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Maher: Ethical behavior always important

Published: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 11:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 1, 2010 12:14 a.m. CDT

I was getting out of my car to go into the grocery store recently, minding my own business, when I couldn't help but become distracted by the screaming coming from a few aisles over.

"Sit down and shut up! If you don't stop your (insert expletive here) crying you're going to be sorry!" The screaming was so loud it caught the attention of everybody in the parking lot. It was an awkward scenario: One of those situations where everybody tries to ignore what's going on but can't help but stare. From what I gathered, it was a father who lost his patience with his child and decided to unleash his temper in the parking lot.

I have never been partial to screaming as a form of discipline – it makes me uncomfortable and I find it unnecessary. However, I'm sure even the best of parents have found themselves in that situation, and I'm sure that in some cases, it might be deserved.

What upset me about this particular situation was the child subjected to the screaming was not even old enough to walk. He was harnessed into a baby seat in the grocery cart. The situation was so upsetting the man getting into his car next to me walked over to the parent and confronted him. It was not a pleasant exchange, and it ended with more screaming and more crying.

Living in a college town, I've witnessed a lot of odd things take place in parking lots – but this one was by far the ugliest. I am not going to pretend as though I have any knowledge or skill in the area of parenting – I don't – but it doesn't take a parent to realize that yelling in the face of a baby isn't right.

The reason I am sharing this encounter is because I was recently informed that March was "National Ethics Awareness Month." If you've never heard of it before, you're not alone – I hadn't either. Apparently the point of it is to increase morale in the workplace by making ethical decisions on a daily basis.

So what does that have anything to do with a screaming baby and a parent who lost his temper?

Everything.

The way I see it, our ethics define who we are. It is what makes up our character and what separates us from everybody else. It's importance in the workplace has been proven and appreciated – but that is really only a small piece of the puzzle. One should be ethical everywhere, not just in the workplace. A person can't be expected to behave commendably at work, only to come home and lose complete sight of their moral compass.

To err is human – that I understand. We are imperfect creatures by nature and mistakes will be made. When it comes to ethics, however, it shouldn't matter if it's an early morning meeting with the company president or grocery shopping with your baby. Ethical behavior should always be a top priority, no matter who is watching.
• Erin Maher is a Sycamore resident and a graduate of Sycamore High School. She studies journalism at Northern Illinois University. She can be reached at erinmaher88@gmail.com.

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