How to Deal with a Stranger’s Mean Kid

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Or at least that’s what they used to say. Nowadays the mentality is that everyone is to fend for themselves. Parenting in public is seen as a “mind your own business” mentality rather than something where society looks out for the well-being of one another’s children. Sometimes that can leave people in an awkward situation when they see a child that isn’t theirs misbehaving, especially if that child is being unkind to their own child. Do they step in and say something to the misbehaving child? Do they simply remove their child from the situation? Do they mention something to the parents? What if the parents aren’t around? Here are some tips on what you can do if you see a child being rude, disrespectful, mean, or unsafe.

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Tips for How to React to a Mean Child

Your child is playing at the park when another child about his age comes by and you think, “Oh good, another friend to play!” Shortly thereafter you see that “friend” throwing sand at your child, and you quickly move to take your child out of the situation. Thinking it was just kids being kids, you redirect your child to another area of the playground. The little friend follows and this time hits your child with a toy truck. What do you do now?

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This is a situation that every parent has experienced. We are never sure if we should take a role in saying something to the child or the parent, or if we should just let it go not knowing the circumstances of that child’s life at home. And this situation can be mild compared to some other situations where peers are putting your child’s health and/or safety at risk, making it even more important to know what to do when your child’s “friend” is misbehaving.

There are a thousand different variables to take into account when evaluating a situation with a child who is misbehaving. But most parents would agree that they would like to know if their child is doing something unkind or disrespectful. Here are a few things you can do to help remedy the situation:

  • Call them out – The simplest thing to do when you see a child misbehaving, whether it’s towards your child or just in general, is to call them out on it. If the parents aren’t around, chances are the child thinks they will “get away with it.” If they know that people are indeed watching them, they may buck up just a little bit.
  • Give them Examples – This is a great strategy for younger children. Redirect their behavior to something more positive, or give them an example of what they could say or do that is nicer than their current behavior. For example, if you see a child trying to grab a toy out of another child’s hand, give them words to use like, “Can I use that when you’re done?” or “I would really love to use that. Can I have a turn?”
  • Talk to the Parents – If your mediation hasn’t helped, talk to the parents. Whether this is a one-time interaction at the playground or an on-going situation with playmates in the neighborhood, most parents would like to know how their child is behaving when they aren’t around. Parents have more control over long consequences than your short, quick tone.
  • Interact with the Child – Sometimes a child is acting out because they need attention or because they are bored. Either way, a few minutes of quality interaction – whether that means sitting and playing in the sand or taking the child aside to shoot some hoops – can turn a kid’s whole day around.
  • Remove your Child – When all else fails, you can always remove your child from the situation. If your child is older and the culprit is a “friend” you can explain to your child that you have tried to express the concern for their friend’s behavior but it is not acceptable to your family, and you have made the decision to not let them play together. This will, of course, be difficult, but when your child’s wellness is being compromised you sometimes have to make big changes.

Are We Really a Village?

Recently a mom’s video about situations just like this became viral. She noticed two kids making fun of a cashier at Target who had some facial deformities and decided to take action by talking with the two kids and then waiting with them to explain to their mom what happened. She noted, “If my kids are ever in Target being buttholes or bullies or making fun of people, I hope you do the same thing. It’s hard to hear criticisms from other parents or hear your kids are acting contrary to how you know you’ve raised them, but that’s part of them growing up. We all need to be keeping an eye on each other and each other’s kids.”

See the video here:


To the mom whose kids just acted terribly CRUEL in Target…you are doing a good job. You are a GOOD mom. I hope you find this video.

Posted by Mom Babble by Mary Katherine Backstrom on Thursday, June 15, 2017

Although it can be difficult to approach a parent when their child is doing something wrong, sometimes it’s something that needs to be done. As parents, we cannot always be around our kids, and after a certain age we won’t be able to control their behavior. It is up to society as a whole to look at the children around us and ensure that they are acting in kind, respectful, and acceptable manners so as to create a future society that embodies these characteristics.

However, you will inevitably come across parents who take offense to your confrontation. They will tell you that it’s none of your business or imply that your judgement is unnecessary. When a situation like this arises, the best thing to do is to remove yourself from the situation and understand that you are trying to help build up decent human beings, even if those human beings don’t directly belong to you.

Parenting our own kids is hard enough, but parenting other people’s kids is a part of our society as well. It is a bit simpler when your children are young and the biggest issue is teaching them to share. However, when other children are compromising your child’s health or safety it is imperative that we act. Raising our children does, indeed, take a village, and we are obligated to look out for each other’s children. After all, the children you see today will be the adults of tomorrow, so by looking out for their behaviors now we can produce a society of kind, respectful people in the future. Love this article? Help support Daily Mom through our Patreon page.

Looking for other tips on how to prevent bullying? Check out What You Need to Know about Bullying here on Daily Mom.

Photo Credits: Lauren Lomsdale, JMeg



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Lauren is a mom of three girls and a proud USMC spouse. She is the managing editor of Daily Mom Military, one half of the YouTube military spouse channel, #TheDependas, and owner of Lauren Lomsdale Creative Studios. She loves to run, lift, and do yoga in her spare time. Lauren is currently in Camp Pendleton, CA with her family and loves to meet new and inspiring military spouses.