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The Case for Chastising Your Kids in Public

“Thank You Momma.”

The voice came from behind me. It was an unfamiliar voice, but it sounded like she was speaking to me. I turned, just enough to identify the speaker.

Behind me was a woman, about my age. A boy about my own children’s ages was filling his cup beside her. 

Our eyes met.

“Thank you Momma,” she smiled, repeating her words. “I wish more mommas would chastise their kids in public.”

We were at a gas station, filling up and getting Icees for the road trip home. My 8-year-old had spent the last ten minutes complaining about anything and everything he could think of. I had had enough. She must have overheard me.

“Other moms think it,” I assured her.

“But they need to say it. In public,” she insisted. “That’s how our kids know it’s not just us who feel that way. It’s how they learn that society doesn’t want to hear it.”

Wow! I thought as she walked away. She’s right.

Every mom knows, even the best kids can be a handful.

Dealing with kids in public can be a challenge for us, them, and innocent bystanders.

How many times have we held our words back in public? Too many.

I can remember my own mom whispering angrily, “Wait until we get to the car.”

Oh how those words struck fear deep into my soul. I learned from her that my behavior was unacceptable, to her. It didn’t teach me about how other people felt. Fortunately, the fear of mom was enough to keep me in line, most days. That, and the fact that mom wouldn’t take me out in public again for months — or so it seemed. 

I don’t always have that luxury. Sometimes I have to take the kids with me. Sometimes they are awesome. Sometimes they are everything but awesome. Most of the time I hold my words until we are back in the car.  This time, I could not.

And, the person who overheard me didn’t turn the other way.

She didn’t quietly or loudly judge my less-than-well-behaved child and obviously poor parenting that created this moment.

She didn’t stare as if it was the circus.

She did none of these things or many others that we’ve all witnessed. 

Instead of mom-shaming me, she kindly reminded me that we are in this together — something we too easily forgot.

How different would it be if our kids heard other parents scold their kids for the same whiny, complaining attitude? What would happen if they witnessed the rest of society saying that no one wants to listen to it? 

Maybe, just maybe, they would finally be the ones embarrassed by their behavior, instead of leaving that for mom? Possibly, they might quit acting, speaking, and doing the what-are-you-thinking behavior of the moment? Hopefully, they would finally understand. 

If nothing else, we moms might feel less judged and more supported knowing that we are all hiking this trail together.  That other mom has probably forgotten our brief exchange, but that moment changed me. 

So, the next time you’re in the store, if you hear a quiet ‘Thank you momma,’ turn around. It may be me.

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