Dear Kerry: Dealing with Other Parents’ Parenting

by | Sep 9, 2015

Dear Kerry,

I sometimes take my 2 year old daughter to a local park to play. When we’re there, we often encounter kids whose behavior is questionable. Grabbing, pushing, saying “Mine!” etc. The parents often smile at me as if to say “Oh, you know how kids can be!” rather than addressing and correcting the situation. What can I do?

Dealing with Other Parents’ Parenting

Dear Dealing,

Consider dealing with those children like you would when you take your daughter to a petting zoo. At a petting zoo, you don’t know if the goat is going to chew on the hood of her coat or if the goose is going to flap its wings and scare her.  So what do you do there?  The younger she is, the closer you stick… ready to shoo away a pushy animal or pick her up to keep her safe.  It might be a lot of effort but animals are animals, after all, so it’s hard to predict how they’ll act and which ones are safe.  Same with other peoples’ kids. Same with other parents. Sure, you might want to give those inattentive or overly tolerant parents a schooling but the last time I checked, not many people go to playgrounds to gather parenting wisdom and advice from strangers in the park.

One strategy I’ve found useful is to treat other kids like you might if you were supervising a group of children on a field trip.

That means speaking up to the kids about manners and behavior in a polite, respectful way.  I think it’s important to talk to them as kindly and respectfully as you would want a stranger to speak to your child.  This approach goes with the notion of “It Takes a Village” to raise a child and that all adults have a responsibility to help guide and teach the children around us.  If we take this approach, it means we interact warmly and positively during good behavior and bad toward the toddlers playing around us.  It gives us a chance to model good manners in front of our own children if we are saying, “Please” and “Thank You” and letting others go first.

Lastly, if you absolutely feel like you need to address a situation with another parent, try to remember these three tips:

  1. Introduce yourself like you would to a new friend.
  2. Say something positive, whether it’s about their child, the day, a compliment, etc.
  3. Be curious.  It might sound like, “I’m wondering if you saw your daughter push my daughter and it really upset her. I’m wondering if it would be ok with you for me to say something to her about it.”  Or even, “If your daughter was pushing another little girl on the playground, would you want to know about it?”

If you assume that the parent is basically a good human who wants his/her daughter to treat others well, you’re more likely to get a positive response than if you take the stance that this is a negligent, lazy parent who doesn’t care.  If you are dealing with someone with a chip on their shoulder, no amount of politeness or kindness is likely to make a difference so don’t take their lack of caring personally.  Who knows what they might be struggling with today?
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

+++++
Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Visit Kerry’s extensive collection of articles on parenting…a treasure trove of tips and insights.

Calm Parenting

Before I had kids, I always pictured myself as a calm, loving, happy, and nurturing mother. I was sometimes. I still am sometimes. I didn’t realize how hard I would have to work sometimes just to avoid coming completely unglued and falling apart right there on the...

That was then…This is now

As I watch, walk, read and listen, I am horrified and heartbroken about the systemic pervasiveness of disrespect and destruction of Black people’s lives that is rooted in racism.

One Way to Start Mother’s Day 2020

I think the sweetest gift I could receive would be WORDS. Words that in spite of my imperfections, my humanity, my annoying idiosyncrasies, and my mistakes along the way … that they’ll take me the way I am. That I am enough.

Raising Boys Made Me Braver

I have had to call up the intrepid, courageous, and active parts of me that, up until motherhood, had laid somewhat dormant.

The Car Sanctuary

So often while driving, my kids would fall asleep and I found that to be a quiet peaceful time. So, I decided to make my car my sanctuary.

Instead of M&M’s, Kids Need More N&Ns – AKA: My Kid Hates When I Say “No”

One day when I took my young son to Burger King, he wanted something he couldn’t have and I said no. It didn’t work out well for either of us.  What he wanted was “white pop” (known to older kids as Sprite). I was OK with that. I held the cup to the Sprite label on...

Popsicle vs. Poopsicle: your ticket to better dinner conversation

It's possible that dinner conversation is not quite what you had dreamed of. I had fantasies of a happy family gathered around, politely eating a meal that they appreciated and each person happily chatting about their day, one at a time. If you have that,...

How Do We Parent in Ways We Weren’t Parented?

Make lasting changes in behavior that last a lifetime and span multiple generations. In some ways, it's easy to parent our children in ways we weren't parented, right?  I was a latch-key kid with a working mom who was gone a lot. When it came time for me to be a mom,...

What Is Head and Heart Parents About?

Hi! I’m Kerry Stutzman. At Head and Heart Parents, we care about all things related to parenting.  I, and the other therapists I work with, think about the entire system of a family, from the well-being of the kids to the sanity and sense of humor of the parents....

My Favorite New Year’s Resolution

I loved this resolution because it helped bring to life a piece of me that I longed for: the part that can pause long enough to truly see and hear my children’s words and respond with a smile