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rockfan's avatar

Is this considered child neglect? And would you have spoken to to parent in this situation?

Asked by rockfan (8376points) June 19th, 2017 from iPhone

I saw a father and his two sons (a 9–10 year old and a 2 year old) and the older kid was basically man handling the toddler, chasing him across the section of the store until he fell down numerous times (there was thick carpeting) until he cried. He also kept hugging him aggressively and frightening him, while getting precariously close to wooden bookshelves. This happened for about 5 minutes, with the Dad having a stupid grin on his face as if it was a cute family moment.

I’m assuming this happens all the time in this family. Unfortunately I succumbed to the bystander effect and didn’t say anything. Even though if I intervened, it probably wouldn’t have done anything helpful, yet I still feel terrible about it and really wish I said something to the effect of “Your toddler can’t even defend himself by your son’s bullying. I really hope this is just a one time thing and that you teach your child not to be a bully.”


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22 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

No, I don’t see it as child abuse or neglect. I see it as two brothers playing. From your description, it’s hard to even call it bullying. It’s more like horseplay, with the older kid probably not taking into account the the brother is 7 years younger.

If you had butted in, the father would have been well within his rights to tell you to piss off.

josie's avatar

In opinion, none of your business.
Out of curiosity, how do you see it as your business?

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Kids roughhouse sometimes. Agree it was none of your business, although it may have been distressing to see. Save your ire for the real abuse.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I disagree that it was none of your business. Too many people turn a blind eye when they are concerned about something they see. This preference for ‘it’s not my business’ allows child abuse/neglect and domestic violence to go unchallenged. People don’t want to get involved. I’ve been guilty of it myself. I remember a family across the road where the mother literally screamed and screamed at her kids. I decided it was none of my business, but it had to be harmful to the kids, and the mother obviously needed some support. I wish I’d gone across and asked her if she fancied a cuppa. She obviously wasn’t coping.

Was this situation child abuse/neglect? No way for us to know. The older child may have been playing or being too rough, but we can’t tell if that was a problem because we can’t see what you saw. Obviously, if the little guy was crying, it would certainly seem the older kid went too far. Perhaps the older kid has some emotional problems? Perhaps there was another reason the father didn’t get involved. I’m pretty sure the father wouldn’t have liked you to step in or to say anything. I’m not sure how you could have broached the subject without stepping on the father’s toes. Perhaps he is at a loss as to how to deal with it. Perhaps there’s some sibling rivalry thing happening.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

My thoughts: Mind your own business.

AshlynM's avatar

I loathe it when kids just run amok in stores. They are not a playground, unless they have an area specifically designed for kids to play. I see it happen way too often. I might say something to a worker or manager if I feel it could get out of control and let them handle it, but otherwise I’d just ignore it and move on.

rockfan's avatar

I’m really surprised by some of the comments, I definitely think 2 years old is way too young to be treated like he was

rockfan's avatar


Preventing a defenseless 2 year old from getting hurt

rockfan's avatar


the toddler certainly wasn’t playing. I don’t think I described it very well in my initial question

jca's avatar

It’s not neglect that warrants a call to CPS, if that’s what you mean.

Is it negligent? Yes, it sounds like the parent is in need of a reminder about what’s not appropriate behavior from the bigger kid, and how the young one might get hurt if something topples onto him.

Would I say something? I don’t know. I usually look to reprimand people or comment on thier parenting, as I am not looking to argue with people.

Once, in Costco long ago, I saw a little kid standing up in the shopping cart. Sure enough, the sides of the cart just about met where his knees were, and he went over and crashed his head on the cement floor. I will sometimes see parents with their kid in the shopping cart, standing up like that now, but I don’t say anything. I’m not the cop for the world and I don’t always feel it’s my place to go around reprimanding people. Do I feel others should or shouldn’t? No. I think people should do what they feel is right, and if they feel it’s appropriate to reprimand another parent or comment on the issue, then I definitely feel people should.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m curious about how well you know the family, that you have been able to so clearly define them as “a father and his two sons”. Do you know that for a certainty? With families being as fragmented as they are these days, I doubt that I would identify “a man and two boys” as being all or even “at all” related without some additional confirmation.

I like @AshlynM‘s answer: out of control kids in a retail establishment is a recipe for disaster (as well as loss of sales, potential store liability and injury to other shoppers), and the store management should be putting a stop to it.

Aside from that, as the elder to a brother who is coincidentally eight years younger than I am, there is bound to be a lot of rough and tumble between them. It’s not your place to police others when there’s no “actual damage” being done. If you think there is, then it warrants “a conversation” between you and the adult in charge, but free of suppositions that he’s the father, that they’re his sons, that they’re brothers – and definitely free of accusation and recrimination. “Is the older one always that wild? Is the younger one being hurt?” could be legitimate starting points.

funkdaddy's avatar

Just one thing that I haven’t seen discussed, toddlers are almost impossible to read if you’re not familiar with them individually. They’ll cry like they’re dying, but most of the time are one funny face or tickle from going straight back to having a great time. It’s just really hard to know from the outside.

As far as this

Your toddler can’t even defend himself by your son’s bullying. I really hope this is just a one time thing and that you teach your child not to be a bully.

Trying to shame anyone is never really going to go well. Especially as a stranger.

I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old who we’re constantly trying to establish boundaries with and while I don’t mind if someone steps in if my kiddos are making them uncomfortable, they should be kind or it’s just going to reflect poorly on them. Most parents are really pretty good about this.

If you’re uncomfortable in the future, there are lots of ways to be heard with very little chance of it being an issue. Some people are more comfortable talking to the adults, but I’m usually more likely to talk to the kids. Nothing wrong with getting down on their level and asking something like “Is he having fun?” to the older one or even just their names. Sometimes you get ignored, but it takes away the distant judgmental air to the whole thing.

YARNLADY's avatar

I hate to see an older child abuse a younger child. I do not consider it “play”. I would have (and have done) asked the parents if they would consider putting it a stop to it.

JLeslie's avatar

I understand why you feel badly. I might have said something, if I felt the toddler was very uncomfortable. I would have said something to the dad or kids. I wouldn’t report them. If the toddler seemed fine until he fell I wouldn’t be concerned.

A toddler falling happens all day long. They are too heavy usually: big heads for the size of their bodies, and just learning to balance while upright, and their center of gravity constantly changing, because they grow so fast.

I saw a dad holding his kid upside down while walking out of a store, walking onto a sidewalk and then down from the curb onto the street. Only dads do that sort of thing I think. One trip, or if the kid slipped, he would have gone head first from just 3.5 feet off the ground.

seawulf575's avatar

Leaving a kid in a car while you go into a store is neglect. Allowing a child to play with knives is neglect. Having an older brother playing with the younger brother is not neglect. It might be that is the dynamic of the family. If the younger child was getting hurt and the father didn’t notice or do anything you might have a case, but in my opinion this is a case of walking the other way. I have seen many people doing things with their families that I disagree with, but I am not the king of raising kids.

Lightlyseared's avatar

You could argue it’s crap parenting but that’s probably it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Anymore, people just let their kids run rampant in public places and just smile indulgently when they stop on people’s feet, bang on tables, bang on windows, yell. It’s like they think it’s cute.

I agree. The older kid was bullying the younger. Especially if he seemed to enjoy making him cry. I might have said something like, “Is he OK?” when the smaller kid wound up crying.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess_III We have a really hard time with the two youngest grandsons, age 8 – 10. They have both been diagnosed as ADHD and are very hard to control. When we go to restaurants, we try to choose corner tables so we can corral them.

When they were younger, we could physically control them, but now they are older, they will dive right under the table and run away. We now have several tablets/DS’s to keep them occupied, and that works pretty well. I used a portable DVD player before we got the tablets. Their parents recently gave them some obsolete phones which the boys love.

Needless to say, I hardly ever take them out anymore. We picnic in the park.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not sure why you addressed me @YARNLADY. Unless you smile indulgently thinking they’re cute.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess_III My point is that often parents might try to control their children and the smile is more one of chagrin rather than indulgence.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The instances I’ve seen it was not a smile of chagrin. They were actually actively participating in the rough house, laughing about as loudly as the kids. They also kept looking around like, “See what a good Mom / Dad I am, playing with my children?” You’re in a Doctor’s waiting room fool, full of old people and walkers and your kid is charging around like a bull, climbing over chairs, under chairs and you think it’s cute????

YARNLADY's avatar

@On, not nice.

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