Yelling At A Kid Doesn’t Make You A Hero

This is not the post I was supposed to be writing today. Right now I am supposed to be taking pictures of my 364-day-old baby so I can post a sweet, heartfelt, sob-worthy birthday post tomorrow when he turns 1. But my baby is blissfully taking a much-needed nap while I get to sit on the couch with a Diet Coke and think about how much needs to be done before his party on Saturday.

Except instead of party planning, I am working myself into a rage for the third time this week over that story out of the diner in Maine. I have spent entirely too much time, energy and furious typing on this story already, so what’s another hour?

Sometimes my children are monsters. I'm sorry.

Sometimes my children are monsters. I’m sorry. But screaming at them is not the answer.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can catch up here on Buzzfeed and also read the mother’s account of what happened here. Do NOT read the comments.

Although I am extremely inclined to believe the family over the diner owner, I cannot prove anything one way or another. Even in this age of social media and cell phone videos as far as I know there isn’t any footage to confirm or deny the length of the tantrum. I’ve already word-vomited my feelings about that part of the story all over Facebook, much to the distress of some of my friends’ friends who insist I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about because THEY SEE parents being bad parents ALL THE TIME. I actually hardly ever see anyone being a terrible parent and can’t remember any time vividly enough to recount it for you now. Maybe I’m not observant or maybe my threshold for “terrible parenting” is just wicked high after having three kids. But if that is something ALL these internet commenters experience ALL the time, I cannot deny it happens.

So I give up on all my previous statements, assumptions and conclusions. You are right, people of the internet. Maybe these parents were incredibly neglectful, lazy and selfish and their monster of a toddler screamed at the top fo her lungs for 40 minutes, ruining everyone else’s morning. They are horrible and completely in the wrong for not taking their kid out of the restaurant.

But the part I absolutely WILL NOT concede is that the diner owner should be congratulated or treated as some sort of hero, standing up for the rights and eardrums of all the polite, respectable people who all seem to have raised their children without a single mistake ever or who are doing us all a favor by not having children in the first place.

I will cut a paste a few congratulatory comments so you don’t have to read all 1,000+ of them yourself.

“LOL I really like this owner!”

“owner did the right thing. that’s it!”

“I think the owner had every right when the parents r sitting there making everyone pay for their child’s temper tantrum. If u can’t control a Whiney kid….Stay the hell home! When I go out the last thing I want to listen to is a whaling brat!”

“Ugh. I’d have thanked her right then. Take your shrieking spawn outside please.”

“Restaurant owner is right. Dumbass mother is wrong. Case closed.”

“As for the owner, I applaud her. Simply put, her restaurant, her rules. It doesn’t necessarily matter if she has kids of her own or not either. She acted perfectly fine.”

“I give the owner support for her so-called rude response…apparently that’s the only way to get thru to the parents…the child had given a pure example of that truth! 40 minutes of ignoring your child is rude …BE A PARENT!”

Let me just be clear here: yelling at a kid in this situation does not make you a hero.

Do you know what makes you a hero in this situation? Kindness.

Kindness, patience and sympathy, which all seem to be rarer than unicorns these days. I feel extremely lucky that most of my interactions on a daily basis fall into the “polite indifference” section of the grid rather than “angry hostility” or “crazy screaming person” areas. I appreciate anyone who lets me just go about my parenting and life business without instantly writing me and my kids off as brats, jerks, whiners, life-ruiners who don’t really deserve to be out in public at all.

My heroes are the people who help when they don’t have to. The waitress who sees that I am struggling to keep my toddler in his high chair long enough to eat my meal and brings him apple slices to gnaw on is a hero. The cashier at the grocery store who starts to talk to my whining 4-year-old to distract her is a hero. The nurse at my doctor’s appointment who holds my baby for me so I can get changed is a hero. The lady at the beach who shares her snacks with my kids so they don’t have a hunger meltdown after all the snacks I brought have run out is a hero. My definition of hero here is pretty low, but in all those situations I am as grateful as if they had saved me from drowning. In a way, that is exactly what they are doing.

Those people are heroes because not only are they doing me a huge favor and embodying the idea that it takes a village, they are demonstrating in a real, tangible way to my kids what good behavior looks like. Instead of reacting to anger and frustration with anger and frustration, they are living proof being kind and calm is a real solution. “Oh!” thinks my kid, “She is trying to communicate without throwing a fit! Maybe I should also try that!”

That is how you turn irrational, screaming babies into full-sized good people. You model the behavior you want them to emulate, in private, in public and in diners. It can take a while, years even, but there isn’t really another option. I work really, really hard every waking hour of my day to give my kids the life skills, language and emotional maturity to one day be someone’s employee, boss, wife, husband, neighbor or friend. It is a fact of human survival that babies and children are necessary to create full-grown adults, so we need to allow for them to exist, even if sometimes they are awful. Kindness is how we teach them not to be so awful.

If you tell me that because these are not YOUR kids and YOU didn’t choose to bring them into this world you have no responsibility or obligation to help me teach them to be kind, I cannot argue with you. That is totally true. You are not obligated to do any parenting, so please enjoy doing things like sleeping in, going to brunch and yelling at whoever you want. But try to remember that you – YES YOU – were once a child. If your mother or father is available, call them up and ask them to tell you about their absolute WORST parenting moment. Maybe they can remember a time someone was kind to them while they were struggling, and the next time you encounter a horrible child in public you can pay that act of kindness forward.

No, you do not have to go above and beyond for me just because I have kids. No, I am not asking for special treatment. It is just so disheartening to think that so many people hate my family just because we exist in public spaces, we have bad days, and sometimes we make noise. I swear I am doing the best that I can to raise my tiny humans into people you would be happy to sit next to in a diner. If you can show them a little kindness, you can be a hero.

I’ve been staring at this for 15 minutes now, trying to decide if it’s worth hitting publish when I am fairly certain I’ll get yelled at for my post about not yelling at people. If you feel the need to comment or share, please be kind and give me and my commenters the benefit of the doubt when it comes to judgment, entitlement, parenting styles and anything else.

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18 Responses to “Yelling At A Kid Doesn’t Make You A Hero”

  1. Tara says:

    You are the best, and I could not agree with you more. The people celebrating the diner owner make me so sad for our society.

  2. Celia says:

    I agree completely!

  3. FourInchHeels says:

    I love this!! I think you’re spot-on. No one who yells at people is a hero, especially not someone who yells at a CHILD. If the kid was *that* disruptive the owner had plenty of other options, up to and including asking how she could help, bringing out the toddler’s food to occupy her, or doing anything to contribute to improving the situation. Putting that family’s order on rush just so they ate and got the hell out of there would have even been fine.

    Even if I don’t think it’s my job to parent your kid, being a positive force makes my life better! I 1000000% believe it takes a village, that I’m a part of this community, and that I have the obligation to be the goodness I want to see in those around me. But even if you do it for purely selfish reasons …. showing kindness to struggling parents or struggling kids makes your immediate world a better place. If I can help your kid stop screaming, I don’t have to listen to the screaming any more. If I can help you put groceries on the belt because your kid is 2 seconds from a meltdown, I either help prevent the meltdown and save my ears, or I get you out of there faster so I have to listen to less of it. Moral of the story – whether you’re a team player or just looking out for #1, being helpful is good. BE HELPFUL.

  4. RDC says:

    Long time lurker – just wanted to say this is beautifully stated and I think you’re doing a great job raising your tiny humans!

  5. Kitty Conner says:

    If the diner owner wants to be that kind of owner (direct, brash, rude) that is absolutely up to her. HOWEVER, that attitude then must only be directed at the adults in this or any situation. Because no, we do not scream at the children of strangers. The child has no agency, cannot just leave and does not yet have the emotional/social intelligence to respond.

    No matter what actually happened that day, if she was that irritated by the behavior of the toddler, then that is something she should have directed at the parents. Period. Sure, it would have been just as awful and rude of her to scream at the parents, but at least then they could have the chance to frame and contextualize her behavior for the child.

    She does not deserve the collective internet’s atta girl for yelling indoors and at a child. Being obnoxious about being annoyed is, well, obnoxiously annoying. At some point in your life, YOU are going to be the person annoying the hell out of everyone in the restaurant/grocery store/wherever. As a parent, as a kid, as a drunken idiot, as an overly aggressive diner owner, whatever. Kindness is a life skill that will always repay you. This woman and her online kidlet-haters have clearly forgotten.

    (I will note, that as a kidless lady, I do think that parents have the magical (sanity-saving) ability to tune out the low-level whining, restlessness and general behavior that is just part and parcel of a toddler, especially a hungry one. I’m hugely sympathetic, but don’t share the skill. So I have gotten irritated by what seems to be inattentive parents. But it also is usually at, you know, the suburban mall Chili’s at like 5pm on a Monday. So I order another margarita, praise the baby cheesus that it is socially unacceptable to bring your dog to dinner and let it sllliiiide. Kindness is sometimes just doing nothing at all. )

  6. MKP says:

    Agreed. I think it’s clear the diner has some mental health — or at least serious boundary control — issues. Why wouldn’t you go over after 4 minutes of screaming and be polite but firm, if you had to enforce a policy or wanted them to leave?!

    I’ve adopted a policy of helping moms with strollers on the stairs. I used to even keep disney shorts on my iphone to play for fussy kids on trains but got snapped at for ruining their young brains with screen time too often. So now I just help with strollers and make faces as necessary.

  7. Annie says:

    Thank you for writing this! I’m days/weeks from giving birth to twin boys and I have to admit that some people’s intolerance of children gives me anxiety. The hostility of that diner owner and some of those comments is pretty alarming.
    I’m reminded of a story my mom told me again recently when I was trying to figure out how to take two babies on a transatlantic flight (8+ hrs) to visit my dad. She was alone with my sister and me for much of my childhood while my dad traveled for work 8-10 months out of the year. There was one time that we were flying from Germany to visit her parents in Massachusetts. It was a typical nightmare trip: I was an infant and threw up all over her before fussing and crying for a couple hours and my sister, a pretty hyperactive 3 year old was wound up and hard to manage. She remembers a passenger coming towards her and dreading the German scolding she was about to get. Instead, the passenger offered to hold and soothe me while my mom cleaned herself up and spent some time focusing on entertaining my sister. My mom said she was practically in tears from the kindness. She still talks about that person 35 years later! It reminds me that, if I’m one of the people that doesn’t mind the disruption in a situation like this, I should go offer my assistance. The glares and stares from everyone else are obvious and stressful.
    I certainly hope that people are patient with me while I figure out how to be a mama to two boys!

  8. Ellen says:

    I don’t regularly comment, but wanted to say thank you for this post. I completely agree with everything you said, and have been so sick of the posts praising the diner owner for yelling at a toddler rather than treating the family with some compassion.

  9. Meg says:

    I’m going to yell:

    OMG I SO AGREE!!!!!

    There, got that off my chest.

    I admit that sometimes, when I’m tired and cranky and fed up with the world, I get annoyed at screeching children. But I would certainly never yell at one, and I am really working on showing more empathy, especially because I do know that logic is not a trait young children have in abundance. It is a learned thing.

    I’ve been following your blog since before Evan was born and I’ve read about your ups and downs and all of the adorable moments and awful moments. I don’t know you personally, but I’d say you’re doing an amazing job in a situation where your husband’s career requires you to do a lot of it by yourself.

  10. Robyn says:

    Your post is PERFECT!

    You know last weekend, my husband and I went out to dinner alone, without the kids, which we do probably 3 times a year. And you know who ruined our dinner with their insane screaming??? A group of 10-12 incredibly rude ADULTS. Not one single child or teenager among them. They were laughing and yelling and playing some game on their phones where you yell out the answers to stuff. We literally could not hear each other talk. And you know what everyone sitting nearby, including restaurant staff did?? NOTHING!

    I have never seen a child behave that badly in a restaurant (my own or anyone else’s). I truly wonder where all these horrible children and their horrible parents are that I keep hearing people complain about.

  11. Anon says:

    If people hate children in public spaces, than they hate women also and believe women should be banished to the home. This attitude is sexist and classicist garbage.

  12. sarrible says:

    God, the whaling children are the WORST. Call Greenpeace on ’em.

  13. Lauren says:

    You can’t win with people who think children should be banned in public. On vacation last year, after a full day that did not include a nap, we were at a restaurant with our 12 mos old and 3 year old. Aware the 3 y.o did not have waiting for dinner quietly in her, we let her watch something on a phone to keep her calm and quiet – and not disturbing those around us. To which someone came up to us and told us that when he was raising kids parents actually “parented” and didn’t just shove a device in their kids’ faces. So, in exchange for a quiet, still child, we were told we had no parenting skills.

  14. Meghan says:

    Oh mylanta! This was phenomenal. Where has the village mentality gone? Or was it ever really there? I think we’ve come far as a culture in embracing children but far from where we need to be. Great response!!!

  15. Julie S. says:

    This is perfection, and I couldn’t have said it better. There will always be hard days and kids will not always act like perfect little angels in public. But in my opinion, the best way to teach them HOW to behave is to BE A GOOD EXAMPLE. You can preach manners and shush kids all you want but they will behave how you show them to. Obviously yelling isn’t one of those “lead by example” characteristics that kids need to see.

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