DEAR ABBY: Last night I saw my brother-in-law hit my 1-year-old niece. It was horrible. I confronted him, and he and my sister are going to get counseling. He says he "made a mistake," but that he also believes it is "OK to swat a child."
I am so upset. I used to think the world of my brother-in-law, but now he seems like an ignorant bully to me. I am hoping he will learn better parenting, and that everything will turn out all right. I'm around a lot, and the children are seldom alone with him. What can I do while I wait to see if counseling is effective? -- CONCERNED AUNT IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR CONCERNED: You can suggest that your sister and brother-in-law could also benefit from taking a parenting class and reading some books on child development. Sometimes adults hit children because they have unrealistic expectations about what they "should" be able to do at a certain age. They also do it because they lose their patience.
One-year-olds do not always have the ability to control their emotions and behavior. It is up to the parents to set an example -- to model good behavior -- and hitting sets a poor one. Parenting classes offer valuable insights and suggestions to new parents. To find one, check with a pediatrician, your local high school or community college, or your health plan.