We've all heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child." I don't think we take this to heart as much as we should these days, given how sensitive it is to interfere with other people's children.
I just completed Playful Parenting by Lawrence J Cohen for my parenting book club and this excerpt from the last chapter inspired me. It refers to those times when you see a child breaking down in public.
"Here's a radical alternative: Offer to help to the parent. Reach out. Think about what a hard day they must have had, or what a hard life. Think about the times you have been in the same boat, even if maybe you handled things better."
Of course this does NOT mean butt in or interfere with discipline. It means offer up a kind gesture to let the parent know that you empathize.
I think this would really mean a lot to me in times of distress. For instance when my toddler chucked a bottle in the lumber aisle of Home Depot and it shattered everywhere. Instead of strangers looking at me like I was a lunatic for using glass bottles, I would have appreciated someone saying, "Oh man he must be so tired. Do you want me to get a staff member to help you clean that?"
Or when he peed in the Apple store at the children's table two weeks into potty training, I would have appreciated the other parents at the table saying, "Oh potty training! Been there! Next time you've got to give your mommy some warning, buddy! Do you want me to help you find a staff member to help you clean it?"
Imagine how much easier parenting in public would be if we all offered up encouragement instead of judgement?
I've been guilty of being judgmental of other parents in public too.
Oh they give her juice in a bottle??
He still uses a stroller??
She's whining like that because you're giving her her way.
I'm going to make an effort to stop that and try this route instead lest someone judge me when my insistent little man yells for his precious bunny crackers as he is so often wont to do!