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Is it Okay to Reprimand Someone Else’s Child for Bad or Dangerous Behaviour?

Whilst some parents welcome the feedback from other adults about their child’s behaviour so that they correct it, others can become very defensive, especially if they feel that their own parenting has been called into question. One man recently took to Reddit to share a recent run in he had with the mother of a young boy in a beer garden after he angrily told the boy off for pointing a laser light near his baby’s eyes.

The other day my wife (32F) and I (32M) took our son (1M) with us to a local pub with a beer garden after she got off work to enjoy the fall weather. Inside the bar, there’s a kid (M, ~10-12) sitting by himself at a table, messing with what appears to be laser level, projecting bright horizontal lines across the room. While waiting in line to order, he starts getting careless (or ornery, not sure which), the laser starts going onto us, and my wife politely asks him to stop. He sighs, rolls his eyes, but ultimately stops.

 

Ten minutes later, we’re sitting outside, and I notice the green laser line hitting the wall of the patio, unfortunately right near eye level of my son sitting in the stroller. I look through the window inside, and sure enough the kid is pointing it directly out at us. Disgruntled, I walk inside, go right up to the kid and say, quite sternly but not yelling, “you’re pointing the laser near my baby’s eyes, you need to stop it, now.” I def wasn’t polite, but I wanted him to get that he was doing something dangerous. He responds, a bit flustered, “oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know!” and I walk away.

At that point his mom (F40s), unbeknownst to me sitting about ten feet away at the bar drinking with friends, says in an annoyed tone “um sir, it wasn’t on purpose!” Not wanting to get into it, I don’t say anything and just walk out (I was already at the door by the time she said this).

About 20 mins later, the mom comes out and starts tearing into me about my inappropriate tone and then my wife, who she apparently recognizes as a local teacher, saying that I/we should know better than to talk to someone else’s child that way, that I’m a brute for trying to intimidate a child (not my intent, but okay), and that I should have figured out who the parent was and talked to her instead, because why would a child be at a bar alone? I tell her we’d already spoken once to him politely, and that I had no idea she was his mom because he was in fact sitting alone. She then starts yelling about how I had no right to act that way, that she and everyone else in the bar (literally just her friends and maybe the bartender, as it wasn’t busy) were appalled. I point out that she had no idea we’d warned him once or that he was even pointing the laser at people in the first place, but I also apologize if I made her son feel scared/threatened. This isn’t good enough, she continues yelling about “that’s no way to treat or talk to someone else’s child!” until I finally yell back.

So, AITA for talking severely to an unsupervised child who was doing something dangerous? Or is she right that there’s no circumstance in which one can speak sternly with someone else’s kid about their unsafe behavior?

 

People were quick to question why the boy was even in possession of a laser in the first place, and that it was the mother’s responsibility to ensure he did not make a nuisance of himself with it.

Yeah no anyone who leaves their child unattended with a laser pointer doesn’t get to whine if someone keeps the child from doing harm.

NTA. (knit-purl-knit)

Green lasers can damage your eyes. They all have warnings, and should not be used by kids. That mother was negligent for allowing her child to mess with one. (karrun10)

 

NTA what idiot allows their child to play with a laser in a public place?

Were you supposed to be more polite and allow your baby to he blinded? Wow. (ResponseMountain6580)

NTA- the kid shouldn’t have been given the laser in the 1st place and he definitely shouldn’t have been left unsupervised with it! (unknown)

Many commenters thought that the mother’s poor parenting choices was the real issue.

NTA. The mom left her kid with nothing to entertain himself with but a laser pointer. I don’t even really blame the kid because he was probably bored as all get out and might not have known that it was dangerous. But, what were you supposed to do? There was no way of knowing who the mother was and she could have done something about it when your wife asked him to stop the first time. (Comfortable_Stop_717)

This is more about her being embarrassed for her lack of parenting than it is about your reaction, she did a shitty job watching her kid and got inadvertently called out on it.

NTA in the slightest, although I usually defer to letting the staff handle this kind of thing and would have told our waiter/waitress about what he was doing and they likely would have told his mother and maybe she would have dealt with it. (HugeInTheShire)

 

I guess what you should have done is gone in and yelled “who is the shitty parent that is letting their child point a laser pointer in a baby’s face”. NTA (VeritasB)

NTA and I hate parents like her. She brought her son to a bar while she drinks with her friends, sits him at a separate table and then doesn’t watch what he’s doing. Mother of the year over there (and I’m a mom so I get how hard it can be).

Like you said, you politely addressed him once. When he shined it in your baby’s eyes, you had every right to go talk to him more sternly.

If people don’t want their kids to be talked to by strangers they’re bothering, they need to do their jobs as parents. (friendlily)

Some people voiced the opinion that it is perfectly acceptable to disclipline another person’s child if they are misbehaving in public.

NTA, it’s galling how folks love to scream “it takes a village” then act like this when another adult, with reason and appropriate communication, disciplines their child. We need to get over this weird attitude that one one but the parent has any right to tell a kid to stop misbehaving in public. (9to5Academia)

NTA. Maybe I’m old but…back in my day, nobody would think anything of this. In fact the parent might have thanked you lol. (EmiliusReturns)

However, not everyone agreed.

I mean, you kinda bullied a child. I’ll probably be downvoted. But would you be okay with someone doing the same thing to your kid when it’s older? I wouldn’t. (miggsey)

YTA

Turn your own damn stroller and let it go (Peskypoints)

 

I don’t understand what you were trying to do if it wasn’t intimidate him. You intentionally wanted to make a certain impression that absolutely gave off “or else” vibes. If you thought having to ask him to stop a second time nicely wasn’t going to solve the problem- you should have asked where his parent was so you could have addressed it with them or else gone directly to the bar staff to let them know about the dangerous behaviour of the unattended child in the bar.

It’s not cool to try to scare kids into obedience. If you actually wanted him to know how dangerous it was, you could have taken 30 seconds to explain why it was dangerous, and let him know that if he didn’t stop then you would ask for him to be removed from the bar.

Hopefully when it comes to parenting your own kid, you’ll learn from this that authoritarianism breeds fear, not respect. YTA (Cautious-Classroom48)

I do feel you’re a bit out of line directly reprimanding the kid. He’s not your responsibility. You have no authority over him.

You should tell the parent of the kid’s behaviour, that’s it.

The mother was way MORE out of line than you were, but that doesn’t justify anything. (CSDragon)

What do you think? Is it ok to reprimand someone’s child if they are misbehaving in public or should you take the issue up with their parent instead?

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Jolene

Jolene

Jolene enjoys writing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded women online – it also gives her the perfect excuse to ignore Mount-Washmore until it threatens to bury her family in an avalanche of Skylander T-shirts and Frozen Pyjama pants. (No one ever knows where the matching top is!) Likes: Reading, cooking, sketching, dancing (preferably with a Sav Blanc in one hand), social media, and sitting down on a toilet seat that one of her children hasn’t dripped, splashed or sprayed on. Dislikes: Writing pretentious crap about herself in online bio’s and refereeing arguments amongst her offspring.

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