To the Well-Meaning Strangers When My Son is Behaving Badly

by ParentCo. August 11, 2016

Dear Strangers,
What is it about seeing a woman with a small child that makes people, especially older people, think that they can say whatever they want?

The amount of unsolicited advice and comments that I've received from strangers as a parent is overwhelming. If I wanted or needed advice, I'd ask for it. However, there's a good chance that I know my kid better than you, especially when he's upset about something. I appreciate your concern, but trust me when I say that I can handle it.

We've never been apart for more than a few hours since he was born and he's almost three years old. If I think something is actually wrong with him, of course I will address it. But most of the time, he's upset over not getting his way.

The first time a stranger tried to give me advice my son couldn't have been more than a month old. A friend and I had taken him out shopping. Because we had driven in her car it was easier to keep him in his car seat and put it in the stroller rather than wear him like I normally did. He was pissed because he hated his car seat so he fussed and cried while we shopped. An older woman clucked at me while she followed alongside the stroller.

“Aw, what's wrong sweetie? He wants his mommy," she offered.

I smiled politely.

“He's okay; he doesn't like the car seat.” I stuck my face in front of his. He settled down for a second. The woman smiled smugly.

“I told you.”

She walked away and I fumed.

It took a lot of willpower to not get nasty with her. I know that she meant well but as a new mother I was especially sensitive. And she could have approached me a little differently.

Tact is something that is severely lacking in today's society. I wouldn't be so annoyed if you first asked me if I needed help. But often people start in with their diagnosis of what could possibly be making my kid scream like a banshee. They don't even say hello first!

One day we were traveling by ferry and I wouldn't let him out of his stroller to walk around like I normally do. He was upset but I offered his toys and he was placated for the moment. When he decided to throw a train across the aisle I took the trains and put them away. This led to a total meltdown. I sat quietly watching, not willing to engage with him while he was clearly being unreasonable.

“He's probably tired. Do you need a nap cutie? Why are you crying?” the woman sitting across from us asked. My son just looked at her and continued to wail. She looked at me expectantly.

“He's just mad because I took away his toys.” I explained.

That's another thing. I shouldn't have to justify anything to anyone. I don't owe anyone any explanation for my inactivity. I think that people take my inactivity as complacency in his “bad” behavior. I'm not going to try and discipline or deal with him mid-tantrum. He is not hearing what I'm saying. He's not hearing what anyone is saying. So please don't talk to him.

Also, please refrain from commenting on my kid's behavior, especially using the phrases “not cool,” “not okay,” or “fresh.” He knows that what he's doing is wrong. He doesn't care about what you think of his actions. He's two. He's irrational. He doesn't have the coping skills. That's why I'm ignoring him.

Your comments are only amping him up which means that it'll take me that much longer to calm him down. I know it's killing you not to say anything but please ignore him. He's doing it for attention and even if you're scolding him it's still attention.

Once after he angrily tried to throw himself backward in his stroller (which he is prone to do during a tantrum,) a man sitting near us on the subway tried to engage with him.

“Hey buddy, that's not cool. You gotta listen to your mommy.” my son cried harder.

“Thank you but he’s okay. The more you engage him the worse it is. He feeds off the attention.” I pleaded. My pleas fell on deaf ears. I have never been so relieved to see someone get off the subway.

So I've said all of that to say this: Please, please think before you speak. I do sincerely know that you mean well but consider how you're going to approach before you interject your opinion. A mother may look like she is struggling but maybe she isn't.

I understand if you can't ignore it but instead of just assuming, say hi, ask if everything is okay and if she needs help before offering advice. Sometimes your comments will do more harm than good. And fellow moms, don't be afraid to offer a nod or sympathetic smile. We're all in this together.


The mom of that kid



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