by going to the top of the page and clicking on either "log in" or "register").
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