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Rants / Debates (Serious) > When, if ever, is it okay to "parent" someone else's child?

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message 1: by Misha (new)

Misha (ninthwanderer) I often see kids around my apartment complex doing things that are dangerous with absolutely no parental supervision. A few examples:

- One night I drove into the parking lot on my way home from work and some small children, perhaps 6 or 7, thought it was a really fun game to run in front of my car. I'd stop so they could get out of the way, but then as soon as I'd start rolling again, they'd hop in front of my car. I ended up yelling at them rather harshly to get out of the parking lot because they were freaking me out.

- I got my first pool time of the summer in today and several boys aged about 8-10 kept diving into the pool, even though there are "no diving" signs posted everywhere because the pool is 5-feet-deep at its deepest. It's unsafe for anyone to dive into water that shallow. There were a couple of adults with them who kept telling them to stop diving, and they'd stop for awhile, then start again. There was another 2-year-old who was running around the edges of the pool while his mother and grandmother talked with their backs turned. Every once in awhile, they'd turn around and yell at one of those 8-10 year olds to watch the 2-year-old. I had to write a story yesterday about a 20-month-old girl who drowned in a pool while her mom was on the phone.

I didn't say anything to any of the kids while adults were with them, because it was those adults' responsibility to parent their own children or temporary wards. Then the adults all left and there were three boys left behind who clearly were unsupervised, and who started diving into the pool again. I asked them who was supervising and got a sullen "No one" in response. "Do you know you're supposed to have an adult with you in the pool?" I asked. "We're leaving now," they said, and sulked away. Two minutes later, a woman comes to drop off her little girls, who looked about 6 and 8. I asked if she was staying to supervise them. She said, "I'm just going back up to the house." No one can see kids in the pool from their "house" in this complex, so I asked, "Did you know the rules say kids are supposed to be supervised by an adult?" So she took them away with her and told them they'd all come back when she was finished doing something. I feel like a cranky old woman, and that I'm probably sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong, but, seriously, I don't want to hear about a kid drowning or being paralyzed in our complex pool. I just don't, and if that means I have to step outside my bounds by speaking to a parent or someone else's child, then I guess that's what I'm going to do. I tried to do it in a way that was polite, but no matter what, it's hard not to feel like a jerk when doing it.

In these cases, I felt that an important safety issue was at stake. I restrain myself when it's behavior that's merely annoying, like running and yelling in a store or restaurant, even though I'd like to step in during some of those incidents as well. I feel like it's a tricky balance between acknowledging a parent's right to decide what is best for his or her own child, and all of society's right to have people behave in a way that doesn't infringe on others' rights.

I do chase kids off of my patio all the time. I see that less as an incident of "parenting" and more as enforcing my personal space, which they have no right to be in.

So, am I jerk for reminding parents and kids about the pool rules, or telling kids not to jump in front of my car? When, if ever, is it okay to tell someone else's kid what to do?

message 2: by Lori (new)

Lori No way! This is seriously dangerous stuff, and I even think these parents need to be reported for child endangerment. This is terrible, I'm so appalled! If Jake and his friends started running around a pool, and wouldn't stop, I'd grab them, holler good and they'd get a time out. And if they did it again? We'd go home.

I'm sick hearing about this, Misha, and they are lucky you were there.

message 3: by Misha (new)

Misha (ninthwanderer) Thanks, Lori, but sometimes I feel like I'm more uptight than the average person. I don't have kids, but if I did I'd probably scar them emotionally by being overprotective and yelling at them not to eat dirt or play in untreated puddles. ;) Ugh. That 2-year-old at the pool kept sucking up water that had splashed and pooled onto the concrete and mixed with dirt and other stuff. He'd suck it up and then spit it out. Ugh. Ugh. Icky. Ugh.

But if you saw the state of my kitchen right now, I'm really in no position to cast stones about dirt.

message 4: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
If little kids were running in front of my car repeatedly, I'd call 911. Have some cops come out and give them a talking to. Put the fear of God into them and their parents. I think most cops wouldn't mind doing that. They'd rather spend 15 minutes talking to some parents than have to come back after your car has crushed kids to death.

I'd also call 911 if I saw an unattended animal (or child) in anyone's car between May and September. Two dogs died while a woman shopped in Joliet yesterday. It was only 81 degrees, but in the car, hot enough to die.

message 5: by ~Geektastic~ (new)

 ~Geektastic~ (atroskity) | 3207 comments Go Misha! I do the same thing to neighborhood kids riding their bikes in the parking lot: if they aren't paying attention to incoming cars I'll yell; if it still doesn't work, I'll call the cops. When I was working retail I had to police other people's kids all the time, and I didn't give a shit if the parents were standing right there. I have to be meaner than is probably necessary, since most kids don't think I'm old enough to have any authority over them, but I don't feel bad. I'm all for letting kids fall down and pick themselves up, but if your kid is climbing up a 6' tall set of rickety, sharp-edged retail shelves, you better believe I'm going to yell at that kid, and if the parent doesn't like it, too bad.

I had a friend that once got into a fistfight with a man because the guy struck his little girl across the face in public. The cops sided with my friend and I have a lot of respect for someone that is willing to put their neck out on the line for someone else, even when the world would like you to believe that it's none of your business. Sometimes, you just have to do what you feel is right.

message 6: by ~Geektastic~ (new)

 ~Geektastic~ (atroskity) | 3207 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "If little kids were running in front of my car repeatedly, I'd call 911. Have some cops come out and give them a talking to. Put the fear of God into them and their parents. I think most cops wo..."

I'm definitely with you on reporting kids and animals left in hot cars. I'll call the cops, then go inside the store the parent/owner is in and have a worker announce the make and model of the car and that they have left their kid/pet in the heat, so the owner can be humiliated as well as prosecuted.

message 7: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
Also, if a child is injured or killed in or near the pool, the apartment complex is probably going to be sued, and everyone's monthly assessment or fee is going to go up. Whether it's apartments or condos, residents will end up paying for lawsuits in some form or another. So preventing risky behavior is in everyone's financial interest.

message 8: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments I say make a big stink about it - what those people need is to be shamed into doing what they should do. If they get pissy with you, just turn it right back around on them. I ignore almost all bad behavior in public, but this is a real exception for me. It also does the kids good - when they go on to inevitably have their own kids at age 13 - to know that their parents way wasn't the usual way.

message 9: by Helena (new)

Helena | 1058 comments As a parent, with oodles of teeny nieces and nephews I would certainly appreciate it if someone scolded one of my charges for dangerous or snotty behaviour while my back was turned attending to another of my charges! I wouldn’t mind at all.

Not that I allow my daughter or nieces/nephews to run amok unsupervised, but when you have a few with you- on occasion one can get away. It doesn’t happen often, they’re all pretty well behaved with me (Auntie Mel doesn’t mess around), but they’re very young and sometimes can get into things that they shouldn’t out of simple curiosity.

Do you think you could complain, Misha, to the management in your complex? LG makes a great point about preventing the behaviour and the potential for financial loss.

message 10: by Phil (last edited Jul 04, 2011 09:43PM) (new)

Phil | 11628 comments This evening I went for a walk down the street with my son. At one house we saw a young boy who had to be less than two years old. He was in the driveway, alone, and had a beach ball with him. When the ball started rolling towards the street, he followed it. No adults, no older kids around -- just this one little tyke.

This is the same house where an eight year old child died months ago when he walked into the path of a crossbow bolt his father had shot.

I gave him back his ball and watched him totter into the backyard. I'm a fucking moron for not following him all the way and making the parents feel guilty for not knowing where he was.

message 11: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
Jeez....no words, really.

message 12: by Helena (new)

Helena | 1058 comments That’s so sad.

message 13: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Helena wrote: "As a parent, with oodles of teeny nieces and nephews I would certainly appreciate it if someone scolded one of my charges for dangerous or snotty behaviour while my back was turned attending to ano..."

Yeah, I teach. It's unbelievable how quick things can happen.

message 14: by ~Geektastic~ (new)

 ~Geektastic~ (atroskity) | 3207 comments Phil wrote: "This evening I went for a walk down the street with my son. At one house we saw a young boy who had to be less than two years old. He was in the driveway, alone, and had a beach ball with him. Whe..."

Aside from being shocked that a two-year-old could be left unsupervised, outside, near the road, I am amazed that the child hasn't been removed by social services, considering the earlier incident.

message 15: by Aynge (new)

Aynge (ayngemac) | 1202 comments I'll "parent" a kid if I know him/her. If neighbor kids are out of control or if I suspect they are being neglected/abused, I call the cops and report it. That's their job.

message 16: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen | 7085 comments I know a lot of parents I'd like to parent.

message 17: by ~Geektastic~ (last edited Jul 05, 2011 08:29AM) (new)

 ~Geektastic~ (atroskity) | 3207 comments Cynthia wrote: "I know a lot of parents I'd like to parent."


I know a lot of parents I would like to punch in the neck.

Angela~twistedmind~ (twistedmind) | 540 comments I don't think you were in the least bit out of line, Misha.
If I see a child badly misbehaving, especially if that behavior could result in an injury, I will definitely say something. If the negligent/absent parent gets all huffy about it I let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they are lacking in parenting skills.

However, this doesn't include situations such as Helena has described. As a parent and a day care provider I am well aware little ones are quick and can occasionally get away from you. Most parents or any adult in charge will quickly realize what is going on and will nip it in the bud. The negligent parent will continue to stand there, oblivious, chatting with a friend, filing her nails, reading that gossip mag, whatever, without even once looking up to check on their child. I've seen too many children hurt because of this to simply ignore it just so I don't offend the parent or seem pushy and bitchy. Call me a bitch. I don't give a flying fuck. At least I got your kid outta the street.

message 19: by Misha (new)

Misha (ninthwanderer) Plus you know, if you don't have a lot of help and support kids can drive you to the thin edge of madness, and its harder to respond politely when you're on your last nerve.

I have a lot of friends who are single parents, and I see how frayed they can get trying to do everything themselves. It's why I really try not to intervene when I'm merely being nosy, or because someone's kid isn't behaving how I might like them to. Most of the time I don't know the kids or the context. Maybe that parent who yells at their kid in the supermarket is just at the end of a really tough day and doesn't have the resources to cope with an uncooperative kid that day, and maybe that parent wouldn't do that on any other day I happened to bump into them.

I yelled at my niece once at the zoo to "quit whining" just because it was hot and humid and I was feeling sick from being overheated and dehydrated. The thing is, she was just as overheated and dehydrated, and what I perceived as whining was just her trying to cope with being uncomfortable. So it was a bad mix of conditions, but I wouldn't say I'm a bad aunt, even though a casual observer might have thought so on that day.

Anyway, I do try to give parents the benefit of the doubt because parenting is a hard job.

message 20: by Cyril (new)

Cyril Misha, I really think you did the right thing trying to keep those kids safe. I would like to think I would do the same thing in your shoes, but I doubt it. My wife, however, would not hesitate. I wonder if women are more likely to intervene in such cases.

message 21: by Misha (new)

Misha (ninthwanderer) I just returned from 30 minutes at my apartment complex pool. It was like a scene from Lord of the Flies. There was feces on the pool deck. I don't know if it was human or dog. It had been stepped in and smeared around, so it was hard to tell what the original consistency was.

I've had to chase preteen boys off of my patio six times this week, including chasing the same group of kids away twice yesterday within a five-minute period. Unfortunately, the complex installed a pit where kids can shoot marbles five feet from my patio, and they now seem to think my patio is an extension of their play area.

I'm drafting a letter to the apartment complex tonight. Kids have every right to use the play equipment and the pool, but they also have to follow the rules and have respect for other people. They can't be allowed to just run wild.

I'd move if I could afford to, although I don't think I should have to deal with the effort, stress and expense of moving because of a situation I didn't create. Just parent your kids, people. Seriously.

message 22: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
Oh gross, Misha. If the letter has no effect, you should call the police.

message 23: by Stina (new)

Stina (stinalee) | 750 comments I was at a fourth birthday party today and I parented the SHIT out of every kid who was there... and it felt GOOD. Slow down, no running, knock it off, sit down, sit down, sit down, get the fuck out of here before I beat you...

I'd make an awesome mom, but I'm pretty sure my real talent is in being the mean aunt.

message 24: by Stina (new)

Stina (stinalee) | 750 comments PS. Misha, that sounds horrible. I thought I had it bad when there were some rogue skateboarders at my last apartment complex. Now that shit has been factored in, I had it really good.

Also, I am coming to the Tri-Cities for Boat Races next weekend!!!

message 25: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen | 7085 comments Kristina wrote: "I was at a fourth birthday party today and I parented the SHIT out of every kid who was there... and it felt GOOD. Slow down, no running, knock it off, sit down, sit down, sit down, get the fuck o..."
Kristina, the world needs a few more mean aunts like you. Don't know about threatening to beat them, but the other stuff works for me.

message 26: by Stina (new)

Stina (stinalee) | 750 comments Just to clarify, I really don't say "fuck" or threaten to beat kids outloud.

I think it a lot though...

message 27: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Kristina wrote: "Just to clarify, I really don't say "fuck" or threaten to beat kids outloud.

I think it a lot though..."

I do it all the time.

message 28: by Misha (last edited Jul 26, 2011 08:24PM) (new)

Misha (ninthwanderer) Interesting. Apparently there's a "no-kids-allowed" movement going on in which airlines, hotels, restaurants and movie theaters are banning young children from the premises.


I actually think this goes too far. I have no objection to well-behaved children being in any of those places. I would agree with policies that allow the management to ask parents to step outside with their kids if they start screaming, crying or misbehaving, but parents should be allowed to enjoy the movie, meal, etc., with their children as long as their children are behaving appropriately for a public space. I dislike discriminatory policies that ban someone from a place simply for belonging to a particular class of people.

message 29: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
I don't really have a big problem with this, as it's a temporary class of people, with people moving in and out of it. One day your kids will no longer be young, and then you can go to those places.

message 30: by Stacia (the 2010 club) (last edited Jul 26, 2011 10:59PM) (new)

Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) For a completely different reason, I don't think movies should allow babies under a certain age inside the theater for their own safety. The sound is too loud for those sensitive ears. It bugs me terribly when I'm walking out of an action movie and see someone holding a baby that looks no older than a month old.

message 31: by Misha (new)

Misha (ninthwanderer) I'm okay with not allowing small kids into a movie that's rated PG-13 or above. Small kids should not be at R-rated movies, or loud, violent action movies. They just shouldn't. I understand that some parents may not be able to afford both a movie and a babysitter, but in that case find something else to do outside the home.

message 32: by Allison (new)

Allison (thebookwheel) I worked retail and had a snot-nosed kid of 19 speaking to his mom in a way that made my blood curdle. He was rude, caustic and wanted a new $400 phone. He actually said, "It's not my fault you got laid off, now buy me the phone." (There were a few choice words I left out).

Usually I stay quiet but this kid was so awful that I laid into him about being old enough to get his own job and refused to help him.

Two months later, he bought his own stuff and his mother called and thanked me the next day. I was very lucky.

message 33: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen | 7085 comments Allison wrote: "I worked retail and had a snot-nosed kid of 19 speaking to his mom in a way that made my blood curdle. He was rude, caustic and wanted a new $400 phone. He actually said, "It's not my fault you got..."

Bless you, Allison. Terrific comeback.

message 34: by Emily (new)

Emily (azara3) | 18 comments Unfortunately, I am under 18, and don't have kids (not that I want them yet!), so that doesn't allow for much room for "parenting." But I see kids, sometimes only a few months old, sitting out by the street by themselves, or a kindergartener running around the neighborhood by themselves. Considering that drug deals are a nightly event in my neighborhood, that scares me. A lot of times, I feel useless, because I don't have the authority to help or even suggest anything to the child, let alone the parent.

message 35: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen | 7085 comments You may not have a lot of authority Emily, but a kind word is always welcome to a struggling child. If you see a baby out alone in a tough neighborhood, I believe you must speak up, or at least stay with the child a bit until a responsible adult shows up.

message 36: by Jane (new)

Jane (shoxford) | 39 comments In the examples first described, I think you were right Misha- as everyone has said, there's a difference between removing a child from a dangerous situation and parenting.

message 37: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 3403 comments I was in the Urgent Care waiting room this afternoon, and I wanted to parent the little boy who was there. The woman with him spanked him and made him cry three times. He wasn't doing anything wrong that I could see. I wanted to put him in my lap and read him a story, but I knew that wouldn't be OK.

message 38: by Louise (last edited Aug 10, 2011 04:48AM) (new)

Louise My mom works in an Emergency Ward at the local hospital, so she sees it when it goes wrong.

Regarding safety it's always allright to say something, and most "normal" parents would be grateful if you help them look out for their kid. (As a mom to a 3 and 4 year old - I know how fast AND inventive they can be!)

As regards to bad behaviour, I'll say something to the kid if they're bothering me (running a trolley into my leg, or are in contact with my dogs/kids/stuff in an unwanted way) but I'll usually be firm as well as polite, and it works out fine.
I once had a mum getting cross with me, because I corrected her son (I was working in a book shop and he was pulling lots of paperbacks from the shelves an onto the floor, bending the corners), I said that I'd be happy to let him be, if she paid for the books he destroyed before leaving, and that shut her up :-)

That being said, even the most super wellbehaved kids under 5-6 years of age "throw tantrums" in situations where they are exhausted/sick etc. Or are loud because they are having fun.
Hell I throw tantrums in trying situations (like after standing up in a train full of noisy people for 3 hours, while sick, feverstricken and naseous). And I've certainly seen many adults doing the equivalent because they were cheated from a parkingspace, restaurant table, bargain etc.

message 39: by Louise (last edited Aug 10, 2011 04:34AM) (new)

Louise Ok this is just lame

"Meanwhile in Florida, a controversy brews over whether kids can be banned from a condominium's outdoor area. That's right, some people don't even want kids outdoors. " (quoted from Misha's link)

So parents can't buy a place to live here - or they have to keep their kids inside? What about people that already live there and have a baby? Can't they put the trolley outside or play with their kids outside? Should they pay less rent for maintenance or be kicked out when pregnant? Jesus... People with that kind of intolerance should buy a farm 100 miles from the nearest neighbours - or a house with a biiiig garden and a fence.

message 40: by Ema (new)

Ema | 53 comments I live in a neighborhood where there are lots of little kids. I always see them running around the curb without any supervision. Once I saw a car speed past a little boy, only 3 years old, just missing him by inches. It frustrates me that parents put their children in such a dangerous position, and I'd love to say something about it but I don't feel like it's my place. Not only has there been no accidents, but those mothers don't respond too well to criticism. So the only thing I can really do is tell some of the older kids to watch their siblings.

message 41: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments People in Utah back over their own children regularly. I've seen several reported this year, where a parent or other relative has killed the child with the car, then said to the reporter, "I don't know how he got behind the car. We just lost track of him for a moment."

message 42: by Phil (last edited Aug 10, 2011 02:38PM) (new)

Phil | 11628 comments There's a program called "Spot the Tot" that has been in effect for several years. Here's a blurb from the web site...

Between 1997 and 2003, more than 20 Utah children were killed and more than 415 were seriously injured by backovers. In 2004 alone, 10 children were killed.

The PDF referenced from that site gives a scary statistic:

Every six days a Utah child is run over in a driveway or parking lot.

message 43: by Misha (new)

Misha (ninthwanderer) I had to write about one of those this summer. Er, in Washington. Not in Utah.

message 44: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
I am absolutely overjoyed when skateboarding is banned. It doesn't matter to me whether people are doing it responsibly or irresponsibly, it is still one of the most annoying noises on earth. Skateboard wheels are LOUD. And the ones who are doing the aerial jumps, when a skateboard lands on concrete or asphalt it sounds like a load of planks being dropped from a 20 foot height. It's not fun to listen to over and over and over and over.

message 45: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "It's not fun to listen to over and over and over and over."

Neither is farting, but nobody tells the over-75 crowd to cut it out when they go on a toot bender.

message 46: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
Whose farts sound like planks being dropped from an enormous height?

message 47: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Re-read. I said it's not fun to listen to over and over and over and over. Nothing about the planks.

But to answer the question, I'd guess RA?

message 48: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24153 comments Mod
Farting is hilarious to listen to.

message 49: by Louise (new)

Louise I'd never let my kids play outside our well-fenced garden EVER, without supervision, and they're 3 and 4. I don't understand the parents who can do that without flying into an anxiety fit...

message 50: by Cyril (new)

Cyril Where I grew up kids were running around different yards and constantly crossing, walking or riding bikes in the streets, which didn't have sidewalks. When I last visited there I was shocked at how narrow the streets are and that there were no accidents that I knew of (except my dog).

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