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by Abigail Van Buren

Witness Feels Helpless as Dad Berates 4-Year-Old in Public

DEAR ABBY: I was at the zoo with my daughter enjoying an ice cream cone. At the next table over, a man was berating his daughter, yelling at her for saying no to his girlfriend. He said things like, "I'm going to bust your butt so hard you won't sit for a week," and he kept glaring at her like she was the worst creature on the planet. It was hard to sit there watching a dad verbally and emotionally abuse an innocent 4-year-old. Is there anything I could have done? -- HELPLESS IN UTAH

DEAR HELPLESS: You might have attempted to distract the father by saying something to him to the effect that parenting can be frustrating at times, which might have interrupted his rant. But beyond that there was nothing you could do to intervene. What a shame. Berating and threatening his little girl won't cause her to like or accept the girlfriend. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics | Abuse