Please Do Not Discipline My Child If I’m Right There

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 

When you become a parent, strangers always have something to say. This is especially true about the way parents discipline their kids in public. Even if they don’t say it directly, parents can feel the glares, or hear the hushed voices as they whisper to someone else or mutter under their breath.

Needless to say, strangers trying to tell you how to discipline your kid is beyond frustrating. But when a stranger takes it upon themselves to discipline a child when the parent is standing right there… well, that’s crossing the line.

RELATED: Tips And Tactics For Effectively Disciplining Your Toddler

Picture it: you’re meandering the aisles of Target and you see a kid running past with a harried mom trailing close by. Then you decide to call out to the kid because you feel some type of way about them running. Sure, you may think asking the kid to stop running is doing them a favor, but you’re probably wrong. You’re not doing anything other than making that mom even more stressed. And she probably thinks you’re an asshole. Scratch that, she definitely thinks you’re an asshole.

Unless someone’s child is causing you or someone else bodily harm or grave danger, you have no reason to try and discipline them. And even then, you talk to their parent, or whatever adult is with them, and let them handle it. You’re a stranger, and while some kids will listen to a stranger who is talking to them, many don’t. And you know nothing about this child or what their needs or past experiences may be.

Here’s what I don’t understand: What is going through a person’s mind to scold a kid they don’t know? (Obvious exception being someone is getting hurt, of course.) If you see a kid taking shoes off the shelf in a shoe store, why are you so bothered by it? Can you explain what makes you so incensed that you would walk up to a kid and actually take it upon yourself to say anything to them. Especially when their guardian is RIGHT THERE!

That is someone else’s child. And their guardian disciplines that child the way they see fit. So, if they’re not disciplining the child to your liking, that doesn’t give you the freedom to take matters into your own hands. To you it may seem like they can’t be bothered to keep an eye on their kid, but you never know what the situation is. It is not the parent’s job to tell you, and frankly it’s none of your business.

Story time… A few months ago I had to take my kid with me to the DMV. It wasn’t ideal, but that’s just what you have to do sometimes. While we were waiting, I got a very important phone call and I had to take it. This meant taking the phone away from my kid, who had been quietly watching it while we waited. Naturally, as a five-year-old does, he grew restless. Sensing this, the older gentleman sitting behind us began playing a game of peekaboo to keep my little guy occupied. They were having a great time. Suddenly, another older man barked at my kid, “Hey kid, shut up!”

Now, let’s break down why this was so wrong. One, you never tell anyone to shut up (unless they are espousing hateful rhetoric), no matter how annoying they’re being. That’s fucking rude. Two, my son was sitting in the chair next to me. If he was being truly loud (he wasn’t, I could barely hear him laughing), then he could have tapped me on the shoulder. And three, you don’t take it upon yourself to yell at a child. Ever.

Sure, you may feel better, but what about the potential damage you’ve done to that kid? Some kids are immensely sensitive, and you could have totally shattered them. Imagine it this way: if someone you don’t know, a much bigger adult, gets in your face and scolds you, how would you feel? You’d likely be terrified. Or very angry and stressed. So you scared a little kid in public. Does that make you feel good? If so, you’re the one with issues that need to be unpacked immediately.

But more importantly, what about the other adult in this situation? If you’re going to take it upon yourself to yell at someone who can’t defend themselves, why not yell at the person who can? If you’re tough enough to scold a child, you should be grown enough to talk to their parent. Okay, you’re bothered. So, the rational thing is to take your issue to the person who can do something about it.

Most parents aren’t going to be angry with you if you ask them nicely to talk to their kid. Chances are they’re not totally oblivious to what little Johnny is doing. But if you just walk up to their kid and start reprimanding them? Well, you 100 percent deserve whatever you get. You are an adult, so you should have some understanding of proper boundaries and respect. If you start scolding my kid, I will flip my shit. Guaranteed. And I’m within every right to do so. Because no fucking way is some random person going to think they can tell my kid what to do. That’s my job, and I’ve got it, thankyouverymuch.

Moral of the story: if you feel compelled to scold a child you don’t know in public, think first. If you can clearly see that they’re with an adult, go to them instead. Calmly and rationally talk to said adult. This way, you can reach a solution faster, and you won’t get cursed out or traumatize a child you don’t know. Save yourself the trouble.

This article was originally published on