When 616 People Don’t Stop to Help a “Lost” Child

Readers — Here’s an experiment carried out in London:


Would we stop to ask if she's ok?

Would you stop? Why or why not? 

A TV station had two little girls, 5 and 7, take turns looking lost in a large shopping center. Only one retiree stopped to ask if the child was okay.

Now, I don’t think that means every human who passed by the kids was and heartless OR afraid of being mistaken for a pedophile. I easily might have passed by, too, if I was in a hurry and barely noticed the child, or if she looked like she was playing a game, or if I assumed a parent was probably nearby. Nonetheless, I love this column by Carol Sarler, “The Price of Paedophile Hysteria,” on the fear that probably stopped at least some adults from intervening:

…The over-imaginative minds of adult Britain are in literally hysterical thrall to paedophilia, to the idea that danger lurks in the soul of every passing stranger, while the truth – you know, facts and suchlike – is rejected without reason.

I have lost count of the times that I have written that the number of abductions and deaths of children at the hands of strangers has remained constant since the Fifties (six or seven a year). Or pointed out that, given that our population has grown, this is effectively a reduction.

Or forcefully reiterated the dreadful reality that the physical risk to children is infinitely more likely to lie within their own homes. Nobody wants to know. They’ve got their bogeyman fixed firmly in their heads….

It is impossible to believe that in a civilised, compassionate society there weren’t many passers-by who wanted to help – yet too great was their fear of being thought to be a ‘kiddie-fiddler’, either by other passers-by or indeed by the little girl herself.

Pernicious as this fear is, it is growing apace. I have a friend who organises large festivals where, inevitably, children get lost.

Yet instructions to staff have become super-stern in recent years: if you see such a child, no matter how great their distress, you may not approach – and you certainly may not touch, so the instinctive  cuddle you ache to offer is a no-no.

Instead, they have to radio the location of the child to a central control, who will dispatch an ‘accredited’ member of staff to the scene. And if that means the child screams and panics for another 20 minutes? So be it.

Read her whole column here (it’s under the story of the experiment). And ponder whether we are making kids more safe or less with our predator obsession. – L

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56 Responses to When 616 People Don’t Stop to Help a “Lost” Child

  1. SOA March 24, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    I agree it is society’s fault people don’t try to help. Because especially for men, they will automatically be treated like a child molester. Fathers get questioned when out with their own children so yeah, they won’t go around to help random children. My husband said that is how he feels about it.

    I have even been given some odd looks over the years by parents if I help up a little kid that fell right in front of me or push a kid on a swing that asks me to or whatever. People need to chill out thinking any adult that interacts with your kid is trying to kidnap them.

    I would help those little girls if I noticed them but sometimes you are in the zone and just don’t notice things like that.

  2. Kathy Brodie March 24, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    I wrote a similar piece a few years ago, after a similar, unnerving incident happened to me: http://www.kathybrodie.com/viewpoint/lost-boy-what-would-you-do/

    I also had several people contact me to say that, even though (or because?) they worked in the childcare sector, they would hesitate to help for fear of repercussions.

  3. QuicoT March 24, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    In Sociology, this is a very, very well understood effect ->


    There’s a ton and a half of research on this, a lot of it stemming from the Kitty Genovese Murder, which happened 50 years ago this month.


  4. Hegelincanada March 24, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    This is a cultural change that hasn’t happened everywhere, fortunately. This story is from my country of origin.

    It is all a question of building that basic trust in society and not allowing Fox News and similar to affect our world view and fear level.

  5. mystic_eye March 24, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    It’s the child’s fault that no one helped them – specifically it would have been the parent’s fault, but in this case it’s the producers.

    Children often look bored, lost, or upset, particularly when being taken shopping. Most find the activity tedious. People also find it hard to judge children’s ages and I disagree that 5 and 7 isn’t old enough to be left just outside a shop if the child could be trusted not to annoy anyone. (My two like puppies would be wrestling underfoot or playing tag within minutes, and would end up getting in people’s way)

    You need to teach your kids if they are lost they need to ask for help. Sure you can teach them to go to a specific place, but if they’re lost they may be unable to find it. Teach them to ask, teach them to trust their instincts about who to ask, teach them to throw a fit if the person “helping” them starts making them uncomfortable, but teach them to ask for help and if they can’t make it to the meeting place in a reasonable amount of time to stay still.

    My son got lost in a fairly big park (where we go all the time and he really shouldn’t have been able to get lost, he wanted to go down one path and we’d take the other and meet in the middle) and was really upset. He eventually asked for help and a woman brought him back to where we were supposed to meet him. She apologized for not helping him sooner because she thought he was older and he didn’t seem lost. I said that she shouldn’t worry, he should have asked. And both my kids got the “talk to people, people aren’t scary monsters, ask for help when you need it” talk again that day and more frequently for weeks after.

    I know there are children who can’t be expected to ask for help, depending on to what degree they can’t be expected to ask for help or assist people actively searching for them (ie people calling their name, etc) different degrees of precautions should be taken. Proximity alarms, GPS tracking (usually must be police activated), houses/yards that are locked from the inside, and harnesses aren’t for all children but I’m very glad they are there for those that need them (including some seniors).

  6. H Reagan March 24, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    We live in a tourist area and several times I have noticed lost and crying children that everyone walks past. I usually watch for a few minutes to make sure that mom is somewhere in sight or truly missing, and then I usually take the kid to the nearest cashier/person in attendance to help find the mother.
    My husband, btw, would do the same thing whether I was there or not and regardless of whether it was a boy or a girl.

  7. Warren March 24, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    The easy way to check on a child, to see if they are in need of help is to send you own kid over to say Hi. Kids will talk to other kids, eliminating any training that the parents may have done about talking to strangers.

    Then if they need help you can introduce yourself as so and so’s mom or dad, and then help. Works pretty much everytime.

  8. Andy March 24, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    It would be great if they would show how the kid looked like when it pretended to be lost. There is only one image with the kid kneeling on the ground sucking thumb. I’m not sure I would conclude the kid is lost from that one.

    I would assume the kid is bored while parents shop within sight or that parents are just around the corner and looking for kid.

    It would have nothing to do with fear of being labeled as predator. It would have more to do with not assuming that a kids around are in need of my help. At least my experience is that most lost kids are found within few minutes by parents who look for them.

  9. SKL March 24, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    1. The kids did not look scared or lost to me.

    2. It may be perfectly normal for kids that big to stand and wait for an adult in a shopping center.

    3. The people were zipping by. None of them would have known that the kids had stood in that place “alone” for some concerning amount of time. I’m sure most of them never made eye contact with the kid at all. When you’re rushing from point A to point B, you don’t examine the faces of every child in the crowd.

    4. What exactly is meant by “help” when we say nobody “helped” them? They did not need help unless they were actually lost, in which case you would be able to tell by their distressed faces. They were not bleeding or crying, nobody was accosting them, they were not in imminent danger. Would “help” mean to take them away from the place their parent probably expected to find them? To report them to police as abandoned/neglected? I could see stopping to ask the child what was up if I made eye contact with her and she looked genuinely distressed.

    5. I thought that FRK was in favor of people NOT interfering with children who look OK just because there isn’t an adult glued to their side.

    6. I wonder what UK parents generally do when they come across someone doing what the old lady did. Do they yell and snatch their kids away? Smack the kid around? I wonder why even the old lady was quite reluctant to check in with the child. Maybe UK parents are scary to strangers, I dunno. Could it be that people still fear what happened to James Bulger in 1993? James was a 2yo who wandered away from his mom in a shopping mall, and two 10yo boys abducted, tortured, and killed him.

  10. Ahcuah March 24, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    The other thing to note is that the kids stood there alone for an hour, and, contrary to the fearful expectations of so many, they weren’t abducted!

  11. Wendy W March 24, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I look at those pics and see a child who looks sad, not necessarily “lost and scared”. There are many reasons for a child to be sad, the majority of which do not require intervention from a stranger. If a TODDLER was standing there alone, I’d stop and look for their parent. But these girls are not toddlers. They are plenty old enough to ask for help, so I would not automatically stop to ask them. My kids were taught that if they ever lost me in a busy place, to look for “a mom or grandma with kids” and ask for help. Any toddler too small to ask should not be taken to a crowded place without some kind of physical attachment to an adult or stroller, and/or some kind of contact info, such as an armband with a cell number on it.

  12. Donna March 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    Hmmm, I would view this as a win. Nobody thought it outrageous that kids were in a shopping center without a parent right there. Nobody asked the kids where their parents were. Nobody called CPS about unattended children.

    The kids were not crying or asking for help and ignored. Nor were they in a strange/dangerous place for children. Nor inappropriately dressed for the weather/location. In fact, nothing about them gave any clue at all that they were lost and not just waiting. If my kid is just standing someplace by herself, I WANT people to leave her the heck alone and not constantly treat her as if she has no right to exist if she isn’t within arms reach of a parent.

  13. Suzanne March 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    When I see a *young* kid who is completely alone in public, I stop and watch and try to find who he is “connected” with. And if I don’t see any supervising adult, I will talk to the kid and ask “where’s your mom or dad?” The idea that you can’t talk to kids because of the association with pedophilia is ridiculous! A kid may need help! If his mom screams at me, so be it. It’s better than letting a child roam in the world unattended.

  14. lollipoplover March 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I HATE these experiments. Maybe I am in the minority here, but the kids didn’t ask for help or look especially upset. Yes, they were in a public place and *alone* but the fact that most people passed and didn’t ask for help (nor did the children) doesn’t mean that the 600+ people wouldn’t intervene and help find the parents if asked to do so.
    Walking by a child sucking her thumb doesn’t make society indifferent to children.

  15. Donna March 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    “And if I don’t see any supervising adult, I will talk to the kid and ask ‘where’s your mom or dad?’ … It’s better than letting a child roam in the world unattended.”

    I thought we wanted children to be free to roam the world unattended? My daughter is 8, but is small for her age so would be guessed closer to 6-7 at quick glance. I want her to be able to wander around her designated wander area without being stopped constantly by adults asking her where her parents are.

    That is why this post bothers me. We are kinda talking out of both sides of our mouth. If we want our kids to be out wandering, we are annoyed when passersby stop them to ask them if they need help. If we want people to think a kid is lost, we are annoyed when passersby don’t stop to help.

    Last I checked, humans don’t have the gift of reading minds. And there is nothing about these kids in the photos that makes me think they are lost. I would also bet that, if these kids had asked any of the exact same passersby to help them, the vast majority would have stopped to help.

  16. E. Simms March 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I have to agree with the other posters who don’t see the problem here. Kids can look defeated simply because mom or dad wants to go in one…more…store.

    Good for those 616 people who didn’t call child services. All they were able to see in the few seconds it took to walk past the girls was a child who was not in distress. It would be a different story if a shopper was sitting on a bench waiting for someone and saw a child standing there alone for twenty or thirty minutes. But that’s not what happened. I wonder how long each “shift” was. I doubt each child was left standing for more than ten minutes.

  17. BL March 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    “And there is nothing about these kids in the photos that makes me think they are lost”

    Yeah, “looking lost” is pretty vague. We need more information. If they were crying and screaming “where’s my mommy?!” I could understand why someone would be expected to stop and help.

  18. Samantha March 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    Ahhh, this reminds me of the time a guy looked in my car, saw my two sleeping twin daughters and my awake older daughter, and called the police on me without ever asking where I was. If he had asked, my older daughter would have told him that I ran into the store 20 feet away to pick up a dress and that I could see them (and him!) from the car. Maybe he was afraid to talk to my kid but he certainly didn’t have any hesitation about being an anonymous “hero.” Jerk.

  19. L. C. Burgundy March 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    There’s a good chance that many of the 616 would have reported never seeing these specific children. The girls didn’t make any noise and frankly didn’t look remarkable in the photos. There are lots of bored looking children at shopping malls. It’s a typical shopping mall feature. Most people have other goals directing their attention at places like shopping malls and unless a child is really making a scene, they will likely not pick that kid out to process more about what’s going on. This is a pretty well-known phenomenon in experimental psychology where goal direction can interfere with the detection of things that are often way more salient than a bored looking child; it has nothing to do about society not caring about kids.

  20. John Galt March 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    I heard a story (don’t know if it’s actually true) about a court case where a little girl drowned in a pool in the neighborhood in which she lived. It turned out that she went to the pool alone, without telling her parents.

    During the court case, a man who witnessed the girl walking along a street, was asked by a lawyer why didn’t he talk to the girl or ask her if she was lost or needed help.

    His answer was, “I was afraid someone would accuse me of being a pedophile…”

  21. Papilio March 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    “Yeah, “looking lost” is pretty vague. We need more information. If they were crying and screaming “where’s my mommy?!” I could understand why someone would be expected to stop and help”

    This. Though rather crying, looking around and screaming ‘mommy’. Isn’t that normal kid’s behavior in such cases? Are there really children who’ve lost their mother and then just sit and say/do nothing to find her? I know you also have the escape artists who WANT to get away from their parent(s), but then again they wouldn’t look lost, I presume.
    My mother always said to lift a lost child up to a high(er) place so he/she can look over the crowd to find their parent and call out for them. Of course nothing you do will guarantee a thankful parent, but that’s not the one you’re doing it for.

    And this is indeed very weird in the light of the seemingly constant CPS-calling on young kids going somewhere by themselves.

  22. BL March 24, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I got separated from my parents on this boat when I was about the age of the oldest girl in the London story:


    I just walked up to the bandstand (yes, they had live music!), waited until the song was over, and told the bandleader I was lost. They made an accouncement and my parents appeared within seconds.

    Nobody was too freaked out.

  23. SKL March 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    I wrote about this on another thread, but it seems a little more relevant here. The other day my kids were “alone” in the locker room of the rec center, as I waited unexpectedly long (~45 minutes) in line to renew our membership. I thought it would just be a few minutes. A lady saw them in there sitting on a shelf, yelled at them to get down, and went to the front desk to report the “problem.” (I was right there so it ended with that.)

    My girls are 7, but one of them is petite so she could pass for 5 or 6. My girls were not scared; on the contrary, I’m sure they were having a blast together, LOL.

    So that tells you that people don’t all just walk by when they see something “concerning.”

    However, I wonder why she didn’t ask my kids where their mom/caregiver was. They would have told her I was standing in line at the desk and was expected to come for them shortly.

  24. lollipoplover March 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    “A TV station had two little girls, 5 and 7, take turns looking lost in a large shopping center”.

    5 is Kindergarten and 7 is 2nd grade. At these ages (thumbsucking aside)I would totally expect my kids to find help by going in a store and ask to use a phone. They are not helpless, mute possessions that left alone are treated like a bomb in an airport and in need of an intervention.

    By asking the question “Why didn’t any adults help them?” implies that 5 and 7 year-olds are incapable of being alone in public. Read the comments on the article- someone replied that the researcher was lucky no one kidnapped her kids doing this experiment! Yes, because unless you tether them to yourself like a ball and chain you can never be to safe with kids in public.

  25. Michelle March 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    It’s not that hard to help a lost child. The last time I found myself in that kind of situation (little girl lost and looking scared in the toy aisle at Target), I stayed with her at the back of the store while another woman went up front to customer service to get her mother paged. The mother was looking for her a few aisles over, so taking the girl to the front of the store would only have complicated an easily solved situation.

    This study, though? It’s dumb. If the children had been calling for a parent, or wandering aimlessly, or asked for help, maybe. But expecting passers by to stop for a child who looks “forlorn?”

  26. katia March 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    I work at Target and see allot of kids who “might” be lost. Some of my co-workers even try to get the child to customer service (to page the parent) only to be yelled at by the parent.


    so i i saw a child who was
    1. not crying
    2. not asking for help

    I would assume the parent was near.

  27. SKL March 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Kafia, I remember when my kids were like 4 and there had been an attempted abduction at WalMart which was highly publicized. I was in WalMart and you could tell the employees had been told to herd all young children toward their parents. I was OK with my kids being a couple aisles over, but I understood why the store was doing it. And they were nice about it. They simply asked the girls where their mom was and told them (nicely) to go there.

  28. J- March 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Anybody remember this story from a few months back:



    Forget about being arrested by the police. Had a man stopped to ask one of the little girls if she was ok and needed help, there is a legitimate risk he could have been beaten to death for being a decent human being.

  29. SKL March 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    I can totally understand why a man would not approach a little girl when there are plenty of women around who could do it. Right or wrong, people are less suspicious of women’s intentions. The fact that all those women didn’t view it as necessary certainly gets the men off the hook. 😉

  30. Anna March 24, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    Hi, I live in Italy and have a sort-of free range 4YO son.
    I like to let him walk in front of me alone, in quiet places around home, to let him feel “BIG, MOMMY!!”.
    Just few steps, so I can see him…but he looks like he’s alone. Alone, you know! When we are like 20 steps from home, he runs to reach the door “FIRST!!!”.
    I noticed many times people look at him and immediately look here and there to find his parents.
    A little boy, alone? Sometimes people even stopped him and asked “where’s your mommy?”. And I’m right there, just like “oh, it’s ok, he was just running and he’s , you know, SO fast…Thank you anyway!!” Smile. Goodbye.
    It happened a few times, when we were in crowded public places, that he walked a few steps far from me and couldn’t see me. Immediately someone (old lady, a teen, a family, a noun…) asked him “what’s te trouble? Where’s mommy?” and helped him to find me out. I love people. I think he loves people too.

  31. Melanie Jones March 24, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    I suppose the take away is that you should teach your children (obviously children five and older) how to ask for help if they are lost? I don’t necessarily think the world would be a better place if every 7 year old that was sitting peacefully in a public place was asked if they needed help finding their mother…

  32. everydayrose March 24, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    If I saw a little girl like the one in the picture I wouldn’t stop to help. Not because I’m worried about what anyone may think of me, but because that child looks fine. When I see kids out and about who don’t appear to be distressed I have a tendency to assume that they’re not.

    There have been a few times that I’ve asked a child if they are lost and need help but when they said no I left it at that. I would never ask a child where their parent is and can’t stand it when people have done that to my kids. It’s none of their business where I am, just like it’s not my business where another parent is when the kid says they don’t need help.

    My own girls were about this age when they got lost in a store for the first time. They had gone to the restroom and when I went to meet them we must have passed each other. I was waiting for them when I heard my name called over the intercom. I hurried up to the front thinking that they’d be scared but they were as happy as could be. They happily told me how they had decided to hold hands so they wouldn’t lose each other while one looked down the aisles to the left and one looked to the right. After a few minutes without finding me they decided it was time to have me paged. They were happy and proud of themselves and it taught me a lesson about assuming they’d be frightened. I was pleasantly surprised by how capable they showed themselves to be.

    As soon as my younger daughter turned 5 they began flying cross country by themselves to visit their dad. I figure if a child is old enough to do something like that then they certainly are old enough to handle themselves in a public situation.

  33. Jen March 24, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    I was shopping at Walmart on lunch break once when I saw a boy of about 7 or so hurriedly looking up and down a couple aisles with a distressed look on his face. I asked him if he needed help and he immediately looked relieved. I didn’t want to take him to customer service since presumably his mother would be looking for him where she lost him. So I flagged down an employee (assuming they had a procedure for lost kids and that the kid would feel more comfortable going with someone in a “uniform” than with a stranger. The mom was paged, he was returned…and not 10 seconds later, I saw her hurriedly and very much annoyed walking 20 feet ahead of him as he ran to keep up. I don’t know their situation but I sure felt bad for him. Free range is very different from neglect!

  34. Edward March 24, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    Some folks are missing the point of the experiment. It wasn’t to prove how independent the kids looked. It was about a complete stranger stopping and interacting with them in some way for some reason. And since only one did, the experiment was a failure.

  35. Kimberly Herbert March 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    I might not notice a kid just standing there not fussing either. But the problem is kids are afraid to let people know they need help.

    I’ve actually seen the opposite happen though. I was in Memorial City Mall in Houston. There was a little girl lost. A couple of people tried to help her – but she kept running away even from the security guard.People backed off not wanting to scare her more. She was hiding under a table in the food court, when I showed her my teacher ID tag. Then she gave us her name. The other adults (including men) fanned out looking for her family and found them the other end of the mall. I’m not sure how much of this was stranger danger and how much was a language barrier – she didn’t speak any English.

  36. everydayrose March 24, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    No Edward, we’re not missing the point. We’re just explaining how the experiment was flawed and how in a real life situation things probably would have transpired very differently.

  37. SOA March 24, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Everydayrose: I have asked kids where their parents are but in those cases it was because the kids were acting up. I worked in a mall toy store and people regularly dumped kids off there while the parents went to shop elsewhere and treat us as babysitters. I did not mind as long as the kids just walked around and looked at the toys, but many would try to rip toys out of boxes, knock things off shelves, pester the employees while we are trying to work, etc. So I darn well went up and asked where their parents were so I could return their child to them or call mall security to return their child to them.

    Same for kids bullying or being rude and pushy at playgrounds. I will give them one warning myself and after that I ask them where their parents are so I can go tell their parents what their kid is doing and make sure it stops. The mall playground is another place where parents thought it okay to dump off their 8 year old at the toddler indoor mall playground while they shopped. So the kid would be too big to be in there in the first place and then running over the little kids on top of that. Or the parents would be sitting there but too busy playing with their phones to notice their kid acting up.

    Malls in general seem to be places where parents dump kids.

    I never have a problem with kids on their own as long as they are well behaved. But the minute they start acting up, I am pissed the parent is not there because then it becomes my problem.

  38. Andy March 25, 2014 at 5:52 am #

    @Edward Our point is that strangers had no reason to interact with kid. If you want to measure whether strangers help kids in need of help, the kid should look like somebody who needs help.

  39. Tsu Dho Nimh March 25, 2014 at 7:31 am #

    Repeat the experiment, but with the children asking for help and see what happens.

    My assumption about children in shopping malls is that they are waiting for mum to come out of Victoria’s Secret.

  40. Donna March 25, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Edward, you are correct that the experiment was a failure — it was a failure by design. The experiment was to see if strangers would help a lost child, however the children in question didn’t act in need of any help. As such, nobody stopped to “help.” They should have the children ASK for help or cry or do something more inconsistent with a shopping mall than a bored/sad kid and see what the results are if they want to know how many will help a child in need.

    All this experiment showed is what I’ve suspected all along – that the stories Lenore posts here of kids being harassed while being out in public alone are as rare as abductions and, for the most part, adults are quite content to allow kids to just be.

  41. SOA March 25, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    Good points about I would wonder what the results would be if the children were crying or asking for help or saying they were lost. I am sure more people would probably help. I doubt it would be everyone, but it would be more people. Most people either just probably did not notice them or they figured their mother was nearby.

  42. Amanda Matthews March 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    “Any toddler too small to ask should not be taken to a crowded place without some kind of physical attachment to an adult or stroller, and/or some kind of contact info, such as an armband with a cell number on it.”

    Oh come on, that is ridiculous.
    Even dogs get to go off-leash at the dog park. And strollers are a hassle – not to mention impolite – in crowded places.

    If the place is crowded and you get separated from a toddler, you can just – gasp – ask the crowd for help!

  43. SOA March 26, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    Guess I am impolite because I used my double stroller in crowded places all the time. No way am I keeping up with two toddlers on foot by myself. Them suckers were strapped into a stroller.

  44. SKL March 26, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Strollers are impolite? That’s a new one on me. It would have been good to know that when my kids were in the “must touch/grab everything” stage. 😛 I’d also like to know how the heck a mom is supposed to drag two non-walkers around with her on every errand?

    I had my kids out of the stroller earlier than most. But that was NOT for the peace of mind of the public. LOL. The public is quite chill with the idea of tots in a stroller.

  45. NicoleK March 26, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    Did the kids look like they were in distress? I don’t stop when I see unattended kids because I see them all the time. Unless the kids were crying, why would anyone stop?

  46. Amanda Matthews March 26, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    “I’d also like to know how the heck a mom is supposed to drag two non-walkers around with her on every errand?”

    EVERY errand? Why on earth would you want to get out a stroller, and get two non-walkers in and out of carseats for every errand? For the fast errands, leave them in the car for a minute. For errands that take a longer, you have two arms, or can put one in a sling and one in your arms. (I don’t know how people with more than two do it.) Grocery stores have shopping carts, banks have drive-thrus.

    But I wouldn’t consider any places where errands are run to be crowded in general. When I think crowded I think full malls, conventions, festivals concerts etc. Using a stroller at any of those when they’re not-so-crowded isn’t impolite, but when crowded you’ll be forcing people to stand to the side so you can get through, wait extra time while you have the stroller in the elevator, etc. etc. Teach them not to grab things, and take someone with you if you really find it that hard to control two kids.

  47. Amanda Matthews March 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    It just occured to me that you may be WALKING to do errands – I didn’t think of that before, as everything I would consider an errand is out of walking distance for me.

    What I use to do in situations where I was walking far enough to need a stroller but the destination was crowded (or I for whatever reason didn’t want to take the stroller in): I would take a bike lock and hook the stroller to the edge of a bike rack.

  48. SKL March 26, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Amanda, I assume you never tried carrying two not-quite-walking babies on an errand. Try it sometime. Heck, just try holding one while getting the other one in and out of the car seat. LOL. Yeah, it can be done, I’ve done it when the snow was too deep for a stroller, but it sure ain’t fun.

    A lot of stores don’t have shopping carts. Especially in a mall. I remember an especially fun day when my kids were 1.5 and I took them (without a stroller) to JCPenney to buy shoes. I saw something else on sale on the way out, and bought it. At that point both of my hands were full, and my kids became extremely interested in the pottery display. They did listen when I told them to go sit down in a safe area, but then I had to figure out how to get them and my stuff out to the car. I ended up asking a store associate to help bring the stuff to my car so I could hold the kids’ hands. (And I did have a technique for holding both kids’ hands with one of mine. It still required one free hand.)

    The grocery store was always interesting. I could put both kids in the shopping cart (one in the basket), but then I didn’t have enough room for the food, so I had to pile the food on top of the kid and hope the kid didn’t stomp on the food. If I took the double stroller, then I could hang a couple of those plastic hand-carried baskets on the back of the stroller, and pile stuff on top of the kids when those got full. Either way, kids of a certain age are going to grab for stuff unless they are kept in the middle of the aisle. By age 1.5 I had them push one of those little kiddy carts around. That was hilarious but it worked.

    As for “teach your kids not to touch,” sure, it works instantly just like that. In my dreams. And my kids were very compliant for their age. Babies are babies.

  49. SKL March 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    And I think people have different ideas of what “crowded” means. I think the person whom you were quoting was talking about a shopping mall type situation like the one in the OP. I would not consider that too crowded for a stroller.

  50. Buffy March 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Oh good, the stroller hate; we haven’t had that for awhile! And now they’re impolite too? I learn something new every day.

  51. Foo Quuxman March 27, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    Similar (but with a bad ending) from a few years ago: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=300

    (not mine)

  52. Foo Quuxman March 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    Gah! forgot to mention, the comments have a number of horror stories in the same vein.

  53. Sparks March 27, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Idiocy. I doubt if a child were really in danger that so many people would ignore her/him. Certainly, some would because of the bystander effect, but the article is overly dramatic, dripping with unwarranted sarcasm mixed with unverifiable accusations. Did the author ask anyone why they didn’t stop? NO. Instead, she asked “experts” to guess.

  54. JP March 29, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    Amazing story. And even the woman who finally had the courage (and the normal observational abilities) was somewhat tentative in her initial response.

    What would I do? Respond immediately to what I’m seeing in front of my nose. Worries about being taken for the “wrong” sort of adult? Couldn’t care less about that.
    Because the “right” sort of adult not only notices easily, something like two young kids who appear to be (perhaps) in trouble – but notices because (as any “right” sort of adult would) they’re paying attention to their surroundings (and I mean, really paying attention, people) – and has the good sense to know exactly what the proper response should be.

    Imagine a great society – that is so damned full of its own BS that it (apparently) doesn’t have a clue how to protect its own most (potentially) vulnerable? Wow.

    But one must truly wonder: why was it these two kids were so invisible? Were they really? No double takes? No glances back?
    I mean, they weren’t playing and joking around like two kids whose adult protection is consciously a few feet away. They were looking lost…

    All normal parents and caregivers want to believe that their kids would be looked out for, should they ever wind up in a situation like this (for real.)
    And yet we pay a heavy price to create the opposite.
    Strange – on the one side, butt-inskies galore. Busybodies and troublemakers.
    On the other side – complete oblivion.

    And just for the record – speaking as a man representing my gender:
    The call to protect kids is far greater than any potential worry about giving anyone anywhere anyhow and anyway – the wrong impression. Wrong impression be damned.
    When kids need protection, that’s what you do.
    (Utilizing common sense and best judgement. I’d be pretty disgusted with myself had I not learned THAT little trick by now.)

    I’m sure I would have had a good laugh, once finding out that their predicament wasn’t “for real.”

    But just for fun, let’s try a little imagination:
    Starting with a simple “Hi!” accompanied by a smile.
    Would one not notice the response (or lack of it) and ponder, just a little bit?
    (That 5 seconds that allows a gut feeling to sink in.)
    Or did most of those passersby not notice the kids because they’ve been “trained” not to notice?

    By the way – I love the obvious solution – sending your own kid to get the lay of the land. That’s perfect (as long as you have your kid at hand) otherwise….there’s nothing for it but to suck it up and do what adults do.
    Adults…..ultimately, are what kids need, to keep them safe.

  55. JP March 29, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Ah – can’t resist. One more comment.
    To all the stuff about how the kids were or weren’t behaving….what ever happened to the natural vigilance of people who actually do notice what’s going on around them?
    Did they need to cry to draw attention to themselves?

    A happy, joyous looking kid (unaccompanied) can draw attention from any adult whose first instinct is to want to make sure that a parent or caregiver is close by.
    The point is – no-one did that. Why?
    Too busy? Too fearful?
    Too preoccupied to just simply notice a couple of kids?

    So alright – they were noticed…..but no-one picked up on the situation. That’s what I mean.
    No-one had those kind of feelers going that day (until finally twenty minutes later.)

    Geez. When I was nine, I was saved from drowning at a public beach because an adult man on the shore happened to notice me going down for the third time………..I couldn’t yell too loud at all with a mouth full of water – but he had his mojo working that day.

  56. Amanda Matthews April 2, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    “Amanda, I assume you never tried carrying two not-quite-walking babies on an errand.”
    Yes, I have.

    “I remember an especially fun day when my kids were 1.5 and I took them (without a stroller) to JCPenney to buy shoes.”

    I’ve yet to meet a 1.5 year old that can’t walk. I’m sure they exist, but I sure am not going to carry nor push two of them around. And if they can’t walk, they don’t really need shoes. (I’d wait until their dad is home and leave them with him to go buy my own shoes. Any time I’ve needed something immediately and couldn’t wait for their dad, I could just leave the kids in the car and run in to quickly get that one thing. Obviously I wouldn’t leave them in the car long enough for me to try on shoes, but shoes aren’t an emergency that can’t wait.)

    If saw something else I wanted while my hands were full, I’d take the stuff my hands were full with to the car, maybe even leave the kids in the car for a minute, and go back for the other thing. This also gives me a chance to consider if I really need the other thing; if it is just something I saw but didn’t plan on buying, I usually don’t.

    I always found shopping carts to have more room for groceries when filled with two kids, than a stroller. (But maybe I had smaller strollers and bigger carts than you.) And there’s no rule that you have to buy all the groceries in one go – fill up the cart with what you can, take it to the car, and come right back in for the rest. Stores with bigger items (Costco, Sams Club etc. where you’d buy in bulk) have bigger carts; two babies fit in the front leaving the back completely open for groceries.