Overwhelmed Parents Don’t Want Your Help… Or Do They?

What would you do if you were shopping at Target and saw a stressed out mom trying to juggle three kids under the age of five: one kid’s having a cart-kicking, top-of-lungs screaming meltdown, the other kid is throwing items from the cart onto the check-out conveyor belt, but missing in a big way, and the youngest is wailing in a sling?

Do you offer advice because you’re truly concerned about the mother’s sanity and her adorable children’s safety? Or do you mutter under your breath that the woman is clueless and needs to get her kids in order? Or, do you turn away from the train wreck, find a new aisle to check-out and silently congratulate yourself for not having kids who would ever meltdown in public?

According to a recent, unofficial New York Times poll, you really should offer a helping hand, regardless of whether the mother in distress is humble enough to accept it.

But, here’s the catch: If you truly want to help a fellow mother in need, be mindful of your approach. No person—mother or not—likes to be told they are doing something wrong, especially by a perfect stranger. If you see a mom struggling with a child, experts say doling out advice, such as, “You really shouldn’t let your kids cry it out in public,” is a bad move. Instead, figure out a way you can be of service to the overwhelmed parent. Consider asking: “Can I help you with your groceries?” Or, simply lend a helping hand—literally. For example, in the aforementioned predicament at Target, you might gently place the mother’s strewn items back onto the conveyor belt or try to distract the screaming tot with an object hanging in the aisle.

If you have kids, and you take them out in public on a regular basis, then you’ve likely been on the uncomfortable receiving end of stranger’s well-intentioned advice about how you’re handling your child. While it’s tempting to step in and try to fix a situation, according to what you think is wrong, assume for a moment that you don’t actually know better than the distraught parent what her child needs. Then, humbly ask the stressed out mom or dad if you can help them do what they are doing better.

Otherwise, don’t intervene, as you’ll likely make the situation even worse.

Have you ever been hit with unwanted parenting advice when your kid is in the middle of a meltdown?

This entry was posted in Dealing with Phases & Behavior by Michele Cheplic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.