When Moms Are Pushed Too Far

A N.Y. mother was arrested after kicking her fighting daughters to the curb.

April 24, 2009 — -- A mother's patience only runs so deep.

And so when Madlyn Primoff's daughters just wouldn't stop fighting in the backseat of her car, she kicked them to the curb, literally.

Primoff, a 45-year-old attorney who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y, ordered her two daughters, ages 12 and 10, to get out of her car Sunday when the tweens wouldn't stop bickering with one another, according to police.

While the 12-year-old was able to run and catch up with Primoff's car and catch a ride home -- an approximately three-mile trip -- her younger sister wasn't so lucky. A Good Samaritan reportedly found the distraught young girl in downtown White Plains, N.Y., and reported her to police, who later reunited her with her mother.

Primoff then was arrested on charges of child endangerment, for which she entered a not guilty plea. It was not immediately clear what sparked the argument between Primoff's daughters.

Declining to comment directly to ABCNews.com, Primoff's attorney, Vincent Briccetti released a statement on behalf of his client, lauding her as a "great mother with a great family."

But for many other mothers who heard about Primoff's incident, "great" was not a word they used to describe the aberrant mom, even if they did say they felt some degree of empathy for the parenting pressures that they believe led Primoff to snap.

"I've been on that edge, teetering, when I want to scream and pull my hair out and my kids' hair out," said Ilina Ewen, a 40-year-old mother of two who writes for the Deep South's Mom's Blog.

"But what [Primoff] did was so dangerous, " said Ewen.

Asked about the neighborhood in which the girls were left, Daniel Jackson, the public information officer for the White Plains Police Department that handled Primoff's arrest, described the area as "populated" and a "central business area."

Jackson added that the area was likely to have been less populated than usual when the girls were there because it was not a business day.

Asked whether the three miles the girl would have had to walk home would be considered excessive, Jackson responded, "White Plains is only 10 square miles itself, so three miles of walking is a good distance."

When Kids' Bad Behavior Push Parents to the Edge

Ewen said that when her older son was 4 years old, he had terrible temper tantrums that would consistently threaten to push her to her breaking point. They would be so bad, said Ewen, that she drive off to the side of the road to regroup, oftentimes taking her son out of his car seat to send him the message that they could not drive anywhere until he calmed down.

"Before I had kids, I would hear these stories and be so judgmental -- but now I know where [Primoff] was coming from," said Ewen. "I understand that rage and frustration, but there has to be a stopgap somewhere."

"I had to learn those coping mechanisms," said Ewen, who sought counseling for how to react to her son's meltdowns. "I had to get help to figure out how to deal with my brewing rage."

Thirty-two-year-old Washington, D.C., mom Julie Tower-Pierce said that she, too, feels a mix of emotions regarding Primoff's actions.

"Being a mom is a tough job," said Tower-Pierce. "I can empathize feeling that you're really boiling over and you have to do something.

"There are times that I've definitely told my kids, 'Mom needs a time out,'" she said. "I've gone to the bathroom and have shut the door and have had my moment."

"I've never been pushed as far as Primoff, but my buttons have definitely been pushed," she said.

Jessica Gottlieb, a mother who blogs on the L.A. Mom's Blog, said that, while she does not condone what Primoff did, she would have had no problem with the punishment had the two girls remained together.

"If the 10- and 12-year-old had been left together, I would be shrugging my shoulders," said Gottlieb, "But in this case, I am a little surprised she didn't go back and pick up her younger child."

Even so, Gottlieb said that she would consider kicking her own 10-year-old daughter out of the car if she was in close proximity to her home and in a safe neighborhood.

"If my kid is driving me crazy in the car and not listening to me, I'd probably drop her off and have her find her way," said Gottlieb.

"We're going to raise a nation of sissies," she said. "God forbid a child learns a lesson."

Gottlieb said that her two children once drove her so crazy -- both had barged into the shower while she was in the middle of washing her hair to request that she make their lunch and tie their shoes -- that she sent them away with her husband.

"I lost it," said Gottlieb. "With shampoo in my hair, I packed their bags and booked a hotel and had my husband take them."

"But this can happen to anyone. Any mom who says it couldn't happen to her is absolutely a liar," she said.

Parenting Expert: Think Before You Punish

Parenting expert and author Michele Borba said that while what Primoff did was an inappropriate way to punish her children, there does come a point where extreme parenting can be a feasible option.

Getting to that point gradually, said Borba, is an important technique every parent should know.

"You have to scaffold," said Borba. "You start with baby steps and then go up a notch and another and another, and if nothing works to change the child's behavior then you go up a level of creativity."

It would have been perfectly acceptable for Primoff to have dropped her kids off a few blocks from the family's home, said Borba, as long as she had believed the area to be safe.

"Once you follow through on a consequence, you have to have control over it," said Borba, who said most parents make the mistake of threatening to take their kids' cell phones away and then fail to do so because they want to be able to reach their child later that day.

"As a parent, you have to be sure that the consequence is safe and you're still responsible," said Borba, who is the author of "The Big Book of Parenting Solutions." "If there are ever ifs or doubts, then you know you've gone over the mark."

Borba said that she would advise a woman confronted with bickering kids in the backseat to tell her children that her chauffeur service would not be available the next time they needed a ride unless they began to behave.

"What you have to try to do though is make sure the next ride they need is to a party or a sleepover, and when they beg you to drive them you have to refuse," said Borba. "When it comes to punishments, stay one step ahead and be creative."