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Protecting Other Kids: Do You Step Up to “Ugly Parents?”

By mikeadamick |

So you’re at a park. You see a dad hitting around his kids.

Do you step in?

This post has almost been haunting me. I can’t stop thinking about it — first because it’s just so beautifully written. It starts off in what appears to be a homage to the kind of shallowness seen on pretty much any reality TV show, but like beauty itself, the beginning is only skin deep, and the twist at the end will leave you wondering about your own reaction to people like this.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been in situations — who hasn’t? — where a parent is clearly not doing the best of jobs with the kids, to put it lightly. I’ve never seen actual violence, but I’ve seen a good amount of yelling and maybe shoving. And like pretty much everyone else present at the time, I did nothing.

Would I, I’ve wondered, have the courage to step in if needed?

Which is why I was so enamored by Charlie Capen’s story about his run in with an “ugly parent” — not the physically unattractive kind, but the kind so ugly underneath that he’d hit a child.

“So, I’m at attention on this bench, debating how to tell this dad just how ugly he is. But then my conscience or decency or whatever, let’s just call it my ‘second guessing voice’, speaks up. ‘Who the hell are you to drop the hammer, Charlie?’ Some onlookers would probably cheer while others cringe. I cringe when I see people approach strangers for less. There’s no question it would be out-of-place and irresponsible of me. Society’s social veneer has me prisoner for the moment.”

Charlie stepped in and told the dad to stop, that he was being watched.

I wonder, would I? Would you? If it takes a village, exactly how far do we go to help save one of the villagers?

Take a read — it’s a thought provoking piece worth everyone’s time.

Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!

Photo: Huffington Post

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About mikeadamick



As the “Daddy Issues” columnist for and a prime mover at “The Poop,” the parenting blog of the San Francisco Chronicle, Mike Adamick is no stranger to writing about modern fatherhood with wit and wisdom. He blogs at Cry It Out! Read bio and latest posts → Read mikeadamick's latest posts →

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4 thoughts on “Protecting Other Kids: Do You Step Up to “Ugly Parents?”

  1. Charlie says:

    Even now, as the comments come in on that post, I’m still second-guessing. So many people think courage is a black or white phenomenon. I’d venture to say it is a moment of action or inaction backed by some sort of persistence. That’s it. It may never FEEL right. That is what’s so ephemeral about right and wrong. It’s individual and personal, whereas a moral stance is dictated by society.

  2. Chris Read says:

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong decision here. It’s easy to take a side but until you are there, in the moment, you have no idea what you would do. I’d like to think that if I saw someone hit their child, or any child, that I would step in and say something. The truth is, I have no idea what I would do. Do I want to risk getting my ass kicked too? In front of my kids? If the guy is willing to hit his own child, he obviously likes the feeling of hitting.

    I loved the story Charlie and say bravo for doing what you did. Hopefully that guy thinks about it the next time he gets that urge. Thanks for re-sharing this Mike.

    Chris – CDB

  3. Rosana says:

    Chris, I agree with the last part of your comment. If I ever step in a situation like that is just to shake up the parent so he or she will realize what they are doing. Sometimes, parents have the wrong reaction for their kids behaviour and and some of us can make them stop and think for the kids’ sake.

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