Normally we cringe when we see a mother slap a kid in public.
But not on Monday, when a Baltimore mother was captured on camera as she whaled on her rioting son and tried to rip a black hood from his head.
"Mother of the year," many quipped as the video of the furious woman went viral.
It was an illuminating moment. A mob mentality -- and the restraint of Baltimore police -- seem to embolden a gang of young hoodlums who were throwing bricks and bottles at the officers.
The punks were full of bravado when facing cops and TV cameras. Not so much when confronted with an irate mom.
Had a police officer assaulted one of the kids in the manner of this mother, it might have sparked even more violence on the streets of Baltimore. But this woman's actions made a powerful statement, telling her son -- and the world -- that she expected better of him.
Good for her.
Likewise, good for the dad who reportedly ran into a looting mob in another part of town, grabbed his misbehaving son and dragged him home.
Question is, where were the rest of the parents?
Many of the violent anarchists - pardon me for not euphemistically calling them "demonstrators," "misdirected youth" or "children" - appeared to be out-of-control young men.
They weren't mourning the untimely death of Freddie Gray. They were on a rampage.
According to news reports, as soon as school let out on Monday, gangs of teenagers confronted the police, outnumbering and outflanking them. If some Baltimore cops are brutal - and the arrest and death of Gray certainly fuels such suspicions - the rest exercised great restraint once street demonstrations became violent.
Too much restraint. With apparent orders not to provoke, the cops were rendered useless as protectors of the peace. In some instances, they stood around in riot gear and watched as a city lost its mind, and parts of Charm City burned.
Where was police protection for small-business owners and workers who lost their livelihoods? Where was the protection for ordinary people hiding in their houses?
Those good people came out Tuesday morning with brooms, garbage bags and indignation. A sign of hope in a smoldering city.
Deaths of black men by police have triggered increasingly violent demonstrations around the country.
By Tuesday morning in Baltimore, more than 200 people had been arrested, 144 vehicles had been incinerated and 15 buildings were torched.
Among the burned-out Baltimore buildings was a CVS, which CNN's Chris Cuomo said was the only prescription-filling store in a one-mile radius of the riots.
Pity the folks living in that West Baltimore neighborhood who needed meds on Monday. Or Tuesday. Or ever. Would anyone blame CVS for pulling out of that neighborhood for good?
During news conferences Monday, Baltimore officials bristled when asked if they waited too long to institute a curfew and summon the National Guard. They claimed they didn't have an inkling of what was brewing even after baseball fans were briefly trapped in Camden Yards near the end of Saturday's Orioles-Red Sox game because of rioters outside the stadium.
Yet Police Commissioner Anthony Batts did take notice of the outraged mother who walloped her son in public. Batts praised her and begged other parents to "take control of your kids."
Good advice. For parents everywhere.
Kerry Dougherty is a columnist for The Virginian-Pilot.
Opinions on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.