When to parent

We were at Oktoberfest Sunday.  The Husband took the boys to the bouncy castle; while I finished my nachos (Don’t judge me; I had bratwurst too.)  and the FIL finished his beer.  The FIL went to get another one, and I was done with my nachos, loosing him in the crows.  I went to where The Husband and the boys were.

The Husband: The little girl, there, is pretty violent.

I looked at the other child in the bouncer, a slight three-year-old.  At that moment, she started hitting Tornado E.  As we were on the side, we saw everything perfectly through the net.  I gathered myself and used The Voice.

Me: Stop hitting that boy!  Stop it now!

The girl looked up at me, put her hands on her hips, giving me her version of the evil eye.

Girl: F you!  F you!  F you!

Only it was the whole word.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw The Husband’s jaw dropped.  I placed my hands on my hips and gave the girl The Look.

Me: Mind your words, young lady.

The girl bounced away.  I looked around for her mother, who turned out to be the woman working the ride.  Oh, really?  Luckily another family came, and two boys, a little older than Tornado E, came bouncing in, distracting the girl.

Tornado E gave up a few minutes later, climbing out, having a coughing fit.  I tried to tend to Tornado E as I yelled at Tornado S to climb out, who decided to ignore me.  As I fumed at Tornado S, trying to figure out what to do next, vowing never to let Tornado S into a place I couldn’t grab his arm and drag him out, the little girl pushed Tornado S over, jumped on him, and started to wallop him good.  For the LOVE OF GOD!

Me: Knock that off!  GET OFF HIM NOW!  GET OFF HIM NOW!

The other mom of the two boys was just as upset asking where the mother of this girl was.  FINALLY the mother of the girl looked and told her to leave the boy alone.  The girl got off Tornado S and bounced away.

The other mother: Do you need help getting your son?  (I nodded.)  Bradley, can you get that little boy over there and bring him to his mother?

The older of her sons gently took Tornado S by the hand and led him to the front so I could snatch him.

Me: Thank you.  Thank you very much.

The other mom: No problem.  I’m sorry you’re so got hurt.  Some mothers need to mind their children better.

I nodded and hustled my boys away from the ride.

Here’s the crook.  If I could have grabbed that little girl, I would have grabbed her the minute she touched one of my boys.  I would have marched her to her mother and demanded the mother do something.  If I couldn’t find the parent, I would have sat that child down into time out.  But I couldn’t grab that child.  I could only yell at her.  The other mother was more passive, saying her disapproval in a tone that let another mother understand what was going on.  But I have learned that sometimes you have to take control of a situation.  So is it ok to parent another child?

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18 Responses to “When to parent”

  1. Jessie T. Says:

    I’ve done it before. And it wasn’t even my kid getting hurt. Two boys were chasing each other in the mall playplace when the angry one in the back caught his friend and started whaling on him. Then he started kicking him in the head and neck. I hollered over for him to “knock it off, now!” and he stopped. When he looked at his mom she just rolled her eyes and said “You’d better quit, that lady told you to.”

    Some parents are unbelievable. I have no problem with parenting other people’s kids and I wouldn’t mind them telling mine to behave themselves. Kids need to know what is socially appropriate and what isn’t. If their parents neglect to teach their kids right and wrong, someone has to.

  2. Gibby Says:

    Are you kidding me? Did she really use the F word?

    I do think it is OK to parent other kids in certain situations, such as when harm may occur. In this case, you were right on.

  3. incognitomom Says:

    When violence is involved, especially when it’s violence against your child, and the parent of the aggressive child is doing nothing you most certainly do have the right to parent another person’s child. I think this is why our society is going downhill. We’re too afraid to step in or speak up when wrong is being done.

  4. Court Says:

    Heck yeah! I once fussed at a boy and demanded he go get his parents, which to my surprise he did and when they came marching over I thought oh here we go. But they were so sweet and were very concerned since Kaiya was only like one at the time and their kid was like seven they were like, did he hurt her? When I explained yes, he did but it had been an accident and my bigger concern was when he talked back to me they immediately corrected him and you could tell the kid was well mannered (though his friend wasn’t and it was likely his influence) it was neat to see other parents actually responding positively to ‘stranger parenting.’ My mom used to smack kids at the park, but that was back in the eighties before law suits got so prevalent.

  5. insider53 Says:

    Somebody’s gotta do it. Just don’t do it in Wal-mart. lol

  6. holeycheese Says:

    I do it all the time.. People send totally irresponsible kids to the playground alone all the time.. and they hurt smaller kids and just don’t care.. They tease other kids and try to scare them away. They throw rocks.. etc etc. What can I do? Just let it go on?? Usually I don’t parent others’ kids when their parents are there – only when it’s really needed. Like once at the super while two ten year olds where chasing eachother and whoever would not move out of their way they would bump into. Everybody where looking at them but nobody said a word… and the mother totally ignored the scene and pretended they were not hers. I let it go on for a while but at the end they ran into an old lady that almost fell – and that’s when I yelled at them that the super is not a playground and that they should go back to their mother who was at the counter.

  7. Freedom Debt Relief Says:

    It is ok to parent other kids if their behavior is unacceptable and you did the right thing. At times it is the only way to make a kid understand that what they are doing is wrong.

  8. sunnymom Says:

    That is such a hard one to judge but I think that if a child is acting that way, especially if it is causing harm to your own kids that you are actually parenting, it is ok. If that was my daughter we would have been leaving with me telling Tooters she is grounded till she is 35 and will be spending hours in the time out chair. That is really bad that a mother would let her kid act like that in public and not do anything about it. If my daughter acts up in a store (which is not often) I will drop everything, leave the store and apologize to ppl around me as I go.

  9. theycallmejane Says:

    I think this is a tough one. There is a big part of me that screams “YES!” I believe it takes a village. I think other children need to know that when their parents aren’t watching, other parents are and aren’t afraid to step in. But after parenting 17+ years I’ve witnessed many a parent become shockingly offended if you try to step in. But that hasn’t stopped me – and it mortifies my husband when I gently step in but I still do it, admittedly not as often as I should but by the time the “F” word was dropped – absolutely!

  10. confusedhomemaker Says:

    It’s OK to interject when there is no parent present to do so or if the parent is completely ignoring violent behavior. It’s ok because discipline isn’t violence. It’s not what that man did to that girl in Walmart, instead it is part of teaching or socializing people. It’s part of life, it’s just a matter of HOW it is done not whether it is done.

  11. confusedhomemaker Says:

    btw–I think you handled it well in that situation.

  12. rakster Says:

    Interesting question. There was an Australian fiction book that came out this year that focussed on this issue as a lead-in. Worth reading: The Slap.

    The book lead to some interesting discussions in my nursing mothers group..

  13. Fie Upon This Quiet Life Says:

    My 3-year-old little boy goes to a co-op preschool, so I’ve gotten really comfortable parenting the kids that go to school with him. I am a lot more confident about gently reprimanding other people’s kids now than I used to be. I think when safety is a concern that stepping in is definitely fine. I get so irritated when people aren’t paying attention to their kids’ behavior in places like that. Ugh.

    (By the way – I’m here via Inktopia’s blog. I’m pregnant with my second son, due December 31. Sorry to hear about the sickness going around!! It’s miserable being sick and pregnant.)

  14. jlewicky Says:

    Oh boy. I probably would have climbed in there myself. Or torn through the net. God help the person who tried to stop me.
    I once got in a kids face and said in a semi-threatening tone “I said stop throwing sand at my son.” He lipped off. “Where is your mother?” Him: She’s not here. He refused to show me his nanny. Lucky for him, Jon got interested in something else and we walked away.

  15. submom Says:

    It is a tough question without a context. In the case you experienced, I’d say you are within your rights since “physical contact was established” with your children and “with force” too. THAT I believe gives any parents the right to interfere. Don’t think of it as “parenting other’s child” but “protecting your own”. Nobody can argue with that. But if the girl is just saying the F word, I would try and get her to stop by saying, “We don’t say such word”, but I expect some people would still be offended by that act, equating it as “parenting their child”. I do do that to teenagers though, “Watch what you are saying please. There are young kids around.” So what’s different when it is a younger child cursing? Isn’t it 100 times worse??!! Great post. Loving your blog!

  16. becca Says:

    I’m seething for you reading this post! God help me if this ever happened to one of my kids. I absolutely would have bounced my butt into that bouncy castle and removed that “Miss Thing” from my child. I think if a child’s behavior involves one of your own, you have EVERY right to interject. I remember clearly telling a boy’s nanny that he was swatting at my daughter and hurting her. And I stood there until she made him apologize. Oooohhh… I could go on and on here. I’m sorry that happened to you! (But I’m glad I found your blog!)

  17. jlewicky Says:

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment. Before I begin, please note: Nothing that I’m going to write excuses the mother. Neither does it say that I think you did anything wrong, Fae.
    What if the girl has a true emotional disturbance? Does that change anyone’s answer here? The reason I ask:
    When we lived in SF, I used to take Jon to an OT place w/no waiting area other than a hall. Kate and I were waiting, and she put down her babydoll. An older boy picked it up and started throwing it, hard. I asked him to give it back to her, and he started yelling at her: “Your baby is DEAD! DEAD!” As calmly as possible, I said, “Hey, that’s our doll, can we have it back?” The boy’s mother looked up, and said meekly, “I’m sorry, I thought that was one of the center’s toys.” then she went back to reading.
    It didn’t seem like enough, but when I looked at her, there was pain and exhaustion in her eyes. I’m quite sure she’d been apologizing for her son for a very long time.
    I’ve been there, apologizing for Jon being too loud or jumpy or whatever. It gets old. BUT, I do stop him before he causes harm, which the little girl’s mother did not.

    Who knows what triggered the little girl to act the way she did? Looked at this way, the story gets a little sadder to me. Again, that doesn’t excuse the mother for letting anyone get hurt.

  18. zeemaid Says:

    I don’t think there is anything wrong asking the girl to stop. if the mother doesn’t do anything why should you let her beat your kid up? If the child has emotional issues etc she shouldn’t be on the ride with other kids in the first place.

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