Very soon after I started working in the schools, some kids started to disclose the ways in which parents had frightened them, hit them, yelled at them-- basically behaved badly.
I got a lot of advice about these very delicate parent-child issues. Adults (staff, teachers, neighbors, friends, my mom) had very strong opinions about the kids' statements. Some said that I shouldn't believe everything that the kids said. They believe that kids often make up stuff to get what they want. You know this argument; kids are prone to exaggerate if not outright lie.
Other adults passionately believe that the kids are telling the truth--after all, why would they lie?
As a teacher working within the school system I am obligated to report abusive/neglectful behavior. Obviously, the question is: what is abusive/neglectful behavior? Is spanking, a whooping (with a belt), lunging at or striking a child, hitting with a tennis raquet, cursing, threatening, withholding food? (Yes, these are all things I've heard).
Where is the line? Who decides? What are the parents' rights? What are the child's rights? These are all valid questions. Moreover, when one parent pits a child against another parent, this line gets blurrier. After all, children are impressionable and can be brain washed (oh, I mean convinced).
However, at the end of the day, one party has the power, the resources, and the Voice in this society and one party does not.
Both my personal experience and expertise tell me that children do not want to get their parent(s) in trouble. In fact, most children will go to great lengths to keep their parents' problems secret. Children want, no--need, to believe that their parents can take care of them. Their very survival depends on it.
I contend that it is very rare for a child to completely fabricate a claim against a parent. While a parent may not have done exactly what the child claims, the parent probably lost his/her temper or acted badly in the situation. No matter how "naughty" children are, a parent is still the responsible adult in the situation. Right?
I've pledged to be a voice for children but I know that these issues are not black and white, cut and dry. It is the parent's job/right to discipline a child. Just when has it crossed the line?
Now, you tell me. Please.