Dad's picture

Advice Wanted: How Should I Handle This Mom and Child?

Nellie (from and Dads, please let me know how I SHOULD have handled this situation, in which I recently enraged a mother with my handling of an incident with her son. I am totally unsatisfied with what happened and I'd like to learn another way to get through situations like this.  I don't usually hang with mothers or children like the ones I encountered last week, but they are neighbours and our children go to school with each other and play together a lot.  Normally things go fine, but there was this incident last week:

The Incident

My wife and I had some neighbours over; three couples and their children including ours, playing nicely. I was strolling down a hall when my leg buckled and I was nearly dropped to one knee. I felt like I had been shot in the ankle from behind. My head spun backwards so I could see my killer before I died; instead I saw a 5 year old boy who we’ll call Damian to preserve his anonymity.

Damian stared up from a little scooter that he had slammed into me with. Judging from the pain, he must have taken quite a running start before hitting me. Damian smiled.

Secret Information

Some secret information that Damian’s parent's don't seem to know:

Secret Fact Number One

Damian is a pathological liar. He has no problems at all in hurting other kids, stealing their stuff, cheating at games if he’s losing, and other such things. If this causes trouble then, when momma comes by, Damian produces tears at will and can make up some fantastic victim story in which the rest of the people were ganging up on him. Momma, even if she seemed to plainly see the situation unfold, is nearly always seduced into siding with Damian to criticize the other children.

Secret Fact Number Two

I play with the kids more than the parents do.  The parents maximum exertion level is to walk.  They walk to the park, walk to our house, walk to school.  After they walk they rest.  They rest on the bench, the couch, the dining-room chairs.  Damian's parents are always resting.  I'm the one playing tag, monsters, showing them how to throw, how to ride bikes, how to run fast and far, how to climb, making movies with them, playing dressup, teaching them how to sneak up on things, doing magic, hosting kids-shows in the basement, all that kind of thing.  If I'm around, the kids beg me to join them in the games.  I think that earns me some consideration from Damian's mother.  She should be able to put two and two together to conclude that her child caused some trouble.  99% of the time I'm playing with her kids, so why is reasonable to assume that I'm the one who was suddenly targeting her kid for no reason?  Doesn't make sense to me.

“Owww, that hurt”, I cried.

Damian’s smile grew along with my pain.  The scooter was still on my leg.  I pulled it away.

“You hurt me. Say sorry,” I demanded.

He started giggling.  In that instant I couldn't stand the kid.

“No, you’re done with this.” I told him, up close in his face. I physically lifted him off the scooter, put him on the ground and took the scooter back to the kids’ room. Nobody was going to hurt me in my house with my own toy, then laugh at me.

As I rejoined the other kids I heard his mom call out from elsewhere in the house, “Damian, come here.”

“Ah”, I thought, “He went crying to his mom. Good.”

To my shock and awe, young Damian came shooting into the room on the scooter again, not more than one minute after I had taken it. What the h*** was going on! Must've been his mom.

I looked around for his mom. She was sitting at the table, vibrating. I walked over there to find out if she gave it back to him but she spoke first.

“If you have anything to say about my child you say it to me.” she said, croaking from emotion.

“Sure, he hit me with the scooter and when I asked him to apologize he just laughed at me.” I said.

“No. It was only an accident, I saw it.” she said looking like she was fighting tears. “I never treat your kids like that.”

Now I was confused and embarrassed. Did I do something bad to the kid? I tried to think back. Did I push him, rough him up, call him names? Did I? I didn’t think so, but since she was so choked up I couldn’t be sure now. Maybe I had done something. But what? I felt like she was accusing me of something terrible.

“I took the scooter only after he laughed about hurting me.” I explained, thinking she had a problem with me taking the toy away.

“No, you talk to me.” she demanded loudly. I was mortified and suddenly didn’t want to talk about this in public any longer, so I apologized to her and then shortly afterward to Damian. Damian didn’t care, he was playing again within seconds. The mother later said it was ok, but I could tell that she was harbouring a burning rage.

After they all left I asked my wife if I’d done anything wrong. She said “Yes, it’s not your kid.”

I asked her if she saw what happened.  She hadn't, but she heard and could confirm that I definitely raised my voice and spoke harshly. I explained that the kid hurt me badly, which is probably why I was so loud, although I didn’t notice the volume myself at the time.  I didn't scream but I sure did raised my voice. My wife told me she totally understood and, although I didn’t handle it right, I didn’t handle it that badly either.  Had I done it without raising my voice, she told me, it would have been fine.  We both agree that Damian is a rotten kid. My wife thinks that the mom will never speak with us again, although the father didn’t even seem to notice.

My view:  There was no accounting on her side for her child hurting me and then laughing -- though apparently she saw the whole thing (I think she saw nothing except perhaps me taking the toy away after hearing me demand the apology). Don’t I have the right to express myself to the child and the right to take my own toy from him if he’s misusing it, especially if he's hurting people?  As it is, since I apologized, I reinforced her belief that I did something wrong.  To boot, there I was again within about ten minutes, on the floor playing "Trap Machine" with six kids including hers while she sat fuming at the dining table and the father drank beer in the kitchen.  She and her kid got apologies and she's still angry, but the one who was actually injured got none and feels like terrible for playing with her rotten kid when she won't.  Now that I think back I really wish I had just tossed her and her child out of the house.

I'm not one to act very differently in one situation or another.  What I'm like at home is what I'm like everywhere, more or less, and there are some things that I don't take at home.  One thing is that anyone who harms another person has got to make it right.  If my kids hurt another kid they have to check if the other kid is ok and apologize, accident or not.  It's not even possible to imagine that they hurt someone and then laugh at the injured person -- that's what insane people do.

Debi from Truth About Motherhood already advised me pretty well, noting that the kid had Nellie Olson (the pictured TV brat from Little House on the Prairie) Syndrome.  Debi said that no matter how right I was and how wrong the kid was, it is in a mother's DNA to protect her child no matter what.  Debi said I should have gone to the mother and then, unless she dealt with the kid, never invite her back again.  Either that or trip the little monster later (with a smiley face!)

So now I ask all you parents, mothers especially, for help. Tell me your thoughts.
  1. Where did I go wrong?
  2. What should I have done?
  3. What was going on in that mother’s head to have such emotion and to give back the scooter to her maniacal son?
  4. What should I do next time I see her?



Hope you liked the post. Please do me a favour ...


It could have been an

JF (Facebook)'s picture

It could have been an accident. His laughing may have been a nervous laugh. I undestand that you were in pain, and that it's next to impossible to do anything but react when you're in severe pain. Your perception of the situation in that moment, though, may not have been completely accurate. I'm not saying you were wrong; just that there are other possibilities.

Please!  There are a million

Dawn M's picture

Please!  There are a million granola eating, bleeding heart mommas out there that will tell you that there's no way a 5 year old would have done that with malicious intent, BULLSHIT.  I have known little bastards with little or no dicipline from their parents (because they think it'll scar the kid or "affect his/her emotional growth" pffft) that would and HAVE happily pushed other kids down flights of stairs, stabbed them with pencils and attacked adults with various hard and soft objects when reprimanded.  Now, the way I look at it, if YOU"RE not going to try to shape your kid into some semblance of a human being, I'm not beholden to treat them like one, ESPECIALLY in my own home.  I would have taken the toy away again, demanded an apology from the little freak and turfed them to the curb.


if you did something that you

Anonymous's picture

if you did something that you weren't sorry for and someone demanded that you apologize for it, what would you do? what if it was someone who thought you were rotten and maniacal and couldn't stand you? what if that person was literally several times your size? what if they then physically picked you up and grabbed something you were using right out from under you?

there is only 1 person in this entire world that you can control and that it yourself. it's definitely frustrating when kids don't do what you want them to. it's easy to think "they're kids! they are small! they should do what i tell them to!" but they are human beings too and they don't see it that way.

that said, if the mom was that upset, she should have packed up and left. she also should not have gotten the scooter out of the room and given it back. it's not okay for someone to go behind a closed door in your home, no matter what the reason.

If I were the mom I would

Bogusia's picture

If I were the mom I would have instantly got my kid in trouble, made him appologize and feel like crap that my kid was such a rotten kid.  But I also HATE when other people tell my kids what to do... it's MY JOB, not theirs.  So I see the both points of view.  I think you should have let the kid know that it really hurt, but that's it.  Maybe you should have stopped playing with this kid.  You can't demand for an appology, that's true.  That's something the kid should have given to you of his own will, or his mom (that is supposed to teach him to be polite) to do.  It is not your job to teach other people's kids.  Even a teacher in the presence of the parents shouldn't tell kids what to do.... Parents are the primary teachers.   You stepped over the line, and that was the problem.  But you were probably just reacting to the pain... And then you saw this kid as your own, since you hang out with them a lot.  

First time here, clicked over

Mae's picture

First time here, clicked over from... honestly I have no idea. Something about Mariah Carey and booze in breastmilk.

This was a great question and you were very candid and descriptive!

The short answer I think is that your wife is right. The kid was wrong. But you could have handled your interaction with the CHILD better. Calmer. A bit more gently.

If I were that mother and my child behaved that way I would first of all be embarassed and apologetic in my own right. Sometime sgood kids are brats and we all have our moments but whether they're "acting out" or just general jerks you still have to parent to the moment, and she didn't.

And I like to think that you wouldn't have even had the time to get in my kid's face, speak harshly to him and put your hands on my child because I would have been right there reprimanding, instructing and disciplining (which would have included demanding an apology and confiscating the toy used to cause injury, regardless of my child's intent) BUT (!!) if I was a beat or two slow on the uptake?

I'd be upset about the way you spoke to and laid hands on my kid (removing him from the toy. You could have verbally demanded the child get off the toy so you could take it away and if he refused then you ask the parent to get the jerk off of your property. Maybe using other words...). And yeah, I'd probably want an apology for that, and unless we could have a frank conversation about it and you admitted that you dealt with the situation in a manner that was other than ideal and would make an effort not to do so again, I likely wouldn't want to hang out with you anymore either. And I definitely wouldn't let you alone with my kid (not that you ever want to BE alone with this little bruiser). But I also think that conversation could be had civilly and with no tears threatening from any party, except perhaps from my kid while he enjoyed his time out up against some wall in your hallway.

It's my job to protect my kid from what I consider to be inappropriate influences and situations and I would consider the way you spoke to and handled the child inappropriate. That's MY value system and MY parenting philosophy and MY comfort level and even the best of friends oftentimes make very different parents. Which is fine, you just have to be clear with folks about what types of interactions you deem unacceptable Even regarding her "no you talk to ME" moment, she wasn't ever clear what it was she objected to, which is a while other issue.

 I think you got her momma bear hackles up and she was vibrating (loved that descriptor) because she was trying to keep herself from ugly crying while simultaneously going all Real Housewives with the face clawing all up in your dinner party. And while I personally am fine with another parent gently attempting to correct my child when they misbehave, (they have to learn to take instruction from adults other than their parents, I believe) some people aren't, and it sounds like maybe you didn't know her well enough to make that call, or if you thought you did you called it wrong.

And frankly it doesn't sound like what you did was gently correct. You were kinda mean. To a 5 year old. Because he bruised your ankle.

While I'd recommend a deep breath or two to let the moment pass the next time something similar happens to you in order to avoid reacting to a small child from a place of very adult-sized anger, pain and/or frustration, I do get where you were coming from.

The kid's a twerp.

But the mom was wrong for making you feel like you don't have the right to set rules in your own home, and to decide which toys are and are not appropriate for a child that's proven themselves incapable of playing with them responsibly. Of course that's your call!! To give the child back the toy that you the host removed, is inexcusable. I find that completely appalling. To not demand an apology from the child, accident or not (Life lesson: we still go to jail for running people over accidentally, Junior.) is ridiculous and just bad parenting.

I think what you really need to ask yourself at this point is, based on both the parenting skills and lack of respect displayed for your home, rules and property by this family as a whole (way to practice your avoidance while drinking other people's booze in the kitchen, Damian's Dad!), do you even want YOUR kids influenced by this family?

I wouldn't. Personally.

Great blog! I'll be back.


spider's picture


I'm very surprised that anyone here has a problem with this.  You weren't telling the mother what to do with her kid - you were telling the kid what to do in your own home and in your personal space, your leg.   


In the end, you can't anticipate the particular parenting preferences of every parent.  If that was my kid, and you went to me instead of dealing with the kid directly, then I would have thought you were a bit of a wet blanket.   But that's what this mother is asking you to do - for you to ingratiate yourself by running to her to dob on her son, like some little kid tattling on another kid.  How are you meant to guess what each parent wants you to do? Why should you?  Just do what you would want other parents to do if your kids did that to them and be ready to deal with the consequences if the parents happen to be morons. 

I had a vaguely similar situation.  A group of little kids at the park were throwing rocks around, hitting each other sometimes, and some had landed periliously close to a little toddler (not mine, my kid was staying well away).   Their parents weren't in sight and everyone else was obviously observing this stupid rule of "don't tell off other people's kids!"   After unsuccessfully telling them to stop it with my nice voice, I took the rocks away and I used my business voice (some might call it yelling) to tell them that if they had a problem with that they could get their parents to discuss it with me, because I was done trying to reason with them.    The kids parents never came to speak to me - if they had, I would not have apologised for yelling at their kids nor cared if they were upset.  And though in this case it was other young children at risk of being hurt, I'd have just as much right to do that if the rocks were being thrown at me.   So I think you were totally right to stand up for yourself against the aptly nicknamed Damian. 

Oh yeah, and next time, if I

spider's picture

Oh yeah, and next time, if I were you, I wouldn't really do anything differently. I wouldn't suggest you bring it up again, but if another similar situation occurs, I would put my foot down and act yet again the way I would want other parents to act around my kid.  When she gets angry again, I'd just assert my reasons to her. 

 If you really have to, then I guess you could do what she asked and take the issue to her first, but if she doesn't do anything about it, I would point out that it seems like no matter what happens, she just seems to let Damian get away with everything.  That might seem like a dig at her, but it's a valid point - if you're not allowed to tell him off and she won't tell him off, then basically she's saying that every time Damian comes over, you're at the mercy of his behaviour. That's the point at which I'd permanently uninvite them from my house.  

Well, if I was to take a

spider's picture

Well, if I was to take a crack at trying to get in her head... it sounds like the way I reacted once to some things said to me by friends and a relative - not about my kid, but another family member.  It's a case of being really sad and upset on the inside, but then expressing that as anger or dismissiveness on the outside without being able to give a good defence. That sounds just like her "vibrating" and then fighting back tears.  In my case I felt that those people didn't have the whole story so their criticism of the family member was entirely too harsh.  So if that's anything like her situation, maybe she feels that her son has an excuse to act that way.  Maybe she feels guilty about something happening to him or something going on in the home, so she tries to make up for it by protecting him from negativity outside the home.  Maybe her son has been victimised or treated harshly by other adults so she is overprotective in all situations.   

I dunno, maybe that's reading too much into it.

I had a more clear-cut run in

Lesley's picture

I had a more clear-cut run in with another Mama Bear, and I can tell you without a doubt... when faced with this kind of parent, there was no right way for you to handle the situation.... no matter how correct and justified your reaction was.

Loved your post. We've all

Dr. Laura Markham's picture

Loved your post. We've all been there. I think it is much more complicated with other folks' kids, because every parent has an instinctive response to protect her child.

Unfortunately, in social situations, we are not always there to intervene, and other parents are. When you have a parent who sits at the table with her glass of wine instead of engaging with the kids, that leaves you on the front lines. I know that role well.

I personally ruptured (and later repaired) a close friendship because I intervened with the child of a friend. I still think I was right, but of course, I was setting limits with someone else's child. Instead, I should have gone to the mother and made her do the hard work of setting limits, instead of taking it on myself. I also had an incident when I more or less threw a relative out of my house because of an altercation with my child. Again, 17 years later, I still think I was right -- but I am very sorry I wasn't calm enough to resist that impulse. These are two of the four worst incidents in my 20 years of parenting. Interestingly, every one of those four incidents involved OTHER peoples' children, not my own. I think that while our own children push our buttons, we also are more likely to understand them and see the best in them. We don't always have that same depth of empathy for other kids.

Bottom line: We never make good decisions when we're in a state of "fight or flight." The self-discipline of saying "Ouch!" and removing ourselves is always essential. Despite what it feels like, there is no emergency, no immediate need for action. We can limp away into the bathroom and give ourselves five minutes to breath deeply, remind ourselves that there are many ways to see every situation, and regulate our own emotions.

Then we go to the Mom and explain that the scooter is not for use in the house because accidents are too easy with this many people. Tell her that we know she'd like to be the one to remove the scooter and help her child with his disappointment over losing it. Then put the scooter in the master bedroom and shut the door.

And of course, we can also try to see the best in everyone. We've all made mistakes. I'm not excusing the five year old's action, but it may well have been an accident that he responded to with nervous laughter and fright. Many kids freeze in such a situation and can't summon the courage for an apology.

In fact, since you are the guy who gets on the floor and rough-houses with the neighborhood kids, this child may have been trying to initiate a play session with you, clumsy as he was. He may have had no idea that you would be hurt -- he probably ranks you up there with Superman!

I enjoyed how you told your

Michelle's picture

I enjoyed how you told your story...and sorry you had this situation. My higher self (though if it happened to me..might be a different story ;)) would think the best response would be a quick reminder that 1. Kids are not little adults with a history of adult experiences (you and damian were not seeing this the same way) 2. This particular kid was raised with other family values than your own.

After the 'accident', I might have said "Ouch that really hurt" and offered little Damian the opportunity to help you with an ice-pack and nurse you back to health.  If this was successful, and you made a big fuss at what a good helper he was and how powerful he was making a good decision to help you, he would feel wonderful and learn a little about empathy. (You'd have to let go of thinking that he will seek out creating scooter accidents to recreate this magical moment in the future though) ...child behave how they feel, right?

If he refused, and you could get another child or adult to assist you with the ice pack, he would witness you having a pleasant relationship with your assistant(s) and maybe want to join in.

If your proposal completely flopped, you could have said you need to take care of your injury and as the grown-up you would have to take the scooter with you to make sure everyone was safe and you would come back later to discuss scooter safety and scooter rules, with a very matter of fact tone.

Laughing at "trouble" is a learned response b/c it's a successful button pusher and the kid probably felt you were on equal ground with him as your emotions became charged...what a fun game to a child who seeks out intense (negative)  situations because he may not be getting enough intense (positive) relationship with others. Insisting on an apology was not appropriate. Apologies come from feeling empathy...and a sincere apology is what you really wanted. You can rush discipline

As for the emotional mother, I'd have a conversation which explained that you've been reflecting on the incident because you're still thinking about it many days later and share your new insights with honesty and compassion.

I posted this quote on facebook this week and feel it's appropriate here

"Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." ~Robert Fulghum


Thanks for sharing your story!


yes, of course.  You need to

Michelle's picture

yes, of course.  You need to clearly define what you believe about children (in general) to chose the way you want to discipine. I never bought into this idea that kids manipulate or are evil on way..and what a frustrating diemma you always no, children want to feel safe and loved and happy, but they don't always get nurtured this way and a lot of discipline tactics just backfire (obviously, there are countless books about it).  And I've learned over the years that it's the most sensitive ones who have the worst problems!  And I guess it doesn't end with childhood.

Children, like little damian are confused and feel horrible much of the time.  Imagine having a deadline at work, your boss is being flaky and difficult and unhappy,  and everything is spinning out of control and you just want to explode...that's pretty much how it sounds to me that this kid feels.  He probably does a lot of this stuff to check and see if he can count on the same steady response from the people in charge (the people he counts on)..or if it changes all the time, which from what his mom did with the scooter, I imagine he isn't clear on anything...sometimes he's yelled at, sometimes people feel sorry for a child it's confusing.  Why would he care about getting a stern lecture or getting in trouble all the time..after a while it doesn't even mean anything. And the reason that kids can't effectively answer why they do stupid things is b/c they really don't know..they just try stuff as they try to figure it all out!

If a child (a person) feels good, he/she will act good. If the rules are clear and well defined, they have something to follow.  And in your house you can say "Broke a rule there buddy, I will hold on to that scooter for the rest of today" instead of "You can't handle riding the scooter, I will take it from you" which says to him, you can't handle being a good kid.

But I know how hard it is to like a kid like this...I know! It's better to just admit to hating the frustration and not the kid.  There's a boy in my son's karate class.  He's like 6-7 years old.  When he started he was imposssible.  I actually diagnosed him with oppositional defiant disorder (in my head) as I sat with the parents day after day watching this kid and how completely out of control he was...his mom would leave or silently scold him from the was very hard to watch.  Anyway, I love the karate school b/c they have a philosophy about children similar to mine.  They only gave him energetic responses when he either did something right or wasn't doing something undesirable.  I think they had a meeting with the mom too because she's been staying in class and giving him a lot of posiitve feedback. Within two little weeks, this kid is able to make it an entire class without any problem.  He'll surely test the waters I'm sure several times as time goes by, but I saw something pretty interesting with my own eyes! And even if he's out of control at home...he knows that at the karate school, he feels good and has a clear rules to follow...So I don't think your efforts will be wasted on this kid in your home or even in your can be that adult he can count on to be consistant and clear and respectful.

I understand the mother's need to coddle him, b/c his whole life must be a constant disaster, I bet if she coddled him all the time he WAS NOT in trouble..even if that time period only lasted 2 minutes and was more neutral during the trouble, it wouldn't seem so unfair.  It's seems he's already in a bad cycle of events and emotions which can't be undone overnight..but I assure you and some others who have responded, strict/harsh/agressive disapproval will not fix this kid.  I imagine you must care about him a little since you shared your story, you're respnding to the comments, and you keep letting damian into your house ;)

And it probably is hard for the mom b/c no matter HOW she responds to his behavior, she's probably worried someone will be judging and thinking "No wonder that kid is like he is, look how his mom is handling him" In her case, I think she's right to be coddling if she's not investing in learning how to help him.  And again, she is not teaching him to be bad by doing this..he knows what wrong is and feels horrible about it..his mom's little bandaid of love isn't hurting or helping in my opinion. Her mistake might be that she hasn't taught him clear limits.

It's also hard for parents who have regular kids with regular temperments to understand when they meet a kid who seems just so difficult.  They are the first to have an opinion.  I'm so glad my own son gave me a run for my money years ago or I would have never tapped into some of the fabulous work by so many wonderful people who dedicate their lives to helping kids.  I have two boys...if I had my easy child first, I'd be one of these parents who think I was doing a fabulous job and that's why my kid is so great, when really I don't do much with him...he's just easy....but with kids who are not so easy going, things can spin so out of control and a little damian can be created if the parents of those kids don't know what they are doing and make parenting a full time job until they figure it out ;) LOL this is about 5 paragraphs longer than I planned!!  You should have seen my facebook comment when a friend posted that his son was sent home with a red sticker b/c he was bad all day in kindergarten!!!!


I find myself getting a

Jennifer is 1 Bad Mom's picture

I find myself getting a little defensive when other parents discipline my kids at times, but I check myself for a moment and know that I would've reacted the same way - whether with my own children or someone else's.

I have spoken up and told kids where to go before, usually when they hurt my own kids or they are cruel, etc...  I would've been angry as well.  My own 5 year old would've immediately apologized in a situation like that.   He could be a kid who gets his kicks when other people get hurt. Some kids are just like that.  They think it's funny and don't get it when the victim isn't equally amused.

I understand her anger, though. So I can see both sides of it. But she shouldn't have just given the toy back to the child.  I had a friend who came and stayed with us a year ago with her 3 kids for a week.  The kids (hers and ours) were rough housing on the stairs.  I didn't see the whole thing, but apparently one of her kids was trying to push one of ours down the stairs.  In order to immediately stop the situation and prevent our child from getting injured, my husband shouted loudly at my friend's son to stop.  My friend was incredibly upset.  She said nothing to my husband, but instead tried to gain her composure and discussed the situation with me.  I explained the situation, and she understood.  But she's sensitive about these things, because she was horribly abused as a child and a teen (I saw the physical results of some of these confrontations with her abusive parent).  While she is a hardcore disciplinarian with her own kids, she doesn't like other people doing it when she is there to handle it herself.  Some parents are like that.

That being said, it is your house, and if they aren't willing to follow the rules of your house, they can't stay.  I have rules in my house, and if a kid is breaking those rules and his/her parents aren't doing anything about it (anything that would satisfy me), then they are no longer welcome in my home.  Period.

The idea that she was entirely right (in her mind) and you were entirely wrong is unacceptable.  Each side of this argument had merit, and the idea that you had to apologize while she continued being angry about the situation afterward is a bit over-the-top.

How you should've handled it is a bit irrelevant, though, as you can't go back and change anything.  I think next time, though, it might be good to handle the situation without shouting.  But taking the toy away was the right thing...and I would've gone straight to the mother to tell her what happened so she could handle it from there.

I agree with you 100% this is

Joel Bushart's picture

I agree with you 100% this is how we handle our daughter when she misbehaves.  I can see the don't disipline my kid syndrome when to spanking or other physical disipline, but I don't understand it when you are acting as a preventor of pain and malice.

"One does not have to obey the law, one must only deceive the watchers"

It's stupid to think you can watch your kid every second of every day and make sure your kid never does anything wrong.  I talk over approved disiplines with anyone who watches my child for more than a second, whether or not I'm also going to be around. 

Yes you don't have a right to raise someone else's child. You do have a right to govern you possesions in your house. The mother brissled with mother-bear syndrome, you were not giving her precious everything he wanted. I hate parents who's first reaction is to assume you are maliciously against their child, when, logically, you have almost no interest in their child.

The only other way I can see to handle it was when the mother was bristling and said to talk to her first to politely mention that you reacted to an immediate situation and would be happy to discuss it with her but feel that it undermines all authority to give the child back the toy without talking it over with you first or explaining it to the child (if they were old enough to understand).

I'd love you to ask the mom

Michelle's picture

I'd love you to ask the mom why she gave the scooter back if you ever talk about this...that's a very interesting course of events and I'd like to know too.

I think if you got to the point where Damian always behaved just around you, he'd feel good and might conclude it was better than what usually goes on with him and might try out his new skills with other people to further his successful interactions. It's worth it in my opinion.

I think you and damian's mom

Michelle's picture

I think you and damian's mom need to have a conversation about her philosophy and set your boundries with HER first when playtime is in your house, which I think has been mentioned.  I think you and I agree on most of this..although to a 5 year old who is not empathtic, an apology means nothing, I'm not in favor of demanding this or using it as currency to get the scooter back.  I think where we might disagree is that I don't believe in techniques and discipline tactics to coerce good behavior..I'd rather take the longer, more difficult road and try to build  (as howard glasser puts it) an inner wealth.  Of course, people will disagree with me, but I'm almost certain that some of that stuff 'works' for a while, but come the teenage years, nah. and come the young adult years when you want a close relationship with your children, no.  The Natural consequences thing is tricky too for little kids (even 5 year old) or those who have permissive parents.

Taking the scooter away was certainly the right thing to do in my opinion if it was presented as a. A rule was clearly broken or b. As the grown-up who will take care of everything, you feel it might be safer to remove it for a while.  I'm not really into hammering it that the kid made a bad choice, so that's the consequence...I like the rule thing. I disagree with those who feel we need to teach accountability to children b/c that's how it is in the real world. I think more adults would make more appropriate choices if their decisions came from a place of strength.  Looking forward to reading your punishment article you mentioned.

Thanks, but my insights are

Michelle's picture

Thanks, but my insights are very much borrowed from years of reading others' insights, learning what feels right with my sons, and reflecting on what 'worked on' me as a kid...I'm on blogs like yours to continue learning and challenge/refine my own beliefs about what makes happy and successful parents, which started 20ish years ago when some of my friends did not split town like I did because they 'wanted' to be near their parents in their 20's or they moved back to be closer to their parents..the concept blew me away, and I guess still does.  How do some parents just get it right?  My higher self vs my actual self disclaimer from my first comment should have been interpreted as "easier said than done" and I have a lot to learn still about getting it right.

The currency for getting the scooter back was a response to another person's comment somewhere in the mix.

I read both of your articles..and hopefully can get back to you soon about the punishment one first..You got my attention with the the liar bit...I need to think about it as you presented it, as I never considered all that before.  When my son tells the truth (especially when I know it was difficult) I sort of make a fuss about how powerful he was to choose to do the respectable thing and be truthful...and that he is such an honest person who can be trusted.
I'm still very interested in Damian's mother's parenting ideals..if she can articulate them....your "secret fact number one" is pretty disturbing to read...I wouldn't be surprised if all of that is a desperate cry from him to have his mother set some more limits so he can successfully follow them like he does when he's with you.

I would have definately

Dean Mehrkens's picture

I would have definately handled it differently. Maybe I'm just a natural jerk, but I wouldn't allow the kid to use the scooter again until he apologizes. His mom isn't the dictator of toys at my house. That's my job. :)

If he never says he's sorry, he never gets to use the scooter again, simple as that. That way it's completely up to the kid how it plays out. That sets a clear expectation for him (and his mom). And more importantly, it shows the other kids there are consiquences for their actions. And seriously, he's only being asked to apologize, which is a fairly light requirement.

I figure if it was on purpose, the right thing to do, like you said, is to make it right by apologizing. If it was an accident, I would want reassurance he'll try to be more careful, since he just proved he can be reckless with a scooter (again, acomplished by an apology). What if it had been a pet or one of the other kids he hit instead of you? It's not just a jerk kid issue at play here, but an issue of safety for other kids too.

And there's really no reason for the mom to be angry with you. Raising your voice when you're in pain is a perfectly reasonable response. No doubt if you'd waited to speak until the pain had subsided, your tone would have been different. But I don't think it's nessessarily a negative thing for a kid to learn by experience that people in pain raise their voice. It's a good lesson to learn before they hurt someone with less self control and get loud and violent when in pain.

I've dealt with a few people like that in my network of friends. No matter how "right" you react, it'll still be wrong because the parent is embarrassed by their kid's actions, not truly offended by yours.

For what it's worth, I've actually had to deal with a friend's son who has the same issues. He's a cronic liar and likes to hurt things, but his parents don't have any consiquences for it. I've literally watched him hit one of my boys, and by the time I walked over to him he was trying to convince me that he was across the yard at the time. Unbelieveable! After several more incidents, I eventually had to tell his mom he's not allowed to visit anymore. I hated to do it, it destroyed our friendship (she didn't talk to us for over six months), and I felt like a jerk the whole time. At some point every parent has to draw that line in the sand, and I think it's best to do it before something tragic happens rather than after.



Jo's picture


I've read through your query and the responses with great interest and just wanted to say how wonderful it is to read child-related information in such a non-judgemental way....there are a number of differing opinions here but not once have I felt like I wanted to stop reading because the comments were getting nasty/unfriendly. 

My children are 2 years old and 7 months old and I must admit I do find it hard when other people discipline my older one, but I know it's something I just have to get used to as I do it myself with other kids when needed.  Also my step-nephew is 5 and sounds very similar to Damien so this has given me some new ideas in dealing with his behaviour. 

Thank you for putting these kinds of discussions out there and I hope things work out for the best in the long run with this family :)

I don't know what the appeal

Casey's picture

I don't know what the appeal in demanding an apology is.  "Say sorry!"  Why?  Kids can repeat things and have them be as meaningless as when we do it as adults.  We don't do forced apologies at our house, so if this happened with one my kids I don't think they would know how you wanted them to react.  Instead of a forced apology the "offender" checks on the other person ("Are you okay?")  They express what they were thinking/feeling ("I didn't see you standing there in the hallway.")  They do something to make the other person feel better ("How can I help you feel better?  Do you need a cold pack/bandaid?"  Drawing a picture, giving a hug, etc. are also options)  Then, they explore alternatives ("Next time I will try to ride my trike slower." or "Next time I will be more careful to watch where I'm going.")  This doesn't happen independently, but I think it's a lot more meaningful to them than simply repeating a directed phrase.

If you were to demand an apology from one of my kids in a harsh voice, I would guess that they would end up upset.  I would probably end up consoling them.  It might look like I was "coddling" them or in some way saying what happened was okay.  That isn't the case.  Even if the child insisted what happened was an accident, we still check on the person, try to help them out, and plan for next time.  I feel like doing it that way helps the child verbalize what's going on.  If that happened with one of my kids I would probably be upset, too.  First, I don't think we need to scold kids in a harsh voice.  I think that they stop listening when adults talk that way.  I also think that if you're going to raise your voice you should at least try to say something that helps the situation.  Your solution really was only you wanting to control his reaction.  I don't think you were teaching him anything.  If you're going to interact with my kid in that situation at least try to be effective.

You were correct in

kelly @kellynaturally's picture

You were correct in responding authentically (i.e expressing pain, raising your voice). You were within your rights to indicate that the scooter was not going to be played with any longer (though, physically lifting someone else's child & saying "you're done with this" without eliciting the mother's permission & explaining to child what you were doing & why, was a over the limit), I think your main problem was here:

“You hurt me. Say sorry,” I demanded.

No one - NO ONE - wants to apologize on demand. And pretty much any human who is accused will go immediately into defense mode - it's human nature. I read the child's laughter as a defense mechanism; he had no choice.

Do you apologize on demand? Would your wife ever expect that of you? Or do you prefer to hear out the other person's feelings & point of view, to have a moment to internalize the situation, mull it over a bit, take it in, and formulate how you'd like to respond?

You are the adult here, he is the kid. You should have & model self control. You should be able to clearly & concisely convey your feelings without anger, calmly define which rules were broken, and state the consequences (along with the reasons for the consequences). If the child didn't heed your consequences (getting off the scooter), you should have gone to his mother.


Thank you for asking mommas

Amy's picture

Thank you for asking mommas for feedback. We often have something to share... :)
As a mom who spent lots of time being over protective I can relate to both sides of this situation. I set my children up for failure through taking the victim stance myself - and with them. That was what I knew in life, though, and I did not realize it until some big wake up calls occurred in my life. I had, like many others, experienced abuse as a kid and gathered other wounds as I grew up. They followed me into parenthood. I have no idea if the parents you discussed have any similiar background, but it's possible they are protective because they're trying to avoid repeating something they experienced. Such parents can be very sensitive when their child is talked to harshly, even if the situation seems warranted. They probably feel pretty bad about themselves if they respond harshly to the child.

I agree with your wife and others that the tone of voice makes a difference. It's pretty natural to respond harsly to pain, especially from someone smaller than them. It is something we can work through, though, as to not exasperate the already off-balance child. I mean off-balance in the most respectful way. Children have a lot to tend with in life and becoming off-balance is easier for some than others - so many life factors influence a child's behavior. A lack of respectful accountabilty definitely contributes to a child's behavior. If there's no "checks and balances" they often continue doing things that may not be helpful for them or anyone else.

Telling the kid to say he's sorry is over stepping bounds for some and right on for others. In families or groups where a quick apology helps everyone move forward your request is welcome. For parents who don't want to force or expect children to apologize, asking for an apology is not the thing to do. People who believe in a healing process of harm-apology-forgiveness may have trouble understanding why a parent wouldn't just guide a child to apologize. It often has to do with believing the child should not be forced to do/think/feel anything and that the child will come around to apologize when he/she truly feels it. This does occur and there are times when accountability in the moment is helpful for everyone. There's a lot to this and I feel it stems from a bottom line of not wanting to force the child. It doesn't sound like you were trying to force him - you were just communicating what you wanted in the experience.

In a future situation you could explain how you feel and what you want without making the child wrong. It also sounds like talking with both the parents and the child is best with this family. If you have a close relationship with someone it might be okay to address the child directly, but some parents are sensitive to that. I've come full circle with it, unless the adult is disrespectful with the child, I would prefer the child and adult work out differences directly.

I do feel as adults that we can offer children a model of calm confidence - even in stressful moments. When we do this we are providing guidance in more than one way and it makes a difference. If we're all crabby or blaming then the child feels it and some can be very resistant to doing what we want them to do.

If your friendship is important consider thinking about what you can glean from this situation. How does it serve or help you become more clear as a parent or friend or friend to children? What are you learning about yourself? When you see this mother again, talk to her - human to human. Inquire into her experience and how you can meet halfway.

One thing you both have in common for sure - you want the best for the kids. There's likely a meeting place in that commonality.  Love to you and yours.

Ok, What was the mother

Hannah's picture

Ok, What was the mother thinking?  She was thinking..... My child accidentally ran into the man's leg., The man reacts because of his pain without it occurring to him that this is a child of five..,.that doesn't have the self esteem or courage.... so he smiled, maybe because he didn't know how to handle it...., my child is shy...,., and she would feel embarrassed and either hide behind me and cry or just hide..., and I would try to tell her to say she is sorry for the accident, however, my child just won't speak when put on the spot due to her embarrassment...I can understand the pain behind the mom....because she may be thinking my child is not a mean or spoiled child, it was an accident and my child being a child didn't know how to handle it.... which is when the mom should step in and say, speak for the child... and then tell the child to please be more careful..  Thank you.

I think you are right in

Hannah's picture

I think you are right in saying that she was very upset probably with your tone and how you handled it., and I think that she was not very mature either, enas to the way she handled it.  I think that this child if he tends to bully others., may mean, that he may be getting abused himself from someone., and that the laughter that he showed in which you read as actually enjoying hurting you would probably make me think that there is definately something going on in his head. 

However, to be honest, in life there are too many little things that bother people,...I would say, if you like these people somewhat., get to know them more., and also forgive them and accept them for who they are.  This life is too short to get angry over little things and how people raise their kids... I know that I just concern myself with how I raise my kids and try to be the best parent I can be and as we all know..., parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done.  Good luck.  I wish you the best!!!


This is one that I think has

Jk Allen's picture

This is one that I think has no solidified answer. It's really based on the relationship of the parents, and how the other parents discipline their kids. Some of my neighbors are quick to discipline my kids, but they never discipline their own. I don't appreciate that. Not at all. And if anyone says something to their kids, then they cause a big stink! 

I think you taking the scooter away was the best thing you could do. And if the mom gave it back to him, I would have taken it right back. it's an uncomfortable situation, but the dynamic is a difficult one, because people are very particular about their kids. I would have appreciate your actions towards my kids, but that's because I believe in discipline. 

I applaud your actions in disciplining the kid. Unfortunately that little Damian might have a tough adulthood not having any discipline or teachings of respect.