My husband unintentionally mortified me last summer on the 4th of July, but my embarrassment quickly turned into a lesson that put me in my place.
We were at a tiny neighboring town’s festival, and my dad, husband, and I all decided to be big kids and go on one of those zero-gravity rides. You know, the ones that turn completely on their side and spin you so fast that you don’t even need to be strapped in because somehow this crazy ride keeps you alive. You know the one.
Anyway, about five seconds into the 60 second ride a boy about 12 years old breaks away from the correct position riders are instructed to stay in and starts flopping all over the place. He’s laying on the ground, messing with his buddies, and purposefully flailing about acting a total fool.
The three of us, surely along with many other people on the ride, were all about to have heart attacks. I just knew the boy was going to go flying off the ride any second, and there’s no way one would survive something like that. I was also terrified that he was about to go flying and slam into someone else. We were spinning so fast though that no one could tell him to stop. The carnival worker didn’t stop the ride because I’m not even quite sure he was paying a lick of attention.
As soon as the ride stopped, my dad and I started walking off the ride when I saw my husband bolt over to the kid. Being a peacemaker by nature and one who very much tries to just mind my own business, I started to freak. I knew what this kid had coming.
To make a long story short, he very sternly informed him about the danger he just put himself and others in and why what he did was absolutely unacceptable. The kid just kept saying “okay okay” with his tail totally between his legs while several people who were also on the ride watched nearby. The lecture lasted all of 10 seconds before both my husband and the boy separately stormed off the ride.
At that moment I felt mortified because I just knew the boy’s parents had surely just watched the whole episode and were about to come swinging at Jamie for speaking to their son that way. Of course they were no where in sight because 12 year old boys should be able to enjoy a small-town carnival without total parental supervision.
Out of sheer embarrassment and shock (my husband is one of the kindest people I know), I immediately started getting on to him for lecturing that kid so sternly in public when it’s not his own, but my parents overheard our conversation and immediately put me in my place.
They explained that back in the “old days” everybody looked out for everybody’s kid. Period. They believed that what my husband just did was absolutely the right thing to do.
Jamie agreed and asked me simply “Don’t you want adults to look out for our kids when they’re 12 and inevitably doing something dumb and dangerous with their friends when we’re not around? He could have been killed for simply being 12 and acting like it.”
It took me two seconds to get onto my husband for nailing that kid and then two additional seconds to be put right back in my place. I totally agreed with all three of them.
Since that incident my husband and I have brought it back up several times and debated about when we think it is and isn’t okay to discipline someone else’s kid or for someone to discipline ours.
In general, we think that disciplining should mostly be left to the actual parents, especially when it comes to things that fall in the “manners” category. Here are a few situations, however, that we think it’s totally okay to step in and discipline someone else’s child or for someone to discipline ours.
1.) If someone’s life, limb, or eyesight is in jeopardy, it’s time to step in.
2.) If someone is being bullied physically or emotionally, it’s time to step in.
3.) If it’s obvious that a child is about to “get it worse” from someone else, it’s time to step in.
So what does “stepping in” mean exactly? It’s tricky. We’re thinking a stern lecture should do it, but it’s a fine line and differs based on individual situations.
To read more: I loved this article on Parents.com which lists a number of scenarios and discusses what parents are tempted to do versus what they should do. Great resource!
I’d love your feedback on this touchy subject. Where do you stand on this topic? Any of my readers psychologists? I’d love your professional thoughts.
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