We’ve all been there; having to endure someone else’s kid’s tantrum or less-than-sunny-disposition. As much as we want to say or do something to make them behave, we know that most parents aren’t going to welcome your interference or be too keen on being given parenting advice. With a little tact and some expert advice, you can actually do something without putting yourself in a bad position. Here are 3 tips that’ll prove invaluable the next time you’re subjected to a screaming toddler at a restaurant or watching a relative’s kids run amuck in your home.
Tip #1 – Don’t Be the Bad Guy
Telling someone else, even politely, that they should do something about their child or what to do is never a good idea. As much as you may think there’s nothing wrong with telling your sister that she should tell her kids to keep their feet off your couch or lower their voice, it will almost always be taken as criticizing their parenting skills. Instead, get around it by being a little sneaky even if it makes someone else the bad guy. If there’s a kid running around a restaurant disturbing you and the other patron’s; discreetly speak to the manager or staff about it. If a child visiting your home is getting things dirty with their hands or feet; simply wash their hands or help them take off their shoes. The key is to do something about it without losing your cool or insulting the parents so that you’re not the bad guy.
Tip #2 – Distract them With Something Else
If someone’s kid is having a fit or being a nuisance, then finding something to distract them with is a discreet way to get them to stop their disruptive behaviour. Draw their attention to something else, like petting your dog or engaging them in a story about their parents or an object in your home. This shifts their attention and gives them a little time to calm down—something that’s unlikely if you lose your cool and start telling them what not to do.
Tip #3 – Help the Parent
Most parents are mortified when their child acts up in front of others, even close family members. If a little one is screaming, crying, or misbehaving; help the parent out by acting un-phased by the child’s behaviour so that you don’t embarrass the parent further, and without criticizing, take charge of the situation by suggesting you go or do something else. Don’t say “we need to get out of here because your kid’s disturbing everyone” instead say “it is way too nice out to be cooped up inside” and suggest having your coffee or your meal at a park. The key is to remove yourselves from the situation and get the child out where they can burn some of their energy and hopefully settle down while not ruining your time together, all while avoiding making the parent feel bad.
It isn’t always easy and you may leave wanting to rip your hair out, but remember that at certain ages a child doesn’t yet know how to manage their feelings or boredom or frustration in any way other than screaming or acting up. Be patient with them and with their parents, since chances are that they’re secretly ready to rip their hair out too.