"Give it back! Stop it! Mom, she took my doll!" The constant bickering between siblings is an all too familiar sound for many parents on car rides. But when a family is stuck in a car with kids fighting in the back seat, can tough love go too far?
A desperate mom repeatedly asks her screaming kids to be quiet and stop bickering, and when they don't listen, she pulls over to the side of the road and orders her kids to get out of the car.
"OK, that's it," she says. "Get out of the car and walk home! I am going. You can walk home!"
The girls protest: "You can't go...we don't know where that is," but the mom slams the door and drives away, seeming to abandon her children.
A similar scenario made headlines last April when a mom in Westchester County, New York, dropped off her tween daughters on the street and ordered them to walk three miles home. Madlyn Primoff, 45, was arrested on charges of child endangerment. Though the charges were dropped, parenting blogs were flooded with comments from people calling Primoff an awful mother. Many others were supportive, saying they understood the sentiment or were convinced it could actually be an effective form of discipline.
ABC's "What Would You Do?" wanted to see what ordinary people would do if they came upon kids kicked to the curb by a mother who passed her boiling point.
Watch "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9 p.m. ET
For our ABC News experiment, we put hidden cameras on a suburban street just a few miles from where Primoff made headlines. We hired actors to play the mom, Carla, and her children, Lauren, 7, and Brooke, 11. Then we sent our carful of maternal stress into town.
Our mom walked out of a slightly beat-up car, smoking a cigarette, and yelled at the girls to walk home. Within a few seconds, a man ran across the street to intervene.
"Excuse me...stop it...stop it. That is no way to talk to a child, including your own," said the man, William Disciullo, a father of two.
When the mom dismissed him and said, "Whatever, it's tough love," Disciullo did not let up.
"What do you mean, whatever!!?? That's not tough love...these are little children!!" he said. "Do you see how scared they are right now? How would you like it if an 8-foot-tall man yelled at you like that? It's the same thing, but it's even scarier for them."
When ABC News correspondent John Quinones let Disciullo in on the scenario, Disciullo explained why he swooped in.
"The two children were obviously terrified...so I ran over without thinking," he said. "I don't think any parent has limitless rights. She had well overstepped the bounds of what was decent...reasonable discipline."
Disciullo was far from the only passerby who was outraged. One woman told our mom to "cool it" and said she was calling the police. "You're dumping two children on the sidewalk...what's your problem?" she asked.
Peter Lubeck, a man who saw the scenario unfold, asked the girls if that was their mom.
"Just leave my kids alone," our mom responded. "It's none of your business, sir!"
"It is now," Lubeck said, asking the girls how far their home was.
"That's child endangerment," he told the mom. "You want to lose your kids?"