When a village isn’t enough…

If you frequent Parenting blogs like I do (and I know you read mine regularly – wink, wink) you’ll notice that some of the most fiercely debated topics are usually around whether or not it is acceptable to reprimand someone else’s child. What’s stood out to me when reading these blogs and their comments is, that people tend to fall into one of two camps, which I call, The Confronters and The Villagers.

The Confronters are more likely to go to the perceived source of the misbehavior – the Parent, and reprimand them with usually a passive aggressive or sarcastic, “Wow, you let your child do anything, don’t you?” or, “You going to get your kid here?” The typical response from the offending Parent is one of defensiveness and sometimes the whole situation escalates into an argument On the other hand there are The Villagers. These folks subscribe to a more “we are all Parents” philosophy and they take it upon themselves to correct the child’s behavior directly. Perhaps 20-30 years ago this approach would be more widely accepted. But nowadays, trying the change the behavior of child that isn’t yours, can land you in some serious trouble if you do not choose the situation and your words very carefully.

Until recently, I was in the “The Villagers” camp except, I would be very mindful of what I was saying to a child as to not cross any line that may exist. It wasn’t until recently, after we experienced a situation at the Dentist office, that I found out about a third group, which I have affectionately called, The Shamers. The other day my daughter had an appointment for a routine dental exam and I decided that this time, I would be the one to take her. As most Pediatric Dentist offices go, they are essentially a playground with dental chairs – and our Dentist was no exception. In our Dentist’s office, he had a small walk space with a couple of chairs that serves as sort of a gateway into the larger waiting area which is full of toys. When we arrived, I noticed that there was a Mother, who was seated, and her son, who looked like he was about 7 or 8 years old, who was in the middle of the walkway, playing with some of the toys. When my daughter and I approached, the little boy said to us, “You can’t pass, I am playing here”! Thinking it was a joke and not wanting to be late for our appointment, I look at the boy and then at his Mother and with a smile I say, “oh, well excuse us but we need to get by”. Again the boy said to us, “no, you can’t pass, I am playing here”. Well now I had had enough of this little boy and it was clear to me that the Mother wasn’t going to do anything about the situation, so we pushed past the kid, stepping on some of the toys as we walked by, causing him to cry.

I rolled my eyes while checking in and as we proceeded to sit down in the waiting room, I decided we would sit directly across from this Mother and her child, for the express purpose of giving her my patented disapproving glare. While waiting and glaring, I decided to text my wife and tell her what had just transpired and that’s when she told me about this third group, “The Shamers”. You see The Shamers combine the best attributes of The Confronters and The Villagers, plus it provides valuable lessons for our kids. The Shamers confront the Parent in a more passive aggressive and indirect manner, while reprimanding the child indirectly and simultaneously helping our children understand that what they just experienced was not acceptable – the trifecta!

Feeling empowered and enlightened by this information, I decided to put it into action. While sitting there with my daughter and in a volume and tone that could be clearly heard throughout the waiting room, I began to explain to my daughter that the behavior she witnessed was unacceptable and it is not the way that neither her nor I (in the case of the Parent) should ever behave. I explained to her that it was “rude” and “selfish” for the boy to block the only walkway to the waiting area. And likewise, it was “disappointing” that his mommy didn’t do anything about it. I concluded our conversation by telling my daughter, that we are “polite” and “respectful of other people’s space and time” and we would “never behave like they did”. Well…the mom’s reaction was priceless! After being made a spectacle of in the waiting room, the Mom immediately told her son to get off the floor and sit still next to her. Although the kid still left his toys in the middle of the walkway causing others to walk around them, in that brief moment, she was embarrassed of her and her son’s behavior. But more importantly than that, my daughter got a real world lesson about life and how to effectively handle those types of situations. I have certainly jumped on the The Shamers bandwagon but I am curious to know what other tactics you have used to deal with these kinds of situations. Let me know!

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