Please Discipline Your Kids So Kind-Hearted Strangers Like Me Aren’t Forced To Do It


I’ve been around kids in some capacity for most of my life, including being a big sister, an involved cousin, a tutor, a nanny, and a person who does not exist in a self-made bubble where all human life begins at 18. I like kids (sometimes), but Jesus Christ sometimes they just suck. They say rude things, are poorly behaved, throw gross things at me, and sometime are just big fucking nerds who don’t even know about anything cool in the world.

When kids act poorly in public spaces, I think everyone sort of freezes up and doesn’t know how to deal. Certainly, there’s a lot of factors that would affect the situation–if the parents are trying to discipline the kid, being flippant, or worse, loving their little terrorist’s antics. There are cultures that collectively parent and have no trouble stepping in if someone’s kid is, say, pants-ing people left and right, but we prefer to watch disapprovingly, even when a kid is desperately in need of discipline.

Being charged with disciplining other people’s kids can be fraught and uncomfortable, because unlike seeing a total stranger, you do have some leeway. During my time nannying/teaching English to an adorable three-year-old from Taiwan name Lily, I was supposed to keep her in line. I absolutely adored Lily–she had learned English mostly from watching American TV, and would quote TV catchphrases all the time. Because I am a narcissist, I found it especially endearing that she quickly started mimicking my phrases and mannerisms, so this beautiful three-year-old would slump around saying things like “Um, I don’t know. Things are okay, I guess,” or “I really need you to not be such a w-a-n-g about communicating,” after hearing me say that to my boyfriend over the phone. I fell in love with her.

But Lily was trouble. She didn’t know the first thing about sharing, and would run up to kids in the park and hit them to try to steal their toys. When it would come time for me to leave, she would fly into screaming rages and pound her adorable little fists right into my ovaries, which she could reach when standing on tip toe. It was one thing when her mom was around, who seemed to be very over her head but would attempt to drag Lily off of me or a child she accosted, but it was clear Lily was running the show. When she and I were alone, I would calmly say “Why are you hitting me, Lily?” which sometimes disarmed her and sometimes led her to hit harder–it was a crap shoot. Had she been my own kid, I probably would have put her in a chair and talked to her sternly, but I never felt entirely comfortable with that.

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  • Eve Vawter

    Man, Lily and Julia needs to be a TV movie or a theater movie I wanna go see it

    • Bethany Ramos

      Julia is so freaking brilliant. All her stuff is RIVETING!

    • Theresa Edwards


    • Julia Sonenshein


    • Julia Sonenshein

      I could teach her English, but think of what she could teach me about myself.

    • G.E. Phillips

      Too bad Dakota Fanning is too old to play Lily now, lol.

  • Guest

    “Then, using my considerable yet birdlike strength, I ripped his gaming apparatus from his hand”

    That is where I officially had to take a moment because I was trying to silently laugh at my desk and it got to be too much.
    Seriously though, I haven’t had a kid be directly rude to me in years and I don’t know that I could tolerate it now without ripping them a new asshole. The only thing I worry about is the parents coming after me. May still be worth it though.

  • SA

    You can’t always control how your child acts, but you can control your reaction to how your child acts. I can’t stand to see parents not correcting bad behavior. I always feel so sorry for the kid too because they are going to grow into someone that is either disliked, feared, or both. Either way it will be hard for them to transform as an adult into a likeable, loved person.

  • ShanLea

    Ugh, one of my biggest pet peeves is parents who make no attempt to control their children. I have a rowdy, opinionated toddler, and if he acts up in a public place or someone else’s home, I’m grabbing him and taking him out of there, and I’m past the point of caring if anyone thinks I’m taking him to the parking lot to beat his ass! (I’m not, of course, but the looks people give you when your kid is in full-on meltdown and you pick him up and drag him out of a restaurant amuse me) I’ve also become quite known in my circle as someone who won’t let kids get away with bad behavior-my brother’s almost-stepkids refer to me as Auntie Meanie, and I’m pretty darn proud of that!

    • Eve Vawter

      I love NOTHING more than a rowdy, opinionated toddler, except a mom who steps in if the kid acts like a jerk.

    • ShanLea

      I would offer to let you borrow him for a while, but my life would be so much less interesting without my 5-times daily headbutt to the crotch!

    • Eve Vawter

      I would give him all the candy

    • ShanLea

      Gummy worms. They’re his crack, and I’ve become his dealer!

    • Eva

      My please-stop-embarassing-me last resort is Peanut Butter M&Ms. Then, I can’t say I might not bribe someone for M&Ms myself, so I can’t judge him.

    • Spiderpigmom

      “the looks people give you when your kid is in full-on meltdown and you pick him up and drag him out of a restaurant amuse me”

      (remembering a half-dozen instances — my kid has a knack for throwing insanely intense tantrums, preferably in public)
      (shudders again)

      That’s nuts how people look at you like a child abuser just for merely removing your screaming kid from the situation. To their defense, though, my kid does sound like I’m skinning him alive in this occurrence, and as he physically fights me every step of the way, the whole process of taking him out of the shop is also excruciatingly long.

    • ShanLea

      Oh yes, this is my little guy to a tee. Disclaimer: he gets a swat on the diaper-covered butt when he’s doing something particularly dangerous, but its pretty rare. Somehow he got it into his head that whenever I raise my voice he should yell at the top of his lungs “don’t spank me!!” That really helps in my thought that eventually I will get a visit from child protection!

    • Teleute

      When mine was a little younger and I threatened to take him home and put him in a time out, he liked to throw himself down on the floor and shout, “Ouch! That hurt!” I paid him very little attention when he did it (“Well, that’s what you get,” *shrug*), so that phase thankfully didn’t last long.

      But one time two Whole Foods employees follow me around the store whispering to each other after at least one person complained. I tried to ignore them, but it was highly unsettling. I never go to that location anymore; they made me feel as if I really WAS doing something heinous to my child.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Had that haha as a joke I always threaten to pierce the girls ears with “BIG EARRINGS” as I have massive stretched ears. They know it’s a joke. It’s just our thing.
      Once i was messing with them and pretending to hate being called a WSM (Wicked StepMother) and I said Girls, stop, or I’ll set you all on fire!

      The Tesco cashier didn’t find it so funny though the kids were rolling around laughing.

    • Jaina

      Oh my god, I would never take him out again. My toddler likes to yell, “oooowww!” when I raise my voice, and I don’t even spank him. I’ve swatted his older brother’s diaper-covered butt a few times, and his reaction definitely wasn’t “oooowww,” it was more like “hahahaha,” so I haven’t the slightest idea where he gets this (the toddler conspiracy club). I’m always afraid someone’s gonna be like, what does she do to that poor child!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      LOL I flipped out at the 8 year old a few months back.
      I’ve taught them the rules if someone unrelated comes up to them.
      Back away, hands behind your back and say loudly and clearly- I DO NOT KNOW YOU. LEAVE ME ALONE PLEASE. DO NOT TOUCH ME.
      Most people will NOT react to someone crying Help. Also, if someone drags her off, who’s to say they won’t simply pass off her hysteria as a tantrum?

      Well we were in the changing rooms in H and M and I told her I was going to ask the lady outside the curtain to please find a bigger size and did she remember our rule?
      In all her innocence she nodded and proclaimed loudly- I DO NOT KNOW YOU. LEAVE ME ALONE PLEASE. DO NOT TOUCH ME. I’M NUDEY SO STAY AWAY FROM ME. (For the record, she was in her vest and knickers)

      I stuck my head past the curtain to see TWO security guards standing there wanting to haul my ass away for “approaching an unknown child”
      It didn’t help that the aforementioned child was skipping around saying- Nope I don’t know her, she just came in.

      I had to show the guards two years worth of photos on my phone AND call her father up before they believed me.

      Annoyed though I was, I can’t help but admire the balls on that child…

    • Karen Milton

      My son has been spanked exactly twice in his life, both times as a small child (he’s just shy of 14 now). I didn’t ever have to swat him in the bum again – he knew I would and he didn’t want to test it, I guess. If he acted up in public or was rude to anybody I would say in a low voice “come over here and say that again.” Worked like a charm – he lost all desire to say whatever it was again. I like the low voice – the one they have to stop and listen to close to their ear. It doesn’t embarrass them in front of everyone but it does evoke the “OH SHIT SHE’S MAD” scenario.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I once had to carry my toddler out of the the restaurant twice in the same half hour. That was embarrassing, and of course he screamed the whole way. How convenient most places have a “time out bench” right in the front. :)

    • moonie27

      My dad once threw me over his shoulder and carried me out of a Wal-Mart while I was in full on tantrum mode – my respone? to scream, “You’re not my daddy! Daddy, listen to me! Daddy, put me down! You’re not my daddy!”

      We got some strange looks. And a security guard followed us out.

    • whiteroses

      Word. My nieces know better than to try to screw with me after the nine year old cut her six year old sister’s hair without permission, then told me “you can’t make me say sorry, you’re not my mommy and I don’t have to listen to you”. My reaction was to hand the six year old the scissors and tell her to give the nine year old a trim.

      My SIL has told me more than once that they behave better for me than they do for her. I don’t know whether to be proud or depressed by that.

    • ShanLea

      Yep…my soon to be SIL is famous for ignoring her kids when there are other people around to discipline them :( I have basically refused to babysit more than one of them at a time, and I greatly prefer that one to be my 6 month old nephew!

    • whiteroses

      Sounds like our SILs are from the same parenting school. I have no patience for that crap. It’s all I can do to discipline my own kid. Don’t expect me to discipline yours.

    • ShanLea

      Ugh, sooo many things about my SIL make me feel all stabby, but trying to rein in her rowdy bunch while dealing with my own kids tops the list!

    • Kat A.

      I love you for “stabby.”

    • MamaLlama

      Yes! This! My brother-in-law even joked that my SIL should write a book called ‘Parenting from the Couch’ because at family functions you can always find her on the couch while everyone else is taking care of her kids. He may or may not have made her cry at Christmas because of the comment. Of course, we still use the title, often substituting ‘Couch’ for ‘Chair’, ‘Recliner’ or ‘Barstool’. Personally, I think it’s a stellar book name but would appreciate if she actually took care of her kids!

    • ShanLea

      I am just imagining all our SIL’s on one of those sunshine and rainbows mommy sites commenting “My SIL is soooo mean to my precious little snowflakes. Doesn’t she understand that when they were running with scissors and setting the kitchen on fire they were just exploring? Her rotten kids are never going to get into Harvard by sitting quietly in public reading a book. Ugh!”

    • whiteroses

      Disciplining kids is hard, it’s true-
      Who does it hurt if you don’t? Not you!

      Just a little couplet my husband likes to sing in his sister’s general direction. Yeah, we’re kind of assholes. Oh well.

    • SmrtGrl86

      Lmao you are my fucking idol.

    • talonsage

      I think I heard the stars sing when I read this reply…that is the most awesome response to a kid being a defiant little snot-nosed shit I think I have ever read in my life!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol my mother was horrified at my (then) 2 year old brother throwing a full on tantrum in a friend’s house in front of the friend’s child.
      My mother threw herself on the ground, kicking and sobbing JUST like my little bro.
      When she got up he said Mammy, you look crazy!
      She then explained to him that’s what HE looked like when he had a tantrum.

      I was too busy dying from laughter seeing my tiny mom rolling on the ground

    • JLH1986

      Me. Too. My friends kids behave at my house. THeir parents are all “they listen to you! Why?” Because I don’t play. Your kid will park his ass on the time out step if they are being an asshole…my house, my rules.

    • ShanLea

      Exactly! You can call me Auntie Meanie all you want, and tell me you don’t like me, but I will not put up with anything I wouldn’t allow my own kids to get away with!

  • Robotic Arms Dealer

    yea, you definitely should have (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ when that 8 yr old called you out

    also, throw your latkes at him too while saying STFU you twerpo!

    • libraryofbird

      I wouldn’t waste a latkes on a brat but I would totally throw whitefish salad at them.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      yeah they can have gefilte fish.

    • Alexandra

      or gefilte fish *shudder* – only one I couldn’t do growing up…

    • Rachel Sea

      Gefilte fish already comes in convenient throwing shape (and whitefish salad is delicious, I’m not wasting it on some smug little punk).

  • Life-Sized Mommy

    I screwed with a terrible kid at Disney World. He was about 13, playing on a DS (I guess? Some touchscreen game.) and just straight up pushing through people in line for the Haunted Mansion (my favorite ride). I used my basketball skills to box him out and he practically knocked me over pushing forward to catch up with his family. (Whether he was so far behind them in line because he was distracted by his game or whether they were trying to escape him, who can say.)
    Well, you know how, toward the end of ride lines, you’re in those little parallel cattle chutes as you’re funnelled to the seats. When I passed him again, I reached over and ran my hand straight down his little touchscreen game. Game over. You lose.
    He and his parents were staring daggers at me later at the ride exit, but none dared speak. I considered it a moral victory.

    • ShanLea

      If it had been my 12 year old, I would have cheered and applauded, if I hadn’t been able to get there first. Mine started that terrible habit of playing games/looking at cell phone while walking in public…when I started ripping it out of his hands and making him pay me to get it back, he caught on pretty quickly. Nothing slows your roll quite like handing your allowance back to your mom!

    • quinn

      Awesome parenting! Mine is 5, and I’m looking for ways to deal with that annoying behavior in like..10 (right, 10?) more years when she gets her 1st cell phone.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      10 year old has a phone.
      She got it for her 8th birthday (needs must, she needed it for going between her mom’s place and ours)
      We told her there are rules-

      1- NO INTERNET. We said we’d CONSIDER an internet phone when she was 13 if she can prove she’s responsible enough.

      2- We’d get her a touchphone BUT she has to have one of those big ol’ chunky leather flip covers to protect it.

      3- We reserve the right to check her phone at ANY time. (This is not a reflection on her, there is a girl who plays with her sometimes who is 12 and she can be a bit of a mini-bitch, saying nasty things to our girl, but we know if we say not to play with her it’ll make it worse.)

      4- If she misbehaves, she gets one warning. After the warning, no phone for the rest of the day.

      Gotta say she’s been pretty good with sticking to them, we’ve only taken her phone off her twice in the 2 years she’s had it.

    • Guest

      That is awesome. Reminds me of random kids not paying attention or annoying adults at the grocery store who think they can take up the whole aisle and that people should all turn sideways to avoid them. Shoulder check for the win.

    • K

      Yeah I don’t move out of the way for people that take up the whole aisle in the grocery store. Stay to one side like every other decent human being.

    • wmdkitty

      One of the reasons I want a cow-catcher on the front of my chair.

    • Zettai
    • Melissa T

      Good for you, because that kid was a danger to himself and others. It may be that he had some sort of sensory processing disorder, and the game was the anchor he needed to be a part of a crowd. In which case, his parents should have been right there with him at all times, guiding him through the crowd and making sure he wasn’t going to fall or push someone over. That’s just unacceptable.

    • Julia Sonenshein
    • Rachel Sea

      It makes me insane to see kids doing that at Disneyland. Thousands of imagineers have spent millions of hours making every inch of that place effing magical, and you just paid $92 plus travel and accommodations to let your kid pinball through it with their face glued to a screen?

    • wmdkitty

      Not everyone is neurotypical.

    • ElleJai

      The non NT kids I deal with wouldn’t be so disrespectful either. We may have to take them for a stimulus break, but anyone going through Disneyland on their DS is a jerk, not to mention the bashing into people.

    • wmdkitty

      Good point.

    • Rachel Sea

      No, but they’re in the minority, and they get a pass. When you spend 30-90 minutes in line with a kid, it’s not super hard to tell if they are acting poorly because they’re not neurotypical, or because their parents are phoning it in when it comes to teaching manners.

  • Lee

    The stories I could tell from my time in the restaurant world. 98% of the time it was blamed the parents and not their little shit kids.

  • Monica

    Julia, I love you. That is all.

  • G.E. Phillips

    If you have a child under the age of 13 and your primary emotion when out with them in a public place isn’t a mix of alertness-bordering-on-paranoia and low-level embarassment, you are doing something wrong. Your kid is probably going to act a fool in public at some point, yo. Be prepared to handle your parental bizness, lest some stranger do it for you. Forever and ever, amen.

    • Paul White

      thank you for finally identifying the cocktail of emotions I experience taking Sam places!

    • G.E. Phillips

      Haha! I feel like when they hit the teen years, the situation reverses, and suddenly it’s you who is causing them to be paranoid and embarassed in public.

    • wmdkitty


    • Eve Vawter

      Ya know this is bullshit. haha. If anyone is nasty to you guys in public for bringing a kid, that is on them. If you are eating at some super fancy $100 a plate joint sure, leave the kids at home, anywhere else? FREE GAME. I always smile at parents dealing with fussy or rambunctious kids in public, who gives a damn? Your burger will taste just as good with a wild kid in the background

    • Paul White

      Eh, no one deserves to have to sit through a tantrum. And it’s never OK to let them run around in the restaurant; that’s dangerous for all involved. but good lord they want to

    • Larkin

      Yeah, no parent as the right to just let their kid scream in a restaurant or cause chaos for other people. I don’t mind a little bit of noise, or a brief meltdown, but if it hits full on tantrum levels you need to have a backup plan. I once sat in a coffee shop where a woman let her toddler throw a screaming, kicking fit on the floor for 45 minutes straight without doing a damn thing. It wasn’t the fact that he was having a fit that bothered me–that’s what toddlers do, after all–it was the fact that she didn’t even acknowledge that it was happening. She was just chatting with her friend while this kid shrieked like a banshee in a fairly small, confined space. I get that kids throw tantrums, but at least take him outside until he calms down so he doesn’t destroy everyone else’s eardrums? Yeesh.

    • Teleute

      Yeah, sorry about that.


    • G.E. Phillips

      I agree, I definitely believe that you should be free to take your kids to any public place that you want. And kids are kids, and people should understand that. If Face is a little whiny because his chicken nuggets are taking to long to get to the table, and someone gives me a dirty look, then fuck that noise. But if he throws a tantrum or–lol, because it’s Face—starts dropping the F-bomb really loud, I will take him out of the situation, because that’s embarassing and inappropriate. However, despite all the stuff you read on the interwebs about people being up in arms about kids in restaurants, etc. I think most people are generally tolerant of children in appropriate places doing normal kid things.

    • Karen Milton

      My barometer has been “do they have a kids’ menu, and are chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs available”. My daughter is very mannerly and wouldn’t dream of getting up and running around, but she is a top volume kid with no inside voice. Her talking is yelling and her yelling is deafening (every member of that side of the family yell-talks and I can’t nag it out of her for the life of me). I can’t in good conscience subject other diners to WHY IS THERE A BIKE ON THE WALL? THERE’S NO BLUE CRAYON. THERE’S A KID OVER THERE EATING PIZZA, I DON’T WANT PIZZA and on and on. Heck, I don’t want to hear it either. She’s only three though, so maybe there’s hope.

    • G.E. Phillips

      I’ve got a 3 year old yeller, too, so I know exactly what you mean. Church is interesting, to say the least.

    • Karen Milton

      Thankfully Girlchild won’t be tested in a church environment, which is good because I know exactly how it would go. Boychild’s Grade 8 graduation is this year and I’m not going to bring her. There are hundreds of parents waiting to hear their kids’ names and be embarrassing taking all the photos, which they will not do if that kid’s in the building. I’m not going to wreck that for them. She can go places when she can use some voice modulation which, if the rest of the family is any indication, will be never.

    • Brainspace

      I guarantee that my burger absolutely will not taste as good with a rambunctious animal running loose. There’s a difference between hating on every kid and hating on kids acting insane. A kid laughing or speaking a little too loudly? Fine, no problem. A kid screaming, kicking the booth, leaning over and hitting me, or throwing things on my table (all of which have happened)? No fucking way. If you can’t deal with the meltdown, you shouldn’t take your kid in public.

    • whiteroses

      People wonder why I jump at opportunities to go to dinner without my kid. It’s because the following generally goes through my head when we go out: “Can we get a table as far away from everyone else as possible without actually eating outside? What can he eat here? Did I remember his cup? Is this too hot? Is this too cold? Crap, is he going to have a meltdown and did I leave it too late? Did I remember to bring him a sweater? Is he poking that woman?…” And on, and on, and on. Add about eight or nine other things to that when we’re not eating at a restaurant and just walking around.

    • doodlebug2

      You hit the nail on the head! That’s exactly how I feel when I’m out with my 2.5-year-old. She’s actually a really easy kid but I feel constantly paranoid about her behavior for fear that she might bother someone. Most of all, I don’t want to be “that mom” who doesn’t control her kid in public places. It blows my mind how badly behaved children can be and, even worse, how little their parents discipline them when they’re out in public. A while back I was in a deli with friends who proceeded to let their toddlers run around the entire restaurant, yelling and screaming like animals. My friends did nothing to stop them and it was mortifying. I’m also always mindful of the fact that no one will ever think my child is as adorable as I do (and of course I think she’s quite possibly the cutest little person I’ve ever met in my life). So all of those little things she says or does that make my heart melt might very well annoy the shit out of somebody else when we’re in public. And the last thing I want to do is let my kid annoy the shit out of anyone.

    • SmrtGrl86

      You win the internets today lol

    • quinn

      Glad to know that when I’m out I’m not the only one that is completely on edge and watching my kids with eagle eyes to make sure they aren’t acting like asshats.

    • Kat A.

      Oh god, I always wonder if everyone’s thinking, for example, “what a shitty mother, she lets her kid go get his own napkins — so careless.” Then if I don’t, I know they’re thinking, “what a shitty mother, not letting her kid go get his own napkins — so controlling.” UGH. Still, if I heard someone actually say this, I’d tell them to go fuck themselves.

  • jane

    I agree with your sentiment entirely, but not with a lot of what you posted. On one hand, you complain when people don’t discipline their children, but then you explained why you were having a hard time controlling the behavior of a three year old that you were supposed to be in charge of. Yes, obviously her parents should have been working on teaching her better manners, but when you were with her in the park, it was your job to make her behave, and to treat you nicely. You had a hard time doing that not just because it’s hard to do to someone else’s kid, it’s hard to do period.

    Your second example was not really a kid being rude, but a person being rude. I think that if you’re old enough to ride the subway by yourself, you’re old enough to be considered adult-ish. Would you have asked a 20 year old to turn down his ipod? Or would you have been annoyed and moved to another seat yourself? At a certain point, we have to stop blaming obnoxious behavior on parents, although I admit I’m not exactly clear when that point is.

    Finally, the 8 year old didn’t really need to be disciplined, he needed to be taught. There’s a huge difference. You could have done him a huge service by explaining that not everyone grows up the same way with the same experiences. My daughter, also 8, said almost the exact same thing to my childless best friend; she absolutely thought it was ridiculous that my friend doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle. But my friend just said, “I grew up in a city where there really wasn’t a place to learn how to ride a bike or a place to keep a bike, so if I want to learn, I’ll have to learn now.” I backed her up, but I don’t think that my daughter was being rude so much as showing how narrow her world is.

    Of course, there are horrible parents out there who let their children run amok, who teach their children no manners, and, worst of all, look the other way as their offspring repeatedly kicks the back of the chair in front of them at the movies. Those parents need to seriously step up their game. But no parent is perfect all the time, and that’s why we rely on others, yes, sometimes even strangers, to help us when we miss the boat.

    • talonsage

      Disciplining a child properly IS teaching them. It’s not punishment, done correctly.

    • whiteroses

      There’s a few problems with relying on others to discipline your kids- and one of those is assuming that everyone wants to be a part of your particular village. If you miss the boat and your kid is obnoxious? I’ll be honest about it, and I probably won’t be kind. If I’m annoyed enough to say something in the first place, I won’t say something you like.
      Every kid and every parent has an off day. But tbh- not my problem, unless your kid is in my care for some reason or they’re in mortal danger.

  • Rachel Sea

    I used to have qualms about telling off other people’s kids, but those are mostly gone. If one of my friends’ kids is being a jerk, and I’m the closest adult to hand, I’m going to do something about it. When random kids within arms reach are being shits, a forceful “Knock it off” is highly effective, because I am probably the first stranger who has ever told them off, and it shocks them back to good behavior.

    But when a kid is under their parent’s immediate purvue, and they are failing to do a thing…ugh. Sometimes I say something, mostly I don’t. If the parent’s are clearly raising a jerk on purpose, my telling them off isn’t going to do squat.

    • Karen Milton

      I told a kid off right next to her mother. It was the waiting room of the emergency department, and that particular day the wait time was seven hours. This kid next to me was squirmy, which was annoying but understandable – until she started kneeling in her chair and barking at the person sitting behind her. I gave her the stink-eye that I give my own kids and she knocked it off for thirty seconds before deciding that it would be fun to start throwing their garbage on the floor – coffee cups, napkins, an apple core, just everything. Hell no. I looked at her and said in my best mom-voice “Pick that up. Pick it up NOW”. She stared at me and her mother said “it’s not our garbage, someone left it here”. More no on my part. I said to the mom “she threw it, it’s hers. Pick it up or I call security”. She picked it up. I have no idea what security was supposed to do with a litterbug, but apparently it was a good threat.

    • wmdkitty

      I’ve spent years perfecting my growl and my glare. I almost never have to actually say anything.

    • Karen Milton

      Totally. Fear of the unknown is often the scariest.

    • wmdkitty

      Heh, I must project CAT very strongly — I’ve also had small children point and go “KITTY!”.

    • Karen Milton

      You are a kitty!

    • wmdkitty

      Cleverly disguised as a human. :3

    • Karen Milton

      Obviously I don’t know what you actually look like, and swear to god I see you as a cat with good typing skills.

    • wmdkitty

      My furry form is grey, medium-haired, and green eyed.

      My human form? Short, round-ish, pale, blue-eyed, and long-haired.

    • Karen Milton

      I have cats on the brain – I have six right now (three on the home team and three fosters). Everybody’s starting to look a little feline.

  • jendra_berri

    Oh man. It is frustrating. But actually, I’ve never had a problem with disciplining children I’ve been responsible for. I sent a kid to his room when I was babysitting at the age of 14 for throwing toys at his brother. I’ve given talking-tos to children who were being violent or rude if they were in my care.
    And I have asked people, not kids, but adults on coach buses to please turn down their radios or whathaveyou. If you do it politely, and use the word “we” when referencing who’d like them to reduce the volume, you can get pretty good success. But I’ve never tried it on the subway ’cause that’s a good way to have a scary altercation.
    I tend to think if the bad behaviour is directly aimed at me, I have the right to correct the child, as I have the right as an adult to determine how I’d like to be treated. I give the parent a chance to act first, and if no correction is forthcoming, I say my piece. No child is so precious that they can’t hear an adult deserves respect.

    • Guest

      I love that- if the bad behavior is directly aimed at you it is your right to correct the child. I try to mind my own business but it is a whole other thing if someone is being rude directly to you (of any age).

  • pixie

    For whatever reason, kids tend to get temporarily left in my care in places where I spend a lot of time, namely my martial arts club and my barn. A lot of parents know me and the kids seem to like me usually, so parents have no qualms about saying “hey, I need to go do this. I won’t be long, but could you look after my kid(s)”. I don’t have a problem with it, and usually the kids are pretty well behaved (there are less boob-grabbing and poor sportsman kids now it seems). The oldest of my coach’s granddaughters, however, does like to test at times, and I have zero problem telling her to behave (“no, E, we don’t hit our friends with crops, that’s not nice. No, we don’t run around near where the ponies are. No, don’t tease the donkey, he might kick you and that will hurt”). Even if her mother is in sight, I’ll tell the girl to behave if she’s feeling like a little devil because usually her mother is dealing with one or both of her little sisters (a 4 year old and a 1 year old) and her grandmother/my coach is dealing with the horses or teaching a lesson. She’s a good kid, really, and her mother and grandmother do jump into action as soon as they notice she’s acting up, she’s just a bit feisty sometimes (and it’s one of the best things about her, really). I’ve never seen her throw a tantrum for not getting her way or being rude to anyone, it’s mostly getting too excited and using crops or lead ropes in inappropriate ways (like waving them around near other kids, or trying to smack other kids) or doing something potentially dangerous (running near the horses or teasing the donkey…the donkey isn’t vicious, he put up with a lot of crap, but he’s still an animal and aging and grumpy and if you piss him off enough he will kick out).

    In public (outside of my martial arts club) I’ve never had any kid be a jerk to me directly, but I have seen kids be jerks in general and jerks to other people and I really have no idea what to do. So I back away slowly, hoping they haven’t spotted me.

  • DatNanny

    I was absolutely with you on this whole article Julia and you know ily and you’re my AIMgf <3 but your example was anti-climactic. I was totally looking for an outrageous story of some bitchface toddler purse thief who gave you a black eye while his parents laughed and counted the money and stole your identity.

    Eight year old making a social faux pas? Meh. It's the kind of awkward statement an eight year old is still going to make, and will usually figure out over the next few years to not make. Kids can't be taught tact that easily at that age. Most have to get through puberty before they stop being awkward social monsters. (They turn into scary teenage hoodlums at that point, but that's another story.) His parents can't really win here. They're raising him to take his prayers seriously and it's clearly an important value to them, so they can't exactly correct him "Yo hey some adults don't know that and whatever it's cool." It's a tricky business, you can try to teach a kid to not say these things, but tact tends to be learned through social interaction and maturity rather than being taught directly. The other side of the coin is they saw their child stating the values they were teaching were important and being taken seriously by him, and that's not something they want to discourage. I still remember and cringe over things I said in childhood, and this kid probably will too. Sometimes it takes more time than teaching.

    Pretty much everything a child does is mildly to intensely embarrassing and raising a kid is basically a constant feeling of dread balanced off by the awesome/cute/funny things kids do.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      I completely understand what you’ree saying about how kids are just going to say embarrassing shit all the time and that’s not necessarily an issue of discipline––totally fair point. I possibly didn’t convey the asshole-ness of this kid adequately. He was the type who two years later told me that I “dressed badly, like I didn’t care about anything” and then stomped on my feet, threw a fit when we wouldn’t stop a seder to listen to him sing a non-prayer song, and kept kicking people under the table. Calling me out was just one of many, many outbursts from this kid over the years, and I think I picked the one that was directed at me and struck a nerve for me most.

      He did take his religion very seriously as he was taught, but not seriously enough to not bully other people, and turn religious holidays into parties celebrating him (he ran around screaming at one Yom Kippur because the bagels were too fluffy, and started to try to break his chair during a seder after someone told him he couldn’t be the leader). I think had that comment been a one time thing, I would have thought “oh gosh, he just doesn’t know the world isn’t all Jews. Boy is he in for a surprise” and felt badly for him. But after watching a few years of his parents adoringly enjoy and reward his bad behavior, I think my tolerance was pretty low.

      I <3 you so much see you on AIM l8er!

    • DatNanny

      Thanks for replying. He does sound super indulged with no taught boundaries, wow. Some parents seem to think the entire world will cater to their children’s whims forever.

    • pontificatrix

      Gosh, I thought the parents were really out of line on that one. It would have been easy and appropriate to say, “Solomon that is not polite,” and later have a private discussion about how we know prayers are very important but that is not a reason to be rude to other people.

  • Lindsay

    A kid once walked up to my grandma (who’s not a nice person, I will preface this story with that), and told her,
    “You’re a big fat lady and your husband is a big fat man.”
    My delightful grandma, ever the charmer (/sarcasm), responded,
    “Well, you’re not a very pretty little girl, but I’m not telling you that.”

    Somewhere between saying nothing and being my grandmother is the proper way to put an obnoxious, rude kid in his place.

    • jane

      Actually, that’s kind of awesome.

    • ShanLea

      Your grandmother is my new idol! I am so gonna be that grumpy, take no shit old lady, threatening to smack kids with my cane!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      My mom used to help run a reading group for young kids, from ages 5-10.
      There was one particularly obnoxious little girl who seemes to take delight in calling my mother a “FOREIGNER” (My mother is Indonesian/Dutch so it quite tanned with Asian features. I inherited none of this, I’m short pale stumpy Irish through and through)

      Once my mother explained that she was raised in Holland, this kid was convinced that she (the kid) could speak better Dutch than my mother and would make up a language sprinkled with curse words and shout it at my mom.

      After weeks of this, five times a week, the little girl shouted at my mother- SPEAK FOREIGN YOU WEIRDO.
      My mother unleashed a tirade of Dutch profanities that would have made my granny cry.
      Dutch sounds scary at the best of times.
      When she finished the little girl asked what she had said.
      My mother replied, ah you’ll never know will you? If you speak Dutch like you said you’d know what I said.
      Kid was speechless. To this day I wonder if she ever found out what “KUT” means.

    • wmdkitty

      Out of sheer curiosity, what does “KUT” mean?

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol it’s the equivalent of SMELLY C**T lol
      There’s a hairdressers near us called Kiddie Kuts and my mother dissolves into giggles every time we walk past it.

    • wmdkitty


    • gothicgaelicgirl

      It is one of the finer words my mother taught me at a young age to terrorize my gran with seeing as I had no idea what it meant lol

  • Kay_Sue

    I really wish I’d seen this earlier today. Now it’s just giving me horrifying flashbacks to my three year old kicking the cart of the lady behind us in line at the checkout today and actually pushing it backwards. MY GOD WHAT WERE YOU THINKING CHILD!

    We did discipline, mind, but there’s still that underlying trauma of having everyone think you’re a horrible parent momentarily…

  • Frances Locke

    You never fail to crack me up. This time, when I read “That’s why you can’t have nice things” as he broke into sobs, and I smiled like the bisexual maniac villain in all movies (I’m here to steal your husband, wife, and freedom),” I choked on my tea and then sneezed tea-laden snot all over my laptop screen. THANKS Sonenshein!

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    The 10 year old is going through the early puberty phase, so everything is either
    - Eye rolling
    - Pooching out her bottom lip and snorting like a demented pony
    - “What-EVER LOSER!”
    - Hair tossing
    - Flouncing out of the room

    It’s actually pretty funny (I’m not one of those parents who pass it off as “cute” as I WILL pull her up over it. She missed a cinema trip last week for basically being a moody cow and reducing her sister to tears)
    She’s not a bad kid but sadly puberty has hit her really really early and I’m not talking progressing from vests to kiddie crop bras.

    She’ll make an argument over everything which I do tend to laugh at cos it’s always over something stupid (Kids eh?)
    *Me putting on a DVD from the boxset they’re watching*
    Me- Cool guys, you’re on disc 6 now, last one then you’re on Season 3.
    Her- God, no, we’re on disc 5!
    Me- Nope, sorry hun, you’re on the last one, but at least you’re the next season to watch.
    Me- Tell you what, you put the DVD on and see the number.
    She pops up off the couch, storms over and freezes when she sees the big ol’ 6 written in neon yellow.

    That’s when Daddy came in and she didn’t get to watch anything.

    Pretty sure it’s a hormonal thing, but it is funny in some senses cos she’ll argue over things that either A) HAVE NO IMPACT ON HER LIFE
    or B) Can so easily be shown whether it’s true or not.
    She was reduced to tears the other day because she was convinced tomatoes grew underground and I actually had to google it to calm her down.

    Puberty is BUCKETS of fun! =P

    • Karen Milton

      I have the nearly 14-year-old boy version of that. Instead of telling me how horrible I am he just glowers from across the room when I’m being completely unreasonable by reminding him to do the dishes or something. I know, the horror of it all. More and more he’s using that stupid snotty “as if you’re actually this stupid” voice, which has prompted the return of “come over here and say that again”. Bleah.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol o god yeah, luckily the 13 year old boy at home is fine, the odd moment of decorative cursing when he’s trying to be cool, but that was quickly stopped. we’re fairly tolerant, we put up with “crap” “balls” and the odd “bollocks” as he only uses the last one if he hurts himself (like lifting a hot tray from the oven… without gloves*shakes head*)

      The 10 year old does the “as if you’re actually this stupid” voice too.
      You know how there’s always ONE small STUPID thing that for some reason drives you irrationally nuts?
      For me it’s her belief that she’s right about everything.
      We were watching a programme about people who climb mountains without harnesses and I was saying to their father there was no way you could pay me to do it. 10 year old pipes up- Jesus *I* could do THAT, it’s not THAT bloody easy, JESUS, you’re just WUSSES.

      That was fine until Daddy turned around and said X If you’re that wonderful, why are you sitting here watching it and not doing it?

      I know it sounds harsh but this has been going on for MONTHS, no one can accomplish ANYTHING without her rolling her eyes, calling them stupid and maintaining that she can do better.

      The final straw was when I graduated with my HND in Journalism. I worked very hard for four years to get it. I worked 6 days a week, had the kids every evening and worked on it every night after they went to bed.
      I was amazed I even passed and at my ceremony, after I received my scroll (yay!) the 10 year old rolled her eyes at me and said- So? It’s just a bloody stupid piece of paper.

      You do NOT want to know what their father said to her when we got home, but needless to say she was excluded from any family outing for a month.

      It sounds terrible but thank god it does only come in odd bursts, she sounds like Hellspawn but she really is a good kid, hormones are really just not being kind to her.

      Do you ever get the WHATEVER face? =P

    • Karen Milton

      More and more often. I’ve decided to be impossibly embarrassing as retaliation. I sing along with the music in the grocery store, and if the spirit moves me I dance as well. I say things like ‘underpants’ louder than necessary. I skip in the mall and I try to make him hold my hand. And, newly added to my roster, I make ‘that’s what she said’ jokes. Entirely inappropriate, embarrassing jokes that OMG MY MOTHER IS SAYING THAT. Basically, if you’re going to find me embarrassing and annoying I’m going to make sure I earn the labels. Suddenly my regular behaviour doesn’t seem so stupid or embarrassing after all. Magic!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      You are my new hero lol
      Sadly, I am a big child myself, and I do tend to groove away in a shop myself without provocation lol
      Hmm…maybe I’ll do what my mother did, she has a picture of my brother aged 5, naked, crying in a cupboard, holding a melon.
      Anytime he backanswered her as a young teen, she’d threaten to have it as the backdrop image for his wedding day

    • Karen Milton

      In no way can I imagine a scenario that would result in a naked melon cupboard boy. I would hang onto that photo for LIFE.

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