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May 30, 2012

When toddlers attack: What would you do?

Picture this:

We're at the play place at the mall, A and I. Well, A and I and about a dozen other moms who dragged their kids out with the same rainy day sanity-saving idea. 

After saying hi to the slide, tunnel and carpet (I mean that literally, she wanders up to every inanimate object, crouches down and shouts, "Hi!" like it's an old college roomate), A spots the climb-in car 10 feet away. She bolts over and swings a tiny thigh over the edge, grunting gracefully as she hauls herself in.

This car already has a driver, though: A 2-year-old girl with rosy cheeks and big, brown eyes.

"AHHHHHH!! NOOOOOOOO!!" the girl screeches, grabbing A's arm and wrenching it, so that she wouldn't sit in the empty passenger seat beside her. "NOOOOO!!" So I stepped in, lifting A out and explaining that it was the other girl's turn. She wasn't thrilled, but after a couple of kicks and screams she forgot about it and we headed back to the slide.

Fast forward 8 minutes or so - that's about 12 1/2 eternities in 2-year-old terms - and A runs back to the now unoccupied car. Heaving herself back in, she happily steered the wheel and honked the pretend horn. Life was good. Until...


Wait a minute... I know that crazy banshee scream... Our little friend was back, yelling at A as she threw tiny fists of fury and tried to physically drag her out of the car.

Now, at this point I should stress two things:

  1. I take no issue with a toddler mid-spazz; we've had our fair share of Starbucks meltdowns with A - what can I say, the girl loves her a double espresso - so I'm not about to pass judgment on that front.
  2. Having been on the other end of that spazz scenario, I'm also more than happy to give a mom a break. A friendly smile, even. And encouraging "been there, done that" eye roll. A flask of gin slipped into her diaper bag.

Point 2, though doesn't apply if the mom is right there on her iPhone doing nothing. Nothing! Completely oblivious to the attempted toddler homicide that is going down right in front of her!

So, what to do? Do I sit and watch, teaching A that waiting her turn earned her a serious beat-down? Do I step in and parent on the other mom's behalf so as not to interrupt her conference call?  It's tricky territory.

In the end I stared incredulously, rolled my eyes, rescued A and took her back to the slide, sighed loudly, rolled my eyes again and ranted to my mom, who had by that time joined us, about how she just stood there and did nothing while her daughter went batsh*t crazy.

In other words, your textbook passive agressive response.

A few minutes later the mom gathered up her rosy-cheeked, brown-eyed girl and the two of them headed home, along with her friend - who as it turns out had been sitting right beside me during my angry, judgy rant. Oops.

Seriously, though - I'd guess we've all been in a similar situation... what do you do?

May 30, 2012 | Permalink


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NOTHING gets under my skin more than parents who do not pay attention to their kids while in public. I'm sure I have missed my 2 yr old son doing something he shouldn't. But, for the most part I am there to make his situations more enjoyable. Not be there to avoid him so other kids cant' enjoy themselves. I give you a lot of credit for not saying anything. It's people like us who teach our children how to behave in every situation. Thus making them better people in the future

Posted by: HessieMama | Jun 18, 2012 6:20:59 AM

So funny, I have 2 little girls and I see this all the time! Amazes me how some parents can just tune it out and let their kids behave like beasts in public. I might pull my daughter out of the situation as you did, or I might greet this little girl and say something like "oh would you like to join 'Sally' in the car? maybe you could share?" Sometimes a parent who is oblivious will become aware of a situation when another adult is talking to their child. You shouldn't have to do that, but I find sometimes it helps.

Posted by: Danelle | Jun 22, 2012 2:14:23 PM

I for one am glad for you that the womans friend heard your rant maybe she can talk some sense into the woman about looking after her child.

Posted by: Emma | Jul 12, 2012 10:04:19 AM

Sounds like you did the best you could to protect your kid in that situation.

Once I had my 2yo at a playground where a boy, perhaps age 3 or 4 pushed her, once into a bar hitting her head, and another time simply pushed her aside--(with no prior conversation) on 2 separate incidents about 10 minutes apart. Both times I verbally reprimanded him (mother nowhere in sight) and removed my daughter from that play structure.
When I finally figured out who the mom was, I simply told her she needed to keep a closer eye on her son as he had 2 aggressive incidents with no instigation on my daughter's part and no response to my verbal correction. She admitted "Oh he gets pushed around by his older brother, so we're working on that."

I grew up in a small community where it was appropriate for other adults--who were not your parents--to correct children when necessary. My husband grew up in Europe where other adults could both verbally and physically correct other people's children when warranted. Our society does not work this way, but I have no hesitation about verbally reprimanding a child in a situation that calls for it if the parent is not present. Maybe that will change a bit when my daughter is a bit older and can speak more for herself.

I think Danelle's suggestion of talking directly to the child is a good one as well. It's an indirect approach that might work better with the more common mindset of what appropriate public supervision of your children is.

Posted by: Rae | Jul 23, 2012 2:25:09 PM

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