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Saved 10/07/10 to The Mommy Club

What Would You Do If a Stranger Tried to Punish Your Child?

Hello Mothers, I have a story for you! Since I have no children I'm curious about how'd you react in this situation.

This morning on my way to work, I braved the rush hour crush on the bus in the normal way, by tuning everyone out and reading the morning news on my phone. Usually my 20 minutes en route is uneventful, but today I witnessed an all-out fight between an elderly man and a mom with a young toddler.

While the mom was on her phone, the toddler kept himself busy by stepping on passengers' feet. Most people just smiled at or ignored him, but he kept doing it as his mom sporadically ordered him to stop before turning her attention back to her conversation. After a while, an older, white-haired man sitting close to the action shouted, "If you step on his feet you'll teach him a lesson! He'll stop if you step on him." People just laughed nervously until the old man actually started doing it! He would kick at the child and step on his feet again and again, harder and harder, until the mom finally intervened. The incident escalated to a full-blown verbal fight between the man and the mom, with threats to kill and beat up each other. A commuter even had to hold the man back when he tried to get up to fight, and the bus driver stopped us in the middle of the road to mediate.

What fascinated me about this interaction was the mom's behavior as well as the man's. While he definitely shouldn't have called her son a brat or tried to teach the toddler a lesson himself, I thought the mom should've spent more attention to her child and less time chatting on the phone. As someone without kids, I have no idea how hard it is to keep a child on his best behavior in public, so moms, what do you think? Was the mother at fault for not getting her son to behave, or was he just being a normal hyperactive little kid?

Source: Flickr User Seattle Municipal Archives

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amber512 amber512 3 years 49 weeks
1% chance it was an emergency, 99% chance the mom was the typical "I can't be bothered to actually parent my child" mom with a cell phone permanently attached to her head.
lickety-split lickety-split 3 years 49 weeks
The old dude is lucky the kid didn't kick him in the nuts. For all we know the mom was on the phone with an emergency. My god, how hard is it to engage a little boy for a few blocks and turn the other cheek? Little boy verses old man? What an ass. The boy sounds super stressed. When I see stressed people I try and help, not add to their stress. If I saw some old man hurting a child I would tell him to back off.
3 years 49 weeks
If stepping on someone is assault, then the kid struck first. It isn't okay for anybody (including a kiddo) to step on or kick another human being (especially the elderly). An attentive mom would have nipped the problem in the bud before it became an issue and not allowed the problem to escalate.
3 years 49 weeks
Those of you who said it was totally the mom's fault, I have a question. If someone started kicking you and stepping on your feet because of something you did would it be assault? This man was out of line. He is an adult, and should have the self control to not kick a child. If you have anger issues and you feel the need to step on someone's feet, step on the mothers. The kid was trying to get attention, and while the mom should have been paying attention, it does not give someone a reason to kick a child.
3 years 49 weeks
I wouldn't say that anyone is a "millennium mom" or that the mother is 100% at fault, however none of us were there and don't know exactly what happened. It's NEVER OK for anyone to abuse another person, child or not! What that man did was abuse, no question about it. I also do not think that the mother should have been on the phone and ignoring her child but as a parent with 3 kids I understand that on occasion it's not avoidable. If the school calls me to tell me that my oldest is sick and someone has to pick him up from school, you can bet I'll be answering! I don't care if I'm in public and if my younger child acts up a little it's something that has to be dealt with, however the phone call is very important and must be handled first. You can also bet that I'll be doing everything I can to keep my children in line while on the phone and they'll also be dealt with when I'm able to get off the phone. If I'm on the bus going somewhere this may also mean having to make another call or 2 to arrange pick up and care of my older child until I can get there. Parent's should not be talking or playing with their phones while completely ignoring their child/children and their behavior, however it's never OK to stomp on a child's foot to "teach" them not to do it to another!
3 years 49 weeks
The child was obviously doing everything he could to get his mom to HANG UP THE DAMN PHONE AND PAY SOME ATTENTION TO ME! This is why, when my son was small, I learned to wait till he was napping to have a phone conversation. The mom was not paying attention, but this doesn't give a total stranger any right to discipline her child. It is never okay to discipline another person's child, unless there is a safety issue at stake. The old geezer was out of line, but if the mom had been doing her job it never would have happened.
3 years 49 weeks
Both at fault. Mom is the bigger problem. Americans are raising their children showing them that technology is a priority. I am appalled at how many parents with children, of any age for that matter, that pay more attention to a hand held gadget than their child. And this isn't just about parents of children that are misbehaving. I have seen numerous accounts of poorly behaved and perfectly behaved children with parent that would rather be having screen time than interacting with their children. Sad, but true.
3 years 49 weeks
mamasanh- your comment "if you don't like the villagers raising your child, get off the freakin' phone!" made me LOL.
3 years 49 weeks
Ok he was out of line for touching the child and threatening the mom BUT that child is the mother's responsibility. I despise seeing parents on the phone or otherwise distracted and leave their children to harass others. I have a 17 month old who is very willful and requires my full attention. As a mom, its my JOB to give him my full attention and keep him from bothering other people. By the way- it wouldn't surprise me if the woman was my sister in law. She's one of THOSE moms. No doubt she will be complaining, with horrible indignation, about how awful some people are to her precious, sweet, brilliant monster at the next get together. :)
amber512 amber512 3 years 49 weeks
I also think the mom was mostly at fault. Then again, I don't agree that abusing a child is okay. Especially a stranger's child!
3 years 49 weeks
All of you millennium Moms crack me up. The Mom was totally at fault 100%. The elderly man was doing what elders do, teach the young consequences of their actions. Its just too bad the elderly man wasn't related to him, or else it would have been a different conversation. It does take a village...and if you don't like the villagers raising your child, get off the freakin' phone!
amandachalynn amandachalynn 3 years 49 weeks
The title of this post is misleading. It says punish, but this man abused the kid! If I were the mom (frankly I'm more diligent than that to begin with and my kid knows better than to run around crazy in public) and someone told him to stop I'd be fine with it. I would apologize to them and pull my son on my lap. Someone kicking him and yelling at him is a totally different story! But even if someone did kick him, I wouldn't stand up threatening to kill someone.
Carri Carri 3 years 49 weeks
I think the man was out of line, but the mom is defiantly at fault, too. Like starbucks said, it would have been fine for someone to speak up. I also get very annoyed at people who do nothing to control their kids because it gives us all a bad name.
starbucks2 starbucks2 3 years 49 weeks
Wow! They were both way out of line, but to threaten to beat up someone else's kid? I get really annoyed at parents who don't try to control their kids. The mom should really have paid attention and made sure her son knew this behavior was not okay. She didn't, and I think it would have been absolutely fine for someone to have spoken up. But the man's reaction is crazy.