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. I honestly can’t believe the comments on this post. What is with the “I’m a better parent than you” posts? We’ve all been in situations similar to these and it sucks. You feel like an incompetent mother without having others weighing in. After becoming a mom, I wish I could take back every eye roll and glare I gave to moms with kids who were not behaving perfectly. Can we just give moms the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a bad day?

    To the mama who penned this post – you DO have this. I’m sorry you had a bad day. I’ve had lots of frustrating experiences like what you described and I’m only 23 months into this parenting thing.

    Let’s be honest – no one actually knows what they’re doing. We are all just winging it the best we can. We are ALL doing a great job!

  2. I understand your frustration and embarrassment, I raised 3 of my own. But unlike you, I welcomed outside help. If you had a magic wand and can see your children 10 years in the future, when they’re all teenagers and testing every fiber of yours and societys nerves, you will look back on that time and realize she was doing you a hugh favor. Your children were not paying attention to you and she knew if she said something to the little darling, it would get her attention. You should have told her, Thank you! And then told the little one, that lady is right, you are going to be in trouble so be quite. Your motherly price kept you from doing the right thing. Let others step in to help, when you can’t. You obviously have your hands full.

  3. I’m in the camp that’s siding with the stranger, but for a different reason. She kind of became your escape goat. Instead of the focus being on “mean mommy” for saying no to treats, the focus went to the “mean lady” who spoke up. Making your child cry was, I’m sure, unintended, but that experience could have been a teaching moment. Once safely at home, the conversation could have gone down the path of, “why do you think that lady talked to you? What were you doing?” You know, as much philosophy as a 2yo can handle followed by, “mommy loves you and will always protect you from strangers, but let’s watch our behavior.”
    I also have 3 kids (6, 3, and a baby), and I’ve been getting a lot of “you have your hands full” type comments. At first I was kind of alarmed and felt like my wild children were being judged, but then I realized that these strangers were stating a fact. Now I see their sympathetic eyes instead of judgemental ones.

  4. I have 3 children and boy, If I saw your kid throwing a fit and annoying me, I’d have said something to. Doesn’t seem like the child knows how to mind you. They probably don’t know how to mind you because they probably are worse at home. My kids act bad at home at times but when we are out, behavior better be on their best as not to BOTHER AND DISTURB others. You should have been grateful the lady was trying to help as she probably pitied you. Your reaction is childish and probably says alot about how your children treat and respond to you.

    Now my 11 year old has grown a little older and even when I offer him candy, he refuses, why? He makes good choices. They need to learn if they ask for something or want something, when we say no, why do we say no.

    You are in public but don’t bring your children if they don’t know how to mind you or you are frustrated or frazzled with them. You could have waited to leave them home with their other parent while you go run needless errands as these.

  5. You sound incredibly self absorbed. We need more of “the village mentality” not less. We need to care about each other and watch out for each other.

    I would have been thankful for the words and if you didn’t shoot her a “death” look she may have even helped with the screaming 2 year old who was more embarrassed than afraid.

  6. I totally agree with you on the mind your own business aspect. If your child is not hurting themselves or anyone else…then bite your tongue and mind your business. I understand the frustration of three young children and trying to run errands…in public. 🙂 I have three of my own and some days are easier than others. I also get that maybe the lady behind you might have been trying to ‘have your back’ as one person commented. But really? Don’t speak to a two year old you don’t know, who is obviously just tired, and is acting like a normal two year old. The only thing is, I think you should have politely told the lady, “Thank you for trying to help, but I’ve got this.” In the same, not rude, not playful tone. As for the comment about taking your kids at a different time when they are more relaxed or when your husband is home to watch them…why? Sometimes things have to be taken care of or maybe you just don’t want to make another trip out when you’re already out…or maybe you want to return those shorts now, because you remembered you had them and if you don’t return them now they might never be returned. I hope that made sense lol. Anyway, we all struggle at one point or another and I think the world should just learn a little patience and compassion and discretion…And sometimes just butt out.

  7. All this for one pair of shorts?? I have 2 kids and I’m not about to drag them anywhere for one item.

    My oldest and I were once behind a lady and her child, and the girl would not quit begging for candy. She intermittently let out the worst fake “wahhh” sound. The mom wouldn’t even acknowledge her, so I finally said to her, in a nice, compassionate tone, “I don’t think it’s working.” Didn’t hear another peep from her.
    I then used that as an example as to how I expect my son to not behave in public.

    We all do our best, but sometimes a little help isn’t the worst thing.

  8. If you had to say “no treats a gazillion times”, thank Jesus that lady stepped in and said something. If you can’t discipline or control your children, thank God someone else did. I would’ve done the same thing. How annoyed she must have been hearing you and your CHILDREN go back and forth. Who is the parent??? Just thank God she was so polite about it! Of course your kid was scared, obviously and sadly they’re not scared of you, which is why they don’t listen! Don’t blame other people for your lack of discipline.
    Never been to NOMB until today when i clicked a link to your post, because someone else was downing it, which i completely agree with. Your posts are so whiny and negative over the smallest issues. You blame everyone else for YOUR problems. Sheesh. If you can’t control your kids, don’t take them public places until you can.
    PS who would sympathize when all you did was repeat yourself which obviously did nothing??? You should’ve walked right back out of that store the minute it happened, as courtesy for others. If you don’t care about their feelings why should they care about yours? Returning shorts was not an emergency need-to-do-it-nkw errand. How selfish of you to post about a sweet lady who was trying to help you out since you weren’t doing your job as a mother. Get outta here with this.

  9. This just sounds like it was written by an overwhelmed mom who needs a break and is lashing out at someone to make herself feel better. Overreaction. Maybe PMS/hormones. If someone felt the need to say something to my kid, I’d take a good hard look at where I went wrong, not the one who felt the need to speak up. The author admits the kids weren’t listening, hangry, tired..and that’s she’s half-assing it as a parent. I say, “get over it.” Sounds like she needs a talking to just as much as her children.

  10. OK, so I do speak to other people’s kids when they’re misbehaving or pestering mom for candy and she says no. No, I do not say things like that other person did. I’m not out to instill fear in kids. I do say something like “Mom has a reason for saying no, and the more you ask her the less likely mom is going to be willing to say yes next time.” or “gotta listen to mom when she says no, what ever her reason is”
    And then tell mom “I’ve had to tell my kids that my saying no is not an invitation to convince me otherwise because they get relentless sometimes. I feel your pain there.”
    My kids are definitely not saints. Last week, my toddler was screaming so much that I had to leave the store empty handed because the shrieking was excessive and my fuse short. I normally just take the child outside, we readjust, and we go back in the store. But that day, I had to recognize both my limit and my child’s. It made me madder to leave but I was not about to torture myself or the other shoppers and store employees.
    And people who try to put fear into my kids get met with mama bear, not just the death stare. They get the potty mouth mama too.


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