9/24/02 - A Serious Mistake

The mother caught on a mall surveillance tape hitting her child -- Madelyn Toogood -- is charged with felony child beating, for a beating caught on tape, hitting her four-year-old daughter in the backseat of her car, at an Indiana mall.
Toogood says she just lost control. Do counselors say it's that simple? Elizabeth Smith works with parents and anger management. She says things like this happen everyday, they're just not caught on camera. But, Smith says getting those images caught on tape could help other parents learn how to manage their anger.
"I believe anytime we've slapped a child in the face, anytime we intend to cause physical pain, we've stepped over the line," Smith says. Smith says anger is a human emotion we all feel, but it's what you choose to do with your anger that matters. She says the anger caught on tape was built up over time, and what we've seen could have been prevented if the mother had gotten help.
"Maybe the next time a parent is angry and they are in a public place they will think twice before they hit slap or punch," Smith says. And thinking twice may make all the difference. Smith says statistics show if parents have just five minutes to cool down, their choice on how to discipline will change. "Each parent needs to determine how they view their child and what value they place on the child," Smith says. "If we place high value on our children's lives we won't hit them in the nature she hit."
The most important thing parents need to do is step back and look at their behavior, before they make a move. "The first step you might take is to take a deep breath and then another deep breath and imagine the look on your child's face the last time behaviors were this big," Smith says. And, of course, there are the serious legal implications. A lesson Toogood is learning as her case makes its way through the courts and the national spotlight.
There are counseling centers across the Heartland that can help parents who feel they have a problem with anger management.
Call any of these numbers if you, or anyone you know needs help.
Community Counseling Center crisis line
Division of Family Services hotline
Local parenting class