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. this was cross posted on to Knoxville Moms Blog. Overwhelmingly, the moms agreed that it was this author who was out of line and that the woman didn’t “discipline” as much as she tried to help. Maybe it’s a regional thing…in the south, we welcome a village to help us raise a child and thought that kids who were playing in the racks and having to be told a ton of times no, weren’t really under control. ::shrugs::

  2. I was JUST talking about this very topic tonight! I recently had a woman in front of me in line “shush” my daughter (who was LAUGHING loudly) in front of me. I couldn’t believe the nerve! Needless to say, I did not exactly smile back at this woman and I told her not to shush my child and to let her be. She couldn’t believe I said something I guess because she claimed she was only joking. To me, it’s one thing if your child is running amuck, alone, and wild in a store, but it’s quite another to reprimand someone’s child in front of the parent AND when their loudness is from happiness and enjoyment…both of which I praise coming from a 2 year old that’s not saying, “no!” or “mine!”

    • I think you are correct in this situation. Your situation and the writer’s situation is different. Your child laughed loudly and it was probably once. And also laughing is not a stressor.

      I bet if you told your child to stop laughing or to go outside to laugh she would..

      I don’t think this is a case for the writer.

      Different circumstances.

  3. Something similar happened to another mom while I was at target. I’m a mom too. I saw her struggling to keep her toddler happy as she tried to check out. I reached into my bag pulled out a box of goldfish crackers and asked if it was ok to give them to her child. She smiled thankfully and said yes. I asked her child if they’d like some goldfish and the child happily took them. As a parent unless someone is getting hurt I don’t get involved. But, if I can help in any way I’m happy to oblige. I’ve been there. I was saved at a checkout line by an angel carrying snacks in her diaper bag too. A small gesture of understanding and kindness goes along way in helping another parent out.

  4. there’s such judgement in these comments. Seriously?

    Ddo i believe the stranger had good intentions? Maybe. Do i believe her tone could’ve been as judgey as that of some of the commenters here? Absolutely. Therein lies the grind.

    I try to help moms when I can, because, believe me, I’ve been there. It may take a village – but a village of individuals who will support you, not judge. What gets me is her assumption of “trouble.” She could’ve said it a million other ways “Mind your momma, so she can get her shopping done.” While i wouldn’t have been a fan of that either – it would’ve been better.

    If the 2 year old felt fear, i believe that woman was being judgmental, overbearing – and violating the business of this toddler and her momma.

    Her comments were unhelpful and out of line.

  5. I can see both viewpoints. But, I feel like it’s a bit of an overreaction. I’m sure the woman was trying to help. I know sometimes an outsider saying simply anything makes behavior stop, like, “oh, others are watching”.

    I doubt her intent was to make your child hysterical. Take it for what it is and let it go. Her story on her own blog would say something along the lines of trying to help another mom, but she just shot me a nasty look. Which the kids are learning are appropriate looks to shoot….

  6. Here is what I would have said to my kids.. “Did that lady embarrass you? See, when you are at a store other people are noticing how you behave. She said that because you weren’t listening to me. She was probably getting annoyed hearing you ask for the candy over and over again.” Kid says “But she scared me mom.” I would respond “When you’re out in public you never know how other people are going to react, so you need to have good behavior and not bother people.” Now if the lady was truly threatening then that’s another story but it sounded like the lady wasn’t actually going to do anything harmful.

    • I would have told the woman to be quite and then when I got my kids out to the car I would have told them that “next time that lady may kidnap you so you need to listen to me, because a stranger may take you and hurt you.”. I would have scared them half to death and made them cry all the way home.

      My kids don’t misbehave in public….at home is another story.

  7. I think some of these “Articles” are becoming a little melodramatic. Holy cow. Your kid was misbehaving. Yes kids will be kids, but if that adult scared them into realizing that they are not the center of the universe then Good! She said a harmless comment that reiterated your instructions and authority.

    • Amen to that! I’m sure I wouldn’t have high fived the stranger or anything but I sure as heck would have told my children that if they don’t like getting in trouble by me OR anyone else then they should mind the first time.
      I don’t see how someone else letting your child know that they need to respect their Mom is a bad thing.

    • I would oh (and have) used a situation like this to my advantage.

      But on the flip side I can handle my kids by myself without the help of the nearest stranger.

  8. I’m with you. “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.”

    My toddler had a few meltdowns in her day one at a park because I didn’t bring the right goldfish and this man came up and wouldn’t leave us alone until we left and another at a Toy R Us of all places.

    Believe it or not, I know my kid better than you do and I know what she needs. Also as far as parents not doing ENOUGH for their kids by taking them home for naps or “hometime” Sometimes I need to run an errand, it just needs to be done. I won’t apologize for that. My kids will learn that sometimes things have to happen and they have to behave. We will get there. Until then – keep your comments to yourself.

    • Your circumstances are different from the writer’s.

      Kids will be kids. You were not “frazzled” or distressed. You had a lot more control of the situation that the writer did.

      I agree a stranger should not randomly come up to you without 1) introducing themselves to you and get your approval and 2) to attempt to cheer your child up unless that guy has been in your shoes and has some form of treat/snack for your child. I do find it uncalled for if a kid is crying and some random stranger comes up without anything but with intentions to stop the baby crying. I would’ve just offered you a treat so you can give it to your child and then get along my way.

      I get it that there are times where parents have to run an errand. I get it when kids misbehave.

      But your circumstances to your events are different from the writer’s.

    • Maybe your kids are still learning to behave in public because they have the same You Do You mentality as you, where they don’t care what anyone else thinks – including their parents. If they see you getting upset at/with people who try to modify their behavior (and they hear so much more than you think – especially if you complain about it later to another adult), they will see their behavior as okay and the adult trying to correct them as wrong. That’s a terrible message to send as it only makes it harder the next time you go out with them. The focus should be on their behavior and how it might incite reactions from people, even/especially ones that you or they view as negative. You could honestly even tell your children say that it annoys you when people approach you in public, and they are doing it only because the children are behaving a certain way. That way they connect the dots that the behavior is not acceptable and invites negative things (in your opinion) and it’s not all about the adults doing something wrong.

      I think if you teach children to respect, it has to be a respect for all people. You can’t just say respect your parents and have no regard for anyone else. And you can’t say to ignore or don’t worry about the opinions of others and then expect them to listen to you. Their behaviors will eventually be guided by an inner voice and they will either have respect for people or not – and parents are lumped in there with everyone else.

    • HI Elizabeth.

      I highly recommend these articles:


      I do agree that you do you and I do me. But when you say something like that it is also teaching your kid to not be friendly to people they don’t know…And if you think a little more deeper…They may learn to not trust others because they don’t really know them.

      We all know our school friends from elementary or high-school may not be the same type of friends… but why do children now expose themselves so much on social media is because they don’t have the proper outlet to meet new people and interact with them face to face…because you do you and I do me… I don’t want to get to know you nor do I need to get to know you.

      Honestly, did you have a meltdown when you were a child if your mom did not bring the right ‘goldfish’? You sort of had to suck it up or you were the type of kid who knew mom was the CEO, she forgot the goldfish…she offers you a different snack you either take it or you say no and ‘you do you’.

  9. I would not have a problem with the stranger’s comment. Why were the children allowed to repeatedly ask for candy? They should know that behavior is annoying to those around them. I would have used it as an opportunity to teach the kids a lesson about behaving in public. No one should have his or her shopping experience ruined by someone else’s annoying kids. If you don’t want to deal with other peoples’ reactions, teach your kids to do better or keep them out of the stores. It is a good life lesson that if you behave badly in public (an any age), you may have to suffer the consequences of peoples’ reactions, and usually, they will not be pleasant.

  10. While I understand how this might have upset you, I completely disagree with your viewpoint. Although I obviously wasn’t there to witness the events unfold, it sounds like this woman was trying to help. Did it scare or embarrass your child? Sounds like it. And that’s actually a great life lesson. Children should learn that they’re not the center of the universe and that other people, even strangers, might react to their behavior and actions. That’s the real world. Is it easy to see another person scold (not discipline) your child? Absolutely. But sometimes it’s just what your child needs to see how inappropriate their actions are.

    It also makes me sad to see anyone criticize the village mentality. That’s the reason so many parents will just turn a blind eye when something bad is going on. We need all the help we can get!


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