The answer is YES.
Let me share with you 2 experiences:
When my boy was a 2 year old toddler, I had great difficulty getting him to eat. He was a VERY FUSSY eater and it worried me sick watching him grow thinner and thinner. Plus, he was falling sick all the time.
One night, I was really fed up that he refused to eat the soft rice and dishes (including a soup) I had prepared. Instead of making him another dish he would eat, I started to scold him. Then, I hit a ruler really hard on the dining table to drive home the message that if he doesn’t eat, Mummy will be very angry.
He actually started to eat the spoonfuls I gave and even Hubby kept a stern face. However, the racket my scolding, table hitting and his crying had been really LOUD.
Our next door neighbour is a big and tall army officer but he’s very smiley and friendly the few times we met in the lift. Midway through the meal, we heard knocks on the front door – it was the army officer.
He smiled and asked if everything was OK. I opened the door and explained to him the situation – he looked at the boy (who was actually scared of him because the Chinese preschool tells the kids sometimes that soldiers would take them away if they were naughty ). And he told him to be good and eat.
Then, he turned to me and told me,
“Try not to get too angry with him. He’s still a child. We adults need to be patient. Talk to him nicely, I’m sure he’ll co-operate and eat…”
I was touched that our neighbour cared enough to knock on the door (wooden door and metal door closed) amidst the ruckus to check on the boy. After that, I didn’t scold him that loudly anymore or even used the ruler!
A Chinese opera troupe used to live next to my parents’ home. They were loud, crass and hardly ever slept. We really pitied their 4 year old daughter because her sleep was often disturbed by the many, many visitors at their home at odd hours of the night.
One of their regular visitors were a young divorcee and her boyfriend. She has a 4 year old girl too.
One night, my parents heard the boyfriend loudly scolding the little girl for something she did. Then, they heard a whipping sound – my father knew that he had taken his belt and was whipping the toddler!
When he didn’t stop, my parents couldn’t stand it and went over. My mother was very tactful and told him,
“We heard her crying and I felt uncomfortable (Hokkien = gang khor). She’s still small. You’ve already hit her. She knows she’s wrong. It’s enough already.”
The boyfriend stopped but he defended his actions by saying that she was very naughty. The girl’s mother just sat nearby – she probably didn’t dare to stop her boyfriend.
My father was quite angry and replied,
“She is just a child. She is so small. You are a MAN. You can hit her all you want and she can’t fight back. Why don’t you hit me instead?
(Bahasa Melayu = Dia budak kecil. Kamu jantan. Lu boleh pukul dia berapa kali pun dia tak boleh pukul lu balik. Lu pukul sayalah!)”
My father is a tall, dark and muscular man. People who have met him will label him a “tough guy” especially as he rarely smiles. The man didn’t answer.
After that, my Mum said that they never hear of the little girl getting hit again.
The recent cases of child abuse in Malaysia have me really torn up, especially when the newspapers report that neighbours “hear the child crying for WEEKS.”
How can anyone stand hearing a child pitifully for weeks?
And if you know someone is doing something wrong to a child, how can you just go about your daily affairs as if nothing is wrong? How can you sleep at night?
We can do something if we hear of such happenings. As the two examples above show, we didn’t need to do anything dangerous. Just approaching the family to show that you care for the child is enough.
As a stay-at-home Mother to a very, very active small boy, I can get very IMPATIENT and ANGRY with him.
Maybe the parents who abused their own kids were just as impatient and angry too. Financial problems may have put more pressure on their lives that they just cannot handle a toddler’s demanding and unreasonable behaviour.
I felt really sad for the 3 year old girl girl who had been punched, beaten and jumped on by her 27 year old stepfather for over a month. Her 24 year old mother, a housewife, had another 3 month old infant to care for and since the stepfather was jobless, I can imagine how desperate their lives have become.
When I read this other report about how A MAN, the neighbour heard the child’s cries and screams and “always felt uncomfortable and wondered where the cries come from” but NEVER thought to check on her like a friendly neighbour?
I know many people feel that it’s awkward to approach a neighbour because you don’t want to appear a busybody but think about it: you could save a child’s life just by caring. And because you care, the parents will also be woken up by an objective third party.
Sometimes, we can all be too caught up with our homes and our lives that we don’t realize what we’re doing.
Sometimes, we need someone to ask, “Hey, what are you doing??? Is everything okay?”
We are a caring society, remember?