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Author Topic: The etiquette (or not) of correcting other people's children
Belle
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Today was my daughter Em's first day practicing with the competition gymnastics team. Since we changed times, we were in the gym with a bunch of people we'd never seen before.

Well, when I got there I was taken aback at how everyone was seated. We have two bleachers set up for parents to sit and watch, and I'm used to space being a premium. Apparently, this time is one where there isn't much crowding, so people do stuff that they never would do at our normal gymnastics time. They were seated on the top bleacher, with their purses and feet on the next row, taking up two rows. That meant that my kids and I were squeezed into the bottom row with barely enough room (they're small bleachers - only three rows of seats) No one offered to move anything or offer us more space.

That seemed rude to me. But then things got worse. We were tight for space, and my son is a typical five year old boy who does not want to watch his sister practice gymnastics. He was restless, and in his squirming, he accidentally bumped into a girl that was seated backwards, so she could use a row of the bleachers to set her books for homework.

I was watching him and I immediately jumped in and addressed the situation. I told him to be still, stop moving around and apologize to the girl for bothering her. He did so.

End of story, right? Would be if I were the mom of the girl doing homework, I mean it was obviously an accident and I had corrected my child.

But no. The mother of the girl snapped at my son - in a raised voice - saying to him sharply "You need to leave her alone, she's doing her homework!"

It upset Daniel, to the point that I asked Natalie if she'd be willing to take him and Abigail to the playground right outside the gym.

I considered saying something to her, to the effect of "That wasn't necessary, I had already corrected him." But I thought about it and realized I was the stranger here, I was new, and I didn't want to start off on a bad foot, especially if this mother had a child in my daughter's class - we might be seeing a lot of each other in the future.

Come to find out, her daughter was in a beginner class, so no worries there. But this bothered me. Probably even more than it bothered Daniel. Should you take it upon yourself to reprimand another person's child, if the mother has already said something to him?

Personally, I think it's never my place to reprimand someone else's child, if the situation were reversed I wouldn't have said anything even if the mother of the boy did nothing. Maybe if he continued to bump into my daughter over and over, I might say to the parent "Could you ask him not to do that please, she's trying to do her homework."

Ugh. Mean nasty woman. I'm still upset.

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King of Men
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I'm confused. Do you not bring your AG-3s to gym class here?
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pH
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I think your response of addressing the parent instead of the child would be far more appropriate than this woman's was. [Frown] At least you won't have to see her all the time!

-pH

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Grim
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As for the crowding, since I really wasn't there, I don't know, but I would kind of have to blame you. You could have asked a couple of people kindly to move their things. Again, I wasn't there, so I don't really know.
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Icarus
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I will eventually correct someone else's child--teacher instinct, I guess--but only for repeated behavior over an extended period, which the child's parent has shown no indication of addressing. For instance, not too long ago, I turned around in a theater with stadium seating and loudly asked the child behind my daughter to kindly stop kicking her seat. The parents were there. I don't know how they would not have noticed; I'm certainly extremely sensitive to everything my children do when I am out with them. But, whether they noticed or not, they weren't dealing with it.

This woman's reaction was out of line. It was an accident, it only happened once, and you had already addressed it. [Roll Eyes]

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Icarus
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I don't agree, Grim. I think being a considerate person includes not having to be told when you're taking up more than your share of space.
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Xaposert
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I think it is fine to correct other people's children. Parents don't have the right to expect everyone to go through them in order to say something to a child. It's possible she didn't think your correction would be enough to make sure your child stopped bothering her daughter doing the homework, and so she decided to make the message clearer. Isn't that okay?

I don't think other people have a right to be rude to a child, though - or to speak to the child as if they were his or her own. If you are someone's parent you can speak sharply to them. If you are just a stranger to a child, you should speak to them as you would any other stranger - with diplomacy.

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Kwea
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I think she was out of line, but it isn't really a big deal unbless you make it one. If she had yelled that would be another thing, but there was probaby somthing else going on there.

I correct peoples kids at work, and sometimes the parents too, although it can get hairy at tiomes. If you can control your kids in a public place like the store I work at, then I have the right to say something to them myself, particularily if they are acting stupid and doing things they are not allowed to do.

I have had parents look at me funny at times, and one or two get mad, but my store management backs me up......there is NO rollerskating on any mall property, it is actually against the law. [Big Grin] You can NOT run backwards on the escalator, more people are injured due to those things per year than anything else in the store even when they are being used properly....


And I don't care if you are a full adult, you can NOT sit on my tables. They are only meant to hold 35 pounds or less, and if they collapse we could be held liable.


I realize that those are a lot different than what happened to you, but I think that two things have to be considered.....first, how "angry" was the correction: second, how bad was what happened to cause the correction.


While she was a little out of line, complaing about it could cause a lot worse reaction.


If it happenes again then it is a whole different ballgame, of course. [Big Grin]

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Belle
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The reason I didn't ask anyone to move their stuff, is because there's kind of an unwritten rule that the team moms (those with kids on the competitive teams) always sit on the back row. The back row is the best row, because it's against the wall and you have a back rest. I guess the reasoning is that the team moms are there longer, their kids usually work out 2 hours or longer compared to the beginner level classes which are one hour.

Well, I never liked it. It smacked of elitism to me, and I don't care how long anyone is there, if there is space on the back row and it's available I don't see why you can't sit there. So I'm not one of the moms who would let a back row seat sit empty and not take because I wasn't a "team mom." Of course, I now AM a team mom.

I didn't know what class these moms were in, but I sure didn't want to start off on a bad foot as a "snooty team mom" who demanded that other parents defer to me. I don't like those games, so I refuse to play. There's already some stratification among the girls - the team girls get to use different locker areas than the others, they get to do a lot more stuff that the other groups don't, and I don't think it's very adult of the parents to play the "I'm better than you" game.

So what was really funny, is that after I got home and vented to my mom about the whole thing she said "Who did that beginner mom think she was, anyway? You're a team mom, you should have kicked the witch out of her seat and taken it." [Wink]

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Belle
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quote:
Parents don't have the right to expect everyone to go through them in order to say something to a child.
I disagree there. Unless I've ceded authority over my child to you (as in the case of my children's teachers) I don't think you should assume the authority to correct my child if I'm present. You should take it up with me, and I'll take it up with my child.

I'm curious how other parents view it, maybe my attitude is in the minority.

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Icarus
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hmm . . . I won't go through a parent to correct a child, because if it gets to that point, I don't believe the parent is competent to do so. But, I don't believe that applies in this case.
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dkw
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I think that if anyone, child or adult, is breaking rules that it is your job to enforce you can speak to them directly. Kwea's example is a good one for this -- if people aren't allowed to sit on the tables and a child sits on one, he should tell the child that it is against the rules. To tell the parent so that they can tell the child seems (to me) contrived. Unless the child is a toddler and the parent set her on the table, of course.

A situation with a spectator or bystander who has no direct authority is a little different, but if the child's action affects them directly, I see no reason they shouldn't speak to it. In Ick's example, if a child behind me is kicking my seat I would turn around and ask them to stop, rather than asking their parent to ask them to stop.

In Belle's situation, I don't think the rudeness was in talking to Daniel, it was in doing it after Belle had already corrected the situation.

Edit: I don't see it as a case of authority over the child, because if an adult was kicking my seat I would ask them to stop too. Something that is clearly affecting only the child, "Don't chew your hair/pick your nose/eat your food so fast" I don't think anyone should say to a child they don't have direct responsibility for.

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Chungwa
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As someone without kids (not sure if that is relevant), I'd rarely ever go straight to the child. Unless it was a repeated behaviour, I'd always talk to the parent first.
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rivka
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I agree with dkw.

Mostly. If the parent is someone I know, I will speak to them first. OTOH, if I don't, and the kid is repeatedly doing something which affects me (or my kids) directly, I am more likely to speak to the kid directly.

But certainly not if their parent already has the problem well in hand.

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Mrs.M
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That woman was completely out of line. I probably would have said sweetly, "Thank you, but I've already taken care of it," with the subtext of, "You are out of line and I already took care of it."

Not only that, but it's not like her daughter is in a library - a gymnastics studio is a relatively busy place (at least mine always were and it sounds like this one is) and there is no reasonable expectation that there will be peace and quiet for studying.

As to the issue in general, I'm not sure. In a lot of ways, I'm like Icarus - former teacher and daycare worker and it's second nature to correct. I usually don't, but I won't hesitate to do so if I think the child is putting himself or others in danger. For example, Andrew's aunt and uncle have always ignored fighting among their 3 kids. It bothered me, but I didn't feel it was my place to say anything. However, once I was over there and the then-9-year-old boy was choking his then-2-year-old sister and I said, sharply, "Not around the neck, you can really hurt her." He let go immediately (I have that kind of voice when I want to) and his mother made a belated attempt at discipline.

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Lissande
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Most of the parents I know keep a pretty good rein on their kids when they are actually present, so I'm usually not in the position of needing to say something myself - the parent takes care of it immediately, like Belle did. However, get the parents 5 feet away and in a conversation, and (one family I know) a force-field goes up between parents and children and the parents don't notice anything the children do. This includes hitting, name-calling, howling, head-butting and other obnoxious behavior.

When it's just between the children, it's not my business unless their noise levels make it difficult for me to [whatever I'm doing]. In that case a polite "Could you please fight a little quieter? I'm trying to __" to the children is my response, usually heeded by the kids and never resented by the parents.

If, as is not at all unusual, the head-butting and "You're ugly" is directed at an adult (for instance me), I respond similarly: "Please don't do that" and if it continues, a firm "Don't do that."

I think that these responses - politely, calmly phrased and involving the word please - are reasonable and unobjectionable. There is no way I am not going to address being hit in the stomach or insulted by your kid. I will, however, address it in a way that I feel is respectful of the parent and of the child as a person.*

I would also object to the woman in Belle's example - not only had Belle obviously corrected her child (for what appears to me to be an ACCIDENT anyway...), but the words and tone seem unjustified as well. Particularly for something that only happened once - it's not like Daniel was deliberately pulling her hair, bumping her arm to mess up her writing, putting his hands over her assignment and saying "HAHAHA CAN'T SEE NOW CAN YOU?" 'Cause I mean, at that point, I can see sounding a little annoyed - but still, only if the other parent was ignoring the situation. I'd have been irritated too in your position, Belle, and I'd have wanted to say something as well - like "Do not speak to my child" (in a very "I know Kung Fu" sort of way) or "My son bumped into your daughter by accident because he doesn't have enough room to turn around. If you would take up less space on the bleachers he wouldn't bother anyone." I probably would have thought of that later, though, and at the time just sat there fuming. [Smile]

*edit to the above: It seems to me that in this situation, where the parents are accessible but not at the scene, this is actually the nice response, isn't it? If I seek out a parent to ask them to correct their child, 1) the child gets punished or yelled at, and 2) the parent is embarrassed in front of everyone. I feel horrible knowing a kid is going to get grounded or yelled at in relation to me - even if he deserves it. (This of course assumes a family where the parents would both discipline and be embarrassed at their children's behavior...granted, not always the case)

[ April 05, 2006, 05:10 AM: Message edited by: Lissande ]

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zgator
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I think she was out of line. You had already said something to Daniel, so nothing more was needed or wanted. Even if you hadn't, unless Daniel did it repeatedly, she still shouldn't have said anything.

This caught my eye.
quote:
he accidentally bumped into a girl that was seated backwards, so she could use a row of the bleachers to set her books for homework.

Would this have even happened if she had been seated properly? Was she actually seated on the part people usually put their feet on and using the seat portion above for a desk?
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ctm
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She was out of line. I think you did the right thing in not making a big deal out of it, since it was your first day with this group and all. Maybe that Mom was having a bad day or something.

I do hope the group is more welcoming to you in the future.

As for the general issue of correcting other people's children, I talk directly to the child if the parents aren't readily available, or are but aren't doing anything, or if it is serious enough to act immediately, i.e. safety related, or if the child is older. Otherwise I let the parents deal with it.

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Tresopax
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quote:
Unless I've ceded authority over my child to you (as in the case of my children's teachers) I don't think you should assume the authority to correct my child if I'm present.
I don't think parents have that degree of authority over their child - to the point where everything said to the child must go through the parent unless they have agreed otherwise. A child is still a separate individual out in public.
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opiejudy
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I think the woman in this instance was wrong. The problem had been addressed by the parent and it was unneccessary. But I do think if the parent is not addressing it then yes, you have to correct the behavior. I certainly hope if I do not catch my children doing something that the adult that does either corrects them or alerts me.

As an aside, our gymnastics is great, we have a whole upper "loft" that looks out over the gymanstics area and it is huge with play things for the bored brothers and sisters and the parents can sit on couches and cahirs and watch down on what is happening. I feel blessed now.

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Dagonee
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quote:
"You need to leave her alone, she's doing her homework!"
This assumed authority. When talking to another's child, one should not assume any "rank." Giving a direct order implies rank.

I tend to think that unless some authority is granted (teacher, day care worker, babysitter, or something like that), then a child should be approached with the same courtesy due an adult. And that generally means requesting things. "My daughter is doing her homework. It would really help me out if you could be a little more careful not to bother her."

I also think saying something after the problem has been corrected is rather rude.

So I think she was rude, but not simply for speaking to the child directly.

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Jim-Me
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Put me in the "if the parent has already addressed the situation" crowd.

If a parent has addressed a child about a behavior, I'm out of the loop. If I have a problem with how it was addressed, it's with the parent.

If a parent doesn't address a situation or isn't around, I don't have the least bit of hesitation in politely and firmly telling a child what is and isn't acceptable behavior in my personal space... but I'm fairly liberal in what I'll let kids get away with [Smile]

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Uprooted
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For heaven's sake, you told your son to stop and to apologize, which he did! She couldn't ask for anything else. She just wanted to be snarky and didn't put the brakes on her mouth. I'm sure her children have all been on their best behavior around others at all times. [Roll Eyes]

Good luck dealing with her for the rest of the season--I hope you're able to mostly avoid her.

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whiskysunrise
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I will do someing the the parent isn't around or doesn't do anything. I will give them plenty of time to take care of it.

I also think that it was rude for her to say something after you had. That almost makes it seem that she wants to be in charge of everyone including you and your children.

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jeniwren
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I'm with dkw on this one. The gal was out of line because you'd already addressed the issue, Belle. Taking it further, though, she was really dumb in the way she addressed Daniel. I have a problem with the way she addressed him -- as if her child had greater rights than he did to move in the space that was there. It's an attitude of 'I want what is best for my child, even if that means your child has to suffer for it.' that I have objection to. We saw this many times in our December visit to DisneyWorld. The one that really stood out to me was going to see one of the stage performances. We showed up half an hour early and staked out a great spot. Everyone was sitting on the ground waiting. This made it possible for people further back to have a good view as well. In the last minutes just before the peformance started, some pushy parents shoved their way up front, stood and put their children on their shoulders, blocking the view of *everyone* who had been waiting patiently for much longer. In the end, what had been a pretty civil gathering of people grew to have a strong undercurrent of irritation.

The woman wouldn't have been out of line if you hadn't said anything, or if she'd addressed Daniel kindly by saying something like "Thanks, buddy, for giving her a little extra room. It's hard to do homework in this small space."

I also think that it would have been perfectly okay to ask if one or two of the moms could please move their purses, etc. to make more room.

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Sterling
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If one was a teacher or someone else given authority over a child, or the child was ignoring the parent over a significant period of time, or the child's actions were actively dangerous instead of just slightly disturbing, it might be appropriate to speak directly to the child. Otherwise, I'd tend to agree that at most you should speak to the parent (and given that Belle had already spoken to her child in this case, I wouldn't even do that.) To do otherwise both assumes an authority that hasn't been given and insults the parent's own authority and ability to discipline their child.

Two small anectodes: the opposite, not so much so. I thanked a young girl for looking out for my daughter at a mall's play area a few weeks ago. Her smile brightened my day.

The other, a continued irritant: I once suffered through a lengthy kicking at the back of my seat on an airplane ride. I finally turned around and asked, as politely as my irritation could allow, if the parents could keep their child from kicking my seat. The father proceeded to jab me in the shoulder as I turned back and say, "Hey, buddy! It was *me* who was kicking your seat." And then to talk loudly about how rude some people were.

I remain deeply sorry I didn't turn back and apologize to the child, saying "I presumed, of course, that an adult would KNOW BETTER!!!!

Dear people, wherever you are: I hope your children cost you a significant amount of bail money. But given your parenting skills, it seems likely that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. [Evil]

[ April 05, 2006, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: Sterling ]

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MandyM
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I hate it when you think of the perfect comeback after the fact (I love that line about the adult knoing better Sterling).

Belle, I am like you. I probably would have said nothing but I would have fumed about it like you. What I would want to say is, "Thanks but I think I've covered it!" but in actuality, I would have just glared at her. I also would have just climbed those bleachers and glared until someone moved their darned feet but you are certainly nicer than I am. She was out of line for how she treated you and you have every right to be mad about it.

As far as correcting someone else's kid, I think there are times for that, times where it is best to talk to the parent, and times when you talk to your child. If I were the parent in this situation and (pretending for a second that you are not the great mom you are) you had not told Daniel to behave and he kept bugging my kid, I think I would have told my daughter to just switch places with me since "that boy can't seem to leave you alone." I do that all the time.

I have also told the parents because it was obvious that they didn't have a clue. Once at a peanuts-on-the-floor restaurant, a group of young teens was throwing shells around in the very crowded waiting area while their parents sat in the bar behind a barrier. I waited for the staff to say something but if anything, the staff thought it was funny that they were screaming and running around, throwing buckets of peanuts at each other. Finally one kid dumped a whole bucket of shells on another right in front of me, filling my loafers with nasty peanut shells. I was ANGRY and marched right over to their parents and told (yelled at) them that their kids needed to stop throwing peanuts around. I'm sure I looked like the south end of a northbound mule, but it was ridiculous behavior and the parents were just oblivious. Just then we were seated and the hostess asked how we were doing and I told her we would be better if I didn't have peanuts in our shoes. The kicker is that I was on a mystery shop and had to reveal myself at the end of the night. They were tripping over themselves trying to apologize for the situation. [Smile]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
I think being a considerate person includes not having to be told when you're taking up more than your share of space.
While I agree that this ought to be the case, in modern American Society it simply isn't. Ignoring the strangers around us has virtually become part of the culture. I have found that inconsiderate behavior, like taking more than your share of space, standing in peoples way, or failing to offer a hand is often simply a matter of people not thinking. Very frequently, if I politely ask people to move something to make space, I find that they are more than happy to accomodate me. They simply didn't think about it before. They key is to assume that people would gladly move there things if they realized they were inconviencing other people and to ask with that tone in mind.

Belle, If you have the same problem next time, I'd turn to the Mothers on the back row and say in a cheerful tone "We're crowded down here, would you mind moving your bags to make a bit more space". A request like that doesn't assume you have any priviledges the other women don't have. Unless of course you were taking up alot of sitting space with your bags.

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ElJay
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I agree with Rabbit -- the last time I went for my allergy shot all the chairs in the waiting room were taken. Half were taken by people, the other half were taken by the people's things. One woman had her coat on the chair to one side of her and her bag on the chair to the other side. She's the one I politely asked to move one or the other, and she immediately apologized and did so. But I had stood in the middle of the room rotating and looking around for a good 30 seconds before I asked. The chairs are in a single row around three walls of the room, so everyone was looking right at me. Most of them were not reading or doing anything else. But it just didn't occur to anyone that the reason I was standing there and not sitting down was because their stuff was on a chair.
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Goody Scrivener
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quote:
It's possible she didn't think your correction would be enough to make sure your child stopped bothering her daughter doing the homework, and so she decided to make the message clearer. Isn't that okay?
Nope, actually that's not okay. If the other mom didn't think that Belle's handling of Belle's child would be sufficient, then the other mom should be talking to Belle, not to Daniel. The other mom doesn't know either Belle or Daniel, so IMHO she's being really presumptive on a lot of angles here. If space is an issue, her daughter shouldn't be taking up 2-3 people's space worth of bleacher to be doing her homework, and her daughter should probably be doing the homework somewhere quiet where she can concentrate anyway.

The rest of my opinion has been well covered so I'll just rest my case there. [Smile]

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romanylass
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quote:
I will eventually correct someone else's child--teacher instinct, I guess--but only for repeated behavior over an extended period, which the child's parent has shown no indication of addressing.
I'm like Iccy in this respect. But I do think this lady was out of line.
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Icarus
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quote:
Originally posted by Sterling:
To do otherwise both assumes an authority that hasn't been given and insults the parent's own authority and ability to discipline their child.

I've already expressed my disagreement with the first part. As for the second, well, sometimes people need to be insulted. [Smile]
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Sterling
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You did note the exceptions I made, right, Ic?
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zgator
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quote:
sometimes people need to be insulted.
You smell bad.
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rivka
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This is awesome:
quote:
like the south end of a northbound mule
!

I'll have to remember that one.

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Icarus
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quote:
Originally posted by Sterling:
You did note the exceptions I made, right, Ic?

I did, but I would add at least one more: when the parent does nothing about an ongoing behavior. I didn't see that in your post.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Icarus:
I will eventually correct someone else's child--teacher instinct, I guess--but only for repeated behavior over an extended period, which the child's parent has shown no indication of addressing. For instance, not too long ago, I turned around in a theater with stadium seating and loudly asked the child behind my daughter to kindly stop kicking her seat. The parents were there. I don't know how they would not have noticed; I'm certainly extremely sensitive to everything my children do when I am out with them. But, whether they noticed or not, they weren't dealing with it.

Icarues is hardly representative, since he sounds like a good parent. [Wink] Unfortunately a lot of parents don't control their kids or have any standards of behavior for them. In this case you were quite correct, and would have been justified in speaking to the mother privately.

In general, I think correcting other people's children can be appropriate for some things. Matters of personal beliefs, like correcting religious ideas, or ideological stuff is probably not acceptable. However as a member of society, you have an active interest in kids behaving well, so when a kid causes a disturbance and you are in the position of one who is affected by it, you should adress them as you would any rude or dangerous/reckless person, you should tell them to please stop. If the parents take care of this, then its out of your hands, however if they don't, then I think you have every right to correct either them or their children.

I have heard of an seen a fair amount of people who take a different attitude. "Don't you dare speak to my child," is a phrase sometimes heard. However I think this is largely a product of the narcisism of bad parents.

The belief that "I and I alone am solely and completely responsible and engaged in molding my child into the exact person I want, and any interference will somehow mess with my kid's perceptions and self-image...etc, " is common. As if children were monkeys in short pants, and parents own them, and turn them to their own purposes in life; this seems quite narcisistic to me.

Anyway this is not to say you can't defend your kids, or recorrect any poor judgement on the part of strangers, such as in your case. It's just the parents who try to be a little too in control and confrontational with others about who is in charge of their kids, those are the people who worry me.

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Icarus
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Icarues is hardly representative, since he sounds like a good parent. [Wink]

Why, that's the nicest thing you've said to me! [Wink]

I like the phrase "the narcisism of bad parents," BTW. [Smile]

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Orincoro
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Well its quite ironic really, the worst parents love themselves the most, since they don't have to bother with worrying about how their kids will turn out, nurturing them or anything like that! [Wink]
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Juxtapose
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Imagining myself as a parent, I'd probably agree with the "I've handled it, you no touchey" sentiment. Assuming I have actually handled it, of course.

As a kid, I remember similar situations, and I hated it when my parents did that. When it happened, I'd be muttering in my head, "It's okay for grown-ups to talk to me too, you know. I'm not a leper." I remember that exact thought, but I don't think I actually knew what a leper was; I just sort of had the context down.

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Belle
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Thanks guys, interesting discussion. I go back tonight, but she won't be there, since her daughter is in a beginner class that only meets on Tuesdays.

I talked it over with Natalie, and today she's just going to take the younger kids directly to the playground (it's right outside the gym, and fenced in) and watch them there for me so they won't have to sit in the bleachers with me at all.

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