A mother's shock as a stranger smacks her child

Debbie Green and her father, Michael, with Sophia. Photo: Kevin Farmer
Debbie Green and her father, Michael, with Sophia. Photo: Kevin Farmer 

It was a child's simple game, but it led to a smack from a stranger which has left the little girl's family shocked and angry.

Debbie Green said she was shopping in a local store in the Queensland town of Toowoomba last week when an elderly lady smacked her four-year-old daughter Sophia.

"Sophia was in the trolley with her younger sister when I was paying for the shopping,'' Debbie said. "She dropped her shoe out of the trolley onto the ground and an elderly lady behind us in the queue picked it up and put it back in the trolley.

Happy girl ... Sophia yesterday. Photo: Kevin Farmer
Happy girl ... Sophia yesterday. Photo: Kevin Farmer 

"Sophia would have thought that was great because she engaged with somebody, so she picked up the shoe and threw it onto the ground again.

"That's when the lady smacked her on the arm and said 'That's naughty, you've been told not to do that'.

Debbie says she was stunned but quickly told the woman how she felt.

"I told the woman you can't just hit someone else's child like that, and she said it was my fault because I must not smack my daughter enough if she misbehaves so much. Someone who was with the woman tried to apologise, but the elderly lady told her to be quiet."

Sophia, who has Down syndrome, was shocked, but did not cry. 

"If it was any other child, I think they would have cried. But Sophia doesn't feel pain the way other children do, she has a very high pain threshold so she just looked at me and was surprised,'' Debbie said.


Debbie didn't report the incident to the police, but hopes the woman with the senior citizen will come forward to identify her.

Sophia's grandfather was so upset by the treatment of his granddaughter that he wrote a letter to the editor of the town's local newspaper, The Chronicle.

Since the letter was published Debbie and her family have received a mountain of community support, but have also been the target of some negative comments.

Debbie doesn't believe Sohpia's disability prompted the elderly woman's behaviour, but said the incident was particularly hurtful given how much time she spends defending her daughter from heartless comments.

"Lots of people have been very supportive but others have said I must not have been controlling my children properly for that to happen,'' Debbie said.

"I hear so many horrible comments directed at Sohpia and spend so much time defending her every day of our lives because of her disability, that I'm used to not taking rude comments to heart.

"But at the same time it's hard not to take things personally when someone attacks your parenting.''

The family returned to the same shop over the weekend and Debbie was reluctant to go in the store.

"What happened really put me off going into the store again, but then I decided I couldn't let people like that rule your life.''