Here are some basic tips from child welfare experts if you find yourself in a situation where intervention could be helpful to parent and child:
- Show empathy for the parent. There is no need to be judgmental or offensive. Losing one's cool doesn't make them a bad parent; it may simply mean that the parent has reached the end of the rope in a very long, hectic day.
- Exercise common sense. A parent's gentle slap of the hand of a youngster who dives into the candy bin can be an appropriate form of discipline. However, hitting a small child about the head and face, or shaking a baby, is not appropriate and a call to 911 should immediately be made.
- Quickly and discreetly de-escalate a tense situation. Avoiding the situation sends the message to the parent and the child that it is acceptable to lose control and strike out at another person.
- Be ready in an emergency. We've all witnessed the screaming-child-in-the-supermarket scenario. Most parents take the typical tantrum in stride. But some may become overwhelmed. Prevent Child Abuse America suggests the following tips if you encounter a parent under pressure:
- Talk to the adult to get their attention away from the child. Be friendly.
- Say something like, "Children can really wear you out, can't they?" or "My child has done the same thing."
- Ask if you can help in any way. Could you carry some packages? Play with an older child so the baby can be fed or changed? Call someone on your cell phone?
- If you see a child alone in a public place, for example, unattended in a grocery cart, stay with the child until the parent returns.
Prevention begins at home. Take time to re-evaluate your parenting skills. Are you yelling at your children a lot or hitting them? Do you enjoy being a parent at least most of the time? If you could benefit from some help with parenting, seek it. Getting help when you need it is an essential part of being a good parent.