28 July 2011

When Strangers Discipline Your Child: What I Should've Done

Aedyn at 20 months
Today's post is inspired by Mommyhood Next Right and her post about What Do You Do When A Stranger Disciplines Your Child?

As I read her post I remembered back to last fall. Christmas decorations were out, but Jaron hadn't been born yet, so it must have been Octoberish. Aedyn and I were at Cracker Barrel with my parents and were wandering around the store after having finished dinner. Aedyn was 20 months old and was walking with me.

Now Cracker Barrel has their displays set up all over the place, they tend to put noisy and light flashing stuff very close to the floor, perfect for little hands to grab and touch.

We saw this fun little tabletop Christmas decoration, a piano if I remember correctly, it played Christmas Carols and the keys moved with the song. Cute! Especially for a toddler who loves the piano.

He reached out with one finger to touch. As I reached out to take his hand while saying something like "Aedyn, no touching, just looking." A nearby sales associate lunged over and grabbed his hand saying harshly "We don't touch!"


To this day I still fume when I think about it.

1. I was already handling the situation.
2. She got between me and my child.
3. She physically disciplined my child in my presence without my permission.
4. She did not even acknowledge me before, during, or after the incident.

OH, that makes me so angry!

We just left.

Had I been the mom then that I am now, I wouldn't have just left.

I would have said something to the associate to the effect of "Excuse me? Please do not touch my child. I'd like to speak with your manager now."

Then the manager would have gotten a polite earful about exactly what his employee had done and heard that while I would have been fine with the employee saying something to me about Aedyn touching, or being required to buy the item had he broken it, I was most definitely not ok with her physically reaching out and grabbing my baby/toddler and addressing him directly since I was standing right next to him and was actively paying attention and involved with what he was doing. I would also mention that if children touching was such an offense then they might want to consider moving that type of merchandise from children's eye level.

What do you think? Am I wrong in taking such offense at the sales associates actions? Have you been in this type of situation, if so, what did you do?
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35 comments:

  1. Nope- I would've been upset. I DO now, however, let strangers tell my children they're being nasty when they are... I don't care because it embarrasses my kids to no end. I am usually already trying to discipline and my daughter in particular gets more irate...... so I let old people tell her shame on her.... but I would never let someone touch one of my kids or discipline my kids for ill-behavior other than when they are throwing a tantrum & even then, its not discipline- it's a tsk tsk from a stranger..... and I am usually complimented on how nice it is seeing someone stick with discipline "now of days".

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  2. I don't think you're wrong at all in taking offense. I had to stop someone last week from correcting my daughter (in the middle of me doing it). It was someone I don't know and why she thought she could do it is beyond me. I simply told her (in a tone that brooked no discussion) that I was the mama and I was taking care of the problem. I totally understand the feeling and think that you are right, you are the mama, you were taking care of it, and they shouldn't put things down where children can touch if they don't want the merchandise touched.

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  3. Technically, touching another person is battery. Just touching them. If I had been the clerk and hadn't seen you doing what you were supposed to be doing, I would have put my hand between the object and the baby's hand. If I were you, I would have done what you did in retrospect, demanding a manager, but I can't say the earful would have been in a polite tone.

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  4. I would have asked to see the manager and filed a formal complaint. First of all you were handling the situation, and if you weren't or hadn't noticed it, she should have said something to YOU not your child. IMO a stranger NEVER has the right to touch or dicipline someone else's child. If they have a problem with the child's behavior, they need to tell the parent

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  5. I think parents are too sensitive and think their children have the right to do what ever they want. They have this crazy idea that they need to "express themselves" no matter how inappropriate or dangerous it may be. Bad parenting seems to be the new trend. Thats why we have too many lazy, spoilled young adults who have no responsibility and think they can do whatever they want. Having a stranger discepline your child when appropriate can be mentally and emotionally healthy since it teaches acountability. And I think parents need a good lesson in accountabillity as well. They need to stop blaming others for their children's bad behavior. That is why the old fashion saying of it takes a village to raise a child exists. It takes many people, strangers included, to help a child learn what is right and wrong.

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  6. I dont believe the individual who posted this article showed any signs of bad parenting, had it been my child, as a single father who is attentive and is not afraid to discipline even in public. The sales clerk would have recieved some touching as well in the form of a punch to the face. My child is not an object but a person, she is free to express herself, in moderation and when it is appropriate. I dont allow her to run rampant or act like a brat even behind closed doors. I find your comments offensive! having a stranger discipline your child can also be mentally and emotionally scarring as that stranger may try to physically discipline your baby. I had an instance where a gentlemen attempted to slap my daughter who mind you is only 1 in the grocery store because she was reaching for something on the shelf. That Gentlemen got slapped himself before he could reach her as I was right there watching her while I was shopping. Just because he was in his early 40s and I am 25 doesnt give him the right to touch my child at all! I laugh at the instance now, because he was shocked that I really was paying attention to her, he was going to slap her hand and before he could I slapped his as though he was the child. I politely told him to keep his hands off of my child and proceeded on with my shopping. It does take a village to raise a child I agree, but that doesnt make the village the parent nor does it give them the authority to touch your child.

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  7. I'm of two dueling minds on this topic. As a mother, I do get defensive of my children when a stranger attempts to discipline them. I would NEVER stand for anyone attempting to physically do so.
    However, as a previous poster mentioned, the shame factor involved often helps in driving home a manners lesson.
    As protective as I feel towards my children, if I were NOT paying attention and they were misbehaving, I would hope someone would correct them. Recently I had my youngest at the local mall's toddler play area. There were older children (8-9yo) climbing on top of the walls and jumping - one of whom landed on a Toddler playing there. No other parents said anything, so I spoke up and told them not to do that, that they could hurt someone. Their mother was apparently not at the play area, not paying attention until she heard me raise my voice across the area and started yelling at me from a nearby store - how dare I raise my voice at her children (the only voice raising was done so they could hear me across the play area - not in a yell). She then went on to say she couldn't be expected to watch her children because she was busy shopping in the store.
    In situations like that, I wish more people would step up and say something. The mother of the child who was jumped upon thanked me later, but didn't say a word. We've gotten so afraid of offending people's parenting (or lack thereof) that we just shrug off other people's children behaving badly or even dangerously - this not my kid, not my problem attitude has definitely had a negative impact on our society, resulting in a generation of children who do not know how to behave in public and their parents who believe they can do no wrong.

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  8. Having been on the other side of the employee/kids relationship, I will tell you how I've handled similar situations in the past. Working at a coffee shop, frequently customers' kids would rearrange the floor merchandise or the bottled drinks, use the newspaper stand as a push-cart, etc. As long as the parents were with them or they weren't damaging anything (or playing with something hazardous) I let them. And if the parents were watching them, I let them be. But the thing I took issue with was when an unsupervised little girl decided to use the door handle to swing off of. This went on for several minutes until I got scared that another customer would come in the door and squish the little girl's fingers. I didn't want to be held liable for that. So I spoke directly to the little girl and told her the door wasn't a toy and I didn't want her to get hurt. I would likely have not addressed her mom, had the mom been standing there b/c I would have figured the mom could handle it. But I wasn't sure which customer was the mom, so I addressed the child. It worked out well in the end, with the distracted mom coming and retrieving her child, but I guess I went against your 4th point. However, I would NEVER touch a stranger's child, get between child and parent, or discipline someone else's child while they're already disciplining them! Among friends, the only times I ever "discipline" someone else's child is if the child is harming or potentially harming my baby or my stuff. And then I only use words, or sometimes the art of distraction. :-)

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  9. You were completely in the right to take offense in the associate's actions. You would think that it would've made matters worse, I know if it was my child he would've cried or kept going after it...maybe both.

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  10. A stranger touching my child for the purpose of DISCIPLINING him is NEVER acceptable. But then again, the situation has never arisen wherein they would need to, as I am constantly with him 100% of the time when we are out public, even on playgrounds and such. I have, however, had to use verbal means to discipline other people's children quite a few times in my life, especially when I worked as a cashier at Wal-Mart. People in line there would let their kids bang on the credit card machine, tear apart displays of candy and impulse items, and let their kids play with the bagging turnstyle, which interfered with my job AND posed a danger to the child who could get his hands smashed. It was unbelievable to me how few parents would actually pay attention to their children at the check-out and make them behave. In addition, some of the worst experiences I have had regarding other people's children since having my own is at play areas in the mall. Hordes of crappy, lazy parents let their children run around like maniacs in these areas, without keeping any watch on them or correcting their behavior at all. And many times the problems arise because the kids running around like maniacs are bigger than the age/height limit for the play areas in the first place. Multiple times I have had to run over and scoop Logan up a split second before he get run over or pushed over by a bigger kid, and I have to constantly tell other kids to be nice and take turns, and please don't step on my kid, etc. One time I actually had to physically pick up a 3 year old girl off the stairs leading up to the slide and put her on the slide (gently) to keep her from stomping on Logan's hands for the THIRD time. She was continually climbing over the children smaller than herself to get back on the slide quicker and I had already verbally warned her at least twice to stop stepping on my child, to no avail. Only after all this did I touch her, but not even in a disciplining way, just to lift her off Logan's hand and get him out of pain/danger. I try SOOOOO hard to make sure Logan behaves in public, stays quiet in restaurants, etc, so it really makes me angry when other parents don't do their job. Sometimes, these crappy parents force others to do their job for them, especially when it comes to the belongings or children of others.

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  11. Two comments are missing from Shelley and Kylie, sorry ya'll, I'm working with Disqus to figure out what happened to them, I hope they will appear by tomorrow and I can respond!

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  12. Thanks for the comment! I think it would have been a little different if he had been older, but still, unless he was going to hurt himself or someone else touching a child you don't know is not ok!

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  13. Thank you for linking up with my post. And, I appreciate you sharing your similar story via this post. I don't think you overreacted at all, and how you felt is exactly how I felt. I don't know but I think it's kind of unnecessary for strangers to discipline a child when their parent is being attentive and showing that they can handle the disciplinary "problem" without any outside interventions. I realize that in my situation my daughter did listen to the story teller and all was well in the end, but I guess what bothered me most was that I felt like my efforts at disciplining were diminished through the whole exchange. *sigh. I think your experience was particularly awkward because the store associate actually touched your child. That's insane, and totally unnecessary.

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  14. Thanks for the support! I'd like to think I'd be polite, but I'm not sure what the reality would have been!

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  15. I wouldn't have minded her saying something to him if it had been a different tone, especially since he hadn't touched it yet, but the actual touching him set me off big time!

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  16. Having been on the other side of the employee/kids relationship, I will tell you how I've handled similar situations in the past. Working at a coffee shop, frequently customers' kids would rearrange the floor merchandise or the bottled drinks, use the newspaper stand as a push-cart, etc. As long as the parents were with them or they weren't damaging anything (or playing with something hazardous) I let them. And if the parents were watching them, I let them be. But the thing I took issue with was when an unsupervised little girl decided to use the door handle to swing off of. This went on for several minutes until I got scared that another customer would come in the door and squish the little girl's fingers. I didn't want to be held liable for that. So I spoke directly to the little girl and told her the door wasn't a toy and I didn't want her to get hurt. I would likely have not addressed her mom, had the mom been standing there b/c I would have figured the mom could handle it. But I wasn't sure which customer was the mom, so I addressed the child. It worked out well in the end, with the distracted mom coming and retrieving her child, but I guess I went against your 4th point. However, I would NEVER touch a stranger's child, get between child and parent, or discipline someone else's child while they're already disciplining them! Among friends, the only times I ever "discipline" someone else's child is if the child is harming or potentially harming my baby or my stuff. And then I only use words, or sometimes the art of distraction. :-)

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  17. I respect your opinion on the matter and agree with you to an extent, but I'm not sure how your comment applies to the situation I was talking about. I did say that I was in the middle of telling him "No" and explaining why and I was also reaching for him when the sales associate lunged in front of me. I was most definitely NOT letting him just "express himself". I also think having a stranger disciplining a child under the age of 2 would not be healthy in any way to anyone involved, merely frightening the child and possibly causing a long term fear of strangers.

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  18. Thanks for commenting! I really like the way you put it about it taking a village, but the village is not the parent, good stuff!

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  19. Thanks for commenting, I really do think that a stranger disciplining any child under age two can definitely do more harm than good, older than that and I'm willing to talk :)

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  20. That was one of my big points, I was RIGHT next to him, REACHING for him, while verbally correcting him, there was not one part of myself that was not engaged in preventing him from touching and she nearly hit my hand as reached in front of me to grab him. I definitely don't mind someone saying something to him, especially in places like the play place, because things happen quickly and they may see something I can't. But unless he's about to harm himself or someone else I don't ever see physical touch as an appropriate disciplinary tool if the parent has not given you express permission to use that method!

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  21. I would have definitely given the worker - and manager - an earful. I'm right with you!
    Crystal
    http://www.SoooBig.WordPress.com

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  22. Wow! Can't watch her kids because she's shopping? Must be nice!

    I think that the shame factor can be a very good thing in older children and even preschoolers, but I don't believe it's effective in children under 2 or 2 and a half, they just aren't developed enough to understand the shame of someone else getting onto them.

    I've gotten onto the bigger kids in play areas myself, their parents never seem to be around and after they've knocked over a couple littler ones I'm usually about ready to throw them out! Our mall can be pretty bad for that.

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  23. Distraction is one of the best ways, especially for the littler set! I think you handled the little girls situation very well, if I was that distracted then I really hope someone would say something to him if they didn't know who his mom was!

    The reason it bothered me not to be acknowledged was just because she got between me and Aedyn, nearly hitting my hand that was reaching for him, and because he was so young (barely a toddler), if I hadn't been right next to him that part wouldn't have been an issue.

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  24. I'm glad you posted about it, from the response on both of our pages it seems like a pretty big deal and I don't think I've ever heard it brought up before!

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  25. I just realized I didn't make sense LOL - I would NEVER let someone touch my kid and the only thing I allow a stranger to do is tell my kids TSK TSK as far as discipline goes. And I agree ^ if someone is going to get hurt, then stopping it from escalating through moving a kid, grabbing their arm or pushing them back is probably a good thing, otherwise- NO, no do not touch my kid!

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  26. I agree with this, too!!! Although, I don't think this is the case with the author- I see way too many soft moms with horrible kids. I am pretty rough around the edges as a mom, but my kids know better! Why do you think there is this Nationwide kid ban going on?! Most Parents don't parent anymore...

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  27. I agree with this, totally! I try hard, too to keep my kids behavior AWESOME! It really bothers me, too that the lack of parenting is dangerous sometimes.

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  28. Oh I agree that the shame thing works better on older kids (my older one is ten) - and I also would have FLIPPED had someone laid a hand on either of children!

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  29. Essential Mama BabyJuly 30, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    I think you are 100% right! I would be REALLY upset as well. I don't like anybody being rude to my child when she is just being a toddler. As you said, if they were so worried about touching, they shouldn't keep their merchandise at children's eye level. I would MAYBE understand if you were not around, but you were right there and already handling the situation. Totally unacceptable!
    Thank you for following me and grabbing my button! I'm following you back!

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  30. Thanks for commenting and the follow-back!!

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  31. No one better touch my child. I have three and sometimes I'm outnumbered - if one gets away from me and is acting like an ass, feel free to say something - but if you touch them, bad things will happen... Now, that said - My toddler ran for the parking lot while I was strapping the baby into her carseat and an old man scooped her up and brought her back - I was SO EMBARRASSED but grateful. He scolded ME and I totally deserved it.

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  32. You know, as a rule, I think it's ok for other people to discipline my child. When i think of this, what I think of is, when he is over in the neighbors yard, and she would apologize for telling him "no." I told her, if he's in your yard, kicking your dog, especially if I don't see him do it, please do tell him "no." Or grandparents, or, even strangers, if, for some reason, I have looked away. (We had it last weekend at a birthday party. I was in the other room changing Ella, and he went for the cake. The mommy- one we play with weekly-told him "no" and he cried. But, I would have told him the same thing if I'd seen him try and stick his fingers in the cake, and he would have cried) It only really bothers me when I've already said, "no." I don't think everyone needs to yell at him for an infraction. If I've already told him why his behavior was wrong, we don't need 3 other people restating the same thing. I was interested to read your post.

    That situation would have pissed me off big time. For all the reasons you listed. I have never been faced with a situation like that, and I'm not, honestly, sure how I would react. I think though, after reading your post, and thinking about it, there is a much better chance I would ask to speak to the manager and complain about the employees conduct. Everything you said is right. The employee was out of line, in a big way. No one should feel the need to lay hands on your child for any reason, especially if you're right there. She could have directed herself to you, and said, "please don't let him touch the decorations," or whatever. It still would have been presumptuous and obnoxious, and I would still think poorly of her, but she could have expressed her concerns without completely overstepping herself.

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  33. I have to agree with the father who replied. This incident didn't show any bad parenting, and nothing that would constitute bad parenting under any circumstance. This was a mother who was upset a stranger put their hands on her child while she was standing there, stopping him, from doing exactly what the stranger was complaining about.

    This doesn't constitute over sensitivity, or being too "soft" on a child. I would agree with your statement that there are a great number of parents who don't discipline their children, who allow them to run wild, and to cause trouble. That is not every parent though. To assume anyone who doesn't want a stranger touching their child to stop them from doing something the parents has ALREADY stopped them from doing is ridiculous. You may have a very good argument. It doesn't apply to this blog post though. Not at all.

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  34. Jake and I had a discussion *coughfightcough* the other day about how many people need to get onto him when he's doing something wrong, I totally agree with you, even if the other people are just trying to be supportive, 1 person is enough!

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