Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's the parents who are the problem

Sooner or later, I guess, every parent faces this situation: what do you do when another person -- someone you don't even know -- disciplines your child?

JP was occupied today with moving his workshop, so I looked for fun things to do with Fly. I found pony rides at a nearby park. We got in a long line and waited as several children from a birthday party had their turn. Eventually, I couldn't hold Fly any more. I set him down, and Fly got antsy waiting in line. He swung the gate back and forth (I made him stop when he started swinging it too hard) and he tried to climb over the fence (I made him stop climbing at the bottom rung of the fence so he wouldn't fall over or step in front of a pony).

Then he took up playing in the sand in the corner near a little girl of at least 4. Drawing lines with his finger and sifting handfuls of sand were fine, I figured, and he wasn't bothering anybody.

The next thing I know, the little girl whose parents were in line just ahead of me walked past, and Fly follows her with handfuls of sand.

The dad standing next to me grabbed Fly -- with both hands -- and yelled, "Knock it off!"


"Don't talk to my child that way!" I said, snatching Fly back from the guy.

"He's throwing sand at my daughter," the man said.

"He didn't throw sand. He's holding sand, but he didn't throw it."

"Just because you didn't see it doesn't mean he didn't to it," the man said.

"Believe me, if I see my child acting up, I'm the first one to step in," I said.

"You need to control your child!"

"Oh, thank you," I said, "I never thought of that before."

"Look, my daughter's shirt is dirty. If he wasn't throwing sand, then how did it get dirty?"

"She was playing in the sand, too," I said.

"No, she wasn't."

"You need to apologize," the mom finally piped up.

"Yeah, you need to apologize," the dad said.

"No, you need to apologize for treating my child that way," I said.

A few seconds later, I heard the dad mutter, "It's the parents who are the problem."

I could have responded to that a dozen different ways, but I just decided to drop it. I'm sure we'd already made quite a scene in the pony ride line.

So, truly, Fly did not throw sand during or after the time their daughter walked past me. And if the parents had seen Fly throwing sand before their daughter walked by, then why didn't they speak up immediately when the two of them were still in the corner -- why did they wait until Fly was in front of us? I'm not convinced they saw him throwing sand.

If the parents had taken a less confrontational approach, I might have apologized for Fly. After all, I told myself later, if a friend told me Fly had misbehaved while I wasn't looking for a moment, I would have said I was sorry and spoken with Fly about what he'd done.

But do not grab my child and yell at him, especially when it's clear you don't really know if he did what you accuse him of doing.

Fly ended up not wanting to go for a pony ride. He didn't want to sit on the pony. He didn't even want to touch the pony. All the waiting in line, and the drama, for nothing.

So we went to the playground, where Fly took up playing in the sand (again) with some toys that belonged to another child. I asked the parents if it was OK for him to play with the toys, and they told me yes and remarked how polite Fly was and how nicely he was sharing. That made me feel tons better.

I just don't know how some people feel they have the right to police other people's kids by laying hands on them and yelling at them.

So what should I do next time a Parent Cop confronts Fly so I can handle the situation more gracefully? Have you ever been in a situation like this?

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Blogger Mommy to those Special Ks said...

WOW. Wow. I would be LIVID. Seriously. Beyond the accusatory tone, if anyone ever grabbed my child (!!!) OH it wouldn't be pretty! UGH! I don't know how to tell you to handle it... I don't think I would handle it well AT ALL. if my husband were with me and that happened... let's just say there would probably be cops involved.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Bloggy Mama said...

Frustrating. So frustrating. I also don't know how I would have handled someone grabbing one of my kids.
Ugh. Good job, Mama.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Happy Hermit ( said...

I would have rightly called the authorities on the spot , NO ONE SHOULD EVER touch your child without your permission.

NEVER !! Personally I would not have been so graceful.

It could be legally seen as assault and battery.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Madeline said...

I'd have been ready to box! That man should know better than to put his hands on another person's kid. And, it's not just the way they treated Fly, but the way they treated you too!
I think you handled it well though. You stood your ground, but didn't let it blow up into a bigger scene than necessary. Although, Happy Hermit's suggestion would have been tempting.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Freckle Face Girl said...

I can't believe it. That father was way out of line. He had no right to touch Fly or shout at him even if he had thrown sand at his daughter. I would have been angry too.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

I would have been steamed if someone dared touch my child with out my permission. I could understand talking to my child about something they may have done but to grab them and yell at them? NO WAY! I am always a lot more careful in situations where I may have to discipline a child that is not my own because you just never know all that could be going on.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Oh I have so many of these incidents and so many blog posts written, and not yet written. This is one thing that really makes my blood boil. You handled the situation with much more grace than I would have.

12:54 AM  
Anonymous chelle said...

Oh MY! I cannot believe he touched your child! I would have freaked!

I so hate parents like that. grrr. You were awesome how you responded.

5:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether he threw sand or not, unless Fly was pummeling that little girl, no one should EVER touch you child! I would have completely lost my religion all over that guy!

5:50 AM  
Anonymous much more than a mom said...

I think if someone had grabbed one of my kids I would have done more than grabbed him. I'd have lost my shit and set a bad example for my babes, but nobody touches my babies and discipline is my job. You were very graceful.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Nadine said...

How rude. I have never been in that situation, but I would have spoken to the parent first and just grabbed my child away. It's not right for a stranger to lay hands on a child.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Beth @ TheAngelForever said...

Ugh, so sorry that you had this happen to you and Fly. I can not understand how people can do this, especially to complete strangers. Thanks for the link up. I know when you saw my experience you were upset, but I doubt you expected something like this. Hugs to you and Fly and sorry your afternoon was ruined by a jerk!

10:23 AM  
Anonymous TechyDad said...

That dad would have gotten an earful from me. He had no right to lay his hands on your child. If he thought your child did something wrong, he should have spoken to you about it, not grabbed your child. I would have told him that if he had a problem with my child, to take it up with me and the next time he laid a hand on my child he would be speaking with the police.

He was partially right about one thing. It is the parents who are the problem. Only the parents who were the problem were him and his wife, not you.

10:35 AM  
Blogger amanda said...

i don't care what fly did or didn't do (but for the record i am sure he didn't throw sand) that man had no business laying a finger on him.

totally unacceptable.

and i am so sorry that this happened to you and to fly. i think you handled it way better than i did. honestly i probably would have just started crying!

1:04 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Oooh. I would be so mad if I were in the same situation. Especially the "grabbing" part. What that other parent should have done is confronted you politely - not touched or talked down to your toddler.

I haven't yet experienced the same type of situation, but I would probably try to respond courteously and then I would leave promptly...

3:22 PM  
Blogger Scribbit said...

I wish I had an answer--there was this Nazi dad at the school who has it in for one of my sons and he's always trying to get him in trouble. His daughter claimed my son had pushed her and roughed her up (total lie apparently) and he believed her and went to the principal trying to get David in trouble. He went and got in David's face adn threatened him--all because this girl was mad that David wasn't paying attention to her so she made up the story to get back at him. This all came out later but I was furious that this jerk had the gall to try and scare my son and then to try and get him in trouble over a false testimony.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Wow. That father was totally out of line. I cannot believe he touched Fly, and if another adult ever grabbed any one of my kids, I would certainly do as you did. Nice job.

9:34 PM  
Blogger ames said...

Dude, it totally *is* the parents that are the problem. There's a million other ways they could have tactfully and appropriately handled the situation, starting with talking to YOU, not manhandling your child!

I really feel for his daughter, if he doesn't even think twice about grabbing and shouting at someone else's child. What a brute.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Jen S. said...


Unbelievable. Un-freaking-believable.

I am very proud of you. I totally would have lost control.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

This post brought up many emotions. So sorry you and Fly had to go through that.

The dad is right about the parents being the problem, I hate to think how he and his wife affect their kids. Sigh.

6:05 AM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

That Dad was waaaay out of line touching Fly. It sounds like you handled it well. I'm not sure what I would have done!

Once while we were at the mall play area, Julia and her friends were blowing raspberries. A woman got right in her face and screamed, "NO SPITTING!" I was nursing Lucy. By the time I was up on my feet and over there, the woman had gone. I'm not sure what I would have said or done had she stayed, but I've thought a lot about it since!

There's just no excuse for someone to treat a child like that.

10:06 PM  

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