She was having a difficult morning and her eight-year-old son wasn't helping matters by refusing to get dressed for school. Unfortunately, the 42-year-old British mother, whose identity is being withheld by the courts, responded by smacking her son twice on the shoulder with a hairbrush. Sadly, she did so hard enough that the boy was still in pain when he arrived at school. Seeing this, one of the boy's teacher's contacted child protective services.
The boy was placed in foster care and the mother was charged with assault. After admitting that she had a "moment of madness," the mother ended up pleading guilty to the charges. She is now only allowed to see her son for two hours a week. Her lawyer noted that she was the boy's only caregiver despite being sick for the past two years. He explained that she "lost her temper, and struck the child twice, but immediately apologised afterwards."
In our country, hitting a child hard enough to bruise is illegal, but lesser blows are permitted. The mother is going to take an anger management course voluntarily and will be sentenced later this month. A spokesman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children applauded the actions of the local government, saying "Nobody could get away with hitting an adult with a hairbrush, so they should not be able to get away with hitting a child with one. There is a danger that the use of physical punishment by parents and carers can escalate, and may result in serious harm to a child."
On the one hand, I can certainly understand a parent's frustration -- and one solitary incident does not a child abuser make. On the other hand, I don't believe spanking is an effective punishment for kids. The danger of further abuse, however, must be weighed against the trauma of being taken from one's parent. At eight years old, surely the kid is better off with his mother rather than the foster system? Unless the mother has exhibited habitual abuse -- and I don't think this counts as one incident of abuse, really -- the child ought to be with his mother. As strongly as I oppose corporal punishment, I oppose taking children from their parents more so, especially in a situation like this.
Certainly, an anger management course is not unreasonable, even if this is an isolated incident. Better safe than sorry, of course. But taking her child away and possibly sentencing her for a crime seems rather excessive. Are we all such perfect examples of "Leave It To Beaver" parents that we are in no danger of making a mistake like this woman did?
Do you think one incident should be grounds for having your children taken away? Was this abuse or a simple parenting mistake? Or did the mother do the right thing in administering some discipline?
Every parent worries about being a good enough mum or dad, and we all make mistakes. But could a simple mistake be the reason our kids get taken away?