What Do You Do When… ?

by Demetria L. Lucas

Mother Scolding SonMy grandfather was the pastor of a church. In that church, there was a deacon, Brother Wynn. One Saturday each month, the church would do food giveaways to families in need. How it worked was the families would come, sit through a sermon on God’s glory, or if it was an election year, a speech from a community leader on the importance of voting, and then the boxes of food would be distributed.

On one of those Saturdays, as the church was emptying out, I was standing in the foyer alongside Brother Wynn. A commotion began when a woman began cursing  her son– f-bombs and all–   inside the church. Maybe he was 3. I missed what horrible transgression he committed to drive his mother from zero to sixty. But his Mom was dropping more motherf***ers than a Bernie Mac comedy skit.

Brother Wynn and I, about 10 years old, stared in shock. Other folk walked by us, and the yelling Mom and kept it moving like there was nothing to see here.

When the Mom simultaneously yanked the kid into the air with one hand and yanked down his pants  with the other to beat his bare behind, Brother Wynn approached her to intervene.

“Miss, you ain’t got to do all that,” he began. It was a plea for the Mom to stop swatting, and too, cursing, inside the church.

She dropped the crying kid. (To credit, it wasn’t a long way down, but still.) And she turned on Brother Wynn to release a new round of profanities directed at him. “Who the f*** are you trying to tell me about MY child?” she roared.

Brother Wynn wasn’t a big man, but tall, wiry, and a man, period, who towered over the Mom by close to a foot. He stared her down. And she stared  back for a bit, before she finally turned back to her son and instructed him to pick up his pants. She lifted the box of groceries and walked out the church with her small son following behind her.

We watched mother and son her walk down the steps and around the corner. He breathed a sigh of relief and I don’t remember exactly what he said. It was something church-y like “some of God’s children…” I remember thinking, “What the f***?” because even though I was being raised in the church, my father had a more secular mouth that I’d already adopted in my inside thoughts.

It’s been awhile since I thought of that story, but in response to Monday’s post about the backwards line of thought showcased in that video about Black men who travel to Brazil to meet prostitutes, a commenter, Marketing Gimmicks, wrote:

“It’s the mother of mother of taboos but how some black mothers treated their sons growing up would make a great topic of exploration. *Cough* That’s your cue Clutch *Cough*”

And that brought it all back.

Perhaps this won’t go in the direction Marketing Gimmicks intended, but this is where the comment took my train of thought:

The A train– always the A train, and notably not the train I take most often. It’s usually there when I see a Mom going buck on her under-age 5 kids and dropping credible threats to f*** them up.

Just the other day, I was getting my hair braided (right by the A-train) and there was a woman in the shop cursing and carrying on because she’d been waiting almost an hour to get in a chair. When her braids were finally being done and she was on the phone gabbing with her girl, her son, about 12, appeared with a styrofoam cup with a straw in it. Mom took the cup, took a sip, and roared at him, “WHAT THE F*** IS THIS?”

It was Coke, she wanted root beer. He mumbled an apology, but that wasn’t good enough. “Do you want me to f*** you up in here?” she yelled, bracing her hands on the chair to launch herself up. The shop fell silent. The son didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. Zero physical reaction. Mom went back to talking to her friend as if nothing happened, and Son turned around and left. Everybody went back to doing whatever it was they were doing before the commotion.

I sat there, hair half-braided, thinking, “all that over the wrong soda?” But I did the same thing I always do–  nothing. I cringed, and then knew my judgment was all over my face, so I stopped cringing and went blank-faced just like the kid. And then I wondered if I was over-reacting because this time, like last time, and all the times except for the time Brother Wynn said something, no one ever intervenes and so maybe it’s not the big deal I think it is? Then I think no, it is. But still I sit. Silent.

I feel awful. But feeling and doing something aren’t one in the same.

I think then of Brother Wynn and his intervention and how the Mom stared down him, wiry and grown,  because he has the audacity to tell her what to do with her kid. And it’s not like that little confrontation made a difference, like she had a Paul on the road to Damascus moment and vowed never to call her son a MF again. I imagine, business just went on a usual. So would it even matter if I did say something this time or the next time or any of the times it’s bound to happen again?

Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve never tried. But have you?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life”. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.

  • Ooh La La

    I would say something even though I know it wouldn’t be received well. That’s so inappropriate. There is never a reason to curse at or even around children. The absurd thing about it is its those same adults who turn around and condemn their children for using foul language. Like, where do you think they picked it up?

  • Sasha

    When I was younger and these moments would occur around me I would cringe and wonder why no one is saying anything and ignoring the behavior. Now that I’m older I alway say something, I don’t care that it’s a stranger I’m addressing. I am not a mother so I don’t know what it’s like to be pushed to the point of extreme frustration by my child but I am 1 of 7 and even when my parents were utterly frustrated they never spoke to me or my siblings like that. Ever. Verbal abuse is just as damaging for kids as sexual and physical abuse and it’s high time people said something about it.

    A question to people who observe this type of behavior and stay silent: what stops you from speaking up?

  • Tuesday

    The first time I ever spoke up about a public situation was when I was 13 coming from the store about to get on my bike. I saw a guy and a girl arguing, and the next minute he grabbed her and slammed her against the grocery store window and it shattered. Instinctively, I yelled across the street, and the guy looked frightened and ran off. I’ve had many situations like that since then, and what I realize is speaking up about wrong doing won’t make everything instantly right, but it will make them STOP and pay attention to their actions maybe even allow them to calm down and reflect. You may get a portion of the wrath directed at you in some cases, but next time they’ll think twice about doing whatever it was, especially in public for fear that someone may speak up.

  • Yvette

    I don’t say anything because it’s a stranger and it’s not my child. I’m not saying staying silent is the correct thing to do, but I think people often take verbal abuse less seriously than physical abuse.

    If it were a close friend or family member though, I would probably speak up.

  • Come On

    Not everyone is meant to be a mother. Women like that get soooo upset about things that children are just going to do. I think many of these mothers were handled this way, and they see nothing wrong with treating their children the exact same way that they were treated, and I think it has to do with some folks still believing in whippings and that line of thinking that children sit over here and adults sit over there and children are not the center of attention.

    The guy who did the Harlem Children’s Zone talks about how things like this stunt the development of children. Their early years are very important and the whippings and verbal abuse do affect our children in a negative way. He even mentions how small things like vocabulary will affect a child and how the timeouts from parents who don’t give whippings and the indulging of curiosity from kids by these parents give these children an advantage in the world we live in nowadays compared to children who are told to sit down, shut up, listen, and not question.

    There are parents who make their children the center of everything which is not the healthiest thing either, but these kids develop in a much different way. And the outcome is usually much better than what happens to children who are raised like they are a burden.

  • Von

    It’s the same thing that stopped Brother Wynn above- we don’t want to get into an altercation with the parent. Like the author, I’ve witnessed this behavior way too often on the A train and elsewhere. I’ve seen mothers stand up and threaten to fight men who’ve tried to intervene on the child’s behalf. They have a lot of anger and I can only assume that they believe this is the way to treat children, and no one can tell them otherwise. I have never been a fighter, so I will not try to tell these women to stop. I’m definitely not proud this. I wish I knew of a way to intervene without unleashing the mother’s wrath on me.

  • KayKay

    The angry black woman is real and it’s time someone says something. Im tired of black women walking around all mad, ready to fight anyone (including toddlers) for the dumbest reasons. And of course this doesnt apply to all black women but for those it does something needs to be done!

  • Apple

    I watched a mom punch her son in the chest because he gave her the wrong shoe(she was shoe shopping) I wanted to say something but she was bigger and seem like the fighting/throw bleach in your face/world star type ESP if she can punch out a kid

  • Ann

    Unfortunately I learned at an early age never to intervene. Years ago a family friend and the mother of my fencing coach made the mistake of recommending a woman on the bus put her scarf on the small child she was with. The woman went berserk and began punching and beating my coach’s mother. When the bus came to a stop the woman continued her beating and my coach’s mother fell, hitting her head on the curb. She lapsed into a coma as a result of the fall and never woke up. As it turns out the woman on the bus was either mentally or emotionally disturbed and prone to violent outbursts but the damage was already done.

    It’s terrible that the black community can’t seem to separate discipline from violence and unnecessary overreactions. Perhaps if the community didn’t stigmatize therapy as something exclusively for white people or crazy people we could get to the bottom of this negative behavior. Until then it looks like strangers will have to intervene when they see this sort of thing happening. Better a good samaritan than the state.

  • Ads

    First id like to applaud the article for a) taking up a reader request and b) how thoughtful it was. On a number of occassions, ive dialed 911 when i saw what looked to me like domestic violence man->woman or man->woman and child in public places. I cant recall seeing a mother so physically abusive that ive called 911(i dont *necessarily* equate a spanking with physical abuse… But now that im a new mom i may be more sensitive if i see it now). I think one part of it is fear if involving child services and possibly foster system for what i may be observing out of context. That same fear isnt there when reporting dv among adults. This article though makes me question this past behavior, maybe i should be as willing to call 911 when a mother looks as abusive/threatening as a male agressor – i dont know. Id actually love to read a comment from some mothers who recognize themselves in this description. Have you ever had someone intervene in what you saw as discipline and others saw as abuse? Has it ever inspired you to try to discipline differently? Have you had children entered into the foster system?

  • Ads

    Id also love to see a response from any of the now-grown children whose childhoods were like this. Were you praying for an intervention from a good samaritan? Did you end up in fostercare and wish you could have stayed with your mother? I personally read so often that there are too many children in fostercare and it would be best if their families could be rehabilitated. I would live to be educated by someone with firsthand experience. Is foster care or CPS more often a saving grace or force for family breakdown?

  • JaeBee

    You could try calling the police and reporting it–Especially if you know that the mother will be “hanging around” for awhile (e.g. Getting her hair done, sitting through church services). The police will probably come to investigate and then will be obligated to call CPS who will better be able to handle it from there.

  • Chacha1

    I saw my 2 friends getting cursed out all the time as a kid.

    I’ll be honest. As an adult, I probably wouldn’t say much because one of two things would happen. The mother would say “F*** you, this is my child”, and continue to be abusive on a daily basis, OR it might lead to a physical altercation, (and I’m NOT trying to end up on World Star Hip Hop), and the abuse would still continue.

    My partner got treated badly by his mom on a regular basis. He was slapped in the face/back of the head by 4, cursed regularly out by 6, punched in the nose at 15, pushed, told how much he was disliked, etc. It amazes me that he still grew up to be a good-hearted man and is gentle with our kids (and me). I get grumpy sometimes, but I’d never treat my kids like that.

  • KayKay

    What happened to the woman that went berserk?

  • JaeBee

    Why the fear of CPS getting involved? They are certainly not the monsters people make the out to be (no, the REAL monsters are the parents who terrorize their children). Better safe, than sorry. CPS investigators are the professionals, and they’ll be better able to determine whether abuse has actually occurred than the average observer. Contrary to popular belief CPS is not eager to remove children from the home—just creates more work and hassle for them in terms of trying to find placements. They’d much rather work with the family in trying to improve their functioning than breaking them up.

  • http://www.lillian-mae.com Lillian Mae

    My sister is a foul-mouth mom. I told her that when my nephew starts to say, ‘eff you mommy’, she’d better not beat him! He’s parroting what he’s been raised around!

    I feel for children!

  • memyselfandi

    I will never confront a mother (and weirdly, I have never seen a father yell at a kid in public, though I’m sure it happens) yelling at her kid, not because I think she’ll fight me, but because I think she’ll just take it out on the kid later for “embarrassing her” or some other nonsense.

    What I do instead, especially on a train ride, is try to defuse the situation, either by distracting/talking to the kid directly, or by trying to talk to/distract the mother. I’ll often just ask how old he/she is (with a smile), tell her how “my little brother/sister was just like that at that age,” and (if I can work it in) try to give some perspective on how kids will be kids and they grow out of it. It actually works pretty well, at least with the immediate situation. I do worry about those kids later though.

  • JaeBee

    As a social worker (not CPS worker) I’d advise people to do what they feel comfortable doing…but do SOMETHING! If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the parent call the police and report the incident. If the parent is in the process of leaving to go somewhere else, try to follow them inconspicuously to determine whether you can learn other identifying information that may assist police in locating them. Do they leave the scene to get into a car? Take down their license plate number. Are they getting off at a particular bus stop? Give the police information about the stop and note the direction that they may be walking off toward.

    The pastor in this story had a responsibility to call the police on the mother who was acting out the way she was during the service. That was child abuse! Even if in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. How would he have felt if he went home later that night and turned on the news and discovered that the mother had beaten her child to death once she got home?

  • JaeBee

    Calling the police would be better.

  • KayKay

    You are so right.

  • memyselfandi

    I’m not talking about physical violence, though – I’m talking about mothers yelling at their kids for a minute on the subway. There’s no way to call the police during that kind of situation, and I honestly don’t think they’d respond. If it was physical violence, I agree – police are the way to go.

  • JaeBee

    Many of these “mothers” probably have severe personality disorders and need intense counseling. There are many people who are treated poorly as children, but KNOW that it is inappropriate to treat others the same way. If some people don’t know this, then they need to be taught either through parenting classes or through counseling (or jail if necessary).

  • Ads

    Thanks for that

  • Blaque217

    My sister went HAM on my niece while holding my son, who was an infant at the time. I called Child Protective Services on her. If I will call on my own sister, I will do SOMETHING, if I witnessed a mother being abusive to her child. I don’t know what, call the police, try to reason with her…I don’t know. But I wouldn’t just stand there and watch.

  • http://gravatar.com/keimia Kam

    I’m really glad that this article was written because it’s something that I saw way too often growing up in the Bronx and I always hated it. My parents were stern and strict but treated me with love and respect. My dad said that he always felt that his mom was way too harsh so he was committed to not raise me that way. I was never called names, and they rarely raised their voice at me. Instead they gave me “the look” or changed their tone of voice. I did get some spankings but very few and they gradually phased them out for punishments. `My dad was really good at sitting me down and talking about what I did and why I was wrong. When I would hear the stories of some of my friends I was bit horrified. They talked about being beaten with hairbrushes, being smacked in the mouth so that their lip got cut, being berated for tiny things, being called “stupid”, but talked about it while laughing as if it was normal.

    I see it while walking around and on public transportation too. Even in Arizona I saw this. I was at Walmart and this cute little Black boy about aged 4 came walking through the aisles with his mom, smiling and talking about the things on the shelves. It was adorable, until his mother saw that his shoes were untied. All of a sudden she yelled “TIE YOUR DAMN SHOES!” He was startled and instantly dropped to his knees to tie them. It went from sunshine and roses to fire and brimstone in seconds. I thought was that really necessary? No “Here baby let mommy tie your shoes for you.” , no “Tie your shoes now so you won’t fall”? And Black parents aren’t the only ones. In highschool I remember being behind a Hispanic mom and her son on the bus. The little boy maybe no more than three was in front of the mom and at the front of the line. When the bus door opened he hesitated, wondering if he should go in. So his mom screamed “Entra!”. But the most telling part of the story is that when she yelled the little boy instantly threw up his arms to shield his head and face.

    Our children need extra love. They live have to deal with a White society that tells them they are ugly, unintelligent, bad, they might live in a neighborhood that is stressful and unsafe, then they come home and don’t know if Mom or Dad is going to go postal on them for some minor infraction. Where is their safe haven?

  • The Artist

    All the more reason to create closer tight-knit communities….

  • dirtychai

    Many of these mother’s just outright don’t know how to handle stress. I’m sure that being a mom with young kids is stressful enough — add poverty and lack of education and good sense to that mix then there’s this walking bomb ready to go off. Unfortunately, like many people, they go off on whomever is closest and weakest to them.

  • http://gravatar.com/seritatheresa seritatheresa

    I think of it as a form of bullying and those who bully are being bullied somehow. I have tried (mostly to no avail) to tell them that they are potentially harming their kids in the past, but I find that it only makes things worse and prolong the incident which most witnesses want to end as soon as possible.

  • dmac

    As a teacher, I’ve had to have many uncomfortable conversations with overreacting parents. Often they see White kids walking all over their parents and think that these two extremes– no discipline or verbal abuse/violence– are the only options. Also there is ignorance about child development which leads to unrealistic expectations. I’ve had academically struggling students who were getting beaten because they didn’t understand their homework (the parents insisted that they just weren’t focusing).

    I used to be very judgmental of these people, but I’ve learned that most parents really want to be good parents. They just can’t give their children what they don’t have, including emotional intelligence, problem-solving strategies, role modeling, etc. We’ve got to teach appropriate consequences and emotional stability instead of jokingly encouraging ass-whippings.

  • everythingl

    I suspect that many of those children have become mothers who do the same thing to their own kids. It’s very, very sad.

    I’m a social worker who did in-home work to try to prevent families from being separated by CPS (CYF in my city). And, in truth, it really, truly depends on the worker and the family. The reality is that the child welfare system is so unwieldy and messy that often mistakes are made. Unfortunately, workers are overworked and they become very jaded. They also come into situations with their own issues, biases and baggage.

    As for families, again, it depends. That’s the thing. There really is no answer to your question. Some parents are abusive and don’t deserve children, others really are good parents who may have made a mistake. Some have just gotten the shaft completely. I worked with a family where the parents were friends who would argue and get revenge by calling CPS on each other. On the one hand, you can’t let children flounder in abusive homes, but you also can’t let the government come in and micromanage your household. I got burned out and moved to administrative work, because it really is hard. There is no easy answer. And I’m always skeptical of people who say/think that there is.

  • everythingl

    Bingo. But still not okay (and I know that’s not what you’re saying). I once saw a teenage mother yelling at a 2 or 3 year old boy because he almost dropped his bag of food. I think a problem is that too many view their children as little adults. They think their kids should automatically know things and when the kids don’t the parents target them with their rage. They don’t realize that kids are supposed to explore, wander, ask questions, drop things, do things that adults know better than to do. That’s their job. They fact that the parents don’t know this is a function of their immaturity and lack of education too, like you mentioned.

    Also, the harshness often comes from not being spoken to and regarded lovingly themselves when they were children. It’s hard to give love and affection when you haven’t received it. I know we’re supposed to shake everything off as adults, but, really, it almost never works that way. These things get passed on.

  • Donna

    You sound like you have a good man. Take care of him & your children together. God Bless.

  • everythingl

    I wrote something similar above. My background is in social work and I’ve seen the same things as you.

  • c0c0puffz

    Nobody wants to help because they don’t want to be next with the whooping and verbal abuse. Growing up, I remember fearing being next in line when mom got mad at one of us. I would rather call the police than put my life in danger dealing with crazy folks. You never know how they will react or what weapons they may pull out.

  • Ange B

    This is something I have witnessed by mostly single mothers and it is at least in my experience always directed at their sons. I was lucky my parents decided that blasting us in the streets was unacceptable as well as cursing in front or at us too. I was always and still am shocked to hear Moms especially tell their kids F@#$ you and all. I always wanted to get away from the situation when it happened in my presence as a child. As an adult I too struggle with should I say something to the parent? Or not?

  • Donna

    You are right.

  • GeekMommaRants

    This is another issue of ignorance! Many women have no idea of how to raise a boy or any child for that matter. Boys are very different than girls. For example, most boys between 6-10 years old do not hear as well as girls. They literally cannot hear yells and screams, their ears do not develop until they are older. Ignorance is the root cause.

  • au napptural

    Now that I disagree with. Many studies have proven ACS is far less inclined to give black pople the necessary opportunites and tools to get their children back. It’s a vicious cycle. Someone might call ACS for verbal abuse, then when they visit your housing isn’t “up to code”. Or you have too many relatives living with you or your job isn’t lucrative enough and you don’t qualify for welfare. Something, anything to get and keep our kids in the system. ACS is as lucrative as the school to prison pipeline, not to mention the high rates of sexual and physical abuse within the system, suicides, lost children and god knows what else.

    Now I’m not saying I agree with abuse. But I might not know the back story. Maybe this mother has been perfect every day and snapped. Or maybe she’s a vicious-mouthed harpy- but the kid ends up in foster home with a molester (super common).I’d rather say my little piece, but unless I see excessive force or lewd actions in front of me, I’m not going to call the police or social services to criminalize someone who may very well just be having a bad day.

  • au napptural

    I didn’t like the comment this article is based on when I read it the first time. First, I don’t understand what a bunch of men who expected kinglike service for mediocre attributes has to do with abusive mothers. Second, black single mothers can’t win! Whenever there’s an article on here about no-good men, readers say the mothers raise their daughters, but love their sons, which I agree with. And now all of sudden they’re abusive harpys who beat these beloved sons? I just don’t see how both can be true.

    Now as to whether there are issues of abuse in our community- of course. And at a much, much higher rate the the general population. Here’s the thing though, most of this is sexual/physical abuse of girls and boys at the hands of black men. Many of our children are killed annually in these situations. It’s not always men. I’ve heard horror stories of kids being burned in too hot water, left in the cold, starved, etc, by women. But not as often as men. And to turn the tables couldn’t some of these mothers who are abusive have beeen abused themselves? Just the rate at which teens become mothers is a type of abuse. Go with me. Studies show most teen mothers have older partners, as in 20s and 30s. These men are using God knows what methods to get into bed with children and teens, then these young girls are expected to become parents overnight. There are a lot of issues here. Lack of protection for children, lack of preparation for the stages of life. It’s a free-for-all. The mother is 16, the grandmother 30-something, of course there is no wisdom, no knowledge on how to raise a child instead of drag one up. But the men are def. accountable. The abusers are either within the family somehow (an uncle, a grandfather), the child’s natural father, or a transient male. Regardless, these men know better than to lay their hands on children. And what about these “fathers” who are much older than the young girls? Molesters and pedophiles. There are so many intertwined cycles of dysfunction, abuse, and chaos, so many calls that need to be made, I can’t see how one can narrow it down.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    “Evil is when good (wo)men fail to act.”

    We must all take responsibility for trying to create the world we want to live in. Even small things can create positive change. I hope to one day live in a world where all children can live free from abuse and exploitation.

  • Wanda

    I don’t know how many times I’ve seen an angry “mother” completely lose it within a school setting. I’m talking about at the parent-teacher conference, or in the main office if something doesn’t seem right to her, etc.

    I’ve gotten cussed out by so-called “mothers” when I’m just trying to make suggestions on how her child can do better. Mom will take the child into the hallway, fix to beat his behind right there and DARE someone to call CPS.

    And I’ve been swung at and had to call security.

    As a mother to two boys, I think that many generations of single motherhood has taken an emotional toll on too many women, and that many of them do hate their sons as a reflection of their own messed up relationships with men.

    I thought that I was the only one who sees this.

  • just_kiesh

    I wouldn’t get involved unless it was physical abuse and even then I’d think twice. All the mother will do is curse you out for trying to tell her what she can’t do to “her child.” Seen it time and time again. Also, remember some fools shot up a bus in Philly and it made national news. They shot up the bus because a man on the bus said something to a young mother who was cursing her toddler out. She jumped on the phone and called her brother, who brought along some friends to shoot up the bus. Nah, I’m good.

  • Wanda

    To be honest, I think that pretty much any BW who chooses to become a single parent (and unless you are widow or your HUSBAND left you, in the 21st Century it is a CHOICE…) given the oppressive history of this society is kind of insane to begin with.

  • belle/demetria

    hi au napptural:

    the essay makes no mention of whether the mothers are single or married. i do not know the marital status of the women described and did not infer it.

    also, there are three incidences mentioned here. this essay does not generalize all or even most Black mothers as being abusive.

    the black community is not monolithic. some mothers do raise daughters and coddle sons. other mothers treat their sons like crap, like the women i described here. other mothers are more balanced with their praise/discipline. there is room to discuss lots of different types of Moms.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Wow sad on both occasions. Honestly, I think many parents like the moms mentioned in the article underestimate the damage and pain of emotional abuse. A lot of parents think they can talk to their child(ren) any kind of way in a threatening manner as long as they aren’t physically hurting and abusing them. And sadly a lot of people turn a blind eye because if it isn’t physical/sexual most people don’t get involved and I was one of them. I remember my aunt calling my cousins (who couldn’t have been no more than 12 and 16 at the time) all out of their names, you would have sworn she was talking to a random dog on the street until my mom stepped in and told them to go upstairs and handled my aunt and called my uncle (not married to said aunt) who is a cop and reported her. I rather call the police or look for security then stand there doing nothing, getting yelled at and getting told to mind my business is a small price to pay when it comes to a welfare of a child.

  • http://VerityReign.com Verity Reign

    Saying something may not do alter the parent’s inappropriate behavior, but it does let that kid know that someone cares, someone is advocating for him–even if it is in the smallest gesture. It’s not much, but it’ll be a little something that he can hold to and reflect on. He’ll remember the nice lady in the salon who had his back that time, and we’d be surprised what he may channel that fond memory into. Sometimes kids just want to know that everyone doesn’t think they’re “bad”, that someone is on their side, and that they matter so much that a complete stranger would risk God knows what just to stand up for them. At that moment, they probably won’t analyze speaking up to that degree, but they will later. I feel so bad for that baby.

  • http://VerityReign.com Verity Reign

    Also, if there is ever fear or reluctance to speak up, we could always smile at the kid and say something like, “you’re so pretty/handosme (whichever applies)” Any kind of small validation. I remember a little girl at my church with a similar story. After service I told her, “Oh my goodness, you look just like a baby doll (she really did, too! gorgeous). You are so pretty!” Her frown immediately turned into a smile. I no longer live there, but my mom says she still asks, “where’s your daughter that said I look like a doll?” Lol. It wasn’t much, but at least it’s one positive seed to counter the humiliation from her mother, and she obviously hung onto it.

  • Lila

    I am a teacher and I’ve also experienced the same thing. I had a mother who was angry that her son was suspended (not even my decision, it was the principal’s) call a bunch of her “friends” to come to my classroom and menace me. Her son is out of control but after that experience, I have no question as to why.

  • http://creativegirlinacorporateworld.wordpress.com Esta Fiesta

    It’s definitely worth it to speak up. No maybe Brother Wynn’s statement alone didn’t make her change her ways but I bet if she heard it once a week she might start to reconsider her actions.

    Even if the mother doesn’t learn that something’s not right with treating her kid like that hopefully the son hears someone saying that that type of behavior is unacceptable and learns not to continue to tolerate being treated that way by ANYBODY.

  • SayWhat

    Interesting article. I think a lot of women are very angry at their situation and take it out on their kid who can’t fight back. I know we hate to presume, but I’d be willing to bet that most (not all) of these moms are single moms, and probably lower income as well. Poverty causes people to have a short fuse, you add to that broken dreams of marriage/family life, and it is often a recipe for disaster.
    Like many others, I gage the situation, and then decide if I should intervene……trust, if a woman will go ham on her own child, she will not hesitate to attack you either.

  • Raven

    I’m an Er doctor. I was examine a child( black male under 10 ) with his mother present. When examine the laceration that I was going to have to sew, the child starts whimpering and the mother tells him to “man” up” and not cry. I promptly told her that what I’m doing to him hurts and that crying is normal and okay and that hurt is hurt. Even adults have a hard time. She sneered and basically ignored me. But as the medical provider, I had the power in that room and felt comfortable shutting her down. On the street I have been afraid of the attack Turning toward me but I always feel bad for not standing up for children. I need to figure out how to do it where I don’t incur the wrath of the idiot parent

  • BlackNortherner

    I know what it is like to be verbally assaulted. Never was cussed at …. ever… by the parent in question but was berated for every little thing and called all kind of names and the effect is bad… just like the out of control physical stuff which I also know a bit about.

    Anyways …. sometimes a person mistreating their children needs to see that people are paying attention. Once in NYC back in 2000 and once a couple years later in a Montreal subway station, I stopped black mothers from going off on little kids over nothing. The NYC one was this big woman who when her kids asked to go to some restaurant turned around and started to swing when we had been behind them for blocks and blocks and the kids were well behaved. One look from me that conveyed that if she struck the kid I would leave her on her back, and big bad tough dread lady raced into the nearest store looking back to see if I was coming. In Montreal a stare from the other platform stopped a mother from mishandling her kid after I saw his head hit on the wall from her nonsense.

    We have to step in. If we dont more kids will die. Black people represent 8% of my metro area yet Black kids are easily 80% of those beat to death by parents in the last two decades. Its time to give a damn.

    Very good article. Its such a change from 10 years ago when the simple mention (online) that maltreatment exists got one called out as “white” and a “sellout” and attacked my dozens at once. We actually are getting real.

  • Yeah

    Bishes be crazy, so when I see behavior like this I just give really dirty looks and walk away really fast. I just hope some of these mothers realize the damage that could be done.

    I know this is going to sound far fetched, but having grown up with a mother like this and strangely enough some of her sisters and brothers are the same way; I honestly think verbal and physical abuse in our community are some of those programmed generational “curses” from back in the day. Sometimes we don’t acknowledge it, and it gets passed from generation to generation. But, its 2013 folks, we can beat this and allow the generation that we create to come out on top!!!

    In my experience, my mom wasn’t that bad, like she’s not a full blown narcissist or anything, but I was a sensitive child and the abuse that happened in my childhood affected me until adulthood. What I find strange is some of the verbal abuse I received were just rehashed versions of what racist white people used to say about us. “You’re lazy……You’re dumb(fortunately, I didn’t receive that one, but I’ve heard mothers say that to their kids)……you’re a failure….shut up before I give you something to cry about…..because I said so(the infamous invalidating statement)…etc”

    Some of our parents internalized their own invalidating environments and unconsciously passed it on. I find myself questioning my own emotions sometimes(it was done to me from a young age, and after a while you start thinking you shouldn’t feel the way you do, when you should never feel wrong for how you feel about something), and I used to be easily manipulated and invalidated by people/friends/boyfriends because sometimes I didn’t trust my feelings or make my needs known.

    But, I will say that this is a symptom of a larger issue, and not the main issue in itself. I’m pretty sure if my dad was more involved in my life the negative effects from the abuse I received would have been mitigated by his involvement. So many black kids are raised in single parent households and its tough out here, especially for black women. Its stressful having to deal with work(a lot of black women have to work harder for lower pay), paying bills and rent/mortgage, cooking,cleaning, raising a kid(s), homework, projects, soccer/basketball games, and after school activities all by yourself. H3ll, I honestly don’t know how some black women keep it together sometimes.

  • Whatever

    This article as a response to the comment in the other article makes perfect sense. The person commenting stated that these angry, broken black men have it out for black women because the most important black woman in their life, their mother probably had an unhealthy relationship with them.

    I would bet, most of the young black boys being shamed, cursed out and hit publicly (and privately) will grow up and either hate black women, hate black women like their mother, or have anger issues in general. If the woman that is supposed to love you unconditionally is abusive, there are major issues waiting for you ahead.

  • Anonymous

    Man, there’s so much I could say about this. But, it’s true, I have seen too many times in different cities (philly, NYC,) where mothers are pulling their kids along, and stop to yell at them. I think the most gut wrenching instance was when I saw a mother call her young daughter, maybe 2 or 3, stupid because she couldn’t zip her jacket correctly. I felt actual pain, but I know what I felt doesn’t even compare to what that young child felt, being called stupid by her own mother. Yet, I also see the stressed out looks on the faces of the mothers who are overwhelmed by life, and take it out on the one’s they are supposed to be protecting. I’ve never intervened because I guess I’m a punk, and in some ways I feel that makes me as bad as the mothers.

  • http://gravatar.com/iluminatinyc Todd

    I saw that last paragraph, and I have to respectfully disagree. Yes, being a single parent is stressful. Yes, there’s a lack of support there, simply because the absence of the father often means the absence of his extended family as well.

    The problem is that a single parent is a PARENT. A child is a CHILD. The parent is ultimately the responsible party. If a parent can’t deal, it’s the responsibility of the parent to find a way to cope. Whether it’s developing a support system, getting help for their own issues or (thinking long-term) putting themselves in a situation that it less stressful on a day to day basis.

    I get that Black women are hurting. My issue is, especially with sons, that they expect the son to do everything the missing baby father wasn’t able to pull off. Emotional incest is real, y’all. In turn, when that dude gets out into the real world, starts dating women and figures out that not all women are Mama, that can cause a whole host of issues. At worst, there’s where the wife beaters come from. Even in a relatively benign situation, you end up with dudes who can’t bond with a woman because they are still married to their Mamas in all but name.

    Simply put, I can’t cosign that last paragraph at all. Once you made the decision to bring a child into the world, you took on all the attendant responsibilities thereof.

  • everythingl

    This whole issue is tricky, because I get how harmful it is when mothers are verbally abusive to their children, or even when they commit “emotional incest” as you call it. It kinda works both ways, though. The woman who is verbally abusive to her child may have been betrayed/abused by men in her life from birth. Does she now get a pass? Of course not.

    Trust me, I understand that we can’t just “get over” our childhoods. I even mention it in my prior comments. But, the problem with adults holding their mothers completely responsible for ALL their bad behaviors is that we all have a mother. Even a bad mother has/had a mother. You cannot expect women to simply get over their childhoods, but give men a pass when they treat women badly as adults. Conversely, if we should make the effort to understand why men may grow up to be abusive or have unrealistic expectations in relationships, than we can extend that understanding to women too.

    I believe that black people need to engage in honest and loving self-reflection, not finger-pointing. And it is so tiresome when either gender blames the other for their hang ups, when in truth we really are just looking for love and validation. Unfortunately some of us never learned how to get it in healthy ways.

  • Lady T

    I understand your point of view, and do agree with it; however, it was the choice of the parent to bring that child into the world. Often times (not always) the pregnancy was due to unplanned and unprotected sex with someone they were not married to, or possibly not even in a relationship with. Who’s fault is that? The parents. It is imperative that individuals who decide to become sexually active understand that there are consequences to having sex. If you decide to have unprotected sex with someone you are then deciding to take on all the responsibilities and consequences that come with that (i.e. having a child that you may not be financially able to take care of and may have to raise by yourself). I do have remorse for single parents, but ultimately my heart goes out to the child. The child did did not ask to be here and just because you decided to forgo responsibility for a few hours of pleasure does not give you the right emotionally damage your child on a regular basis because you are frustrated with your situation.

    Cursing at children, especially young children, is not acceptable. I completely understand chastising kids when they are wrong, but we must remember that a child is a child and we have to take into account that they will make some mistakes. I understand parenting is hard and all parents get frustrated at times. It comes with the territory, but to take out your anger on your child is completely unfair and it usually results in raising a frustrated adult who then, in the case of men, can wrongly express that anger resulting in dire consequences (i.e. crime/jail) We as a community must do better in encouraging these young women to wait to have sex. They cant keep getting pregnant and raise angry children b/c they are mad at their situation. The black community also needs to start promoting strong families. I’m not saying single mothers should be bashed, but encouraging women to wait until marriage or at least until they are financially stable enough to raise a child on their own is a good idea. This baby mama/baby daddy mess is just that….MESS! And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of looking on my facebook timeline and seeing a bunch of young African American women whine, complain, and bash their baby daddy. I empathize with you but that just isnt necessary. We got to do better. Get on birth control and use a condom. It’s past time to take responsibility. Point. Blank. Period.

  • P

    I have cursed at my son (never been verbal abusive). When I have done this, it wouldn’t feel right in my spirit. It is wrong b/c you don’t want them cursing at people or people cursing at him.

    I have gotten frustrated because his father could look at him or just make one statement, then he will do what he was asked. After repeating myself, I would curse out of frustration and THEN he would do what I told him. I’m not condoning cursing at children; I’m just being honest about my experience.

    This is also another confirmation that male children do need their fathers “good ones” to raise them, it is a huge difference. Boys tend to think they can get away with certain things when it comes to mom rather than dad. 8 times out of 10, Dad is usually the disciplinary one.

  • Mademoiselle

    I would argue that just like you can’t raise two kids the same way and expect the same outcome, two parents can’t raise a child the same way and expect the same outcome. There’s a reason your son responds to his father once, but won’t respond to you even after repeating yourself. The approach is being delivered by different people. I don’t think cursing is your only option. I think you need to figure out a different way to get your son to understand that you’re not playing with him. Maybe it’s word choice, maybe it’s the explanation, maybe it’s the delivery… whatever it is, he’s telling you that he knows you’re not dad, and you can’t just apply dad’s actions to anyone and expect him to treat you like he treats his dad. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own specialized sense of respect for your authority — you just have to figure out how to draw it out of him. Good luck, though. I’m sure it’s probably tough and frustrating to face this.

  • devb

    when i see these situations, it hearts my heart. i’ve done the dirty look thing, prayed, prepared to call the police or removed myself from the area where possible. on the other hand, i’ve given some encouragement to parents i see just being good parents even if i don’t know them or their kids.

    many of the comments are referring to single mothers, but they are not the only ones who engage in verbal abuse of their children. in fact, the most recent disturbing incident i witnessed was an encounter between a married mother and her young child. nice home. nice neighborhood. both employed. access to information on childhood development. honestly, from what i’ve seen among those parents who believe they’re correctly disciplining their children by spanking them (churck folks and non-church folks), there’s been some kind of verbal abuse before, during or after said spankings. maybe these single mothers are the miner’s canary and, hopefully, a wake up call to all of us about how we treat our children.

  • http://gravatar.com/cocovabarbie KemaVA

    I’ve never had a blowup like many here are describing yet there have been times when I allowed stress to takeover in the form of rage and yelled at one of my sons for something small. It happens. I lead by example and will apologize to my son for letting my anger get the best of me. Its hard because of how guilty I feel when it happens but I once heard that one of the best thing you can let your child see is for you to make a mistake and admit to it.

    On the other hand this is not a black woman thing. Its a mother thing. Of course some take it further than others. But I can remember when I first had my children books would tell young mothers to leave the room when they got that way to take a break from it all. It could be that these mothers have no way to do this. Not condoning cursing at your child but I see how it could happen.

  • TrevLove

    Seriously. I remember that incident in Philly. It’s so crazy out here. As much as I want to step in, I got my own child to take care of and I don’t want to be taken out by some crazy mama ’cause I said something how she’s treating her child. It’s sad. Really sad.

  • TrevLove

    something *about* how she’s treating her child…sorry, I hit reply before editing…

  • P

    At one time, it was frustrating. More than anything, it was my delivery. I had to [show] him I was serious instead of just telling him by following thru with my rules and not changing them mid-way…

  • The Comment

    I sat there, hair half-braided, thinking, “all that over the wrong soda?” But I did the same thing I always do– nothing.

    Well don’t beat yourself up over it. She already crazier than cat chit. If she can belittle and abuse her own son. What the Hell you think she do to you?

    When in this situation all I can do is go soooo out of my way to cross paths with these youth and give the a very kind smile.

    Just file it under DRY TEARS!

  • Kay

    Bad parenting is bad parenting, period. Extenuating circumstances shouldn’t be an excuse. I know parenting is hard. I’m a new mother myself, and sometimes I get so angry when my toddler is getting into everything when I’m trying to work. But I do what lots of parents do. I have to remember she’s a CHILD. She’s only doing what children do and having a husband makes it tons easier, but I still have moments when I just have to walk away and take a breather. But I saw one mother, who asked her toddler (who was standing near a colorful candy display mind you) what he wanted to eat. He of course reaches for the candy and she slaps it away and yells “You not eating candy motherf*******.” Everyone was so shocked, including myself that by the time any of us had the mind to say something she had dragged the little one out the store, pinching him the entire way. While there are many Black men who are raised by loving, wonderful mothers (as evidenced by some of the many wonderful Black men I have met and are in my family) and there are some mothers who are just horrible and end up traumatizing their children and creating a new generation of broken people.

    I don’t think it’s relegated to race, more than just boiling down to how some people either shouldn’t be parents, or should be taught better coping skills.

  • Kay

    That’s a damn shame! Parents who don’t want you saying anything to them are usually the same type of parents you will see on various news outlets who will vouch for how dedicated they were as a parent when their emotionally broken children have gone out and committed atrocious crimes. “But my son/daughter would NEVER hurt anyone! I was a GREAT parent!” *smdh*

  • dbsm

    Reporting to the police, especially in NYC, is the last thing you want to do. Come on people…

  • dbsm

    I have lived across the U.S. and getting CPS involved is a healthy fear as CPS is just full of white man’s ideas and ideals about family. Once they are in, it can be hard to get them out. They aren’t professionals, especially as more and more states privatize this part of social services. They are people with agenda’s and negative views that are in direct conflict with helping families of color.

  • dbsm

    Yes to everything you said, au napptural.

    What some people get is a snapshot that may or may not reflect the day-to-day parenting. Now, that snapshot may be harsh, but like another commentor said, most parents love and want to do right by their children.

  • dbsm

    Yes, again, au napptural. Add in the inherited characteristics/genes of the father that the children may display (in combination with the bad and good characteristics of the mother) and poof we have an utter disaster.

  • dbsm


    Research shows that most child abuse is committed by women because women, by proxy, have always been, and continue to be the primary caretakers of children (both familially and professionally).

    Research also shows that most child abuse committed by women is via poor women and neglect.

    Research also shows that men commit the most heinous child abuse and that sexual abuse is not counted in that stat–even though men again are the main perpetrators of sexual abuse on children. And as men increasingly have become caregivers, child abuse by men has increased to shocking levels.


  • dbsm

    “As a mother to two boys, I think that many generations of single motherhood has taken an emotional toll on too many women, and that many of them do hate their sons as a reflection of their own messed up relationships with men.”

    I think people are prone to agreeing with and repeating psychobabble that has been handed to us by white men.

    Is not any parent scathed by a child who seems to be the epitome of what she/he despises [in a PERSON]? Consider the pregnant teen child of a mother that was once a teen mom or grew up around it?

    Naturally, a mother could despise her son for the poor characteristics he displays that remind her of other men which she has encountered.

    We all deal with (I guess) men and women every day.

    Who doesn’t have “messed up relationships” with other men or women?

    Single motherhood has taken a toll, and part of that toll is the fact that a single mother is told that she is not enough of a parent, that she cannot raise a son, ….all the while telling that child that he ain’t shit because of his parents, because of his status, because of statistics. And thus the mom is left to not only defend against genetics but also against a society who is constantly grooming her kid against what she so desired for him. THIS. IS. EXHAUSTING.

  • dbsm

    Excellent @everything!

  • dbsm

    “Bad parenting is bad parenting, period. Extenuating circumstances shouldn’t be an excuse. ”

    Is it possible to be a good parent exercising a bad choice for a particular situation?

    Some people curse as their daily vocab. Cursing during a heated moment may seem over the edge to an outsider.

    Some people seem to be yelling all of the time…very animated voice. Yelling during a heated moment for them is not extraordinary.

    Sometimes, its all about perspective. But if the person you’re observing has no other perspective…..

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