WHEN PARENTS FIGHT OR ARGUE, THE CHILD/CHILDREN SUFFERS
It took me almost a full 24 hours before I could work up the nerve to watch the viral video of a mom cutting her toddler’s freshly done braids in a clear attempt to teach the child’s father a lesson. The screenshot of the toddler crying was enough to put my stomach in knots. The actual footage was even more disturbing. Everything from the mom cutting the braids as her child sobbed in the street to the dad’s commentary was deeply problematic. But the most heartbreaking part was that neither parent appeared to step in to rescue the child in her moment of distress.
“The video is difficult to watch because see a child crying in the presence of her own parents who are supposed to protect and provide,” said LCSW and author of The State of Black Girls: A Go-To Guide for Creating Safe Space, Marline Francois-Madden. “It makes us a little emotional. It makes us wonder what is happening that this little girl is crying and no one is intervening or soothing her at this moment?”
It’s deeply hurtful for any child to see her parents fight, but an additional layer was added to this child’s heartache when her braids were cut. Every Black girl who has sat for hours to get her hair braided during childhood or otherwise knows what it feels like to marvel at her beautiful bead-adorned locks afterward. We’ve all relished at the sound of those beads click-clacking as we shook our heads side to side. To have those braids cut out of your head the very same day that they were installed, at the hands of your mother, no less, feels like a form of betrayal that is particularly humiliating and traumatizing.
“Parents really shouldn’t be yelling in front of children. They should find a way to discuss it that is not in front of the children,” explained Francois-Madden. “But then also, our hair is our crown. We love doing our hair. Getting your hair done by your mom is a bonding moment.”
While it’s evident that neither parent intended to hurt their daughter, it appears that in an effort to be right in the moment, both completely disregarded how they might be damaging her in the process.
“When it comes to communication when you are looking to be right, then it doesn’t leave the opportunity for anyone to be heard,” added Francois-Madden. “You’re not really listening to or comprehending what the other person is saying to figure out how to get to a resolution.”
Additionally, when parents fight to be right, there are potentially negative and lasting effects on the children.
“The child may also feel like they can’t communicate with their parent who always has to be right,” the author and LCSW added. “Then, the child may shut down. They may be really timid, quiet, and not want to share their concerns –especially Black girls. So many Black girls feel like they’re not being heard and no one cares.”
Co-parenting is most certainly not easy. It does not come with a handbook and tension can cause parents to unintentionally act out in unloving ways that are hurtful to their kids, as we’ve witnessed in the video. It is also important to remember that although the mother’s actions were inexcusable, we don’t have the whole story and we are not privy to what she may be going through behind the scenes.
“There has to be some underlying layer to have the mom get to that point where she is beyond frustrated and for the father to record it and put it on social media. In that moment, there was a lot that she was upset about and it appears that the mother needs support too,” said Francois-Madden. “There are so many layers that we don’t know. We’re only seeing a small snippet of a video.”
Hopefully, this episode will push both parents to seek outside help and come to an understanding that prioritizes the physical and emotional wellbeing of their kids.