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Bad Parenting In Public: Should You Say Something?

Submitted by Joe Beckman

Most of us would agree that examples of bad parenting are prevalent in our society. But when is enough, enough? When do you actually say something, or speak your mind when you witness it happening right in front of you? Here’s my story about just that…

A while back I was at the airport with a co-worker. As we were going through security, there was a mother and in her two small children (ages around 7 and 10) in front of us. Mom was in a heated discussion with the TSA agent about the shampoo and conditioner bottles she had packed. The bottles were WAY over what is allowed; yet the lady couldn’t believe that she was being asked to throw them out.

I watched as the TSA employee calmly gave her different options on what to do. None of them satisfied the lady and with each sarcastic retort, it was clear that she was only going to be mollified if the TSA agent broke the rules and allowed her to bring them on board.

The arguing/protesting/snide remarks did not stop, and it was turning from rude to down right inappropriate. At one point she even turned to me as she was talking...hoping to recruit me to her side. I stared blankly at her holding in everything that I really wanted to say.

You see when I was a child my mom would pull the same shit when we were out in public. If she didn’t get what she wanted the way she wanted it she would cause a stink, and many times it was right in front of us kids. I was humiliated, but never did I have the guts to confront her (what god-fearing 10 year old Catholic boy would?). Like wise no adult ever stepped up either.

As she kept going, I looked at her kids’ faces, and I could see the same sort of confused embarrassment that I felt many years ago, and finally I couldn’t take it anymore…

“Lady stop it,” I said calmly but directly.
“What?” she replied incredulously?
“Please knock it off,” I said a bit more sternly.
“Oh mind your own business!”
“You know what, you’re making it my business and everyone else’s who has to hear you right now.”
“I don’t care!”
“You’re embarrassing your kids, and you’re embarrassing yourself.”
“Oh shut up! You don’t my kids!” she yelled and quickly took her luggage and her kids to the gate she was going to.

Afterward my co-worker looked at me and said “dude, that took some balls. I don’t think it was your business to say anything, but you said what everyone else was thinking.”

I thought about that statement…”I don’t think it was your business to say anything…” Was it? Should I have just stayed quiet and let her continue on? Some people (including my wife) believe like my co-worker did, and think that I overstepped my bounds.

Yes, maybe I did make more of a scene, and in turn maybe embarrassed the kids more then they would have been if I had shut my mouth.

On the other hand, if I don’t say anything aren’t I just enabling her to continue pull stunts like this in front of her kids in the future? Kids who are probably too young to understand why their mother was in the wrong, or what to say even if they did know…kids who were not strong enough yet to stand up for themselves. Not to mention the fact that the lesson she is subconsciously teaching them is “the rules don’t apply to us, and when people try to enforce them, just cause a scene and most times you’ll get what you want.” What kind of parenting is that?

I don’t know, maybe I’m way off here, but I can’t help feel justified in saying what I said. What are your thoughts on this? Justified, or not?

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