Manners Matter: ‘Parenting’ Others’ Children

 Dear Mary Pat,

I am a mother of two young children. This weekend we spent time at the playground, where many other children were playing. A few of the older kids started playing catch with a softball just a few feet down from where toddlers were sitting down and playing. The whole situation made me nervous. I have a difficult time figuring out when it’s appropriate to “parent” other people’s children, especially when those parents are standing nearby and not doing anything while their kids throw heavy objects around indefensible young children. Do you have any guidelines on when and how to step in?

Not a Helicopter

Little Sturgeon, Wis.


Dear Not a Helicopter,

Not every parent is going to be as observant as the next. Sometimes they are woefully unobservant which can cause a dangerous situation. Since you are thankfully paying attention, it falls on you to speak up. You could have kindly asked them to move to an area where there weren’t any little ones around. I can’t imagine that any parent would mind a suggestion like that.

Every situation is going to be a little different, however, you have to let your gut be your guide. If you see your child or another child in imminent danger, you should absolutely say something. Most other parents will back you, or thank you, for stepping in. And if they don’t, that really can’t be your first concern. I’ve noticed that some parents have become adept at tuning their children out (which comes from hearing mom or dad uttered 893 times per day) and don’t always realize what is going on until it’s too late. There are lots of near misses on any given day when something tragic could occur. It’s far better to be accused of being a helicopter parent than to witness a child being injured.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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