Is the cat out of the bag? Are parents losing perspective when our kids do wrong?

A recurring issue on this blog is how to deal with out-of-control children in the classroom. Hundreds of you responded to the story last month on the police handcuffing of a 6-year-old kindergartner in Milledgeville, most expressing support for the school’s decision to bring in police.

This new AJC story did not take place in the classroom but it neatly reflects the dilemma of how to handle kids who may be endangering others. In this case, the other was a cat recovering from surgery in the waiting room of a north Fulton’s vet office. The story speaks to how conflicted we are as to what to do about kids whose parents either can’t or won’t restrain them.

My husband and I debated this story this morning. He contends that the frantic cat owner crossed the line when he swatted the 4-year-old who was allegedly harassing the man’s sick cat.

As I have said many times, I don’t believe in corporal punishment at home or in school. Beyond nostalgia, there is nothing that suggests beating kids produces better behaved or  healthier human beings. In fact, the research suggests the opposite. There is hardly a child in juvenile lockup who was not raised by the belt, cord or switch.

But I don’t have a problem with a pet owner lightly swatting a kid’s backside because the child is sticking his hand in the cage of sick animal and will not heed warnings to stop. Nor is the parent, for whatever reason, stopping the child. The child’s actions posed a danger to himself and the sick animal.

Given the facts as reported, the arrest of the pet owner seems an extreme response.

I had a conversation this week with a parent who wanted to complain about the attitude and comments of a teacher who took her daughter’s phone from her in class. I asked if phones were allowed in the classroom, and the mom told me they were not. I told the mom that there was nothing else really left to discuss. Whether the teacher was abrasive in how she took the phone or in the tone she used  to the errant student didn’t matter to me if the kid was in open violation of a classroom policy.

I find an increasingly odd attitude among parents: Yes, my kid did something wrong, but you weren’t nice in how you responded and that’s what we ought to be fixing.

Here is the news story:

A woman who called police to the scene said she had brought a family pet into the clinic, and was in the waiting room with her 4-year-old son. The mother told an officer that “she was having trouble controlling her son,” the police report said.

Trouble began when the boy reached for a cat in a carrier. The cat belonged to 42-year-old Russel B. Baughcum. The cat recently had surgery, and the Suwanee man was there to pick it up. Baughcum told the officer that the youngster repeatedly reached for the animal, the incident report said. The man said he told the child to stop, but the boy grabbed hold of the cage and tried to pull it off a chair. The man said he shouted, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” and struck the child lightly on his lower back and buttocks.

“Mr. Baughcum demonstrated that he struck the child in a back handed fashion, and that the contact was light enough that he didn’t think the child knew he had been touched,” the police report said. Two clinic employees said they witnessed the man strike the child on his rear when the boy tried to play with the cat, according to the incident report.

The boy’s mother insisted on pressing charges, so Baughcum was arrested and charged, police said. He was taken to the Fulton County Jail Alpharetta Annex. The veterinary clinic kept the cat for him to pick up later. Jail officials told Channel 2 that Baughcum posted $1,000 bond and was released Tuesday morning.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

244 comments Add your comment

Just another teacher

May 2nd, 2012
9:27 am

The mother should apologize to Mr. Baughcum and offer to buy him dinner for his trouble.

Honestly? It’s the same thing that teachers have to put up with on a daily basis. Kids are behaving poorly and it’s the teacher who gets reprimanded.


May 2nd, 2012
9:29 am

When I was in school, an out of control student would be hauled to the principal’s office and a paddling would be administered.

Nowadays, trial lawyers swarm like locusts and if you even look at someone wrong, you get sued.

You get what you pay for.


May 2nd, 2012
9:34 am

Momma would need the cops alright, but only because she was scared poopless of me. GRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!

usually lurking

May 2nd, 2012
9:37 am

If she was having trouble controlling her snowflake, she should have left the vet and come back another time. Good grief, what if the child had been taunting a large dog and gotten bitten? A swat on the rear would have been the least of their problems.


May 2nd, 2012
9:38 am

Maybe the guy can press charges against the mother for animal cruelty. The boy attacked a sick pet fresh out of surgery.

William Casey

May 2nd, 2012
9:43 am

The mother who pressed charges is a fool and will surely be “rewarded” for her foolishness down the road.


May 2nd, 2012
9:44 am

I agree with dood. Think what this kid must be allowed to do to his own pet!

As the pet owner, I would have asked the clinic staff, loudly, toput my animal’s cage behind the desks so the little devil could not get at her.

But, Ms. Dwoney, this is par for the course.


May 2nd, 2012
9:46 am

And, Ms. Dwoney, the attitude now is, “I was not there but I say my kid did not do what you saw him do, and even if he did, you should not have handled it the way you did because it was someone else’s fault!”


May 2nd, 2012
9:49 am

I am in a state of confusion how author cannot be in favor of another, non-relative, adult striking someone’s child but not be in favor of “capital” punishment.

I can tell you as a teacher that I despise parents who do not address the situation and the problem. The problem being what their child did wrong and not that the teacher executed school policy. However it is also the duty of a parent to disciple and protect their child. No one should ever lay a hand on another person’s child in any situation. The man could have reacted by picking up and moving his cat. Granted, the mother should have addressed the situation the first time the child was told no. Both adults are at fault here.


May 2nd, 2012
9:51 am

What a waste of police time when they need to be looking for the real criminals!! The Mother of this child should be sent to Prison for Child Abuse!!!

Maureen Downey

May 2nd, 2012
9:53 am

@Rob, But arresting the pet owner?

Tonya C.

May 2nd, 2012
9:54 am


Exactly. This is prevalent in the special needs parents to a ridiculous degree. Some kids aren’t capable, but many higher-functioning ones could live more independent lives if they actually suffered some consequences and some type of discipline was enforced.

Ms. Downey:

I think you would see the opposite trend among current inmates in the system regarding corporal punishment. We have gotten so Dr. Spock on kids in the last 20-30 years that it’s a bit ridiculous.


May 2nd, 2012
9:58 am

It amazed me from story even though woman admitted having problems with her out of control 4 year old she did nothing to stop it. The cat owner repeatedly told the child to stop yet again parent did nothing. It is unfortunate she did not leave child in car .. then the staff could have reported her for child cruelty and she could now be the one in jail facing charges.


May 2nd, 2012
10:01 am

Dear Mom, You have just announced to the world that your child will be protected from the world for his own wrong doing no matter what he does. This is a warning for his future teachers, the juvenile system and the parents of children that he will interact with. I am so tired of seeing parents that have no control over their children. No matter how you teach them, children need to learn very early in life the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, this child has already learned.

Cat Handler

May 2nd, 2012
10:02 am

If it had been my cat this little brat had tried to play with, he would have pulled back a bloody stub and it would have served him right.

Cats Rule

May 2nd, 2012
10:05 am

This 4-yr old will soon be the troubled teen and then the adult who ends up in jail. WAKE UP, MOM!
I think the guy had a reflex reaction to protect his vulnerable cat, fresh out of surgery, not unlike a parent might have to protect his/her child. He was WRONG to touch the child but there was no malice. This Mom is incompetent. This poor guy went to jail for doing HER job. If I’d been in his shoes, I would’ve had the same reaction he did. My husband says he should’ve swatted the Mom! How’s that for perspective?! :)

Hey Teacher

May 2nd, 2012
10:06 am

The cell phone issue in high school is HUGE. Cell phones are not allowed to be on from 8-3 but enforcing that is a monster issue. I sent an E mail to a parent just yesterday about her son’s use of his phone and her response was that *I* needed to do a better job enforcing the rules because according to her son I was “picking on him” and not asking other students to put their phones away. What happened to “thank you Mrs. So and So — we will handle this at home” ? I rarely get that response anymore which is why I dread contacting parents — so many of them are combative.


May 2nd, 2012
10:10 am

Bottom line: we’re surrounded by a lot of morons “raising” kids.


May 2nd, 2012
10:12 am

This story is exactly what is wrong with the children today. The mother should have made her child leave the cat alone. What if the cat had attacked the child. This mom has some nerve pressing charges. The man should press charges against the mother for having an out of control child. I would have pinch the kid when the mother wasn’t looking. LOL

Deborah Lane

May 2nd, 2012
10:14 am

If that mother cannot control her 4 year old son now, what does she think she is going to do when he reaches 10, 14 or 16? The man was protecting his sick cat from the boy. The mother was not protecting her son from the cat. I bet if the cat at bitten him or scratched him she would be sueing the man for abuse. If she cannot control him now, she is in for a rough ride in the years to come. She just might want to take his approach.


May 2nd, 2012
10:17 am

It’s silly that this woman is pressing charges. However, you should never ever hit someone else’s kid.


May 2nd, 2012
10:18 am

wow…really?! What was the mother doing? Sitting there looking at the little brat run around terrorizing people. There is a 50/50 chance that when the child gets to be an adult that someone will do worse than swat him on the bottom…


May 2nd, 2012
10:18 am

@Rob, I agree. Both adults behaved stupidly and selfishly. One couldn’t be bothered to exert the control that was her responsibility and the other decided to take on that responsibility instead of sticking to his own and moving his cat. If arrest is appropriate for one, I really don’t think that the other should get off without a harassment or negligence charge.

Of course, the real loser here is the child, who at four is rude and on his way to being unmanageable.


May 2nd, 2012
10:19 am

Good for him! My mother would have jerked a knot in my behind for misbehaving in public and this broad should have taken control of her kid the second Mr. Baughcum asked him to stop bothering the cat.

Not everyone wants to help discipline your precious snowflake, folks!


May 2nd, 2012
10:22 am

The mother should apologize to Mr. Baughcum and offer to buy him dinner for his trouble.

“Honestly? It’s the same thing that teachers have to put up with on a daily basis. Kids are behaving poorly and it’s the teacher who gets reprimanded.”

This blogger is stating what so many people are feeling. This is not a new problem. There have always been people who feel that their rights supercede all others’ rights. They do not have to respect boundaries. They do not have to tolerate rebuff, reprimand, or any type of complaint from those whose rights they’ve violated. I think that it is time to open a national dialogue on civility. I don’t mean George Bush’s ‘kinder, gentler nation.” I want to see a conversation about how parents should behave toward others when their chldren violate others’ rights. The focus on their rights, their children’s rights, with no concern for the rights of others, is a sickening part of our society.


May 2nd, 2012
10:27 am

The parent overreacted and now a man protecting his pet will have to endure humility, disgrace, and ridicule for trying to correct a child’s behavior. Kids learn through cause and effect, action and reaction. Physical punishment worked on me and many other kids thoughout history. Parents should explain to their children why certain behavior is wrong before applying the appropriate punishment, physical or other. This teaches them what behavior is and isn’t acceptable while also teaching them what reactions and effects can reasonably be expected. The pain endured during physical punishment or embarassment of public scolding serves as a marker for memory recall during a person’s life.

splendid splinter

May 2nd, 2012
10:28 am

We are living in an upside down world. People can be beaten in the streets by gangs of thugs and the police do nothing about it. A 4-year old receives a slight tap on the rump and the man protecting his animal is arrested. We have gone way too far with the idea of what assault is. I received many ‘whippings’ 50+ years ago and my esteem was not harmed nor was I physically harmed. Moreover, I learned from those lessons. What are these children learning now?

Really amazed

May 2nd, 2012
10:32 am

Doesn’t shock me at all!!! Not my little Johnny/Susie!!!!


May 2nd, 2012
10:33 am

first she should be charged with not controlling her child in public, second she should be charged with being an idiot parent. yeah the guy maybe shouldn’t have swatted the kid as any cop will tell you that is considered assault, yeah i know stupid but its the law and he probably should have stood up and held the crate up or asked the staff for help. but even though the woman was ticked at the ’swat’ she shouldn’t have called the cops on the guy, it was her non-actions and the bratty actions of her 4 yr old that start all the trouble the guy was just sitting there waiting. she should drop the charges.

a real parent

May 2nd, 2012
10:34 am

What a horrible mother and horrible child. Can someone find out what this woman’s name is and provide it here so we as a community can run her out of town.

Pardon My Blog

May 2nd, 2012
10:34 am

I can’t believe this actually happened. If the cat had bitten the child, the cat owner would have been sued and the animal taken away and probably put down. Parents need to be protective but also their children need to learn the consequences of their actions.


May 2nd, 2012
10:40 am

I’m amazed people are ok with someone striking, even if mildly, someone else’s kid. That is TOTALLY out of line. Arresting him is a little excessive, but he was flat out wrong. If he had moved the animal, or in necessary, moved the child and interposed himself between the child and cat that would be one thing. Hitting the mom would have been less out of line than striking someone else’s child.


May 2nd, 2012
10:43 am

If the cat had of somehow scratch or bitten the child, the scenario would have been different. So we are suppose to believe this woman couldn’t keep her child from the cat. A firm hand from the mother would’ve been appropriate. This mother obviously thinks her child should be able to do what he wants…bad mistake. This man was trying to protect his pet who had just had surgery and probably was a little apprehensive and really didn’t need the clamor of this child. This child needs to meet some of the mothers and grandmothers from my generation…..little swat would have become a blistered bottom. Of course we were taught to behave in the presence of company and around other adults. Something that is missing in todays little angels(sic).

Pro Choice

May 2nd, 2012
10:44 am

This would be good argument to support aborton and removal of the ovaries…

say what?

May 2nd, 2012
10:45 am

Hey Teacher @ 10:06 if you came to Morrow HS in Clayton county and taught 10th grade honors classes or Latin beginning in August; the response you want is what you would get from me and my husband! We support our children’s teachers, it started with our adult children and will end in 2019 with our youngest. Then I guess we will support teachers of our grandchildren.

You teachers do an awesome job and need that support.

Mother of a special needs autistic child

May 2nd, 2012
10:49 am

By no means should another American citizen spank, swat, hit another American citizen. So, moving the childs hands wasnt a choice? or how about moving the cat? Dear journalist, your personal opinion is encouraging illegal thoughts by those who do not read any other documents. Please keep your opinion to yourself. By the by, I havent read anything from people who are having challenges with children of their own. Are you only publishing the comments that agree with yours? The man is supposed to be an adult, if the child cant touch, then where is our American law says that he can. Once again, I am saddened by the responses of American citizens, are we not aware of the ten year old war, the starving and homeless here in American which is the richest country in the world. But yet you are so emotional over a 4 year old, to which the adult should have, could have moved the cat. WWJD? Blessings to you all.


May 2nd, 2012
10:50 am

The man did the correct thing. The cat could have really hurt the child! My own cat scratched me Sunday and it is already infected. The parent should have controlled her child to keep him away from the other animals. Chances are if the animal is at a vet’s office it is sick even for a well check-up they are very nervous. A sick, scared and nervous animal is very hard to control. The cat could have scared that child for life!! I am a mother of 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren. I would prefer any of my family get a swat on the bottom rather than a cat bite or scratch!! When are we going to start holding parents responsible for their children’s actions. The parent should have been arrested also!!


May 2nd, 2012
10:57 am

Children are so out of control today, Parents are out of control as well,I have seen so many mother’s acting a fool because of what there bad Kids tell them, So many Parents are best friends with thier kids and not teaching them right from wrong. So many kids don’t even RESPECT THEIR Parents, so how will they respect others. That mom should have told that lil boy to stop and leave that cat a long,I really think the man had a reaction, but she called the police. She can’t control that little boy!!!!!!!! HE’S GOING TO KNOCK HER BUTT AROUND IN A COUPLE OF YEARS, WONDER IF SHE’S GOING TO CALL THE POLICE THEN!!!!!!!!!!

Hey Teacher

May 2nd, 2012
11:00 am

@ say what? — thanks for being supportive! We need more parents that don’t view teachers and the school system as the enemy.


May 2nd, 2012
11:01 am

I am not opposed to corporal punishment (which is NOT the same thing as beating), but it’s obviously a bad idea to swat someone else’s kid.
That said, I’m not sure what else the pet owner could have done. Was he supposed to just sit there and let the kid injure his cat?


May 2nd, 2012
11:01 am

I bet a nickel that
1) Momma is a “single parent”, and
2) Little snookiekins runs the show at home as well.

As they are wont to do, the guys at “South Park” nailed this one cold:
(also will show the full episode)

APS Parent

May 2nd, 2012
11:06 am

When I was growing up, everybody raised us because my mom and dad knew the neighbors, the teachers, the grocery store clerks, etc… It took the village but the village of people taught us to be respectful and encouraged us to do more than they did through education and serving. Now, it seems that children are raising adults. And, they are not learning any moral values because the adults don’t want to crush their spirits. I am amazed at how the ‘precious little ones’ never does wrong. And, how offended parents become when they are corrected.

This is why teachers are being forced to parent, teach and then being held accountable for everything. Teachers should have to discipline your child. They can’t run a classroom without you, parents, enforcing the value of respecting rules and others and an education. Stop listening to your child and actually sit in the room with him and the teacher. This will be your deer in headlights moment if you are a good parent.

Neither should anyone outside of your home have to discipline your child. But, when your precious little one does not understand the meaning of ‘NO’, STOP or ‘Break laws or rules’, then either you or he needs to be disciplined. Stop blaming others for the mistakes you are making by being a bad parent and letting your child look to others as role models. I feel sorry for us, society/community, because we are going to have to pay for the entittled, ill-mannered, poorly focused children being raised. Talk about unethical leaders of the future.

mystery poster

May 2nd, 2012
11:08 am

When my daughter was in the hospital having her appendix out, there was a man there with cat scratch fever (yes, it is a real thing). His arm was badly swollen, he had been in the hospital for a number of days. What if little snowflake had gotten that?

Off topic, this reminds me of when the stone mountain man was arrested for slapping the kid in walmart. I remember at the time he was being held without bond while there were murderers out with ankle bracelets. Not that I condone hitting others’ children, but let’s keep things in perspective.

Several years ago there was a kid at my childrens’ daycare who was misbehaving so badly at the dentist’s office that they told him never to come back again.

Hillbilly D

May 2nd, 2012
11:09 am

Fear is a powerful motivator and kids today have no fear. In many cases, they run the household and not their parents. Some chores and the occasional fanny busting would cure a lot of what ails today’s kids.

Entitlement Society

May 2nd, 2012
11:15 am

It’s not like the man walked up out of the blue and hit the child. He was swatting the child away from his sick cat after the child failed to follow simple directions to get away from the cat. A 4-year old should know better. My children certainly knew better at age 4. This mother is a failure. Why was she not disciplining and watching her own child? Too bad you can’t arrest a woman (or man) for abysmal parenting! The mother even admitted to the offer that she was having trouble controlling her own son. Why didn’t she remove him from public? As a parent, in the rare case my child misbehaved and didn’t change his attitude, I promptly took him outside so not as to disturb others. She certainly wins “Loser Mother of the Year” award!

APS Parent

May 2nd, 2012
11:17 am

@ Horrible. I know moms and dads that are the worst offenders of their precious little one. Especially if this is an only child or children of career driven older parents. And, they are successful, educated parents. This has nothing to do with single or married. It has to do with the moral values parents teach their kids and discipline – like in your south park example. If parents are slackers and feed into their childrens entittlement then the children are usually very agressive to them and others.

Beverly Fraud

May 2nd, 2012
11:24 am

Get PETA involved, arrest the parent for animal abuse for knowingly putting her child into a situation where the cat can be harmed.


May 2nd, 2012
11:29 am

Absolutely pathetic!!! Can’t imagine what will happen when the little darling grows up and gets a job. What’s he going to do the first time he gets dressed down by his boss, call mommy and have the police intervene? I hate to break it to all the breeders and their offspring, but the world is a cold, ruthless place. Better learn how to deal with it, or be prepared to have 5 generations living together under one roof for fear of the outside world.

Beverly Fraud

May 2nd, 2012
11:29 am

But yet you are so emotional over a 4 year old, to which the adult should have, could have moved the cat. WWJD?

As best I recall, even Jesus opened up a can of whup@ss on the moneychangers in the temple.


May 2nd, 2012
11:31 am

@APS Parent,
“This has nothing to do with single or married” – sure, mom, you keep telling yourself that.

I’m sure a diligent search of literature wouldn’t turn up ANY negative information showing a positive correlation between single parenting and educational achievement, drug & alcohol abuse, criminal activity, or premature sexual activity. None, nada, squat, zilch.