Unintentional Parent Abuse A Quiet Threat

Child abuse is a serious matter … but unintentional parent abuse, in which a tot injures their mom or dad through inadvertent lack of motor skills or temper tantrum, is not something we talk about often.

Sure, they look cute, but how many in the terrible twos bracket are repeat unintentional parent abuse offenders? If you’re reading this and have raised toddlers, chances are, you haven’t escaped unscathed.

My own son was four when I experienced my most severe instance of unintentional parent abuse. Sharing a bed at my mother’s house, we were both sound asleep when in a moment of restlessness, he yanked a wooden birdhouse off a windowsill and clocked me in the eye with it.

I told my co-workers I’d walked into something, but they knew … perhaps some victims of unintentional parent abuse themselves.

Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, medical director of the Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, spoke to the New York Timesabout unintentional parent abuse.

Hoffman explains that the tiny wee tyrants often can’t temper their impulses and don’t know their own strength — a bruise and fracture situation waiting to happen:

“You’re dealing with wonderful human beings who can’t be reasoned with, who are impulsive, who are stronger and faster than you think they are, and don’t understand consequences of their actions.”

The Times itself paints a frightening picture of untold scores of unintentional parent abuse going unreported, saying:

“According to emergency room physicians, pediatricians and other experts, U.P.A. is no laughing matter. With unpredictable infants and toddlers, meals, bath time or even cuddles can go terribly wrong. Though statistics for injuries caused by young children are difficult to find, parents routinely suffer concussions, chipped teeth, corneal abrasions, nasal fractures, cut lips and torn earlobes, among other injuries.”

One expert speaking to the paper advised victims of unintentional parent abuse to “children’s fingernails and to keep potential weapons out of reach.” Are you a silent sufferer of U.P.I.?