In a Walmart in the suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, a man walked up to Sonya Mathews, whose 2-year-old daughter was crying in the store. He uttered those classic words:
If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.
A couple aisles over, he made “good” on his word and slapped Ms. Mathews’ daughter 4 or 5 times, following the abuse with a smug,
See, I told you I would shut her up.
A bystander, presumably with way more sense than this guy, restrained him until Walmart security came to help. They called the police.
Roger Stephens, 61, was charged with felony cruelty to children. The little girl, though presumably traumatized for the moment (and perhaps will now suffer from a fear of Walmarts and old guys?) suffered only redness to the face.
To the rest of us, he can now be dubbed, “The most evil ornery old man in America.”
Officials say there was no video of the incident on the store cameras.
Find the story: Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Image: Gwinnett County (GA) Sheriff’s Office.
jan in rural bama says
he better be glad i am not that childs mother ,the cops couldnt have gotten there fast enough and God forbid my husband was present
Jan, I completely agree. I’m pretty sure I would have gone ballistic. And if my husband had been there, he’d be dead!
Jennifer O'Neill says
How in God’s name did he get 4 or 5 slaps in before the Mother castrated him on the spot? If that was my baby they would have had to call the police for HIS protection! This guy should be doing his shopping online.
I am really sad to see that it is assumed that a 2 year old is misbehaving if they are not being quiet. I am also amazed that it is assumed that a mother whose child is not quiet has done “nothing”.
This child was two years old. This man was in his 60’s. How is it ok for this man to not be able to control himself but not ok for a two year old?
While I do not advocate what the man did – I’m glad it has sparked debate. What everyone is forgetting is WHERE WAS THE MOTHER?
He said: “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.” Mom did nothing! Didn’t report the man, making me think this happens to her all the time and she ignores it. Didn’t remove the kid from a potentially dangerous situation. Didn’t ensure the wacko didn’t get near her kid.
MOMENTS later and ‘A couple aisles over’, he made “good” on his word – getting in four slaps…
Where was MOM? How did he get close enough, how did he have time to slap her 4 times?
When I was a kid going to the store was a privilege, if we misbehaved we left IMMEDIATELY! I know that’s inconvenient for today’s modern parents but it works and it works fast!
Um . . . since when is a crying 2-year-old “misbehaving?” I would guess this poor child was probably hungry, tired, etc. And while the child maybe should have been taken home, at the same time, that’s not always practical. We don’t know ANYTHING about the mom, so I really don’t think it’s fair to start bashing her at this point. Maybe she was there buying medicine for her child, and it wasn’t something she felt could wait until later. We don’t know.
As for why the man was allowed to get 4 or 5 slaps in, I’m sure the mom was in shock. I know I would be. Even if he did previously threaten her, it’s such a completely LUDICROUS thing to do, I doubt she took him seriously. At least not seriously enough to call security. She did seem to have at least walked away from him, since the slapping took place a few aisles over from where he threatened her.
I will say, though, this makes a good case for using a sling. While it’s certainly possible for the same thing to happen if the child was in a sling, it wouldn’t have been as easy, and the mother could have better protected her child.
Cate Nelson says
As a feminist, I can’t believe this mother would even choose to have a child. Didn’t she know that something like this could happen?
Of course, I’m being tongue-in-cheek. The fact that anyone would blame the mother in this case is disgusting.
I turn my back on my children (strapped in the cart) while I gather products from the shelves. Doesn’t everyone?
If this happened to me (God forbid), I’d be snatching up my baby, comforting him. Though “Mama Bear” for me would kick in second, and soon!
C Lo says
Let’s assume the worst, ok? I don’t know about y’all, but my local Wal-Mart seems to bring out the worst of the worst. There are ALWAYS horribly behaved children and screaming babies and neglectful parents. So let’s just assume that’s the case. Let’s just assume there is some horribly behaved toddler screaming her way through Wal-Mart. Let’s assume the mother isn’t paying attention and is more interested in HoHos or beer or something. Let’s just put this in worst case scenario….hell, let’s assume the mom was 10 or 20 paces away from her child.
Worst case scenario it is STILL not REMOTELY excusable in ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM for a stranger to smack that kid. I don’t care if the kid is laying in the middle of the aisle screaming bloody murder because she wants cheetos and the mom said no, NOTHING makes that ok. If the child is disturbing you that much, you WALK AWAY. If the child is going to hurt himself or another person, you find the parent or a store employee and let THEM deal with it. It’s flatly never ok, no matter WHERE the mom was or WHAT she was doing, that this random a-hole laid a hand on a child he didn’t know. Period.
Crimson Wife says
Whether or not the child deserved to be disciplined, it isn’t a stranger’s place to be doing the disciplining. And a grown man slapping a toddler in the face 5 times is excessive even if it is done by the child’s own father.
That is HORRIBLE! I hope they throw more than just the book at him!
I would NEVER lay a hand on my own children, never even spanked them, and to have some stranger lay a hand on my child… mother bear mode would be kicking in…
People keep asking why it was another shopper and not the mother who detained the man. If it were me, I can promise you I’d be comforting my child, who would be SCREAMING after being slapped repeatedly by a stranger. I’m also not a large person, so beyond vocally calling for help, what could someone my size do against a grown man who is probably larger?
It doesn’t matter if the mother was completely clueless and the kid was screaming down the roof. It is NEVER acceptable for a person to physically discipline another person’s child.
1001 petals says
That is just so messed up. I wonder what the courts will dole out to this man — not enough, I bet.
Okay most people will hate me for saying this but here goes… (BTW i think what the guy did was sick and cruel) People need to dicipline their kids and stop letting them get away with murder! Just because you spank your own kids and punish them physically does not mean you are abusing your kids. so for those of you that say i would never even hit my own kids, well your kids are just going to do what ever the hell they want. Verbal punishment only goes so far! You must let your child know that he is under your control and believe me i don’t mean beating the sense out of them but let him know you are there. when you yell at a child, that child is not an idiot and knows that all he has to do is endure the yelling and he can go right back to what he was doing. People need to stop being to darn soft and toughen up a little. Don’t worry your child will not call 911 on you nor will he hate you forever.
If I had been there he would have required the jaws of life to remove him from the floor. Jackass deserves worse than he is going to get.
FYI Alex, the word discipline means to teach. It doesn’t mean to smack. I have never and will never lay a hand on my child.
You said “when you yell at a child, that child is not an idiot and knows that all he has to do is endure the yelling and he can go right back to what he was doing”. You are absolutely right. Same goes for spanking or other physical abuse. A friend of mine used to stay out past her curfew every night. Each night when she got home her mom smacked her across the face. To her, it was worth it so she kept doing it.
People need to teach their children common sense and teach them to think for themselves. You don’t teach children that by smacking them.
And screaming in a store is not exactly “getting away with murder”.
Day of Wonder says
Im just wondering what gave this old fool the nerve to approach a total stranger (old MAN vs young Woman)and have the gaull to even think that he could speak his mind (threaten to do do bodily harm to her infant) and not be called to answer for his statement, maybe he,s done this before and thinks he can continue, without any repercusions.Now I wonder (Yeah im about to touch on a subject you all seem to try to avoid ) Was this young woman an african american ?????. I wonder since no one is putting her picture in the news like they usually would, but in the days of now having a black pres the news media is walking on eggshells trying to be politicly correct. This guy must have done this before and seems to think its the just the thing to do.In 2009 ATLANTA GA. But we still know racism is alive and kicking. OH I MENT SLAPPING. I know this is going to rub some people the wrong way, but hay WAKE UP folks were still A long way from were we should be as the human race.
Yikes! That is scary on many levels.
I was outraged last Friday night when an older woman (with a similar grimace on her face) turned and told me to make my child stop screaming. Dh had already taken him out, he was yelping from joy, and it was a loud, family friendly restaurant.
I politely told her that we’d already taken him out and made a comment about how two year olds have such exuberant energy. She said she knew because she once had two year olds and then gave me a look that good of killed. (ugghhh!) I said, great, so what did you do in this situation and she repled, “I’d tell him to stop.”
Now I’m not so sure she really had two year olds or maybe a spotty memory. Despite having dealt with it quite calmly I was very upset afterwards and I can’t imagine if someone had hit my kid. Oh!
Momma in MA says
I was very surprised to read that the man slapped the child so many times and was able to slap her so many times. The whole situation is almost beyond belief. My other immediate response was that if the man was that upset by the child then HE should have left the store. There is NO excuse for physical violence, especially against a child and this man is way out of control. I hope this is utilized as a precedent and he receives the maximum penalty. I also agree with other posters in that if this was my child, security would have had no problem getting him, only in waking him up or prying him from my hands.
I have to agree with wondering exactly where the mom was…if it were my child I probably would have said something to the effect of “If you so much as touch one hair on his head the cops will have to be called for your own protection”
My child is 2 and has autism and meltdowns are part of the territory. If the other people in the store don’t like it or think he’s “misbehaving” tough…I need to go shopping, too. If you don’t like it do something to help or move on…every child in the world has had an off day and pitched a fit; if yours haven’t you are either fooling yourself or childless.
But than again…when he’s crying I at least talk to him and try to find out what’s wrong so he will calm down.
There is absolutely no question about someone slapping someone else’s child. It’s assault!
Personally, I don’t believe in anyone hitting a child in ANY circumstance.
My question is: The man had threatened the mother beforehand why did she not report him immediately or at least keep an eye on the wacko??
I’ve read, on another blog,
( http://iblamethemother.wordpress.com/2009/09/03/where-was-the-mother/ ) that it is quite common place: “Yes, people do threaten, “jokingly” or otherwise, to physically assault a child for crying, quite often.”
This has never, ever happened to me or anyone I know. I think it’s pretty obvious that if this seems normal to you, you’re doing something seriously wrong!
It seems like the problem is people who say “we’re all Mums who want to avoid unnecessary upset to our children”
Their kids are allowed to throw tantrums in public and the rest of just have to put up with it, so as not to ‘upset’ the child.
As to all the ‘sick, hungry, tired’ comments – why do you take your kids out in those conditions?
BTW I’m the nice lady who tries to distract your crying child with a game of peek-a-boo while you’re ignoring him/her.
mags: obviously you do not have kids! thank god! you are truly stupid and i hope that you can not procreate and make more stupid people. a 2 year old child should never be accosted by anyone for anything. a child who cries does not need to be removed from a store! this is the only way that this child has to communicate and you obviously need to park your mobile home at a local college campus and try to get some education! seriously watching nascar and smoking meth amphetamines might make you queen of the super white trash but it also has made you stupid.
1001 petals says
Mags: “As to all the ’sick, hungry, tired’ comments – why do you take your kids out in those conditions?”
Sometimes they become that way out of the blue — not sick, necessarily, but all of a sudden may be hungry even if they’d just had a meal or a snack, or may become tired. Kids aren’t necessarily 100% predictable. Many parents do the very best job they can.
I don’t think you realize how hard it is to get out to go shopping sometimes, especially with a baby or a toddler. Sometimes you just have to go because you desperately need something and can’t order it online. It’s very tough to be a parent and not everyone has scads of help at it.
Just reading this makes me furious. He slapped the child 4 or 5 times without the woman intervening??? If he even laid a finger on my kid I would have knocked the old man out with a can of baked beans.
Has anyone entertained the notion that the child was a special needs child? So wouldn’t Mr. Angry Slapper feel like an ass to find out he beat up not only a helpless child, but a handicapped helpless child?
Give me a break people, it’s WALMART, not church. If you expect to shop in peace at Walmart, you clearly live on another planet. I said it before, but even if the kid was screaming down the house, the only acceptable thing for that guy to do was be an ADULT and control himself.
I’m not going to insult you as you have insulted me – it’s clear that you don’t actually READ comments before replying!
Mine said: “There is absolutely no question about someone slapping someone else’s child. It’s assault!
Personally, I don’t believe in anyone hitting a child in ANY circumstance.”
I don’t beat any of my 4 children – I DID remove them from situations that were overstimulating when they were cranky, not so much for the comfort of others, who might not want to hear a child’s tantrum, but because it is good, consistent parenting!
I didn’t only do it when it was convenient for me!
Read the comments here it is pretty clear that the majority don’t know the basics of parenting!
Buy a book on the subject!
It is ALWAYS possible to remove your child from a situation. STOP using that excuse! Be honest! It is not always convenient for YOU to do so. You are not doing your child any favors with inconsistent parenting.
If your child is cranky, tired, hungry, sick, in pain, etc. it is the pinnacle of bad parenting to have them in a place with the overwhelming sensory input of a Wal-Mart!
Children are not born stupid, they learn very quickly if they are treated to consistent, logical rules!
i just wanted to say thanks to the brave man who finally mustered the strength to silence these annoying kids! every time i go to red lobster or around my mother’s trailer house, i always hear babies screaming and it makes me wanna utilizate some street justice on their crying butts! once again thanks for hitting the kids.
cooking lobster tails says
Ah!!! at last I found what I was looking for. Somtimes it takes so much effort to find even tiny useful piece of information.
I don’t believe it was right to actually do it, but I’ve felt tempted to do it before too, although I would never actually abuse a child. That sound can just infuriate me to the point I want to hit the child who is screaming, but I know logically that it would be immoral, and would also not help the situation whatsoever.
I did tell a woman with a screaming screeching child to SHUT THAT KID UP one day. It scared the mother enough to shush her child and the screaming stopped. Then I was able to shop in peace. She was ignoring her child, which just needed some attention from her. It actually worked and nobody got hurt.
I was trying to read my grocery list and I couldn’t even concentrate on what I had gotten and what I still had to get because of the loud WAAAAHHHH MAMA MAMA WAAAAAHHH WAAAAAAH! MAMA MAMA MAMA WAAAAAAAHHHH!
I finally snapped and yelled at the mom and it actually helped.