Author Topic: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?  (Read 7682 times)

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Softly Spoken

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Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« on: January 12, 2013, 12:14:55 AM »
I had a kind of uncomfortable experience today that I wanted some feedback on. I know that people have a right to raise their children as they see fit (fortunately or unfortunately ::)), but I am wondering about when/where parental responsibility becomes an etiquette issue when you bring your children into a public space.

I walked to my local bus stop today. There was a woman sitting on the bench, with her daughter standing next to her in the shelter. Now the mother was sitting in the middle of the bench and was taking up the rest of the bench space with her bags. A bit grumpy-making for me. Now I could have asked "is this seat taken?" or something like that but  as far as I was concerned she was being SS by taking up about 3 spaces on the bench. So I walked to the bench and stood over the space, my way of silently saying "another person trumps your bag". I don't think I was threatening to sit on it or anything, and she didn't have any special right to the space on the bench at least not as a bag rest. I think this issue was actually covered in the main site when a girl wrote about moving her backpack on the bus. Anyway: the lady moves her bag without any apparent problem. I say thanks and sit. Then her daughter (who looked about 8-10 yrs old but she could have just been big for her age - and as you'll see she acted much younger) says "Where am I going to sit mom?" Now I am not exactly mortified, but in Softly's Headspace one of the personal rules is "defer to children and elders/infirm when appropriate." I'll take a seat from an inanimate object but not a kid! So I say "Oh, is this your seat?", and I would have been happy to let her sit there. Now here is the weird thing...

At the same time, both the mom and the daughter say "No." :o Um. Oooookaaaaayyyy then.
But the daughter (who is apparently not having a good day/missed her nap/low blood sugar/deity only knows what's up with her)  then proceeds to have a whiney meltdown directed at her mother. "Mom just scoot over. Mom, my legs hurt. Move over, Mom. Mom! Mooooooom. Mommy move over. Move!" Granted this is only what I heard between songs because at that point I had put my iPod back on to block out the shrillness. :-\ And her mother? Ignored her. I didn't understand why. Given the size of the three of us, if the mom had moved toward me a few inches and put her other bag on the ground, her daughter would have been able to fit on the bench. I was certainly in favor of this solution if it meant getting peace and quiet! But for whatever reason mom would (literally) not be moved.  :(

So I sat uncomfortably for several minutes until (thank the angels) the bus arrived. The mom gets on without a backward glance, the daughter dawdles in that pouty way that kids are so good at. At this point I am seated on the bus and see Mom pay the fair and get to her seat, then gesture angrily through the window at daughter who is still outside the bus. :o Daughter sticks out her tongue, but gets on. I can only imagine what would have happened if the bus had driven off without her! Daughter then picks a seat farther back and away from Mom, and lays down on the seat. They stayed that way the whole time I was on the bus. I'm not positive but I think the daughter fell asleep after exhausting herself with the tantrum - she used her backpack as a makeshift pillow, was sucking her thumb and didn't move as the bus began to fill and more people went past her. I got off before them so I don't know how (or if) the drama played out with those two.
*sigh*

So here is my question: I feel like the mom was a little rude to not reign in her daughters behavior given that they were in public. I understand the parenting theory of ignoring behavior when kids are trying to challenge/get a rise out of you, but it seems like the wrong time and place to use that kind of method. When the daughter was begging for a spot on the bench (I have no idea why she wasn't sitting when I came, maybe she was being stubborn or her mom was punishing her), I expected her mom to leverage a teaching moment i.e. "If you ask nicely and sit quietly you can sit here next to me" or at least explain why she wasn't getting a seat i.e. "You can stand there and wait because *insert naughty behavior here*". At a bare minimum I expected to hear her say "Hush up" at least once during the 3-5 minutes it took for the bus to come - all 3-5 minutes being full of her daughter's crying and carrying on.

I thought most parents are usually mortified by public tantrums and are motivated to use threats, bribery, etc. to get the kid to calm down - failing that, they usually take them out of the space if possible (i.e. leave the restaurant or movie theater). This mom clearly couldn't play the "behave or we're leaving" card, but I feel like she did others (especially me  :P) a disservice by letting her daughter carry on. I also think mom should have made daughter sit next to her on the bus, since it got very full and the daughter was taking up two seats. IMHO, until they are old enough to be more autonomous and responsible, kids' etiquette needs to come from the parents - both taught and enforced.

I felt bad for the kid since she clearly wasn't having a good day, but I also kind of resented having to bear witness to her misery. I tried to mind my own business, but the ear-piercing crying made that a little difficult.

So, thoughts?

P.S: Reading this over I feel like this makes me sound like a bit of a grouch or busybody - I swear I'm not and I actually love kids... ;) I try to live and let live...until other people's behavior affects me. Then I need an etiquette ruling!
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Promise

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2013, 12:24:18 AM »
There are different methods to handling a tantrum. One is to ignore it, which this mom did and another is state your expectation of the child and not give in to the tantrum. Reasoning in the midst of a tantrum never works. If the child continues asking "why" or something like that, you restate then keep quiet. However, the child wanted to sit where a bag was. I too find it odd that the mom didn't move that bag to make room for her to sit.

katycoo

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2013, 03:44:41 AM »
So here is my question: I feel like the mom was a little rude to not reign in her daughters behavior given that they were in public. I understand the parenting theory of ignoring behavior when kids are trying to challenge/get a rise out of you, but it seems like the wrong time and place to use that kind of method. When the daughter was begging for a spot on the bench (I have no idea why she wasn't sitting when I came, maybe she was being stubborn or her mom was punishing her), I expected her mom to leverage a teaching moment i.e. "If you ask nicely and sit quietly you can sit here next to me" or at least explain why she wasn't getting a seat i.e. "You can stand there and wait because *insert naughty behavior here*". At a bare minimum I expected to hear her say "Hush up" at least once during the 3-5 minutes it took for the bus to come - all 3-5 minutes being full of her daughter's crying and carrying on.

For whose beneift would she be explaining it. Yours?  It's quite likely the child knew why she was being made to stand.  And its possible that she knew engaging with the tantrum wouldn't help.

Ultimately, the child wasn't being abused by standing for 10 minutes.  You should leave it alone.

Kiwichick

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2013, 03:58:32 AM »
I agree with Katycoo.  Sure she could have made the kid sit with her on the bus and told her not to lay around on the seats, but the kid wasn't preventing anyone else from sitting. Maybe they both had had a long day and the mother was picking her battles. 

As an aside, I thought your behaviour was pretty rude when you, '...walked to the bench and stood over the space, my way of silently saying "another person trumps your bag". Why didn't you say 'excuse me I'd like to sit down'.?

bonyk

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2013, 06:18:17 AM »
As an aside, I thought your behaviour was pretty rude when you, '...walked to the bench and stood over the space, my way of silently saying "another person trumps your bag". Why didn't you say 'excuse me I'd like to sit down'.?

In my neck of the woods, the OP's action is the norm, and saying, "Excuse me, I'd like to sit down," would be considered brusque.

MariaE

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2013, 06:27:11 AM »
As an aside, I thought your behaviour was pretty rude when you, '...walked to the bench and stood over the space, my way of silently saying "another person trumps your bag". Why didn't you say 'excuse me I'd like to sit down'.?

In my neck of the woods, the OP's action is the norm, and saying, "Excuse me, I'd like to sit down," would be considered brusque.

On the other hand, in my neck of the woods, what the OP wouldn't work. More likely than not, she would just be ignored - partly because her actions would be seen as PA and not worth reacting to.
 
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cicero

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2013, 07:23:51 AM »
So here is my question: I feel like the mom was a little rude to not reign in her daughters behavior given that they were in public. I understand the parenting theory of ignoring behavior when kids are trying to challenge/get a rise out of you, but it seems like the wrong time and place to use that kind of method. When the daughter was begging for a spot on the bench (I have no idea why she wasn't sitting when I came, maybe she was being stubborn or her mom was punishing her), I expected her mom to leverage a teaching moment i.e. "If you ask nicely and sit quietly you can sit here next to me" or at least explain why she wasn't getting a seat i.e. "You can stand there and wait because *insert naughty behavior here*". At a bare minimum I expected to hear her say "Hush up" at least once during the 3-5 minutes it took for the bus to come - all 3-5 minutes being full of her daughter's crying and carrying on.

For whose beneift would she be explaining it. Yours?  It's quite likely the child knew why she was being made to stand.  And its possible that she knew engaging with the tantrum wouldn't help.

Ultimately, the child wasn't being abused by standing for 10 minutes.  You should leave it alone.

I agree with Kaycoo.

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CookieChica

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2013, 08:21:26 AM »
I agree that ignoring tantrums is pretty popular. In fact, we're starting with our almost two year old when and where appropriate. 

I feel for Mom because this is one of those rough situations where you can't remove your misbehaving kid from a public place because the public place is your course of escape.

MommyPenguin

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2013, 09:54:07 AM »
It's also really possible that there was some developmental issue with the girl, given her apparent age and how she acted.  That sounds like the behavior of my 4-year-old but too young even for my 6-year-old, and I'd be surprised if a 4-year-old could look 8-10.

If the girl really was 8-10, then I think the mom should have reigned in her behavior, because that's completely inappropriate for a child of that age (or, honestly, even my 4-year-old).  However, if there was a developmental issue going on, what the mom did might have been what she's found works the best.  My 2-year-old likes to go to the potty at night over and over and over and over and over... sort of a stalling tactic.  When she's asking to go and I know she's just gone and really just wants to get out of bed, I ignore her.  Sure, it's annoying to hear a 2-year-old yelling, "I need to go potty!" over and over for ten minutes, but from long experience, I know that if I acknowledge it by telling her, "No, you just went," then the yelling words will change into wordless screaming that resembles the screech of a Nazgul and continues for an hour.  Likewise, the mom might have known that trying to deal with the tantrum would have resulted in a far worse situation (I'd imagine a 8-10-year-old can scream pretty loud and maybe throw things).

joraemi

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2013, 10:04:20 AM »
My first thought was that prior to arriving the mother had asked the child to sit down a 100 times and the child refused until suddenly there were no more spaces!

While I agree that being witness to a child's public tantrum is uncomfortable, I also think it's one of those things we all have to deal with. Just like they have to deal with listening to me give my child a sharp, "NO!" and a death glare and maybe they don't like that, you know?  If she had continued with the tantrum in the bus (an enclosed space and therefore that much more intrusive to other's "emotional space"), I would have expected the mother to take additional steps.

Sounds like you did a good job handling it for your part.




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Softly Spoken

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2013, 11:57:31 AM »
I agree with Katycoo.  Sure she could have made the kid sit with her on the bus and told her not to lay around on the seats, but the kid wasn't preventing anyone else from sitting. Maybe they both had had a long day and the mother was picking her battles. 

As an aside, I thought your behaviour was pretty rude when you, '...walked to the bench and stood over the space, my way of silently saying "another person trumps your bag". Why didn't you say 'excuse me I'd like to sit down'.?

a) actually by the time I got off the bus was pretty full and headed downtown so it was only going to get more crowded - unless they got off at the next stop I think the kid would have in fact prevented new passengers from sitting unless mom made her move or another passenger asked her to (unlikely/see last part of 'c').
b) I don't know how they could have had a "long day" but maybe they had a bad morning because this happened around 9a.m.
c) I was not inclined to ask the mom for permission to sit on a public bench that she only had the right to 1/3 of. 2/3s if you count the kid. Three of us, three bench spaces. I was claiming 'my' 1/3. She was sitting in the middle with bags on either side. Now if I had stood there and she hadn't moved her bag, then you can bet I would have said something - as it was I gave her the chance to fix her seat monopoly faux pas. She was taking up the whole bench and she knew she was taking up the whole bench - I could have been a witch-with-a-b and called attention to that fact by making a production of sitting down, but here in my neck of the woods people deal with etiquette violations with as little engagement as possible - if our options are stew silently or pitch a hissy fit we will opt to stew...and maybe talk about it to our friends later. Somewhat PA but there you have it - speaking up is usually considered rude. ::)
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LeeLieLow

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2013, 12:10:12 PM »
Reading that the tantruming child fell asleep almost as soon as she got on the bus tells me that she was really tired.  My own kids can act really, really badly if they are very tired.  I suspect that the mother ignored the tantruming behavior because she knew that trying to rein in her child would be ineffective. 

As a parent, I also ignore some behaviors that I know I am not able to rien in.  My kids can be difficult and I think it would be a nightmare for us if we commuted via public transporation.

I would feel compassion for a child sleeping on a bus.  If other passengers wanted to sit in the seat next to the child, they could ask her to sit up and not take up two spaces. 

As a parent I "misstep" everyday.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2013, 12:34:30 PM »
The unfortunate part of being out in public if having to deal with the public, and sometimes you run across someone having a bad day.  I'm sorry you had to listen to the child whine, but the mother engaging could have escalated into a worse situation.  Trying to force a petulant child to sit next to her could have treated the entire bus to a full blown screaming fit. And as you've stated you have no idea if the mother adressed the seating arrangement if the bus got full. 

There are many times when in public I'd much prefer the parent use the ignore the tantrum method because usually the parents make more noise trying to stop the behavior than the child is already making.

CuriousParty

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2013, 02:16:46 PM »
[quote
b) I don't know how they could have had a "long day" but maybe they had a bad morning because this happened around 9a.m.


I assure you it is very possible to have had a long day already by 9 AM, especially if one is dealing with a cranky child and out in public. 

Example: I have a 5 yo, a 3 yo, and an infant.  If my infant wakes for a nighttime feeding at 5:30, his 3 year old sister wakes for the day at 6:30, and then wakes up her still-sleeping-and-in-need-of-sleep sister, and then all three need to be changed, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, and in some way taken care of before I am out in public with the 5 year old (who could easily pass for 6/7 physical appearance-wise) by 9, and oh yes I need to be ready too.  Already a long day.

I also wanted to note that you mentioned hearing the girl in-between the songs you were listening to, and trying not to pay too much attention, so it is possible you missed mom's verbal corrections while the songs were going on, and likely that you didn't pick upon any nonverbal communication going on between the two of them.

Basically, I guess my etiquette ruling is that mom, daughter and you were all doing the best you could under less than ideal conditions.

Carpathia

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Re: Parenting in public - was there a misstep here?
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2013, 05:34:42 PM »
There have been many occasions when I have said something along the lines of 'You will not get your way by whining and screeching' and tried to get a tantruming child to stop in a public place where escape was not an option/in progress.

After a while I realised that me saying something was not stopping the tantrum at all and was giving fuel by giving attention. I was *only* saying it in order to show bystanders that I was trying to do something. Actually the tantrums stopped much faster if I utterly ignored them so that's what I started doing - and never mind the disapproving states from strangers.

And it is perfectly possible for an 8 year old to still throw public tantrums. I recall one awful incident on a day out at a busy local place when my normally well behaved 8-year-old daughter (who looked much older) threw a full screaming, crying, kicking tantrum. I had to get her over my shoulder where she proceeded to kick my legs and struggle while screaming at the top of her lungs as I staggered to the car. I was mortified and goodness only knows what the bystanders thought of my parenting skills that day!