Should You Intervene When Someone's Publicly Disciplining a Child?

A Texas woman confronted a man who was disciplining his daughter in a Walmart and some have questioned whether she should have interfered at all. Dr. Richard Besser and parenting expert Ericka Souter weigh in.
5:39 | 09/29/16

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Transcript for Should You Intervene When Someone's Publicly Disciplining a Child?
First that parenting dilemma. These photos raising a big question. If you think someone is going too far disciplining a child in public should you intervene? The mom who took these photos did and Mara schiavocampo has her story. Good morning, Mara. Reporter: Good morning. That woman didn't just take picture, she put them on social media and her post went viral with tens of thousands of comments and shares. She says that girl was crying and begging her father to stop and when he wouldn't, she stepped in to force him. Erika Burch was shopping at her local Walmart in Texas when she saw this, a father appearing to pull his daughter's hair while he pushed the grocery cart. I said, you need to let her hair go now and he told me I needed to mind my own business. And I said right now that little girl is my business and you're going to let her hair go. Reporter: After confronting the dad and alerting authorities, the mother of four posted this photo to Facebook. Shared more than 242,000 times with at least 24,000 comments and over 42,000 likes. I received over 900 private messages in my Facebook. Reporter: So many comments calling Erika a hero saying bless you for helping a child and glad you confronted him but others writing, she needs to mind her own business. I don't care what they think. I know it's wrong and I don't regret doing it. Reporter: Ultimately the child was allowed to leave the store with her father and now the local police department has filed this report for possible injury to a child. Child protective services joining the investigation. Telling ABC news that while investigations are confidential, it is typical that cps will meet with the family including all the children in the home and determine if the family could benefit from services such as parenting classes or counseling. As for Erika Burch she said she would step in again. I'm not the president. I was just me, you know, somebody shopping in the grocery store. It's not okay to pull a child by the hair of their head. I don't care what they've done. Very powerful pictures. Burch says of the almost 900 private messages she received most were congratulating her for stepping in. As for that investigation, part of the reason officials say they let the girl go home with her father is because she didn't have any visible injuries. Robin. Martha, thank you. Joining us Ericka souter and Dr. Richard Besser. Thank you. Let's get into this. All right. Now, there is a distinct line and a difference between discipline and abuse. Ericka, do you think this woman did the right thing. I do think she did the right thing. You are allowed to discipline your child. So if you see something happening I'd ask yourself does it seem like this child is being injured or assaulted? That should be a barometer. But there are risks associated with that. Now, the parent who's doing the hitting could turn their rage toward you so you kind of have to be prepared for the situation kind of turning into something bigger. Rich, do you think it's okay to intervene. As a pediatrician the rules for me are different. I'm required by law if I think a child is being harmed to step in and report it. For the public there's no legal requirement but I think there's a moral requirement. He or she saw something going on in public that was wrong. This child was being emotionally abused in public and so she stepped in. That was a brave thing to do but when you do that, you know, you want to speak up. You want to try to de-escalate so understand you're dealing with a parent who's frustrated and so using a calm voice is important but if you think the child is actually being harmed and that doesn't work dialing 911 is appropriate. We heard in Mara's report a lot weighed in on this and it's about 50/50, maybe slightly in favor of the woman who stepped in but there were some that said something like this, Ericka. He was not beating -- referring to the father, he was not beating her or verbally abusing, Erika Burch needs to mind her own business. A lot of comments like that, as well. Is there like a social taboo if it's not your child not to step in. Seen a lot of cases on the other end where a parent lets their kids playout side in a yard and some neighbor or pass er passer-by calls the police and saying they're any flecked. There is a moral barometer that you really -- can you live with the fact that if you see something terrible happening to a child and you walk away, is that going to stay with you. Then you think about, you know, this is the way parents acting in public how are they dealing with that child at home so you have to decide on your own how to react. Speaking about doing it in public, the child has -- what is a ramification for a child that's being dealt like that publicly. Yeah, I mean when you think about child abuse, there's the physical abuse that, you know, everyone understands what that is but there's also emotional abuse and shaming and humiliating in public is a form of emotional abuse. Long-term those children are going to have trust issues. Here you have the person that they look to for security who's shaming them in public. Long-term that's not a good thing and hopefully child services will give them the tools they need. We don't have much time. The top tip you could give to parents dealing with this. Stay calm. It's very hard to do but if you need to take ten seconds to count backwards and not react aggressively with anger, with violence, that's incredibly important and don't be afraid to ask for help. Every parent around you has gone through it and all been pushed to the brink. Can I just say you are glowing. Thank you very much. Congratulations. Thank you. Yes. You got that glow. Thank you both very much. Dr. Besser will be taking your questions on Twitter.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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