Correcting Other People’s Children in Public

Updated on October 13, 2019
N.C. asks from Ashburn, VA
21 answers

How do you feel about other people correcting your kids in public?

I was having dinner in Panera Bread and three kids around 4-5 years old were are yelling, screaming and running around the restaurant. It got so loud that I couldn’t hear myself talk or carry a conversation. I got up to get a drink refill and the kids almost ran right into me. They were running in circles around a fireplace in the middle of the room. I put out my hand and firmly raised my voice said “stop!.” “stop running, this is a restaurant, go sit down and be quiet.”

Walking back to my seat I got the stink eye from the mother. She was not happy. The three girls were sitting at the table and quiet. But a lady in line looked at me and whispered thank you.

Was I wrong?

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answers from New York on

Yes, I believe you were wrong.

1. I have taught my kids not to accept unsolicited advice from strangers (other than people in uniform). Had you spoken to one of my kids, there would have been a better than even chance that one of them would have started screaming "stranger danger."

2. I have 2 kids with special needs kids (now adults). They rarely had "socially acceptable" behaviors in public. Also, they were masters at tag teaming me so I wasn't always able to manage their behaviors in every situation. Now any other person would likely realize that I was doing my best, but I got plenty of dirty looks in my day because of how my kids were acting - however, I wished that each and every one of those moms would have spent 5 minutes walking in my shoes.

If you really felt the need to intervene, why shame the children? They weren't doing anything wrong (or at least they likely didn't think they were since their mother was letting them run around like wild monkeys). If you had real guts? You would have spoken to the mother directly. The mother was the problem, not the children.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I've corrected kids and got the stink eye as well. Correcting other people's kids can be I hit or miss. I saw 2 women almost get into a fight after one corrected the others kids. I am pretty old school so I feel others should be able to correct kids. If my needs it I am ok with it as long as the person correcting does is not mean in correcting. Unfortunately other people don't feel the same way so you have to pick you battles. Getting the manager involved is probably the better solution.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

Meh, I have a lot of experience working with kids, so I probably would have said something, yes. But it would have been aimed more at them and their behavior, not my own anger and frustration.
"Excuse me (make eye contact) we are in a restaurant and you need to use your INDOOR voices. Also running is not allowed in here, is it?"
Firm, direct and with eye contact.
I have found that kids respond very well to direction from strangers. especially when you are addressing their behavior, not them or their parents personally.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

Honestly I get it, I would have been frustrated too since the mother was clearly not doing her job.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Nope! You did good! What kind of insane parent lets their kids act like that in a restaurant! If say I were not there and one of my kids was acting like that I would give you my blessing to tell them to cut it out.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I've told kids to chill out in restaurants. Some people appreciate it. Others don't.

If my kids were being rude and rambunctious? I would expect someone to say please stop. Don't people say "it takes a village"??

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I never see that, but my mom used to do it back in the day. She was a kindergarten teacher, and it was nothing for her to go into that mode and just speak up - and no one minded. She had a way about her though - she could do it and it didn't appear rude or piss people off. The kids looked a bit baffled (as if no one had ever corrected them before) but got it. Very effective.

We have spoken up before to the staff at restaurants - because we're paying for our meal, and if it gets so bad, I don't expect to pay for it at the end - and want it known they had an option to take care of things. The whole thing is an experience and if it sucks - then it does. Part of it is atmosphere. Kids running around - they can handle that by saying it's not safe. I have heard it handled before that way - staff coming out and saying it as a 'hint' to parents.

I don't think you were wrong necessarily. I'm trying to picture the circumstances. We frequented a family restaurant when our kids were young for brunch (only) that was always pretty empty (we went when it opened) and they sat us in a certain section. The kids were very little and could 'wander' around a few tables without going near others. That was part of the appeal of this place. They never ran though or caused disturbance. They could go see an aquarium, but again, that's what it was there for. We went with them. I can't imagine letting kids just run.

We skipped regular restaurants and meals later in day until much later (older) - for this very reason.

If I had been eating there, I would have been thankful for you.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

i have asked children to please stop screaming at restaurants, especially when they are right behind me. I will say something cute like "It's not your day, eh? I get it. What can we do to make it better?"

I have told kids to stop running. One parent got pissed at me. I said well if that tray of drinks had fallen on your son and he had glass on him, who would you blame? It's NOT the waiters fault you can't control your kid.

A few people clapped for me. The waiter thanked me and the manager gave us free dessert.

It's all in how you handle it.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Good job. Sometimes you just have to step in and parent other people's kids because they are too lazy or stupid to realize their special snowflake kids don't get to be jerks in public places. The kids don't know any better because their adult in charge isn't teaching them.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I am embarrassed when someone has to correct my children in a restaurant because I should have done it myself. I would thank the person.

You were right when you stopped them! Some say talk to parent first to give them opportunity to correct their behaviour. I've been told off when I've done that. So I tell the kids to stop, myself. I probably wouldn't tell them to sit down. Once they stopped, I might tell them they nearly knocked me down and noise hurts my ears. That gives Mom the opportunity to correct her kids.

I've asked staff to take care of it. It's their job to make their dining room comfortable. When there isn't anyone obviously in charge, I ask cashier who I should talk to. And the staff did nothing.

In situation you described, I'd say telling them to stop and go back to their table was the right way. I've become mostly immune to the stink eye. You did good as evidenced by women telling you thank you.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think it's important to get to the bigger issue, even bigger than "you're annoying me" (which I get that they were). In a restaurant where people are carrying bowls of hot soup and refills of hot coffee, it's dangerous. And of course, if a child felt against that fireplace and got burned, well, you can imagine someone would go after the restaurant.

In the immediate moment, I like Mamazita's answer below: "Excuse me (make eye contact) we are in a restaurant and you need to use your INDOOR voices. Also running is not allowed in here, is it?"

But I would also go to the counter and ask for the manager, whom one would hope would have some skill in this area (perhaps more than the counter staff). There have been some very unfortunate and awful examples of lower level Starbucks employees kicking people out, and stores have had to implement better training against racial profiling. Hopefully other stores have paid attention and upped their training. So, because it's a liability issue for the store, I'd let them handle it. Then it's "official" and not just that an individual customer is irritated. That's probably better for you too - you don't know what people are going to do, and sometimes things can escalate if it looks like you're criticizing the parenting.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I would have left off the "go sit down and be quiet" part, but ya, if kids are practically running you over it's fine to say something. Touchy subject for sure though.......

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

this is so clearly worded and crafted to put yourself in a position of righteousness so you can garner lots of support and attagirls.

so here you go. no, you're not wrong to speak to children who are running into you and whose mother is giving you the stinkeye.

yay you.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

No, you weren't wrong. The woman should be happy you helped her out, not give you the stink eye. I'm sure every other customer in the restaurant was thrilled you stepped in. Everyone else's experience shouldn't be ruined by this woman's children.

Edit: OMG, Jackie's response below is just ridiculous. This has nothing to do with spanking. I don't believe in spanking, and I think you were well within the realm of good graces and "empathy" to discipline these children, since mom can't or won't. Empathy has nothing to do with it. Did the kids sit and be quiet after your comment? I'm sure they did. Look what they were capable of and what they learned.

Oh, and by the way, when my kids were young? I was probably one of those parents who too often let them run around the restaurant and disturb other diners. My kids would have benefited from someone telling them to knock it off. Fortunately my kids turned out okay, and I've learned a lot since then.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I would say it depends on the situation, and the form of discipline. If the mother is doing nothing and the kids are unruly, upsetting people, and doing this for a long period of time, it may be necessary. If the mother is trying, I would either suggest staying out of it and practicing patience, or kindly asking her if you may try to calm the kids down, sometimes kids listen to strangers more than the parents that they have wrapped around their finger. Smacking, or any other physical contact I would not be okay with, under any circumstance. Maybe a different choice of words might have been better like, "Hey, kids, stop running around like that! Either you, a guest or a waiter is going to get hurt and drop hot food on you."

I find it interesting that some people are mentioning getting the staff involved. The staff is in a really tough situation, they can lose their job for addressing a customer (who may be a regular) about stepping up. I know some restaurants would discourage such encounters and I have even witnessed restaurants apologizing but saying they cannot get involved because the customer is a regular and "the customer is always right." They might suggest the other parties to move, but that is it. Most of the time, people just resort to giving the offending party ugly looks to see if they will get the hint that they are bothering others and they need to step in. I would not put a waiter in this position, or expect him to be able to accomplish anything though.

Personally, if someone had to resort to this with my own kid, I would be the one apologizing and looking at the floor out of embarrassment for letting my kids be such a disturbance, not giving someone dirty looks. What do you really care what they thought or how they looked at you? The odds of you running into those people again are extremely low, versus a server getting no tip, or having the manager called over and told that the server was abusive (even if it's not the truth) and getting him in trouble or fired because he told the parents to control their kids, or told the kids to stop screaming. The people might also spread the word around that the restaurant is intolerant towards kids and nasty to parents, and ruin their business, out of spite. I have seen stories like this on Yahoo News.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

Was she sitting there texting? Just curious!
I thank you, too. I always correct other people's children if it is that out of control. One day a Mom actually thanked me for doing what you did!
PS -- You were right! It takes a village! If these kids were in their Kindergarten class, the teacher would have guided the kids the way u did!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think it depends on the situation. In your situation, I would've said something like, "let's be careful, kids."

I usually hold my tongue unless I see that the children's behavior can end up hurting someone. And when I do say something, I try to find the parents and tell them, especially if they're younger. I think if they're around 10 or older, I might tell them directly.


I think it depends on the situation. In your situation, I would've said something like, "let's be careful, kids."

I usually hold my tongue unless I see that the children's behavior can end up hurting someone. And when I do say something, I try to find the parents and tell them, especially if they're younger. I think if they're around 10 or older, I might tell them directly.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hmmm... I don’t think there’s a right or wrong here. I try to take a kind approach to the world and my interactions. I try to be empathetic and put myself in others shoes before I act or respond.

In this case you were in Panera. It’s owned by same company that owns McDonald’s. It’s essentially fast food and very family oriented. It is not fine dining and there are no waitresses. People hang out there.

Given all that I think it would have been better to just move yourself to a table further away from them.

I’m sure the mom felt bad afterwards so if that was your intent then it was likely accomplished. Maybe she will think twice about taking her kids to eat or maybe she will just think that it was an isolated incident with a person with no empathy.

I would myself be super annoyed if someone spoke sharply to my child at that age at Panera or McDonalds.

But lots of people still think beating children (spanking) is ok so folks who think like that probably wouldn’t mind at all.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I wouldnt say you were wrong, but based on your post, I got a sense maybe your tone was harsh.
It's not always about what a person says but how they say it. Often times, tone alone can elicit a very negative and ugly out come. Generally most people arent aware they are doing t.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I have told kids running in inappropriate places that they cold get hurt if they kept that up, but I do not order other people's kids around.
If it's bad enough, I will seek out a manager.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think there’s a small but important difference between “controlling the kids” and “controlling your own environment”.

I do not think you were in a position to tell the children “stop running”. That’s a blanket statement that should be declared only their parent/guardian or by someone “official” (“in uniform”, as mentioned below - a restaurant uniform, a police uniform, etc).

But, I think you are ALWAYS free to tell children “stop running NEAR ME”, “please stay away from my table”, etc. You can always try to control your personal space.

1 mom found this helpful
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