Skip to Content

Dealing with Parenting Advice from Strangers

Sharing is caring!

Most of our kids have acted up in public. Mine are certainly no exception. (If your kids are perfect, well then lucky you!) For me, a sympathetic smile goes a long way. I think most of us would appreciate a nonjudgmental comment like “Kids can be so frustrating sometimes.” I guarantee any mom who has a kid who has clearly “had it” would be extremely grateful if you let her cut in front of you in line, so she can get out of there as quickly as possible.

If you have kids, you’ve been there. Kids will be kids. They aren’t always perfect. They “lose it” sometimes. They’re impulsive; they don’t think things through before they have a meltdown in public and embarrass their parents. But let me tell you, there is nothing worse than being a new mom, trying to navigate parenthood and having someone else second guess you and make you feel completely incompetent by offering their unsolicited (and unwelcome) parenting advice. 

Dealing with Parenting Advice from Strangers

We used to have this great little small town grocery store. It’s a CVS now, but it was walking distance from our house with a stroller (maybe a mile down the road) and as long as I didn’t need to do a huge grocery shopping trip, I would often walk down with the stroller. My two oldest children were about three and one at this point. On this particular day I needed a fair amount of groceries, and so we were going to be going down most of the aisles. Key words here…going to be. We had just finished with the fruits and vegetables when my son decided to start making this dreadful screeching noise at the top of his lungs. His sister, who at that point pretty much emulated everything her older brother did, followed suit. Once, it’s kind of cute and funny…two and three times plus, it starts to get old. I started to worry about disturbing the people around us.

I think our conversation (and I use that word in the loosest of terms) went something like this:

Son: High pitched scream

Daughter: Giggles, screams back.

Me: Smiling, ok no more you two. (Maybe I should have been stricter from the get-go. But I wasn’t.)

Son: Screams even louder.

Daughter: Screams, trying to top her brother.

Me, speaking firmly now: We’re in a grocery store.  We have to be quiet in here.

Son: Screams as loud as he can.

Daughter: Screams as loud as she can.

Me: That’s enough, you two! No more!

Son: Screams as loud as he can.

Daughter: Screams as loud as she can.

Are you seeing a pattern here yet? My children are not paying one iota of attention to me!

Me: Stop it, now! You are done screaming. There are people in here trying to think.  (I don’t know if I said that or not, but it seems like the kind of ridiculous thing I would come up with when I have no idea how to handle the situation).

And this goes on,  and on, for probably a period of ten minutes (it was probably half that, but when you are frustrated, it seems like eternity), at which point I was at wits’ end, because I was now stressed out about the disturbance my kids were causing and what other people must be thinking about my parenting skills (or lack thereof).

I gave them an ultimatum. If they screamed one more time, we were leaving the grocery store. This was probably more of a punishment for me than them, because I was the one who was going to have to go back to finish my shopping, But honestly at this point, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t control my kids at all.

And of course they continued with the screaming. I had to follow through and leave. To them, it was funny. They continued to scream in line, but I was not giving up the groceries I already had.

This would have been just fine if another woman had not followed me out to the parking lot as I was leaving.

She said to me: “We all thought you were overreacting in there. Your kids are cute.” Emphasis on “We.” I’d love to know who “We” was. I don’t think there were a lot of people amused in there. I think most of them were probably happy the lady that couldn’t control her screaming children left.

Thought in my head: Who the h*** do you think you are to follow me out of a store to tell me I should just let my children scream at the top of their lungs because…they are CUTE? Thank you for your well thought out advice on how to discipline my kids. I think they’re cute too. But they were misbehaving and if you don’t follow through with what you say you are going to do, then they learn they can get away with everything. Maybe next time they’ll think it’s fun to start throwing fruit. Will you think that is cute too?

It would have been so much more helpful if she had just smiled at me and perhaps said something like “Oh, we’ve all been there.” I didn’t need the “You’re overreacting” talk. All I did was remove my kids from the grocery store. That’s hardly overreacting. It’s called discipline. And it’s the way I chose to deal with the situation. I am the parent.

Of course I didn’t know what to say. I’m not a quick-on-my-feet gal when someone makes me feel incompetent. But I was fuming. How dare she?!

Who did she think she was to try to make me feel like less of a mom?

I guess I should have just let them scream, disturb the rest of the shoppers (because I guarantee not everyone thought two small children screaming at the top of their lungs was amusing), and basically tell them that it’s ok to whatever they want, even when I ask them to stop? I don’t think so.

If we don’t teach kids there are consequences to certain behaviors, then we’ll raise a generation of disrespectful kids.

For years when I would see this woman around town, I would just cringe inside. She probably doesn’t even remember me. But I will always remember her, because of the way she made me feel. She should NEVER have followed me out of the store to offer her “assessment of the situation.”

I will say, now that I am an older mom, I’ve weathered a lot of meltdowns and impulsive behavior with my kids, and I certainly wasn’t as embarrassed by it by the time child #3 appeared on the scene. But I honestly don’t think I would have changed anything about how I handled this situation.

This post was inspired by Robyn at Hollow Tree Ventures with her post Parenting Made Simple: Just Say No on a bit of unwelcome advice, although her daughter was not misbehaving, like my children! Then just a few hours before I was planning to post this, I came across this post from The Matt Walsh Blog that says it all: Dear parents, you need to control your kids. Sincerely, non-parents. Both of these are well worth a read…they hit it out of the ballpark! 

Why do certain people think it’s ok to try to offer unsolicited advice on parenting? Has it ever happened to you? If you’re like me and find yourself at a loss for words when this happens, check out this post from life coach and counselor Nicole Nenninger on how to handle this type of unwanted advice

Linking up with Wine’d Down Wednesday, Doing YOU WELL Wednesday, Mini Blog Challenge Party, The PINcentive Blog Hop, Friendly Friday

Follow on Bloglovin


Tuesday 24th of September 2013

Michelle, I hear your pain. As a mother of a 4 and 2 yr old, I'm constantly experiencing the child playing up scenario. Before I had children I too sometimes felt some parents over reacted, although I kept my opinions to myself. Now I have children I've changed my tune! She had no right to say what she did, I've learnt to zone people out. Our day may have already been quite stressful with the kids, a little understanding would go a long way. My issue is it becomes a free for all, of people giving their opinions on your parenting techniques :(

Alison Hector

Sunday 22nd of September 2013

It's bad enough that she followed you out the store, but to say THAT?! SMH You're more woman than me, Michelle. I would have said something she might not have liked... :-)

Norine of Science Of Parenthood

Saturday 21st of September 2013

Oh my goodness. We've ALL been THAT mom being mortified by her kids. And it really is amazing what people feel they can comment on. Thank goodness we learn to go with our guts and tune out the rest of the busy bodies.


Saturday 21st of September 2013

Oh my goodness!! I am now where you were then, except I've got four, including an almost 4-year-old who thinks everything is funny, even ultimatums and threats to take toys away. I, too, have said weird stuff like, "we'll leave the store" - as if that will stop them!! I'm a terrible "quick to think" person when it comes to my kids' shenanigans.

That lady clearly has issues if she said that you were overreacting. If she has kids, they'd probably get away with murder!


Saturday 21st of September 2013

I'm not a quick thinker in confrontational situations, either! Why couldn't she just offer you a smile to let you know that she wasn't offended by your screaming children or a look that says "Oooh, I've been there!" instead of opening her big mouth!