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When Another Mom Yells At Your Kid

It was a lovely day at the strawberry farm. We’d picked three baskets full of juicy red berries and now my 3-year-old daughter was playing on the grass around some hay bales with a few other kids. I looked away for a moment and then I heard a cry, not my daughter’s, but that of another little girl. My eyes darted toward the scene to see if my kid was involved and, sure enough, she was. As I walked over, the girl's' mom began yelling at my kid for—get this—having destroyed her daughter’s leaf. My 3-year-old had plucked the leaf from the girl, who looked at least a year older than my daughter, and the girl was in tears.

"You have to say 'Sorry!'" she yelled at my kid. The mom held up a tattered leaf for me to see.

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I'm not one to excuse bad behavior just because it's minor, but I think it's fair to say this was an overreaction on mom's part. Even so, I knelt down to explain to my daughter why we don’t snatch anything, not toys or leaves, from anyone.

But that wasn't enough for this mom. She continued to yell at my kid to apologize.

I also think it's more important that kids learn about why we do or don't do certain things, not just uttering 'I'm sorry' without understanding why.

At this point, time slowed and I thought: I'm in one of those awful social situations, the kind I read about in a blog post. Do I force my now-frightened kid to apologize to appease the mom? Do I tell the mom to back off because she's being unreasonable? Do I run away with my child? What will my actions teach my daughter?

With the child still in tears, I tried one more time by having my daughter pick up a new—and certainly equal quality—leaf from the ground and hand it to the little girl. Again, the mom yelled, “You have to say sorry to her!” My daughter was huddled against me and wasn't uttering a peep, clearly frightened by this other mom. At that point I said, “We're sorry.” I gave the mom a look indicating that would have to do. We got up and left.

Removing my kid from the situation felt like the best thing I could do.

I tried to reassure my daughter, 'Sometimes people get unreasonably upset, and it's more about them than us.'

I was raised to have thick skin. I'd rather adults not intervene in situations that kids can resolve themselves. I think it's an essential part of growing up and figuring life out for yourself. I also think it's more important that kids learn about why we do or don't do certain things, not just uttering "I'm sorry" without understanding why. We're talking about little kids. Leaves will be crushed. But we don't have to be crushed by inconsequential transgressions.

It was my first time dealing with an overreacting parent. There was a lesson learned that day out at the strawberry farm, and I was the one who learned it. Sometimes we moms are mediators, but we're always caretakers first. In this case, I had to set a limit when dealing with an unruly adult. Just because your kid has messed up in some way doesn't mean you have to endure another parent's unreasonable behavior. You don't have to suddenly impose a harsh punishment on your kid just because some other mom would like to see you do so.

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I was with my mom that day, and she witnessed everything.

“It makes no sense,” she said.

I felt reassured by my mom in all her non-helicopter-mom wisdom. In turn, I tried to reassure my daughter, “Sometimes people get unreasonably upset, and it's more about them than us.” I don't think she understood (being 3 and all), but I said it more for myself.

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