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Bystanders
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, October 2010

What should you do if you witness someone being mistreated? Your first impression may be that it is none of your business and you may not want to get involved. Maybe you don't quite know what to do, or maybe, you are not sure if there is anything you can do about the situation.

For example, we can all relate to a parent feeling enormously frustrated with a child's particular behavior. We can all recall how it feels to "nearly lose it" because your nerves are frayed, your temper is shot, and you are beyond stressed out. (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON TO PRACTICE SANITY SAVING TECHNIQUES ON A REGULAR BASIS SO THAT YOU CAN HAVE PEACE OF MIND THAT YOU CAN HANDLE, IN A WAY YOU WOULD BE PROUD OF YOURSELF, WHATEVER COMES ALONG WITH YOUR CHILDREN.) And when you witness a parent "losing it" with his or her child, what, if anything, is your role? Do you have a responsibility and if so, what is your responsibility?

Each of us needs to think about the consequences of standing by or walking away. Consider what is your societal responsibility to another parent and child. If you remember what it is like to need to take a break to compose yourself and you cannot see a way out, put yourself in the shoes of the person you are watching. It is amazing how helpful a "bystander" can be to help a parent get out of their downward cycle which is often fueled by fatigue, embarrassment, anger, fear, stress, or rage.

Getting involved does not have to involve a "big show". Small interventions can make a big difference in a questionable situation. By distracting someone, saying non-judgmental, calming, or reassuring words, checking in with them to give them support so they don't "go over the edge" can prevent a situation from deteriorating to a point where someone gets hurt.



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