If you saw mean parents with their kids would you say something? I found myself in this situation and didn’t say anything. Here’s why.
I thought I was in one of those ‘What Would You Do?’ candid camera reality shows.
I was standing in line at the grocery store when, at the cashier line next to me, I could hear a dad berating his young son. The little boy sat in the seat of the shopping cart with his head lowered. Meanwhile, his dad continue to yell things like, “Why do you do that?!”
And as if in a comedic act, he’d turn to the cashier and act like the most charming guy. He’d switch from evil dad monster to smiling gentleman pulling out his wallet to pay for the groceries.
Everyone within earshot didn’t know what to say, but you could feel the tension in the room. The cashier tried to smile at the boy, as if transmitting a secret message saying, Hey bud—It’s okay.
The dad paid then resumed his string of insults as he made his way to the exit. All the while his young boy sat there with his head bowed.
And I wondered, Should I have said something?
Would you address mean parents?
It didn’t seem like my place to say anything to the dad. I didn’t know their personal story, what had happened that day, what may have caused the father to treat his son so poorly. I didn’t have enough information to push me to speak up.
And I was also farther away than others. It seemed strange to say something when those closer to him—the cashier, the guy behind him—were standing just as quietly as I was.
I also hoped that this was a one-off day. We’ve all lost our temper with our kids, and some of them in public places like the grocery store. Would he have cooled off in a few minutes? Regretted his words and apologized to his son? I had hoped so.
I don’t want to judge other parents just as we wouldn’t want others—strangers especially—to assume the worst in us. All because of witnessing a few seconds of less-than-stellar parenting. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions.
I was also afraid of the reaction I’d get. Would it have made a difference had I said he was being mean to children? I couldn’t imagine him taking my suggestion and say, “You know, you’re right. I have been treating my son poorly. I’m sorry.” No, I assumed he’d feel insulted and tell me to mind my own business (and then some), and take his anger out even more so on his son.
And sadly, even if this was their norm, I wasn’t sure if a stranger telling a parent he was mistreating a child would turn him around. I doubt he would have had a life-changing moment if someone had pointed out a glaring flaw he may not have seen.
But still… could there have been a chance he would’ve had a change in heart? A light bulb moment at the grocery store? And that’s why I grapple with my inaction. Did I fail a child because I kept my mouth shut?
All these thoughts flashed within the seconds the scene played out. I wish there could have been a better conclusion, one where the dad realized how he had been acting and made it up to his son. I hope this wasn’t their ‘normal’ but rather a rare occurrence in that family.
Because while I understand the reasons I didn’t say anything to the dad, I still wonder if I should have.
Get more tips:
- The Only Parenting Advice You Should Always Listen To
- Be Kind to Yourself
- Are You Living Through Your Kids? Why You Should Find Your Own Meaning
- Why Parents Really Need to Stop Hovering
- Model the Behavior You Want to See
Your turn: Would you tell (or have you told) another parent he was being mean to his child? Have others told you that you were being mean to your child—and did that make a positive difference?
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