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“I Want It Now, Daddy!” Veruca Salt’s Accessory To Entitlement

This is a little story of how I found myself witnessing an awkward situation. The reason I submit it here is because while it was going on, I found myself thinking of EHell! And wondering what Admin, or any of you, might do in the situation. As it happens, I found myself at a complete loss. I couldn’t think of anything that would improve matters without also running the risk of making it worse, so in the end I did nothing. I’m afraid this means I don’t actually know how things turned out, but the incident has stuck in my mind, and I’ve often wondered what you would have made of it.

This past December, I was doing a grocery shop in my local supermarket. As is often the case, the supermarket had put displays of tempting seasonal items next to the checkouts – in this case, small stuffed penguin toys, priced about £8 each. As I was waiting to start loading my groceries onto the belt, a father with his young daughter joined the queue one over from me (I’m sure you can see where this is going).

The daughter was somewhere between eight and ten years old. Sure enough, as soon as she laid eyes on these cute penguin toys, she wanted one. She began very politely: “Dad, can we get one of those?” The father refused, in a perfectly nice manner: “No. You already have the teddy bear. You can’t have two toys today.” And so began the most determined campaign I have ever seen from a child to get something they wanted. To give her credit, she didn’t throw a tantrum, shout, or say anything particularly disrespectful, but my goodness this girl tried everything. The only thing she wasn’t willing to give up was the stuffed teddy bear already in their trolley. She tried bargaining with nebulous treats in her future, but she was clearly determined to have both the teddy bear, and the penguin.

Throughout all this, the father was refusing to give in, and clearly doing his best to do so in a reasonable manner. Every argument his daughter came up with, he refuted reasonably and politely.

I want to stress how extremely persistent and irritating this girl was. She just wouldn’t give up. I like children on the whole, but I personally wanted to discipline this girl by taking away all of her stuffed animals and other toys for a month. (In reality, I just loaded my groceries and ignored them). After several minutes of begging and bargaining, the father did what I would’ve done several minutes beforehand if it had been my child. He said, “We’re not getting that penguin. If you ask for it again, I’ll buy the penguin, and the teddy bear, and on the way out they both go into the donation box.” Hoorah! I thought to myself. And the girl did shut up for a second. All seemed calm.

But wait! Just as the daughter was beginning another tired “but Dad…” assault, but clearly winding down, the “Dastardly Woman” joined the queue behind them. The Dastardly Woman saw the girl longingly playing with one of the penguins, and immediately stuck her oar in. EHellions, up to this point I had been witnessing this as a scene between a beleaguered dad and his determined, irritating daughter. Dastardly Woman ushered in the next, unwanted act.

(For description purposes only, Dastardly Woman was between forty and fifty years old, smartly dressed, alone, and with a basket of sensible groceries.)

“Aaaww,” gushed Dastardly Woman, “he needs a home, doesn’t he?” (referring to the stuffed penguin currently being held by irritating daughter). “No,” said the father, clearly exhausted. “He should stay right here. She has too many toys already.” And so the battle began anew: daughter and Dastardly Woman extolling the virtues of owning one of these blasted penguins, and the father putting in the occasional tired “no, she has too many toys already,” etc. I could almost understand it if it was a case of a “friendly” person trying to empathize with the daughter, but this was ridiculous. This woman had just barged in, and was happily making parenting difficult in the most stupendous fashion. I don’t think that was her intent though. She was just happily arrogant in her own point of view, and couldn’t resist plonking it onto everyone else’s reality.

My jaw had metaphorically dropped when Dastardly Woman first spoke, and it was at this point in the proceedings that EHell popped into my head, and my mind went into overdrive trying to think of ways I could help this father without being directly rude to Dastardly Woman, or cruel to Irritating Daughter.

Meanwhile, the discussion continued, Dastardly Woman using such phrases as, “Oh, daddies are mean, aren’t they?”, and, “He needs a home with you, with all his friends, doesn’t he?”

It takes a lot to get me genuinely annoyed nowadays, but this woman was infuriating. It was actually the thought of EHell that stopped me from giving her a piece of my mind, because I realized that I couldn’t think of anything to say to her that wouldn’t then escalate the situation and make it worse for everyone. So I carried on putting my groceries on the belt, paid for them, and left (while the situation carried on behind me).

Is there anything I could have done to support the father without being intrusive? Was there any way to shut down that obnoxious woman without escalating the situation? I would dearly like the advice of EHell Dame, and the opinion of EHellions. This situation happened months ago, and it still makes me cross when I think of it.  0508-17

The father’s only mistake, if it can be called that, is that he waited too long to state the options available thus giving his daughter the opportunity to continue to pressure, whine and beg and it became a spectacle observed by too many people.   With my children, continued whining to gain something after being told “No” resulted in the child completely losing it all.   Not only the penguin but the teddy bear as well with no hope of reversing my decision.  My kids learned very early to not beg or wheedle for me to buy things once the decision had been made to not get it.

Dastardly Woman should have minded her own business and in this situation there was nothing to done by anyone else unless they, too, wanted to be an intrusive busy body.

 

{ 74 comments }
{ 74 comments… add one }
  • Semperviren January 18, 2018, 9:10 am

    Dad was doing fine, he didn’t need a stranger sailing in to “help”. This is one of those situations where you mentally shake your head and go about your own business.

  • DGS January 18, 2018, 9:54 am

    The Father certainly should have warned the Daughter that he would take the teddy bear away as well sooner – typically, 3 warnings and firm no’s suffice. “No, we are not getting anything else today. You have plenty of toys at home, and you have just agreed to get a new teddy bear”. “You can either have the teddy bear or the penguin, not both”. “If you continue begging, you are not getting either, the teddy or the penguin, and we will put them in a basket for donation”. After that, no more needling or bargaining, out come the teddy and the penguin and into the donation basket they go.

    However, the Dastardly Dame had no business interfering in someone else’s child-rearing practices unless the parent was being abusive to the child (hitting them, screaming obscenities at them), at which point, the stranger’s prerogative is to involve the shop management and the police. Such “helpful” intrusions are never helpful and actually harmful, and the Father was much more patient than I would have been – I would have sternly said, “Ma’am, please, stay out of this, as this is none of your business.”

    I am troubled by the rather nasty descriptors that the LW has used to address the child’s whining. The child’s BEHAVIOR is whiny, needy and bratty, but we have no idea if this is a bad day that a child is having, or if the child is always behaving in this manner. All the projections about how the child is irritating are really upsetting; the child’s BEHAVIOR was irritating, but the child may have been perfectly lovely otherwise, and the father seemed to be doing his best.

    • Vrinda January 18, 2018, 10:24 pm

      I am not troubled by the LW calling the child irritating. She was irritating and it’s irrelevant what is she like otherwise, since we are not talking about how she behaves outside of this incident. How a stranger describes her on a website where she is not being named and which she may never find out about is not nearly as much as issue as her bratty behavior was. It’s not going to traumatize her.

    • Powers January 21, 2018, 3:20 pm

      I like the impulse behind the donation, but I don’t like using donation as a punishment.

      • EchoGirl January 24, 2018, 11:36 pm

        That’s a good observation. I used to work for a nonprofit, and I too am leery of using “give to the poor” as a punishment. With young children, in particular, it creates an association between the act of giving and the sense of disappointment/having something taken away from yourself. It’s much better to create positive experiences around giving and volunteering, so the kids will grow into adults that enjoy doing those things.

        Furthermore, it feels like taunting the kid…oooh, look at this thing I just bought that I know you want, now watch it go away! (Not to mention, if I were the kid, I’d wonder why my parent acted like it was such a burden to buy it for me, but not to spend the exact same amount of money to teach me a lesson; but then, I was an unusually perceptive child.) Why not just “if you keep complaining, I’ll put the teddy bear back and you won’t get anything today”?

      • Anonymous January 26, 2018, 6:26 pm

        Yeah, same. I would have stuck with “no,” and left the donation basket out of it. Or, alternatively, I would have bought Veruca the penguin, but saved it to give to her for Christmas. If she still believed in Santa Claus, I might have said no in the store, but gone back and bought it for her later, to give to her from “Santa.”

  • Michelle January 18, 2018, 9:56 am

    Dastardly Woman should have purchased all those poor, pitiful penguins and taken them home with her.

    Seriously people. Don’t butt in when a parent is parenting their child.

    Too often we hear complaints about parents who don’t even attempt to parent their children and let them run “wild”. In this case, a father is labeled “mean” by a complete stranger because he is refusing his daughter’s attempt at negotiating a second toy. Instead of trying to “help” the daughter get a second toy, if the woman absolutely had to say something, she could have spoken to the child about something else, giving a mini-distraction while the father completed his transaction.

    I have run into a Dastardly Woman/Man -type when my children were small. Several times it was similar to above where I was “mean” for not purchasing something and several times where people offered to purchase it for my child. I did my best to remain polite, but sometimes you just have to tell people to mind their own business.

    • NostalgicGal January 19, 2018, 8:29 am

      Once in a while I will offer a quarter for one of those ride on contraptions but I always give the coin to the parent, not the child (our local grocery store had one for a long time, it finally couldn’t be repaired anymore. A father had a toddler (maybe two) and was sorting through his pickup. I offered him a quarter and said with a nice smile “Enjoy them when they’re this age…” and went into store for something quickly. I came out to see the boy totally enjoying his ride…) Giving the coin to the parent is so the kid doesn’t start begging strangers.

      • Michelle January 19, 2018, 9:35 am

        @NostalgicGal- Something like that I think is fine. I was thinking more along the line of when you hear the parent say “no” to purchase + reasons and person just decides the parent’s reasons aren’t “good enough” so they try to override the parent’s authority.

        • amydkw January 19, 2018, 3:25 pm

          I used to have that a lot with those ride contraptions at the store. When my oldest kid was little he loved to sit on them and so many strangers would offer to put the quarter in for him. I would always nicely decline. But then there were the adults who would insist on letting the kid ride and put the quarter in. At which point he would scream and want off immediately. He loved it just fine when it was still but not once it started moving. But no one would ever listen to me because I was apparently a mean parent for not letting him ride

      • Devin January 19, 2018, 12:44 pm

        I’m glad you mentioned giving the coin to the parents so the child does associate begging to strangers with getting their way. I was once in a checkout line and the parent told the child she was not buying the candy, but the child could have it if they could pay for it. The child then started begging other customers in the line to pay for the candy and the parent didn’t step in… that’s not a lesson a child should learn!!

    • Queen of the Weezils January 23, 2018, 11:06 am

      Yes, it’s important to go through the parents when “helping”. When we play skee-ball and other arcade games, which we love, we often end up with a pile of tickets. We don’t need little plastic doo-dads, but they mean the world to kids. So we’ll find a kid and give *the kid’s parent(s)* the tickets, if they want them. That way, they can distribute among siblings or dole out some to get a thingamabob or give them to someone else.

  • staceyizme January 18, 2018, 10:31 am

    I think this narrative has appeared before, somewhere… In any case, OP, if YOU were faced with Dastardly Woman, dressed in her dark Cape of Doom and Mask of Muddling- you could sweetly suggest that SHE take home some of the stuffed animals, since they “need a home” and recommend that she buy him some “friends” over on the nearest toy aisle. (And clothes, accessories, a carrier, a bed, a Polar Playscape and Santa’s Workshop thrown in for good measure). If she protested due to cost, you could have said “yes, impulse purchases DO add up” in your best dead-pan. If she protested due to age, you could likewise have encouraged her to DONATE all of those items to children who “don’t have any nice collections of friends”. Anything along those lines might distract such a person (or usurpers of parental prerogative) long enough to allow their victims to pay… and escape!

    • Mechtilde January 18, 2018, 2:28 pm

      Oh I like that idea!

    • helen-louise January 18, 2018, 8:06 pm

      “Tell Her Where You Can Stuff That Penguin”, Not Always Right, November 15, 2017.

      To be fair, this version of the narrative matches that version so well that I’m certain they are both by the same author. But it is a bit strange to submit the same story to two different sites.

      • staceyizme January 19, 2018, 8:07 am

        Maybe not so strange, if you wish to see it in “virtual” print on a favorite forum? Multiple publishers means multiple possible publications of the anecdote…

      • jokergirl129 January 24, 2018, 12:59 pm

        Yes this is where I first read the story too on Not Always Right. I was actually skimming through the comments to see if anyone else brought this up or not because I would have made a link to it (if/after I found the story again on NAR).

        Most of the comments on NAR were basically how rude the older woman was and how you don’t undermine the father’s parenting and so on.

        If OP is the same person that submitted it to NAR then perhaps she came here to specifically get advice on how to deal with this type of situation in a more polite fashion. Because while many people in the NAR comment sections give good points and such (I’ve commented and talked to some of them myself) it’s not exactly a place to get a lot of etiquette advice. Plus submitting something to different sites can allow more people to comment, give advice and offer different perspectives on things.

  • Lerah99 January 18, 2018, 10:33 am

    People often don’t realize their own baggage they carry into a situation.

    I have a friend who grew up very poor. She and her family spent periods of time living in their car, living at campgrounds, getting evicted from various apartments. Often the only meals she had were the free breakfast and lunch she got at school.

    In some ways her background made her very successful. She worked incredibly hard in school, she got into the Air Force Academy, she was an officer in the military, retired, and now she runs her own consulting business.

    But also because of her background she is EXTREMELY sensitive to anything she perceives to be childhood deprivation. She has gotten herself crosswise with strangers more than once because in situations like the above, she would have bought the penguin herself and then given it to the little girl outside the store.

    So this story makes me wonder if Dastardly Woman is coming from a similar place. Where she sees herself has helping a child rather than realizing she is way out of bounds.

    It doesn’t excuse her. Of course Dastardly Woman should mind her own business and allow this man to parent his daughter without making the job harder.

    As for OP, I don’t think there was anything you could have done to alleviate this situation. Keeping your mouth shut and going about your business was the right choice.

    • staceyizme January 19, 2018, 8:13 am

      There is more data out there now than ever about the physical and psychological repercussions of trauma. Insecure living, food and relationships as a dynamic, as well as episodes of abuse for children can be tallied as “adverse childhood events”. The higher the number, the greater the likelihood of many negative outcomes, including early mortality. It’s sobering to ponder how much work each of us may need to devote to restoring places in our own lives and personal histories in order to be healthier, more functional and to avoid transmitting negative outcomes to others.

  • CarolynM January 18, 2018, 10:56 am

    Ehhhh … I see some ways to intervene here … or at least try to! 🙂

    I would have been tempted to distract Dastardly Woman. When I am in line waiting to check out and I see a kid in a cart about to have a meltdown (and the parent is either legit busy or busy with their phone …) I try to distract the kid to ward off the fit. “Those are coooool socks!” “I wish my sneakers lit up!” “Look at the pretty dress that lady is wearing on the magazine cover!” (I am usually ready for a complete meltdown myself by the time I am checking out so I have a lot of sympathy for supermarket meltdowns! LOL) Usually stops the meltdown cold! Distraction! Because no one in the store wants to hear a screaming kid … and how awful to BE that screaming kid! Random comments about socks or what an actress is wearing on a magazine cover are much more pleasant!

    I would have probably called over “Ma’am – that is a gorgeous handbag! Where did you get it? It’s PERFECT!” “Can I ask you a question? I see you are buying Sensible Brand Teapot cleaner – have you tried it before? I’ve been curious how well it works!” “Your eyeliner is on point today! Which do you use? And WHAT is that lip color I need to buy immediately!?” Dastardly Woman clearly isn’t put off by talking to random people in line so I would just give her a different conversation partner to get the heat off Dad. And since she had so many opinions about the little stuffed penguin, I am sure she will have plenty of opinions to share with me! 😉

    Because, really … you do NOT undermine good parenting! I give the dad a lot of credit for staying as cool as he did.

    • Noche January 18, 2018, 2:53 pm

      Love, love, love that. So few people have empathy for the child, only concern for how the child’s actions may affect (annoy) them. Distraction works wonders for adult and children alike.

    • flora January 20, 2018, 9:48 am

      This! As a cashier at a craft store I’ve distracted many whiny children. Sometimes I refocus their attention on the toy they already have (What a cute teddy bear! What are you going to name him?) Asking questions about school or the seasonal holiday or something often gets their mind off of the upcoming tantrum. As for the lady, I agree engaging her would be good.

  • Cerys January 18, 2018, 11:03 am

    I have to admit, if I felt compelled to intrude in a situation like that, I’d have suggested to the woman that she buy the penguin herself if she was so set on him having a home.

  • JD January 18, 2018, 11:04 am

    Ugh, like the OP, I would be dying to say something, but again, like OP, I would realize there really wasn’t anything I could say.
    A somewhat similar situation came up when my daughter was a cashier at a grocery store. A woman with a very small child in her cart was checking out her groceries in my daughter’s lane. My daughter and the customer had exchanged quick, pleasant greetings as my daughter checked her out. All good, so far. Then another cashier who wasn’t busy came to bag the groceries at my daughter’s lane, as was store practice. The cashier/bagger greeted the customer than started talking to the very young girl in the cart: “Hey sweetie, what’s your name? Can you tell me? You’re so cute, what’s your name, honey?” The little girl just looked at the bagger and said nothing. The customer, addressing the bagger, said, “I’m sorry, but we are currently teaching her not to speak with strangers or give out her name to strangers.” The bagger proceeded to badger the poor child, “Oh, but it’s okay to tell ME. You can speak to ME. Come on honey, what’s your name?” My daughter was mortified, and finally had to say, “That’s all right, she doesn’t have to say anything if she doesn’t want to. I’m glad she listens to her mother.” The bagger still insisted the little girl should talk with her, still kept addressing the little girl, and the customer threw a glance at my daughter that clearly said, “I’m ticked off, and I wish this woman here would shut up.” All the customer said, however, was, “No, I would rather not confuse her just now as she’s still learning,” and my daughter checked her out at warp speed in order to end the embarrassing situation quickly. The customer gave my daughter a grateful smile and a thank you, and left. The bagger still was trying to talk with the little girl as the woman and girl went out the door; “‘Bye sweetie! Can you say ‘bye?” In this case, my daughter did say something, but as she and the bagger both represented the store, and the store’s customer was clearly unhappy, my daughter felt it best to say something. In OP’s case, as tempting as it would have been, there really wasn’t any reason for yet another person to speak up, but if I was that father, it might have been a struggle for me to remain polite to that woman trying to undermine him. And for her to suggest he was mean…? Yeah, that’s where I would have said something, hopefully politely, had I been him.

    • Michelle January 19, 2018, 9:39 am

      Wow. I would have been tempted to report her to management.

  • Shalamar January 18, 2018, 11:17 am

    I agree with Admin. When my daughters pulled that sort of thing, and I’d already said “No” a couple of times, I’d say “If I have to say ‘No’ one more time, I’m going to get mad.” That always did the trick!

  • Victoria January 18, 2018, 11:47 am

    This story sounds familiar. Was it on the forum? Or maybe reddit?

    • Multi-Facets January 18, 2018, 2:46 pm

      I saw it over on “Not Always Friendly.”

    • Shawna Rose January 18, 2018, 3:57 pm

      I’m pretty sure I saw this one before, and the only similar site I go to is Not Always Right, so I assume it’s from there.

    • Jane January 18, 2018, 4:28 pm

      Victoria- I was wondering the same thing, I have definitely read this story before. I don’t read the forum so I know it’s not from there, but can’t for the life of me figure out where It could have been.

    • Lady Catford January 18, 2018, 7:42 pm

      not always right.com

    • helen-louise January 18, 2018, 8:03 pm

      Not Always Right, I think in the Not Always Friendly part of the site.

  • PJ January 18, 2018, 12:03 pm

    I think OP chose the best course of action– to keep out of it. Let parents — especially ones you don’t even know– manage their relationships with their kids. Let them decide how long to let a discussion continue before laying down the law. It is part of the learning process for kids. If their only offense is that they annoy you, then mind your own business. Being annoyed by strangers is just a fact of life.

    The other woman should have done the same. But still, it isn’t the OP’s place to insert herself and compound the situation. While the dad may not have been parenting to the OP’s satisfaction, his approach was his choice, and he was doing fine.

    So, OP’s action, or lack of action, was the right thing to do.

  • sandisadie January 18, 2018, 12:05 pm

    As a person who raised a daughter and two granddaughters, I would have thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t that parent – and just gone on my way, secretly sending my best wishes to that dad.

  • Harry's Mom January 18, 2018, 12:34 pm

    Let’s give a big round of applause to Dad for handling this situation splendidly. Dastardly Woman should be shown the way to EHell for butting into a private matter, and OP, you were correct not to add in your own two cents worth; this didn’t involve you and you were right to mind your own business. Oompa loompa doompety doo, I’ve got a perfect puzzle for you…

  • Kate 2 January 18, 2018, 12:41 pm

    Dad was doing fine on his own before the DW stepped in. I would politely, firmly, with a smile told her “Ma’am, I’m sure you don’t realize it but by ganging up with his daughter against this man and painting him as ‘mean’ you are interfering with his parenting decisions and making his life a lot harder.”

    • Kate 2 January 18, 2018, 12:53 pm

      ETA: My thought process on this is that if I see someone who seems to need help, or even wants it, I step in as nicely as possible. I would never have said anything when it was a 1 on 1 “battle” but since it’s now an uneven fight would let the lady know what she was doing, which she may not even have realized. Or she may have known what she was doing (trying to wear the Dad down so he would buy the toy) but not realized how wrong and rude it is. I think the latter, myself.

      It’s like when I see someone screaming at a sales person or insulting them. Wouldn’t you step in if someone was kicking a trapped animal? I can’t stand by and watch people be cruel. When I was a sales associate angry customers would call me names and yell at me, with lots of other people watching and listening. After the fact they would say, “She shouldn’t have treated you that way, shouldn’t have said that”. I always thought “Yeah it’s nice of you to say that NOW, but where were you while it was happening?”

      A more etiquette oriented comparison is the invited or uninvited guest who shows up and makes a scene. This was a real situation someone wrote about (here maybe?). At the time the hostess did nothing, after the fact she wondered if she shouldn’t have done things differently. The columnist wrote that etiquette goes both ways. Just as hostess has responsibilities to that guest, so does she to all her other guests, and that by tolerating the bad behavior of that guest she allowed the party to be ruined for her other guests. The columnist also stated that etiquette does not mean enduring bad behavior and doing nothing.

      She wrote that the hostess should have quietly spoken to the guest, and if her behavior, which was extremely bad, didn’t change, to have two large guests escort her off the premises. If the guest made a scene while this was happening, it was not the fault of the hostess, and it would quickly be over. Unlike if the guest was allowed to keep behaving badly at the party, which would go on for hours.

      • staceyizme January 19, 2018, 8:46 am

        An uninvited guest can be a real problem, but should be politely turned away at the door. It sounds mean, but no thoughtful person will arrive without an invitation and clarity as to who is included. My friend’s daughter had guests at her wedding that accepted for the ceremony, but not the meal. The not-usually-thoughtless father had the temerity to ask where they should be seated for dinner. My friend was able to accommodate them, but she did remark that they had responded “no” for the meal. (And I don’t believe that a host should be put in that position.) The no-to-yes guest was actually a youth pastor who “used” his congregational connection to extract an accommodation and it was notable because my friend is a very gracious hostess, long term member and volunteer of this community and was socially bullied (albeit in a very low key way) by having this person presume to be included on those terms.

  • lakey January 18, 2018, 12:43 pm

    Administrator is right, letting a child argue with you is a mistake. However, I think the father handled this well. He didn’t give in. As far as the obnoxious woman goes, the father was capable of handling the situation himself.

  • AMC January 18, 2018, 1:03 pm

    I’ll give the child a pass because she was just doing what children do. (My six-year-old’s negotiating skills are actually quite impressive.) But a pox on the Dastardly Woman! Holy cow! Parenting is hard enough without strangers actively trying to sabotage you! I hope the father stuck to his guns.

  • Zhaleh January 18, 2018, 1:17 pm

    My mother was not a person to argue with when she said no. But my mother was also not entirely rational.
    In fact, she was often irrational.
    I only mention this because I don’t think brining how my mother patented me or how I parent my kids have any bearing in this story.

    While I accept there are times when kids should take no for an answer and back off, reading this story about how the girl remained calm and polite while trying to negotiate with her father had me thinking that she is developing some good debating skills, and negotiating skills.
    I personally wouldn’t have the patience with my own kids, but if a parent has the patience to politely refuse while the child politely negotiates, I don’t think it’s a sign of poor parenting.

    OP seems to think the child wasn’t being disciplined properly, or soon enough. OP states that she wished she could take all the girls toys away for a month, and how relieved she was when the father finally did what she would have done immediately, not a comments, I take seriously because it was a thought born from frustration.

    But if the father and daughter were having a calm conversation why did OP stand and pay such close attention while standing two lines over if it bothered her so? It’s not as if they were shouting or crying and unavoidable.

    Why judge the fathers parenting? Why not discipline yourself to turn away from a conversation that you find irritating but doesn’t involve you?

    The father may very well have a sit down discussion with the daughter, who seems to have great verbal skills, about when the appropriate time to end negotiations would be. Maybe he would also talk to her about the danger of letting a total stranger undermine a member of her family.

    Perhaps this kid responds better to serious conversations rather than threats. Perhaps the man would rather not threaten the daughter in the line at the grocery store and used it only as a last resort.

    Who really cares? The situation could have been solved by OP minding her own business in the first place. As soon as she found the interaction annoying she could have looked at magazine headlines or thought about dinner or a plot flaw in her favourite tv show. I think the thing happening two lines over would have been easy to ignore.

    I just don’t get it. I’ve never heard anyone complain about a calm conversation overheard in a grocery store.
    The woman coming in at the end sounds annoying, but surely there are other things the mind could attend to.

    • Miss-E January 18, 2018, 11:51 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. The fathers parenting style really isn’t for us to judge, especially since the O stated that the girl was not throwing a fit or making a scene. OP was right to stay out of the confrontation and really ought to have turned her attention elsewhere long ago, pick up a magazine, play Angry Birds, check out the BBC site…just mind your business.

    • EchoGirl January 19, 2018, 12:03 am

      I agree. Like you, Zhaleh, I put up with an unreasonable parent (she once took a piece of candy from my then three-year-old brother because he reacted to an earlier unreasonable demand by (gasp) groaning), so I may also have a bias. But I too get frustrated by the level of vitriol towards parents who don’t “bring down the hammer” as it were.

      In this case, the father wasn’t letting his daughter run wild or throw a tantrum, and he didn’t cave to her pleading (though even if he had, I’d still be saying that’s between him and his daughter). What’s so horrible about letting her make her case instead of immediately demanding her obedience? A truly spoiled child would not have remained so calm, and a father who spoils his child wouldn’t have stuck to his “no” for long.

      The Dastardly Woman was way in the wrong, no question. But up to that point, it just reads as a father parenting in a non-traditional way, and OP getting annoyed because she thought the kid “needed discipline”. The only thing (admittedly a big thing) that separates OP and DW is that OP stopped at thought and didn’t get involved. Both OP and DW thought they knew better than the father did how he “should” be parenting.

      • Semperviren January 19, 2018, 9:39 am

        I agree with all of this.

    • Melissa January 19, 2018, 11:22 am

      I disagree. For one thing, she was one line over, not two. And either way, if someone is loud enough for you to hear their entire conversation, you are not at fault for hearing it; you’re not at fault for forming an opinion either, and this site wouldn’t exist if OP is at fault for anonymously sharing. Next, she really does not disparage the father’s parenting. The only thing she, along with Admin, says is that she wishes he would have given his daughter the ultimatum earlier in the conversation. She even says he was clearly trying to be as reasonable as he could.

      However, I think it’s pretty obvious that there would be no story to tell without Dastardly Woman, that is the entire point of the story here. If the story was all about a child whining for a toy, and a father listening to it for a while before really putting his foot down, I doubt OP would have bothered writing a submission up, and I also doubt that Admin would have chosen it for the blog because it wouldn’t really be very interesting. What makes the story worthy of sharing was the Dastardly Woman and her ridiculous involvement in the conversation. The first part is there for background. What made the story interesting is that, as soon as Dad had issued his ultimatum, and OP thought they were done listening to this whole thing, that’s when DW steps in and restarts the whole thing!

      • Zhaleh January 20, 2018, 1:22 pm

        Hey Melissa,

        I reread the post and I see what you mean. To me “one queue over” means the queue after the next one. Because the words the queue next to mine, or beside mine would be used, where I’m from, and one queue over would mean there was a queue in between. But things are phrased differently in different places so fair enough.

        I still think OP was doing more than overhearing a conversation that she couldn’t help overhearing. She seems to have paid keen attention to the girls chatter and the fathers reaction because it is explained in great detail. Even when she says she started unloading her groceriesand ignore them, she was still able to note how long the girl persisted, decide how she herself would discipline the child and her excitement when the father did what she would have done several minutes before.

        I shop at a very small, tightly packed grocery store and can barely pay attention to my own daughter when she’s with me and I’m unloading groceries and getting ready to pay. I still claim she could have done a better job of ignoring the whole thing as soon as she was irritated.

        Finally, you’re right that she didn’t do much criticizing of the father. I reacted to the several posts where people stated they would never parent like that and how they raised kids that would never ask for anything or never ever object to a no, or that their mothers did so much better. It’s a specific thing that gets on my nerves. I haven’t spoken to anyone who describe how they were perfect disciplinarians with out, and I mean this with out hyperbole, actually, literally raising their nose in the air. And I find it absolutely jarring.

        But no, the OP herself, wasn’t guilty of this. I will have to watch myself in the future. I just hear so much about snowflakes and entitlement, and spoiled brats and bad parenting, and yes there is a lot of that out there but I find quite a lot of people are quick to throw those words out at the slight drop of a furrowed brow. (That analogy doesn’t work does it?). But if I am so quick to defend everyone because I tire of the quick judgements, than I’m just behaving in the same manner. Lesson learned! Thank you.

    • Kate 2 January 19, 2018, 4:43 pm

      It is not polite or respectful to ignore another person’s “No” and negotiate, argue or debate it. There is a reason etiquette columnists and commenters recite “No is a complete sentence” and “Don’t JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain) over and over.

    • MzLiz January 19, 2018, 5:03 pm

      My Dad instilled the importance of negotiation in me at an early age; sort of like the relationship between Cher & her father in ‘Clueless’. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost but I was always given the opportunity to make my case. If I lost the negotiation, he’d tell me “You can’t win ’em all – even I don’t win ’em all – but nice try. Better luck next time”, which was my cue to admit defeat. I’m sure EH won’t approve but when I was 7, I explained how I felt it was really unfair that I was expected to write ‘Thank You’ cards when none of these people ever wrote them to me for the gifts I gave THEM. Maybe my gifts were hand-made but there was thought & effort put into them. Plus, as a child, I didn’t have any personal money & that shouldn’t matter anyway, right? He had zero argument for that so he gave me the choice to stop writing them or get paid by him to do so. Little MzLiz took the dough – a buck a card. Nice! (Added perk for both of us is that I did them quickly with no bickering. Being paid = a deadline & no whining).

      I could see us having a similar conversation & a stranger overhearing it & deciding I was obnoxious (a ‘Vercua Salt’, which is a pretty harsh label seeing as how the OP explicitly stated that the requests were NOT accompanied by foot-stomping or shouting – the signature ‘Veruca’ moves) and/or thinking my father was being overly-indulgent by allowing me to push – and that’s fine. If you think you’ve figured out everything about a person from eavesdropping in on a tiny portion of their lives, then well, how nice for you, Perfect All-Knowing Human. But consider – today’s Irritating Daughter who’s honing their skills by negotiating for 2 toys is more likely to grow up to be tomorrow’s Confidant Working Woman who knows their worth, and demands to be compensated properly. And this is something that young girls in particular NEED to be taught at as young an age as possible. I’m Gen X & far too many of my female colleagues are SHOCKINGLY undervalued comparative to male co-workers but reluctant to negotiate for better or equal pay/benefits for fear of being called ‘irritating’ (or worse). This leads to wide-spread pay imbalances between men & women for doing the same work. Most employers aren’t going to throw money/vacation time/benefits at you – If they can get you cheaper, they will. It’s up to you to speak up & protect your end. Assuming toys are to kids what paychecks are to adults, this child was saying, in her child-like way – “You believe my recent contributions to our family unit is worth a teddy bear but I believe they should be valued at a teddy AND a penguin. Allow me to explain my reasoning with the following…..” & Dad listened. He didn’t agree, he didn’t give in but he let her have her say. That girl may not have walked out with both toys but at least she walked out having felt heard – and she lives to fight, and perhaps win, another day. Good for her – And a huge “KUDOS” to her Dad. ‘Veruca Salt’ is a spoiled brat, ‘Irritating Daughter’ is a negotiator. BIG difference. To quote Missy Elliot:

      Girls, girls, get that cash
      If it’s 9 to 5 or shakin’ your a*$
      Ain’t no shame, ladies do your thang
      Just make sure you ahead of the game

  • Yuchin Robb January 18, 2018, 1:21 pm

    Nothing. Don’t think you should or need to do anything, even if the father later caved in, which was solely his parenting issue to handle.
    However, I’m amused to imagine this scenario might be attributed to the supermarket’s lack of cashiers. In my corner of the world, whenever there are multiple long lines at the check out sections, the managers will call all available cashiers to help ring customers up to shorten the wait, hence less likely for such dramas to unfold and to get a sequel.
    On the other hand, could it be the queue was strategically lengthened by the manager of your supermarket to increase the sales of those little stuff animals?

    • Miss-E January 18, 2018, 11:52 pm

      It’s funny – I was thing the same thing! How long is this line that she was able to witness this whole event unfold?

      • staceyizme January 19, 2018, 6:18 pm

        It would be a short sighted manager who would make a client wait significantly longer in hopes of selling an item of small value. I don’t go anyplace where the wait is inconvenient if it can be avoided. In most cases, with a little planning, it can be avoided. And although the dad can parent any way that he wishes, any agreement for a toy or a treat is best decided before an outing, during the planning phase, in my view. It’s a sustainable way to budget time, patience and money. (Note, please do not read this as a criticism of the dad’s parenting per se, merely my personal method and the view behind it.)

  • SS January 18, 2018, 1:25 pm

    I confess I wouldn’t have been able to hold in a very loud “Hey lady…. ‘no’ means ‘NO’. You need to respect his parenting. You are teaching her bad manners.”

    I know that would make me also guilty of bad manners, but I’d be willing to take that hit on my good name. 🙂

  • Pame January 18, 2018, 1:37 pm

    I don’t think letter writer could have done much, but Dad should have put an immediate stop to Dastardly Woman. “Ma’am, my daughter but she and I have already discussed that she will not be receiving one of the penguins for several reasons. I am sure you are only teasing and having a bit of fun, but you are not helping. Please do not interfere with my parenting.”

  • Dee January 18, 2018, 2:16 pm

    You couldn’t help the father because he has work to do on his own. His daughter did not suddenly come up with the idea one day that she could have a treat/toy at the checkout. This is learned behaviour, and her father has to own that and now change that behaviour or endure the consequences. He made the problem, he’s the only one who can fix it.

    I have two children (adults now) and they never asked for the candy at the checkout, or the pastries in the bakery, or the sugary cereals, or the toys at the department store. They looked longingly, examined and wished quietly, but never, ever asked. Before we went shopping, if I was in a good mood, I told them they could pick out a doughnut or whatever, one item, and if they behaved until we got home then they could have it. And they usually did. When they didn’t, I ate the doughnut.

    I never bought them anything if they asked for it. I could plainly see them examining something longingly; if I felt they deserved it I could ask them if they wanted me to buy it. But if THEY asked me to buy it … the answer was an automatic “no”. I was sometimes referred to as “Zie Diktator!” and did get a few nazi salutes, too. We’d have a laugh about that.

    My kids threw more than their share of tantrums because they were so out of sorts all the time. Between the two of them they have ASD, ADHD, OCD, anxiety disorder, and so on. But most of the time they were the wiggliest and busiest and best behaved kids when we were out, because those were the rules. We had to limit outings to only those necessary but you do what you can with what you have. And the dad in this story has created a monster and now he has the choice of whether he wants to work hard to change things or not. Until he sees it as his problem it can’t be solved.

    • Kate 2 January 19, 2018, 4:46 pm

      I admire your rules, my mother was much the same way and I am grateful to her for it. With one exception – There is nothing wrong with asking for what you want, once, politely. If you kept asking, you were in trouble, but asking once is fine.

    • staceyizme January 19, 2018, 6:32 pm

      Wow! I truly salute your systematic approach. It appears to have worked for your children. But this man is a different parent with a different child. She’s no more likely to be a monster than any other child. Your tolerance of this particular behavior would have been strained or nil. Okay, good for you. The three labels you mention have lots of challenging behaviors of their own, and the wisdom, skill and patience needed to head off undesired behaviors and to manage outbursts is limitless. I know this from personal experience as a special needs attendant, volunteer, family member and programs coordinator. But- in the same way that special needs parents undergo a social shunning and suffer for it, parents of neurotypical children can be subject to a sort of reverse prejudice or disdain that is unbecoming at best and quite ugly in its extreme forms. Virtue signaling because some aspects of parenting or care giving are sometimes more challenging, specialized or potentially stress inducing when dealing with some special needs is just as bad as “well, if you would just… (spank them, change their diet, pursue early intervention, use an RDI approach, use ABA, test for allergies, stop all vaccinations until after age 5, insert other pet idea here…), they would be better behaved!” I guess we all see the world somewhat in terms of our own experiences. But “monster” struck me as a bit much in this instance.

      • Dee January 20, 2018, 12:13 pm

        I didn’t call the girl a monster, I said that the father had created a monster and now he had to deal with it. There’s a big difference between labeling a behaviour and labeling a person. The girl in this story is seriously annoying but that’s all on dad, since he has, at least in the past, supported inappropriate arguing in his child. That’s the monster he has to deal with.

    • Bea January 19, 2018, 11:32 pm

      It’s disgusting that you called a child a “monster” because she’s been raised by a man who allows her to ask for things.

      Good for you for raising your kids with an iron fist where they were never rewarded for asking you for something, that only you could choose when they deserved something, woohoo you’re perfect and the best mom ever! This child didn’t throw a fit, this is a child, no child is a monster. How vile and crude.

    • Celestia January 20, 2018, 11:42 am

      This is like the most extreme askers/hinters situation I’ve ever seen….it’s not rude to ask for things you want. To a lot of people, it IS rude to stare longingly at something and give puppy-dog eyes in hopes that the subject will know that you want it.

      • Miss-E January 20, 2018, 11:55 pm

        I agree. I’ve always wondered where people get that from, why they’re so afraid to ask for something directly. I guess now I know…

      • Lacey January 22, 2018, 6:01 pm

        Yup. My mom schooled me about passive-aggressive hinting when I was little – she refused me what I wanted and told me why. She would consider it fairly if we asked directly instead of being manipulative.

        • EchoGirl January 24, 2018, 11:50 pm

          I’m also not good at non-verbal cues, so add me to the list of people who prefer that someone just ask. I have adults do this all the time (in their case, they’ll say *something*, but it won’t be accurate to what they want) and then get mad when I take them at their word. Parents, please don’t teach your kids to do that. It just makes communicating with them as adults so much harder.

          Apart from that, I really don’t understand why Dee suggests that just saying “May I please have this thing?”, while being willing to take no for an answer, is a bad thing that must be met with punishment. It seems like a control play to me; either that or she’s reading way too much malice into a simple request.

  • mark January 18, 2018, 2:58 pm

    About the only way I could think to help is to do a form of bean dipping. So if there is something in his cart you find interesting, ask him about it. Basically change the topic of conversation. Addressing the topic directly would likely just make it worse.

  • Shoegal January 18, 2018, 4:49 pm

    I think the daughter in this story already knows her tactics have worked in the past and she will be receiving one of those penguins at the end of her verbal campaign. Otherwise she would have stopped long ago. If the father said – no means no – and had stood by his word time and again (in the past) she would have stopped trying. Like the father who threatens to turn the car around on the way to vacation and actually does just that when the infraction continues. She knows Dad is full of hot air and she’ll get her way. This had to be one of the first times he ever tried to do something like this.

    That Dastardly woman had absolutely no right to interfere – she was doing that Dad no favors.

    • InTheEther January 19, 2018, 3:07 am

      I don’t see how her continued attempts conclusively indicate that her dad usually gives in. Trying to wear down the parent is an age old, instinctual tactic. I have one younger cousin who I’ll freely admit is whiney and will ask the same thing over and over. I know that her parents generally don’t give in (everybody has that one bad day when the argument isn’t worth it). The only method I’ve found that works against her to get it to stop is to mock the method until she gets mad and drops it (same thing worked when she used to regress to a lisp in order to sound cuter ;p ). I know for years on trips to my grandparents house (full day drive) I would ask to stop by Pizza Hut every time despite it never working.

      It’s a logical fallacy. By your logic, people who play the lottery do so because they usually win the big one, as opposed to the thought that despite all previous experience this might be the one time it works. I’m more inclined to think that if Dad sticking to his guns was such a rare thing the Girl would have ramped up to a fit instead of slowly reaching resignation.

      • NostalgicGal January 19, 2018, 8:38 am

        I had similar issues, it was a long trip to the grandparents, but once I did ask to stop at a certain place to eat AND I had saved money. I had enough to buy lunch at the burger place for all three of us. This time, dad stopped. My hard gleaned savings, on the line, I was willing to pay for the request. Most of the time we packed cold sandwiches for the trip, so this time we had them for an afternoon snacking and actually got to eat in the car (dad was most particular about food and his cars).

        • InTheEther January 19, 2018, 11:31 pm

          Not really an issue on my end. We’d always stop in the same city to eat and there was a Hut visible from the hwy. Being a kid, I always voted for the junk food. It was just always a no because greasy food gave my mom heartburn. My main point was just that the fact I knew the answer was going to be no never stopped me from giving it a shot.

      • Kate 2 January 19, 2018, 4:52 pm

        I’ve had the same experience as Shoegal actually. Asking repeatedly might not always work, but if you get a Yes even 1 out of 10 times per treat, that is much better than not asking repeatedly and getting 0 out of 10 treats. From what I have seen the parents who really never give in for ANY kind of treat after the first no and the parents who punish rudely asking repeatedly are the ones who *never* get asked repeatedly. It is parents who give in even rarely who get asked repeatedly.

  • Cat2 January 19, 2018, 10:16 am

    Eh. It depends on what you wanted to alleviate, and which priority you rank highest as the one that should be alleviated.

    If not causing more commotion was priority – then yes, there was not alot you could have done.

    If supporting the father in his right to make his own decisions and showing his daughter that outside interference comes in more than one form was priority – then there was quite a bit you could have done in speaking up “Excuse me – he’s said no, he’s her father, and he’s not being mean. Please leave him alone. He’s done a great job of turning her down without being mean about it and they don’t need you making this worse for both of them.”

  • Elkins January 19, 2018, 8:32 pm

    Father’s mistake: Not turning to Dastardly Woman and stating:

    “My daughter has been taught not to talk to strangers.
    My daughter has been taught not to accept gifts from strangers.
    My daughter has been taught especially not to talk to strangers who make untrue accusations about her father under the guise of friendship.
    I don’t know who you are or what your police record might be, but I advise you to leave me and my daughter alone without another word.”

    Then he just glares at her.

    • Elkins January 22, 2018, 10:30 am

      What LW could have/should have done. Engage Dastardly Woman with distracting moves. Interrupt conspicuously with:

      “I was just noticing your what a great haircut that is! Do you do it yourself? Where do you get it styled? I wish I could get my hair into that shape. It compliments your face beautifully …”

      Anything to get her attention on you and away from Father and Daughter.

      Feel a need to be more subtle?

      “Funny that they’re selling toys in supermarkets these days. I wonder where these are made. When I was little I had a stuffed dog, and my own children had a can-you-believe-it toy snakes that they loved…”

      Then you keep talking a mile a minute so Dastardly Woman ends up distracted and looking at you while Father deals with his own daughter. The rules are simply to keep talking directly to her, to ask no questions that have to do with the situation at hand, and if possible (though I realize this hard when waiting in line), position yourself so she has to turn towards you to be in conversation with you, or position yourself so you’re talking to her while blocking her sightline of Father and Daughter. Raise your voice if you have to just a little to make it clear that she’s talking to you now.

  • Marno January 21, 2018, 5:40 pm

    I am with everyone in that the father had good standards and the daughter was being irritating and greedy. (BTW, I hold a three strikes rule. If you put me in the position of having to tell you No 3 times, on the third No we are either leaving or you are losing whatever treats we had planned to purchase.) And Dastardly Woman was waaaaaay out of line. Not only was she encouraging the daughter to keep begging, but the woman was also disparaging Dad in the process. But OP wanted know what to do without intruding on the conflict. So, I say, much like one would do with a naughty toddler, you distract. Pretend you have a vague recollection of the woman and run with it. “Say, I know you! Didn’t we meet at that event last month? Oh, I’m sure we did! I can’t remember who the host was again. You must remember! That had that wonderful catering! What did you think of it? Oh, and the place has changed so much. Did you ever see it before the renovations? And of course you were wearing that gorgeous dress. Wherever did you get it, if you don’t mind me asking?” Be chatty, vague, and persistent. Keep asking questions that force engagement as this woman struggles to remember you and this non-existent event. Meanwhile, invite the father to go ahead of you since you just “must catch up with this old friend.”

  • Pat January 22, 2018, 4:40 pm

    I think OP did the right thing by not interfering. I think the father would have been perfectly within his rights to tell DW to mind her own business.

  • Queen of the Weezils January 23, 2018, 11:02 am

    You did the right thing to butt out and let Dad be the parent. (Regardless of the quality of that parenting, if it isn’t abusive or neglectful you just have to let parents do their thing their way).

    The other woman should have done the same. The first comment wasn’t necessarily that far out of line. It’s just small talk and she likely didn’t catch the whole exchange before hand so she didn’t know this was a problem. I think I would have gone with a more innocuous “They sure are cute, aren’t they?” but whatever. The real problem was when Dad responded in the negative and she kept up. She should have realized her error then and changed the subject with the little girl.

    And no, there was nothing you could have done other than maybe shoot the father a sympathetic smile or a shrug. Butting in would have made it worse.

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