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anger management

anger management

Yes, this story has been done to the death in the weblog world, but it is a story that has invaded my sleep.

The young woman who beat her child in a Kohl's parking lot has finally spoken about the ordeal. I was hoping she would have said "yes, I beat my child, I need to take some parenting classes and learn some anger management skills in order to become a better mother to my child."

Instead, she said "Somebody's been judge, jury and executioner of my child for a mistake I made," which are probably words that her attorney told her to say.

She is right, though. Just not in the manner she thinks she is right. Madelyne Toogood is the one who has become "judge, jury and executioner" for her child. Whether she readily admits it or not, she has sentenced her daughter to a lifetime of psychological damage, which is much more lasting than any physical damage she inflicted on the four year old.

Toogood then said ""A mistake I made happened, I'm not trying to, I apologize for it, there's nothing more I can do than that...But my child shouldn't pay for a mistake I made, and that is what she's doing."

But of course, Ms. Toogood, your child should not pay for your mistakes. But that is not the fault of the police or the media or Child Protective Services. Your daughter will be paying for a long time.

There is damning evidence on the videotape that proves Toogood did not react instantaneously to something her daughter said and did. It's in the way the mother looks around before she puts the child in the car. She looks to see if anyone is watching. And then she begins beating the girl. I can imagine the scenario; something took place in the store that pissed the mother off. Perhaps it was the fact that Kohl's would not let her return the items she came in to return. Then the daughter either dragged her feet leaving the store or whined about something and the mother said "I'm going to beat the shit out of you when we get to the car." Trust me, it is a real possibility that that is precisely how it happened.

The mother looked around. She looked for witnesses. You can see it in her body language. And then she turned and beat the child. When she finished, she strapped the girl into her car seat and beat her again.

The little girl will indeed pay for her mother's mistake. She will flinch every time her mother makes a physical move towards her. She will cower in fear when her mother is angry. She will walk on eggshells around her mother in order to not provoke her into another rage. These are lasting effects that create scars much deeper than any punch to the face will.

As a mother, I understand parental rage. I understand that primal anger that takes hold when your kids do something that pisses you off, especially if your day is not going well. I openly admit I understand the urge to take your child and slam them against a wall.

For most of us, that urge is instant and fleeting. It comes and leaves in a flash, before you attempt to act on it. The rational part of your mind takes over and you tackle the situation in another manner. Much later, probably when you are laying in bed because you can't sleep, you chastise yourself for ever feeling such anger towards your child. You lose sleep over the fact that you even thought about harming your kid.

I have never hit my children out of anger. I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of misplaced rage. I have felt the buckle of a belt land on my back, I have felt the sting of wooden spoons and wire hangers, I have felt the despair of my mother's fist landing a hard punch to my head. I swore to myself, even back then when I was quite young, that once I had children I would never hit them out of anger, I would never use household objects to teach them a lesson.

Not everyone has that rational part of the brain that can stop them in action when they are about to do something wrong. Some people are impulsive, they naturally react to bad situations with physical violence, be it throwing a batting helmet into the dugout or kicking a vending machine or beating a child. Not everyone has complete control over their emotions.

But there is a difference between wanting to strike your child because of something that child did and wanting to strike your child because you are in a bad mood and need a convenient, defenseless target.

When asked by reporters exactly what caused [Toogood] to become upset enough to strike her child, she declined to answer....I was upset, nothing in particular, my mistake.."

She was upset. Nothing in particular. She was just in a bad mood and decided to take it out on a four year old. Her own child. Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I might have reacted differently if Toogood said "my daughter was throwing a tantrum in the store and I got pissed off," or something similar to that. No, it wouldn't justify what she did in any way, shape or form. But at least then, I could say to myself, that woman needs help, she does not know how to react to a misbehaving child. That's not the case, though. She took her anger at something else out on that girl. She was re-directing her rage at another human being. She needs more than parenting classes, more than supervised visits and psychological treatment. She needs to be shown that her actions will have a lasting effect on her daughter. Not because of the media or the police or any judge. It will be because of her.

That little girl had no idea what she did wrong. She had no clue why her mother was doing that to her. She will think up a thousand reasons why she deserved that beating because, in the mind of a four year old, your mother does not hit you like that without a good reason. If this is to happen again, she will learn to fear her own mother. She will learn to behave differently around her. She will learn how to be timid and shy and spend a good part of her day shrinking into a corner so as not to upset anyone.

Toogood first needs to accept the fact that no one is to blame but herself. She needs to accept the fact that this was not a simple "mistake," but a crime with both physical and emotional bruises attached to it. It is nobody else's fault but her own that her daughter is not living with her at the moment.

Toogood stated that there were at least 50 family members that they could have placed her daughter with, instead of with strangers. But those 50 family members are the ones who shielded Toogood from the police. They refused to cooperate. They sheltered her and made excuses for her. It makes me wonder how many other times they excused her behavior or rationalized it or even worse, thought of it as acceptable.

We'll never know what went on in the Toogood household before that day. The really sad thing is, there are thousands upon thousands of households just like that, where every day children are being beaten into submission, where parents are destroying the lives of their own kids and they will grow up thinking that beating a child is normal behavior. The odds are pretty good that they will grow up to do the same to their own children.

Madelyne Toogood is just one of many parents who treat their children like punching bags. What's the answer? What's my conclusion to all this? I don't know. Just like the cycle of violence that permeates some families, this rant has no end. It continues in my head every day.


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I suppose I ought to make use of my status as the #1 site on Google for the name 'Martha Toogood'... Turning herself in nine days after a parking lot surveillance camera recorded the beating she gave her young daughter, Madelyne Toogood claims there ar... [Read More]


Beautiful entry, thoughtful and caring... there are no clear cut answers, as much as we'd like there to be, and I hope, like many others, that this little girl -- indeed, all abused children -- finds some peace somewhere, sometime in her life.

when she said that the kid was being punished for something she did, she was talking about the kid being placed in foster care, instead of with her parents. can you imagine? it's probably the luckiest thing that ever happened to her. like a detective on the case said, if she'll do that in public, imagine what's going on at home.

Every child deserves a loving home and you stated that very eloquently.

First of all, before I state what has me going in circles, let me say that I totally agree with you, Michele. I lived in a household where sometimes that flash of primal anger didn't disappear quickly enough, and I learned to keep my mouth well shut most of the time. I also learned that it was not acceptable for me to express anger myself. Dysfunctionality begets dysfunctionality, and it took me a lot of years to break some of my own patterns.

I have to admit that part of what has me confused about the whole Toogood thing is how beautiful she is, and then I feel like a complete fool for thinking that attractiveness must mean that she has had an easy time of it. Yes, society is biased toward the attractive; research has shown that time and again. But did her rage come from her own childhood, where she too was beaten? Or does it come from not having it easy any more, since bringing up a child is probably life's most difficult chore? Is her attractiveness part of what's causing her problems now, since she got used to sliding by on it?

Mingled with my sincere desire to tie her into a car seat and punch and slap her severely to make a point is my curiosity. Is she in fact a human being worth saving, or will she always refuse to take responsibility for her actions, to analyze them and see what went wrong? I suspect the latter. How much difference is there between her and Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two boys because her boyfriend didn't want them? How can you instill empathy into such a person? And if you can't--are they worth keeping around? Isn't the legal system ultimately about trying to mandate respect for other human beings? But if the law fails...what then?

See, all these questions because my civilized mind is warring with my desire to say "If this person will never be a responsible human, shoot them and let's not waste any more time on them." I think a great many societal problems would be solved that way, but then we come back to the issue of Who gets to decide? and there we are back in the court system with judges and lawyers, and these pustulent excrescences continue to walk the street and terrify small children.

Sorry, Michele, must be time I got my own blog! Too much to say.

I was beaten as a child - by my mother. Being beaten by a mother (I think) is worse than being beaten by a father. Children sense the distinction between the nurturing role of the mother, and the disciplinarian role of the father. To be beaten by the nurturer leaves permanent scars far more severe than being beaten by a father.

I've grown up with a hatred (yes, that's the exact word) of women. As a teen, I beat up my younger sisters. As a young adult, I beat my first wife before I realized I needed help. I filed for divorce, and sought psychiatric help. Six years in therapy was the minimum required to get the rage under control. Still, it took me over a decade to become comfortable enough around women to remarry, and I made the conscious decision to not have children of my own (thankfully, my second wife's children were old enough to not put me through the stresses of the "terrible twos").

I still have anger management issues, and often can be mistaken for someone with Tourette Syndrome when I get really upset. But the non-verbal manifestations have been pretty-much suppressed for over 20 years (again, it's learning to deal with the anger - the anger itself doesn't go away).

I feel so sorry for Ms. Toogood's daughter. I only hope she's been rescued early enough that she will have time to forget the abuses she has suffered.

This story resonated with me on a very personal level, too. There are a lot of reasons I don't have children yet, tho I've been fiercely consciously maternal / wanted to be a mother since I was 14 (when I got almost completely safely away from my mother). I know I'll be a good mother, I know I'll love it, but the feeling of doom / pragmatic calculation of the nihilism vs. civilization that it seems would be said child's milieu is sort of concretized by the violence I suffered at my mom's hands when young. No matter how idealistic or altruistic I am, in spite of all the work I've done to make my difference in the world and even the sometimes measurable effects, regardless of the messianic-type pressures I internalized from my grandfather at a very early age, a core part of me is always anticipating a crushing blow. With my mom the motivation was blame and jealousy - for being blonde haired and blue eyed, for being a star pupil, for being artistic - everything I did must have been to make her look bad, was the mantra.

A couple years back she announced she had some garbage bags full of baby pictures in her garage that she was going to toss unless I wanted them. Once I got over the horror of the state of such precious documents, I went through them and found among the school photos shots of us at theme parks, flea markets, concerts and parties, group photos with friends or relatives and she's hitting me in them. Or pinching. Or just yelling through a contorted face. I remember once being defended by a shopper at a flea market, and my mom's loser friend attacking the Samaritan. As far as they were concerned, this was adequate behavior, commemorable by snapshots. I'm kind of glad I have them, so I don't follow the easy path of denial. Yes, my room was locked from the outside. Yes, I was hit on the head with a cast iron skillet. Yes, there was a lot of anger and frustration, and I never ever want to be in any circumstance where I might vent that at a child.

I fervently believe that I would not continue the cycle, but am still grappling with incredible holes where my self esteem would be - were I to achieve my goals on a larger than infinitessimal scale, well, maybe I'll just not and avoid the repercussions. That's sick.

What is the solution? I used to want to adopt as many children as I could support, knowing there are so many that need good homes, but that option is not so viable what with the scope and the necessary beurocracy to handle it. Our best hope, given the incredible spread of this problem, may be to try to dilute it with our own behaviors: to do what you're doing here and at RHzine, to be good parents and raise good children.

But I still don't think I can let myself conceive while Dubya's in the White House.

You pegged it. The way she turned and looked around before she did it, that wasn't just a mother striking out in blind rage. She knew what she was about to do could get her in trouble if anybody saw it. Luckily for that little girl, somebody did.

And her lawyer needs to tell her to stay away from the press. She's not doing herself any favors.

I first saw the video tape of this on Friday while sitting in a bar with friends. Here we are out for a "good time" and I glance up at the tv screen in complete horror, not fully understanding what was going on (lack of sound) until a saw the little girls feet kicking up and down - that is when I realized what was happening. After sitting at the bar in shock for a few minutes, I realized that I was sobbing (ok, maybe the drinks in me were adding to the over-emotional state that I was in) and that it was time to go. I came home and tried to go to bed. I have not been able to get this image out of my head since. It has permeated my thoughts and dreams making sleep almost impossible for the past two nights. I have heard countless news reports in the past about children who are abused but never has anything affected me like this - maybe cause I had never actually seen it happening, maybe because I am now the mother of a one year old, maybe because I just wanted to believe that things like that just don't really happen. Whatever it was I can not give a rational answer to what should happen to this mother. I believe that she needs to get the maximum punishment to show other parents, epecially mothers, that they can not get away with doing this to a child. Thank you Michele for helping me work out some of what I am feeling. Your post cleared out some of the emotional/I am mother now and can't deal with stuff like this attitude that has been brewing ever since Friday.

Did you read what you wrote? I didnt like the part about your/our mother. She never hit us because of her anger, she hit us because we were rotten, spoiled children, who in my opinion, turned out damn fine!

They didn't place her kid with her family because they're Irish Travelers, and they [God, I know how closed-minded this sounds, but I've watched their scams for years] travel from town to town with fake identities scamming homeowners and places like Kohl's, so it would be very easy for them to disappear and hide the child somewhere.

No one's first lapse looks like that woman's outburst looks. And her confession is a little too perfect and unemotional. I think she's a professional and a personal con artist and I hope the right people get this case and can see through her bullshit.

My mother often blew up and slapped me around. That videotape was very familiar territory. If for whatever reason, people are insistent on physical punishment for their children, I hope they will somehow limit themselves to spankings that the kid knows are coming, rather than out-of-nowhere assaults like this woman committed. Not knowing where or when it was coming was what damaged me. :P

Which one of you, who has judged, is going to be the one that tells that little girl that she can no longer have a mommy? I hope that your own children will never be taken from any of you.

Elizabeth (who left no email address),

I never said the child should be permanently taken away from her. The mother obviously needs help if that is how she reacts when she has a bad day.

I have never done anything to warrant my children being taken away from me. It's not going to ever be a problem for me because I parent with love, not anger.

Thanks for your concern, though.

Unfortunately, I'm torn on this subject. Much like others here, I too was mistreated by my mother as a youngster. Sometimes my father had to pull her off me. It was more neurotic behavior on her part than any true maliciousness. She just could not control her anger, fear and whatever else was happening. Those incidences have had long-lasting effects, and I'm sure they've contributed to my total lack of desire to have children of my own.

My mother paid a heavy price for all of her actions, violent and otherwise, in losing custody of her children while they were still young and being left by my father with no money and no support, having to start from square one completely on her own. As much as I love my mother, I don't begrudge anything she went through as a result. Harsh as it may seem, she got exactly what she deserved.

I can't get past the video showing Madelyne Toogood looking up before beating her daughter. I just can't see her as sick or somehow troubled more so than I can see her as vicious and hard-hearted. I do not believe her for one minute in claiming she is not a monster, and I do not hope she ever gets the chance to beat her daughter again, destroying her chances for a contented livelihood as an adult and a healthy shot at motherhood.

Whether she chooses to agree or not, at least to many of us, Madelyne Toogood is a monster, perhaps the ultimate monster, the ultimate embodiment of that which so many of us feared and hated but somehow misunderstood while we were growing up.

These mothers may be stressed at times. I can't speak to that. I also cannot speak to the impulses and feelings that a mother has to contend with. But I can say that, in the years after my parents divorced, with all his faults intact, my father was as patient, nurturing and healthy as anyone raising children by himself could expect to be. He never beat my brother or me, and he knew how to find help with us whenever it was needed.

I don't feel sorry for Madelyne Toogood or for any of the other women out there who suffer or are punished for making punching bags out of their little children. I don't care how stressed out, poor or despondent they are. Your children are your greatest priority and your most precious responsibility. Once you forget that or choose to ignore it, you lose my belief that you have any rights to bear, care for or be around children ever again.

Not only that, but I sincerely hope Madelyne Toogood remembers her actions and their subsequent consequences for the rest of her cursed life.

That is right I leave no e-mail address because you have no need for it.

The only video footage I have seen is what I got from a download. Therefore I do not judge. I do not say that what she did was right. However, I do not like this media lynching of a person. This is not the world news that is has become.

You don't worry about your family because you do no wrong. Great. Hopefully nobody will ever tell lies about you or misconstrue your actions because that sort of thing happens every day.

It does seem, though, that Jo-Anne thinks certain things that you say have been exagerated. Sitting on a pedastal is a hard position to keep.

thanx so much for your blog, it was both thoughtful and considered. I think far more people were 'hit' rather than 'disciplined' when they were kids, myself included, and as a result I do not hit my child at all, ever. However I have, not often, but on occassional, really felt an almost tide of rage wash into me, around my son, rage that I have never felt around another person. I am glad that I made a conscious decision not to hit, and have not broken that decision.

I also agree that media/law can feel like the worst of the spiteful aunts, looking for where you fail so they can gloat over it, and the line between conserving families and protecting children is a fragile one. I've worked in the family courts with supervised visitations, and it was heartbreaking on many levels. One thing that really bothered me was when I met parents who so clearly did not put the needs of the children first. There were fewer of them than you might think, but when you met them, you remembered them, and really did worry for the children. There is no doubt in my mind that in some cases, a reliable, affectionate foster home is better than the biological home.

It is good to explore these things, to bring the darkness to light, and so not unconsciously recreate damaging patterns.

sorry to ramble... but you've given us lots to think about...

Show me this pedestal I'm sitting on. I don't see it anywhere.

She was lynched by the media because she beat a defenseless child for the simple reason that she had a bad day. Sorry, but she gets no sympathy from me, Elizabeth.

This had nothing to do with lies being told, I don't know why you are even bringing that up. If she has her child taken away from its because she does not know how to control her anger and she uses her daughter as a punching bag to relieve her stress. Just the fact that she looked around the parking lot to see if there were any witnesses before she punched the child speaks volumes.

Elizabeth, head injuries are cumulative.

Madelyne Toogood's daughter hasn't been placed in foster care beause her mother infracted some rule in a game, or because people just wanted a victim to blame. That child is in foster care because her mother's beatings were physically endangering her.

The footage shows Madelyne Toogood repeatedly punching her four-year-old daughter, hard, in the face and head. Four-year-olds are =little=. They're fragile, and easily broken.

Yes, it's important for children to have mommies. It's even more important to not kill or maim them.

Ok. I just saw a brief footage.

Tell me how do you know that she is looking around for witnesses? How do you know that something didn't catch her eye and she was looking at it? Maybe she wanted to see if anybody from the store followed her? How do you know that she was actually hitting the child and not the car seat or a combination? The distance, the car and Toogood are obstructing what I see. Did you see something that has a better angle?

I see your point, but yes the mother said she did it. She said, "My daughter is paying for my mistake." If that don't tell you something right there then nothing will. But I do see your point other wise.