Maybe Roger Stephens was having a bad day.  Maybe it was a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder flashback from his own days as a parent.  Whatever it was, when he heard 2 year-old Paige Matthews wailing in a Wal Mart near his Stone Mountain, Ga home, he stepped up to the toddler's mother and told her "if you don't shut that baby up, I will."  Ms. Matthews prudently moved over an aisle, but when Paige contined to cry, Stephens allegedly stalked over to her, picked her up--and slapped her several times in the face.

That didn't get him the intended result, but it did get Stephens detained by outraged shoppers while the police were called.  He's now in jail for cruelty to children in the first degree, and is now incarcerated in the Gwinett County Detention Center without bond.

This kind of annoyance is no justification for hitting your own child, let alone anyone else's.  (Paige's mother, by the way, says she will be fine; she even says she forgives her daughter's assailant because she suspects he has a mental problem...)

So: is it ever okay to put your hands on someone else's child when you think she's acting out? (I'm not suggesting that's the case here; the phrase "acting like a two year old" has some basis in the fact that when you're two, you do melt down every now and then.)  And when you see a clear-cut case of abuse in public, what are your options?

Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News, and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday)

is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).