A few days ago I witnessed a mother scream at her child, “Go away from me, I don’t want you.” I felt heart-broken for the child, and almost went up to him to say “Don’t worry, I want you.” I did not, but asked myself if I was right not to interfere.
What would you have done? Do we have any right to interfere with the way a parent brings up her child? When do we step in to try to make a difference, and when do we let nature take its course?
When not to interfere: the kicking giraffe
In A New View From The Zoo, Gary Richmond describes the birth of a giraffe. The mother kicks its newborn calf until it gets on its feet. Once the baby stand up, the mother kicks the baby down again. She continues kicking until it stands up again. She repeats this process until the baby is too exhausted to go on. Then she kick one more time and finally leaves it standing.
We may find this hard to witness, but nature knows that the struggle is necessary. The baby giraffe needs to know how to get to its feet quickly to flee from predators in the wild.
When in doubt, don’t
One of the principles in medicine is “first, do no harm.” Medical intervention can offer a cure, but also risks worsening the situation. Doctors are reminded to be humble enough to accept that sometimes they can do more harm than good. In those situations, doing nothing is the preferred choice.
I could have said something to that mother, but have no clue if it would help. If I embarassed her in public, she could later take it out on the child in private. She could also just be having a bad day, and I might cause her to lose confidence as a mother. I decided to follow the wisdom of “first do no harm.”
When not to interfere, and when you should
Am I letting myself off the hook for saying nothing that day? Is child-raising the responsibility only of its parents, or does society have a part to play? There is a fine line between helping and interfering. Sometimes I just don’t know where that line lies.
4 replies on “When Not To Interfere: A Very Fine Line”
@ Linda, thanks for sharing your experience about the poor humiliated boy. It can be hard to watch this sort of thing happen before your very eyes. And yes, our only assurance is that children are more resilient than we realise. We also probably don’t see the times when the opposite happens and the child is shown love and affection, which must happen for the child to still love its mother.
@ Vincent, the butterfly analogy is also a good one. Thanks for pointing it out.
@ Jocelyn, glad you understand how I felt. There is just a fleeting moment when we could have said something, and often the moment passes by and leaves us wondering if we had done the right thing by doing nothing. And often we will never know the answer. Maybe there is no answer.
Yeah, I know how you felt. I also saw a child whose mother I think just pinched her nose til it got really red. I wanted to say something, but before I way able to, they have moved on. I don’t know how some mothers can be so rude, maye it was also the way they were treated when they were young. People have lost their sensitivity.
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There are situations that we got into thinking that we are helping but actually we are not. I have a post on how one guy actually help to cut a cocoon and allow the butterfly to come out of it easily but he did not realize that he is actually doing more harm instead. He had caused the butterfly to lose the ability to fly and can only crawl on the floor for the rest of it’s life.
Sometimes we really need to open our eyes wide to be aware of the situation.
Personal Development Blogger
Vincents last blog post..Book Review: How To Win Friends & Influence People By Dale Carnegie
Hi Daphne,i look forward to reading your posts!Always so insightful.The incident which you have described reminded me what i saw during the parent-teacher meeting last year with one my pupil’s mother. The boy, was last in class, and when the mum saw his class position, she exclaimed with tears ‘You have really caused me to ‘lose face’, how could you be the last in class?Your gor gor had done so much better than you when he was in sec 1′, While doing that, she hit the boy on his head!All these in the presence of both his form teachers!i was shocked and at that point in time, really did not know what to do!
Afterwhich,what surprised me was that during a play that we brought the pupils to watch as post exam activity, when asked by one of the actresses “Who do you love most?”, this same boy was picked to answer.Guess who he mentioned?His mother!Upon hearing his answer,we all clapped! His mother would be so touched if she had heard what the son said!”Nature know its work indeed”