Mind Your Own Business: The Day A Stranger Disciplined My Child

YellPicThat Thursday … It started off a wonderful day. It was my first full day off from school, and my first day home with the kids. It also happened to be my daughter’s birthday. We had plans to go to the local indoor trampoline park with some friends. The morning was great! The kids had fun and were relatively well behaved. After the trampoline fun, I had to run an errand at Old Navy to return some shorts (as an aside, why is their sizing so awful??). The kids were not in the mood to shop. They were tired and antsy, and we were all probably a little “hangry.” Plus, shopping with 2 kids while trying to carry a sleeping baby in a car seat is pretty much impossible. I was frazzled. After playing hide and seek in the clothes, the kids already got iPad privileges taken away.

It was time to check out. The line was impossibly slow. My girls just wanted the candy I kept saying no to. I must have said “No treats!” a gazillion times. And that’s when it happened. The lady in line behind me decided it was her business to discipline MY child. She stepped up to her and said something like, “Mind your mama or you are going to get in trouble!” She didn’t say it jokingly or overly nasty. But she was very stern. My 2 year old started crying immediately, and I shot the lady the look of death while trying to comfort my now hysterical toddler. The stranger didn’t make my situation better but worse.

So here I was, left to corral the newly-minted 5 year old, while carrying a crying 2 year old, along with carrying a baby in the car seat and the pair of shorts I thought I could just breeze in and out to get. I checked out as fast as possible and got my kids to the car. As I was strapping the 2 year old in, she hiccuped between cries, “That lady scared me, Mama.” And I am 100% sure fear was part of what she was feeling. But I am sure she was also feeling embarrassed or maybe ashamed.

After telling this story to a friend, she brought up the point that public actions invite public scrutiny. I understand that. I also understand the “village” mentality. But here is how I feel about that: Unless you personally know me; unless my kids know you; unless you are the employee in the store; unless my kids are somehow in danger or about to harm your child … Mind Your Own Business. You Do You. If I didn’t think I could deal with my kids in public, I wouldn’t have taken them out in public. Also, the quick trip to the store you see them acting out is just a glimpse into my long day. You don’t know anything about my life or children, so please keep all negative commentary to yourself.

Unless you are part of my village or willing to shoot me either a sympathetic glance or just say something as simple as, “You are doing a good job. You got this!” don’t say anything at all. I don’t expect my kids to listen to random strangers telling them what to do. I have enough doubts on a daily basis about my parenting skills that I don’t need the random lady in the store reminding me that I am half-assing this job most days.

What do YOU think?


  1. Obviously there are some very strong feelings on both sides here. Honestly I don’t see the woman’s comments as inappropriate. She didn’t touch the child or yell. She was trying to help. I would be totally fine with a stranger issuing a reminder to my child in the way tie woman did. Children need to learn to accept criticism from sources other than their parents (teachers, coaches, extended family, etc). It helps them to become better functioning members of society down the road.

  2. I feel like the anger towards the stranger is misdirected. I can imagine the frustration of having another thing to deal with because of the person’s comments, but knowing that they were trying to help AND they said it in an appropriate way, it sounds like your reaction more stems from the embarrassment of a stranger calling out your kids’ behavior than their actual actions. If it had put your kids in line without you having to repeat yourself – again – you probably would have appreciated it. Maybe it was a good teachable moment for your 2 year old (after she calmed down) that her behavior doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and that is can affect not only you but strangers that she likely doesn’t even notice. and then the next time you go to a store you can remind her of that moment at the door.
    It’s your choice to take it as the stranger saying that you’re “half assing your job.” I think it’s the opposite – she felt your pain and was trying to give you a break by making them understand too.
    I see people say that toddlers shouldn’t be “made” to stand in line, take turns, etc, but I think that’s really dangerous for our society. Kids are very sensitive and even though they are in the “me” stage at age 2 and 3, they can/should still learn they are part of a society and are completely capable of acting that way. It takes lots of practice and reminders, but why cultivate and encourage selfish “me me me” behaviors and thought patterns just to expect to change them completely later? This isn’t about your specifically, just an observation about certain trendy parenting styles I’ve seen lately.

  3. This has to be the most ridiculous “article” I’ve ever read – followed by some of the most ridiculous comments. (And yes, I have children who misbehaved in public). “Overreaction” doesn’t begin to describe what happened here. The older woman was trying to diffuse and make light of a difficult situation (one that she and others in the store had apparently been forced to endure for quite a while). Bad enough that you dragged your admittedly hungry, overtired kiddos into Old Navy to return a pair of shorts (not exactly a dire emergency). You made it worse when you decided to hang around and SHOP instead of getting in line ASAP. That was a choice that YOU made. This woman wasn’t disciplining. In fact, you’re lucky she didn’t deck you one for your lacking of parenting. Don’t blame other people for your poor parenting choices. Give me a break.

  4. Oh grow the hell up. Kids are kids and someone was trying to distract them into minding their mother and a little one got scared. If that’s the worst thing that happens in their life they are lucky. You’re so stupid to think that it was an insult. Just an adult that was trying to distract them. Btw we all pay for your kids so don’t be so freaking negative when the “village” tries to help.

  5. I can SORT OF see why a parent might want to assume the worst of strangers, but then they assume their children are assuming the worst as well, when it’s very likely the kid is picking up on the parent’s stress and hoping to ease THAT more than anything.
    Now take me in the situation of the woman who said something to the kid…I am 100% never annoyed by children. I adore them. Any time I talk to a kid in a store it’s just mostly feeling to me like a hello, a playful interaction. So if I’ve said ‘ut oh, you’re gonna get in trouble’ it’s playful and fun and mostly just to take their focus off whatever they were doing. It’s a great distraction to have them refocus and not be obsessed with wanting the candy, or even gets them to stop wailing and crying often…me just interacting with them. Sounds like the mom is carefully choosing her words with the kids, but I assure you as a stranger with no kids, my intent is certainly not to discipline and simply to interact and try to help the situation. Many moms think that if they aren’t doing it all on their own they are failing and get embarrassed. I get that. I’m similar. But you aren’t in your home in private, you are out in public in a store and can’t control every person and how they interact with your kids, especially by threatening online that you’ll beat every motherfucker up!

  6. Unfortunately some people, as soon as they become parents, seem to completely forget about the rest of society & focus exclusively on their child….which is rude & entitled when out & about, because other people should be considered, it’s called manners and consideration…..

    We’ve all heard squealing kids & those who rampage around restaurants & shopping centres unchecked by their parents, causing irritation & stress to others…. precisely why some bars/restaurants are now banning children, because their parents don’t/can’t control them.

    Many people dislike being mown down by kids charging into them, eardrum piercing screams & iPads at full volume to entertain the precious ones…… adults can have autism as well as children, along with misophonia, fibromyalgia, etc. and the sound of shrieking children are a trigger for those people. Or perhaps they’re just supposed to suck it up whilst mom goes about her business?.

    So, if the OP can’t/won’t parent her offspring, don’t be surprised when a stranger does, because other people have just as many rights as her precious snowflakes.

    Parenting is a lifestyle choice & doesn’t give parents a free pass on manners & consideration.

  7. Even if its such a drama or scene between a parent and his/her child as long as the child is not causing havoc physically to others then it’s NO strangers business. My lil boy who is 4 tried to squeeze in himself to go up the bus (2nd floor) past a Dad with a pram who was hardly pushed before I could call out my son as I was dealing with fare with the bus driver, SHARPLY told my son off. If it was me I would’ve said sorry and tell my son to wait. But it wasn’t that strangers business to reprimand my son when I was there and come to think of it hes a parent himself so good luck if he receives my end. That’s why we read about parenting skills and I know it’s a learning process but leave the educating to the parents.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here