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When strangers try to discipline

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a store and our 4-year old daughter happened to have a tantrum at the store.  I can't remember what set it off.  I only remember that it was a situation that led to her an inconsolable fit of crying.  I tried to do what I could to calmly calm her, but it was no good.  An older gentleman at the store, a portly fellow at least 6 feet tall, stood above my daughter and took his index finger out, and shook it at her.  All the while, he held a sort of sardonic smile on his face.  It was almost scary, even to me.  My daughter stopped her tantrum for a short while then resumed when the man stepped away.

In another instance, the other day, we were on the plane for our spring break getaway.  On the plane was a little fella maybe 2 or 3 years old.  He started to fuss and fuss and fuss upon take-off.  I do not personally think that children are annoyances on the plane, but another passenger couldn't stand the fuss.  He walked up to the child's seat and said sternly, "No, no, no.  No fussing!"

Finally, I'll mention another anecdote.  My 7-year old and I were picking up the 4-year old from dance class the other day.  The dance teacher put her face squarely up to my 7-year old.  The distance of her face from my daughter's face was almost uncomfortably close.  The sweet and pleasant dance teacher said, "Your sister tells me that you tease her at home!  Don't you know that big sisters are supposed to protect and care for their little sisters???"  It was clear she was trying to be nice, but that she was also trying to do some sort of almost-scold.  She smiled sweetly but cynically, and my 7-year old's face immediately became quite red.  I mean, she is already shy as it is, and she turned beet red.  I knew she felt awful inside and was so embarrassed.

When I was in 5th grade, I had a run-in with a girl at school.  She and I had some sort of quarrel.  I think it was about some boy who liked me and not her, and she was therefore never going to be my friend.  Anyway, she apparently went home and told her mother how much she disliked me, and her mother showed up at the school cafeteria the next day.  In front of all my friends and lots of other school children, she stood over me, telling me never to treat her daughter poorly.  I have no idea what she said really; all I can remember what this lady standing over me, shaking her index finger at me, making me feel like the smallest child in the universe.  To this day, my own mother regrets I ever had to live through that.  She never thought it was right that a grown adult would take a matter into her own adult hands, when it should have been the two peers to work it out.

I know this is lengthy.  What I want to know is this:  When do you think it is appropriate for an adult to reprimand a child?  When is it not?  Have you had instances when your child was reprimanded by an adult stranger?  Were you glad, sad, or mad about it?  Have you had instances when you have reprimanded a child you didn't know, but felt that the circumstances merited intervention? 


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This is an interesting topic - my mother and I were actually just discussing it. I don't find it appropriate for strangers to scold a child in the presence of the child's parent(s). When I witness a child misbehaving in a store, on the playground, etc., and the parent is present and aware, I assume that the parent is handling the situation as they see fit. I don't believe that it's my place, as a stranger, to try to intervene with the child. I do not know the child/family or what they may be struggling with, autism, defiance disorder, etc. My mother disagrees with me and believes that it's appropriate to address the child directly, whether a parent is present or not. I'm wondering if it's a generational difference in thinking?

i personally don't really find it annoying if my child is out of line-most strangers are trying to be funny and/or sort of help in a grandma-ish kind of way. What i would get offended at is some stranger telling ME what to do with my child. that seems to be a little different boundary. but if you are at school without a parent around and you are clearly disruptive or out of line, i think it's the administrators duty to take some kind of action. not berate them by any means, but some sort of verbal direction isn't bad at all!

I spend a lot of time on the playground at my son's school. Often the parents will be busy talking to each other and may not notice what their child is doing. I have had occasion to speak to the child about his/her behavior, usually along the lines of, "Hey, I don't want to hear that," (those 5th graders, you know, pushing the cursing limits), or "Could we not throw the wood chips please?"

I also had an occasion where a mom asked a group of boys (2 of which were mine) to stop running up the slide, and to please only go down it.

On the playground, I kind of view it as a "whoever is closer deals with it" situation--at least for the more minor infractions. Is it really feasible for me to walk across the playground to tell some mom her kid said x, y or z, when I can just give him the mom-look and "hey" just as easily?

On the other hand, in a more one-on-one situation, ie. an unruly child in a grocery store with her parent, it's absolutely not my place to say anything. If the parent is right there, he/she obviously knows the kid is misbehaving and is choosing (or not) his/her way of disciplining the kid. It's not my job to admonish the kid, thereby questioning the parents' way of parenting.

Unless the other child is actively hurting my child or another child, I won't discipline them. Even if then I would wait (briefly) for their parent/caregiver to step in first. However sometimes I will say things like "let's try not to waste water" if I see kids playing in a drinking fountain, or maybe a "careful there!" if I think a kid is doing something dangerous.

The only time I appreciated an assist was on an airplane, but it was the flight attendant (not really a stranger). I think she had heard me repeatedly tell my daughter she had to sit down and keep her seatbelt on and not stand on the seat and look around the plane. So she very politely told my daughter that she needed to sit and keep her belt on, just like in the car. I think it helped having the message come from an authority figure. I didn't have to mention it again. I don't think I would have been as appreciative if it had just been a random other passenger though.

this is a tricky one. i wouldn't feel comfortable just randomly commenting on someone else's child's behavior, or having my child lectured by a complete stranger, but if it's in a group play setting and one child is hurting another, absolutely i'd step in.

i had a really uncomfortable moment last summer at sip and kranz, when i was the only parent actually inside the "play area." i ducked out to use the restroom, then came back in to find an older little girl standing behind my one year old daughter as she sat on the steps, kicking her in the back over and over. i had no problem telling her not to do that to my child, but it was certainly awkward -- i wasn't sure whether i should say something to the girl's mother, too, as she seemed completely engrossed in her coffee and conversation in the other room. my introverted, confrontation-phobic nature got the best of me on that one, but i felt really lost as the only parent in that situation who was at all "supervisory."

My daughter is pretty shy and has been very embarrassed and uncomfortable when anyone other than her father or I have given her a message. Since her father or I am close by and monitor her closely this hasn't happened often. I think in situations such as what the original poster posted, I would probably say something to a stranger who said or did anything to her in the manner described.

On the other hand, I think that if you give a message or redirection to a kid not your own then it should be to protect your kid or another-including the kid you are giving the message to. I have given kids messages on the playground but I don't go out of my way to. I basically think I am modeling to my child that it is okay to tell someone she doesn't like something they are doing to her if she is not speaking up for herself. I always try to do this very respectfully and sympathetically to all the children involved. This doesn't mean that I intervene on my child's behalf every time, or even the majority of times.

Children learn from us adults and I think if we give messages in respectful ways then we should all appreciate that. I guess we all have different ideas about what "respectful" is and I just try to use my best judgement. I'm not going to let someone get hurt because I was afraid I would get another parent mad at me.

I agree with most of the previous posts- I only say something in group settings- park/coffee shop etc. if the parent isn't obviously nearby. I have only said something if an older/bigger kid did something nasty or potentially physically damaging to my child. I say things like, "Please watch out for him, he's just a little guy", or I will intervene to make sure he has a turn on the slide if bigger kids are monopolizing it. At times I've been more assertive and used a more "firm" type of voice ("You need to stop doing that/be careful, etc." I really have no problem doing this and would have no problem with someone doing it to my child if I were not right there and he was interfering with the well being of a smaller child.

I don't mean to imply that it's ok for kids to do hurtful things to kids who are not smaller than they are- but when I see that particular dynamic I am more likely to take action or get involved.

I think it's very situational. I also think there are ways that are ok and ways that aren't, to handle things.

As one of the posters above said, "Let's try not to waste water" and things like that, I think are appropriate. Standing over a child (or anyone) and wagging a finger, I find intensely inappropriate and it's dreadfully rude, in addition. I still haven't gotten over the man that did that to me, not once but twice, while I was pregnant following a SIP of wine from my husband's glass (I'm a grown woman for God's sake!).

To me gentle nudging and group parenting is all right. Lecturing and making a child feel shame, is not.

So far, I haven't had the guts to say anything to anyone. Not even when a child nearly took a bite out of my child at the Children's Museum and his mother just sat there comforting his child. After he violently, and unprovoked, pushed DD, I went to grab her just as he was preparing to chomp down on her and apparently my swift action scared him. I appreciate that I scared her son but her child was violent and IMO, she owed both me and my child an apology and her son needed some strong words.

Ugh! About the only time it makes sense for a stranger to step in is when the child is in obvious danger. Running out into traffic, stuff like that. I make a special effort to never parent another person's child while his/her mom/dad is present. What's the point? What good would it do? And when I'm caring for someone else's child, I do whatever parenting is necessary to keep everyone safe--but I don't go around trying to Reform And Rebuke. Pffft.

Ugh! I think that weird stranger is my substitute postman! You should see how he revs up the dog by yelling at him through the window. Some people are just creepy.

But I'm of two minds on this one. I definitely think it takes a village, and that the natural order of things is that all responsible adults in a community have some hand in helping kids learn and follow the rules.

At the same time, I've really hated being called on to be that responsible adult. If you are the mama who brought your older children to the park while I was caring for a newborn, and who sat a million miles away engrossed on your cell phone as your daughter and son fought each other to climb the slide .... I didn't want to be the one in charge. But I suspect that was not a normal day for you, because they turned out to be really lovely kids who were a lot nicer to my dog that the postman ever is.

I haven't had a stranger, per se, correct my toddler's behavior, but when we've gone to other people's houses, our hosts have corrected. I have found them to always be appropriate and kind in their corrections and actually appreciate it. Things like, "Please don't touch that cactus" or "No climbing on the chairs." It reinforces what I expect at home and lends validity to the home rules.

If my child is acting a fool, I expect that someone may something to her. We live in the world with other people. My version of acting a fool may be different from theirs. Coming from a unfriendly child place (the Bay Area during the tech boom), there were folks always yelling or shushing my daughter on public transit for things like singing on a PUBLIC bus or swinging her toddler legs (not kicking anything/anyone) Those people we ignored and when she got older we would deconstruct.

If your kid is kicking my seat or poking me on a plane, I will absolutely turn around and say something like "Please don't kick my seat"

I have "policed" kids on the playground, at dances and on field trips. What I found is that parents often aren't told by school folks that their kids are OOC. mine included. If behavior is inappropriate (hitting, swearing, grinding on boys laps) I am so going to say something to the kid.

My child is "empowered" and tends to blow people off around public shaming. At 13, she's decided that her version of what is "acting a fool" is all that matters. After stopping a fight and getting cussed out by a pretty delicate ballerina girl, I pick and choose my battles. whenever you're plaeding ". . .but I'm a mom, you can't curse at me. . . ." the battle is lost.

I will correct other children in public if they are doing something that might harm my child or something unsafe, or a child in my home when he or she does something against our general house rules.

There have been some pretty infuriating incidences of others disciplining our children in public -- the airline agent who yelled at my son when he wasn't taking his shoes off fast enough going through security, the man at the playground who seemed to think that the slide was his daughter's sole domain and that my son shouldn't have a turn, the mom who chastised my son after her son hit him (seriously!). I try to shrug them off, but they do bring out the mama bear in me...

I am form South America, and in my culture it is normal to pierce the baby ears, even when baby's are days old. The other day I was at the mall getting my baby's ears pierce and an older lady was making a big deal about it and was holding my baby's hand while her ears were being pierced!!!

I got really mad, but again in my culture we usually do not verbalize those kind of feelings especially with a stranger. She made me feel awful and angry and now I regret not having said anything to her. I know it is not the same situation but I felt that I can relate to your feelings when a stranger is trying to do the parenting for you…

I'm going to preface this by saying that I know that I have been guilty of doing this myself, but I think one of the major issues here is that there is a necessity for someone else to parent the child at all. I agree it is never appropriate for someone to actively reprimand another person's child, it is also not appropriate for a parent to pay so little attention to their child that it is necessary.

I once had a five year old boy continuously antagonizing my daughter and her friend at the playground after they repeatedly asked him to stop and walked away and I had intervened by reiterating that they had asked him to stop. He literally stalked them around the playground, pushing them, grabbing things from them and generally terrorizing them for fifteen minutes before his mother finally appeared, told him in a fairly half-hearted way to stop bothering the little girls and then walked away!!!. I was furious, not because her kid was out of control, but because she was taking absolutely no responsibility for him and leaving me in the position to either police her child's behavior or to let him continue harassing my daughter and her friend. I firmly believe in letting children sort out their issues on the playground amongst themselves, but when they are doing everything they're supposed to; using their words, walking away, turning the other cheek, telling an adult, and it still isn't getting better, it is absolutely okay for any parent or caregiver to step in to assist. And if my daughter was flying under my radar and being hurtful (physically or otherwise) to another child, I would most definitely hope that someone would step in and say something.

That being said, it is totally different to offer spontaneous critiques of parenting or to butt in while a parent is already managing the situation. Whereas I would totally say something if I saw a kid doing something dangerous or hurtful to themselves or someone else, I never say something to kids if I just think their behavior is inappropriate.

And one last thought is that I find it incredibly irritating when strangers speak to my daughter directly about her behavior, but I mostly feel that way, because I am embarrassed and defensive about being an imperfect parent. When I separate myself from those feelings, I realize that it is actually good for my daughter to be aware that her behavior effects everyone around her, not just her parents and peers. Having strangers pipe up and speak reinforces her understanding of why she has limits and helps her growing sense of empathy.

personally, i pretty much think it's never appropriate (unless harm is being done) for another person to discipline/correct my child. in the past year there have been two instances where a stranger tried to correct my child's behavior and i got pissed. i was right there, i wasn't "ignoring" my child, i just didn't think that their behavior was inappropriate or offensive and i definitely didn't think it was the stranger's place to tell them otherwise. in one case this woman thought my son was talking too loudly although all the kids were talking and understandably excited for the activity to begin. i think that if you have a problem with something like that, either talk to me or move away. a similar thing happened at a play area. my daughter was lying in a tunnel with her feet out. she was barely two and was flopping her legs up and down. another child climbed on top of the tunnel AFTER my daughter was already there, and he proceeded to look down at her while she flopped her legs. i was sitting about 3 feet away, saw what was going on, but was fine with it. the boy's mom comes over to my daughter and scolds her for kicking. i was livid. the mom and i had words. i told her to please not talk to my daughter like that. if she had a problem she could talk to me, but since my daughter wasn't doing anything wrong she could remove her child if she pleased. don't get me wrong. it's not that i think my kids are perfect. i think i'm sometimes extra harsh on them because i want them to be well behaved and kind to other kids. but you know, kids will be kids sometimes and everyone has a different idea of appropriate behavior. now, i do agree that if my child is kicking someone's seat or being unsafe it's ok to kindly and politely ask them to stop. in this case the child may not know that they're doing something wrong and or they just need a gentle reminder. but please, don't discipline my child.

This is clearly a subject that stirs a lot of passion. Though I haven't had it happen to me yet (my son is 2 1/2) I can imagine how ashamed I'd feel if someone was saying something disapproving about my son in my presence if he was having a meltdown (It was mortifying enough when he had a meltdown in IKEA during the holidays and I was a football field away from the exit with this screaming,writhing ball of fury). That being said, I believe that children need to learn to behave in public situations, and that it really does "take a village" to raise a child. If, when my son is older, and he is in a situation where he is acting up but I'm not there to immediately correct him, I would hope another grown-up would step in and tell him to mind his manners (in a nice way).

A few weeks ago I came upon two boys (about 10?) who throwing coffee from a Starbucks cup onto a street sign. I stopped and asked them if they had something to clean it up with. I happened to have a few napkins in my hand and I handed them to the boys. The reluctantly cleaned up their mess. My 5-year-old and I walked a block to our home. 15 minutes later, the kids did a "ring + run" with their dads waiting for them on the corner. I couldn't believe it... helloooo... where is the parenting?

my son is pretty quiet in general, but he is a toddler, and will sometimes vocalize louder than i'd like in the grocery store or something. people give us nasty looks, but it is so passive, i usually ignore it. i am usually already trying to get him to quiet down, though, so the only reason someone is doing that is to vent their own annoyance...not a help to a mommy who is trying! but what can you do? now, when he starts getting a little loud, i whisper to him "you don't want a nasty look, do you?". he shakes his head no and stays quiet. and he learns that he has an impact on others, and visa versa.
my personal pet peeve, though, is when a parent interferes with their own child when he/she is playing with my son. i don't care if the toy he has is taken from him, even if he whimpers a little about it (which is a rarity)....it is what kids do and he might as well get used to it. when another parent swoops in and loudly admonishes their child (usually an older child) for taking the toy and forces that child to give it back, i think a bad lesson is being taught to my son. and i always wonder how that kid feels! likely embarrassed and ashamed. i try to tell the parent that i don't mind because my son doesn't seem to mind, but it doesn't always stop the interfering. what do you do about overly meddlesome parents, other than attempt to avoid them?
once, a little girl of about 5 got really ANGRY when my son (then about 14 months) put a leaf into this dump truck she was playing with at a kids' museum. my son then tottered away on to something else. this girl came up to me and told me that he shouldn't be allowed to play with the dump truck. i asked her why not, couldn't they share and play together. she said because it wasn't fair. i responded that he had already left, he was only a really little boy, he didn't mean any harm, and sometimes things just aren't fair. she walked away pouting. i wondered if i'd said more than i should have, but she approached me, i said it with kindness, not with any scolding. but i suspect she had long been the victim of meddlesome parenting and had never had a toy stolen from her!

dvmmom said that she doesn't care if a toy is taken from her son. I feel the same way and prefer to let the kids work it out. But what do you do if your child takes the toy from another? I still prefer to let the kids work it out, and have gotten dirty looks from other parents who are mad because my girl stole their kids toy.

When mine were smaller, if they misbehaved in public, I removed them quickly and quietly from the public place. I did not allow them time to get into a full-scale tantrum; they soon learned that if they wanted to go places with me, they were expected to be nice. (I am not an authoritarian; I didn't yell or hit. I simply put everything down, including anything they had asked for, and we left.)
Also, the one time a stranger ever attempted to discipline my child, I stepped up to them and said, firmly, "I am sorry. My children aren't allowed to talk to strangers, and I can handle this. Thank you."

Ooh, another good topic on urbanMamas...

I agree with previous posters that I do not really want other adults "disciplining" my kids. Of course it's fine to stop them doing something that endangers them or others, if for some reason they weren't being stopped by me or DH. But I'd have a hard time if someone else was shaming or scolding my kids. I know it will happen - heck, my son starts first grade next year and I'm sure all the teachers don't happen to agree with my personal approach - but at least a teacher has some responsibility for my kid. Other random adults don't.

With parents/families I know well and where we have similar approaches, I feel OK sometimes about being the one to step in - but I wouldn't scold. I've used the approach sometimes of asking a kid involved if whatever is happening is OK with them, and if they say no, either suggesting they say something to the other kid, or saying myself, "it looks like that's not ok with her...." - that kind of thing.

'Tis tricky, for sure.

There's quite a spectrum presented here.I think it all depends of degrees and perhaps the situation.

I was standing at the back of a wedding ceremony on Saturday (photographing it) and a mother and a little girl began having a tug of war about which way they were going to go (mom wanted to go to the bride's side). I informed the little girl that I was a "chair helper" and that I needed them both to go to the bride's side . . . the mother mouthed "thank you" as they headed off. Certainly it was not my place to interject myself, strictly speaking, but i wasn't passing judgement or handing out discipline to either of them, just tilting the scales a bit in favor of the mom.

I also remember a time on an airplane where a mom, completely terrified of flying, was visibly frightening the child with her comments and demeanor. I started up a conversation with him across the aisle about how planes work, what all the noises were (enthusiastically) and so on . . . and he had a great time all the way to California. Mom said thanks (after we were safely down) and I like to think the kid may have a better chance of enjoying his air travel going forward. Maybe methodology is important, I did have (private) judgmental thoughts about the way the mom was framing flying, but my actions never addressed that judgment.

Very interesting discussion. I was once in Crate and Barrel and there was a child, about 4 or 5, who was scratching the rail on the escalator with a paperclip as it went around. No adult in sight. I said "please don't do that, it's not ok." Then went up the escalator. About 15 minutes later I saw him scratching a piece of furniture with the paper clip. I put my hand out and said "give it to me." He handed it to me and I asked where his mom was. He shrugged and ran away. I told the management.

Do I think it is ok to willy nilly discipline other people's children? No. If they are harming someone or someone's property, or hurting another child, or putting themselves in danger? Yes. I will say something in as respectful a manner as I can.

I had a bunch of kids at my house last week for a playdate and one of the little girls took something upstairs and threw it down over the banister. When I realized what she'd done I told her that it's a house rule that we dont throw things over the banister because it's a safety issue and I think I really freaked her out! I thought I said it to her in a very nice way, and I told her that I was not mad at her or anything but that I want all of our friends to be safe, but she didnt take it well initially. Her mom was in the other room nursing her baby and I dont think she knew any of it had taken place and frankly it was so crazy at my house with 5-6 preschoolers running around that I didnt even think to talk to her mom about it. Later, the little girl didnt want to leave, and asked if she could come back sometime, so I think she was fine, but possibly very surprised to hear those words from someone other than her mom.

I've been in a number of situations when my child has hit someone, taken a toy, or done something wrong and another mom has kindly stepped in to diffuse the situation if she was closer and vice versa. I expect my kids to listen to other adults, and if they do something that is not generally acceptable and I dont see it, I appreciate their reminders that it's not ok to hit, or that we need to take turns, etc. I felt like it was a bigger issue when my son was younger and still learning--there were lots of instances where the other moms and I agreed that we needed to let the kids work it out, but it's hard to see your kid hit another one or vice versa. He's 3 now and he knows better and it happens less too, which is nice!

I've also had a few meltdowns in the grocery store where a wise grandma or grandpa type will swoop in with a funny comment, or a "I've been there" type of remark and it's been a great diffuser to the situation--often just enough distraction to help us move on, I've appreciated it!

This is SUCH a touchy subject for me. I work very, very hard at teaching my child to behave in public and while I have high expectations, I am also extremely aware and involved in his behavior. That said, it infuriates me when a stranger reprimands/disciplines/instructs in my presence. I am his parent; it is my job to teach him, not theirs. If they have an issue with how he is behaving, then please come talk to me about it. The few times it has happened, he was doing something harmless like touching the fruit at the grocery store or jumping off a large rock outside a coffee shop. It is not okay to be scolded for such things! I even tell him - "Strangers like that do not have authority over you, you do not have to listen to what they say. You have to listen to Mama." And if there is a real issue then I deal with it. Granted, I have a very sweet, even tempered, good natured boy that very rarely misbehaves - if I had a little hellion, I'm sure I would welcome any and all help! :)

I'm a relatively new parent (1 1/2 yr old) but I wonder if the increasing prevalence of strangers disciplining children is because there's also an increasing prevalence of children with little to no parental supervision or guidance (like the child mentioned above in Crate & Barrel with the paperclip). I'm not talking about the meltdown kids have in Nordstrom. Or the temper tantrum a kid might have because mommy said no to candy in the grocery store. Or being in an ice cream shop and seeing the kids act like monkeys (kid-friendly location, it should be expected there will be kid behavior). We all know the kind of behavior I'm referring to.

Obviously no one HERE, is the kind of parent I'm referring to (=
but we all know those parents exist. The ones that don't teach their children manners, that don't care if their children destroy things, the ones that don't monitor their own children, etc.

As someone who is a new-ish parent, I remember seeing kids from a non-parent standpoint. I valued the parents who took an active part in childrearing but when I'd see a child, my first thought was often, "I hope this one has decent parent(s)". I wonder if *some* strangers feel the need to get involved because they don't think parents do anymore. I never got involved unless I saw a kid in danger but I had plenty of negative thoughts and still do (those thoughts are aimed at the parents, not the child).

I'm not justifying their behavior, just introducing another side to it.

Just another perspective: If my kids are doing something annoying, inappropriate or just plain awful, I want them to know that others are watching them. They might think they can get one by their harried mother, but if they know that the stranger across the aisle will also get on them, I think it can only help them understand what society's expectations are.

I work really hard to raise respectful, kind and caring children, and I am not above requiring that of other kids in my presence -- I've disciplined quite a few kids who weren't my own for various infractions. I make sure they understand that I don't allow XX behavior in my presence.

I agree people can sometimes be creepy or officious when they step in and discipline our children -- or the worst: passive aggressive! I also agree that intervening during something as innocuous and common as a temper tantrum or a fight over a toy is both rude and useless. But I think it benefits us all when adults -- even random strangers -- take an interest in turning out decent children.

This is such a sore spot with me. I remember getting scolded by a guy in kmart who thought my sister and I were being too loud. I was already painfully shy but that sent me into a totally inner spiral. I feel sick to my stomach with shame just remembering it.

If you don't know the kid personally then you don't get to scold them. Kids are so damned impressionable you never know when something said flippantly will stay with them forever.

I completely agree with Jenny. A stranger at Costco told my son he would fall and crack his open if he stood on the edge of the cart (with me watching him and standing right there.) Now everytime we go to Costco, he always asks if this is the day he will crack his head open and if he'll die when it happens. That is so not okay!!!

I still remember the moment like it was yesterday. I had two month daughter and was at the pool one summer. My husband was holding her in the pool during kid's play time with several other babies with parents in their arms in the pool. A child, 8-9 year old boy, threw a hard plastic object across the pool hitting me in the head. The impact was strong enough to send me crashing into the water completely stunning me listless. While I gasped for air, I heard a mom across the pool asking her child to say he was sorry. I was numb and couldn't see straight and couldn't talk. I thought of the little babies and 10-20 other little 2-4 year olds in the pool. If that plastic toy hit one of those children, it would cause very serious damage. If that plastic toy hit me in the eye or face, I very well likely would end up at the ER. As I turned and tried to focus on the child, I heard him mumble, "I am sorry" in a pathetic robotic voice that conveyed no sense of remorse or understanding of what he had done. The mom turned away and continued her conversation with someone else. I was shocked and horrified. If that was my child, he would be out of the pool immediately with a loss of privileges of the pool for a long time. Secondly, I would explain to him the danger of throwing objects and make him understand that people can be hurt. I turned to the child and responded that he was very luckily that he did not hurt someone seriously. The mother quickly stepped in and scolded me "saying she had taken care of it". I I left the scene - still dizzy, but I was shocked at her behavior. Clearly, this child was a product of her disregard for the safety of other children. Is it ok to scold another child? My answer is yes, completely- when another person or child's safety is at risk. I hope that child remembers my concern for the safety of other people when his mom wouldn't.

The good news is that I find that most parents that I have been around are on it with regards to discipline in general. Sometimes even to a fault... Kids can disagree even get in an argument and if we hold off for a few minutes, they usually work it out.
As far as a public tantrum, my goodness, who hasn't been there? The only look I have ever given is one to the Mom, letting her know that I understand. I can't imagine busting out the finger wag.
I agree with most here, I'll intervene when any child's safety is at risk. Period. I would hope that you would to. If there was a deliberate act that caused the unsafe situation, I would probably ask the kid to apologize and say something about safety and move on with a tickle letting them know everyone makes mistakes. If it's not my kid, I really don't think it's may place to take a super firm tone. They don't know me which makes it too scary.

This is so funny - we talk about the naughty children and when/if it is ok to parent them. I believe that it's the parents who need to be worked on in many cases. I too have seen so many cell phone mamas who come to classes, parks, etc. and sit idly by (chatting away) as their children strangle other kids in the soccer net or monopolize the play equipment. If an "absent" parent creates a scenario where situational leadership is required, then that parent has no right to bemoan the attempts of others to give their children guidance. If you are not mentally present in the life of your children (this means even if you are physically there but ignoring behavior), then your children will receive the flavor-of-the month discipline by whomever happens to be there. Children share a world and should be taught how to function appropriately within that world - if not by their parents then by the "village" that they live in.

I used to work in retail (*years* ago, now), and I still get ticked off every time I recall the fella who wandered the store with his little princess, letting her lift wine bottles and drop them back into their cardboard cases (none too gently, mind you), pick up loaves of bread and hit him with them...when I gently mentioned that she wasn't old enough pick up those wine bottles, he briskly announced "That's for me to decide" and they kept going. WTF??

What you do in your home is your business. But in my store, how about teaching your kid to respect other people's property, genius?

The main thing is that you can and should be able to say anything to anyone, child or adult, if you come from a place that is respectful and genuinely caring and not shaming or judgmental. I always feel that I am not only affecting the child I may be talking to, but also setting the example for my own children--saying something so they know I am an adult who is there to take care of them, saying something respectfully so they can see what it sounds like, and providing an example for other children that they can be accountable for themselves even if their parents are not around...we are all in this together!

The main thing is that you can and should be able to say anything to anyone, child or adult, if you come from a place that is respectful and genuinely caring and not shaming or judgmental. I always feel that I am not only affecting the child I may be talking to, but also setting the example for my own children--saying something so they know I am an adult who is there to take care of them, saying something respectfully so they can see what it sounds like, and providing an example for other children that they can be accountable for themselves even if their parents are not around...we are all in this together!

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