Would You Call 911 on a Parent?

This excellent nftfthitdk
 by Tracy Cutchlow in The Washington Post talks about how can we create community, trust and kindness — not to mention some kiddie self-reliance — instead of calling 911 when we witness a parenting practice we disapprove of. Cutchlow is a Seattle mom and author of Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science (and What I’ve Learned So Far). She begins:

Would you call 911 if you saw a child sitting in a car parked outside a store, alone, engrossed in a video game?

Or a 9-year-old playing alone at a playground?

Or a 10- and 6-year-old walking purposefully, hand-in-hand, toward home?

Stories are mounting of people calling the cops on parents who let their older kids attempt a bit of independence….

At least people are trying to look out for the kids,” some say.

No, they’re not. Here’s what it would mean to look out for the kids:

Keeping an eye on the car until the parent returned, to help make sure nothing happened to the child. (Not standing there videotaping the child so you can show authorities, then smugly saying “Bye now” when the mom returns five minutes later.)

Smiling at the child on the playground and saying, “I don’t see your parents here. Please come to me if you need any help, okay? My little one is playing there, and I’m sitting over here.” Enlisting another parent to take the baton when you have to leave. Putting out a call to neighbors to help the family find or trade for child care. (Not calling the cops when the child says her mom is at work.)

The article goes on to list other practices that are simple and helpful, including: Get to know our neighbors by walking around. Offer to help when a parent looks like he or she needs a hand. And I’d add this important one:

Give people the benefit of the doubt.

Even if they are doing something you find sub-optimal, remember no one is on point every second. Kids can and will experience some moments that are not perfect, or even good. That’s okay, even good.

It’s only when we imagine kids as infinitely fragile that we demand parents do everything absolutely “right.” (As if we’d ever agree what “right” is, anyway.) – L

Why call the cops when you could lend a hand?

Why call the cops when you could lend a hand?

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62 Responses to Would You Call 911 on a Parent?

  1. common sense March 9, 2015 at 6:20 am #

    i lkie this but it assumes that people who call 911 on parents want to help and just need other ways to do it. most of these calls about kids in cars etc are from people who consider themselves the best judge of how to raise children and “heros” they like the drama they create and can say to their friend”modern moms have no idea how to raise kids. why i had to call 911 on one today!” it fulfils their sense they know better and are more important. this is why i truly believe that 911 calls about kids should not be anonomous[sorry about the spelling]. you think you’re a hero then you should not be afraid to give your name. it might make people think twice about reporting normal behavior or such that they don’t agree with, but i don’t think anyone would hesitate to report if they saw true abuse or danger.

  2. Donna March 9, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    While I agree with common sense that these type of 911 calls are most often the result of a hero-complex and a need to feel superior and not a desire to help children, I do think some here need to understand the difference between anonymous and not disclosed. Very few 911 calls are anonymous. Anonymous calls are virtually useless should a case need to go to court. 999 times out of 1000, the authorities know the name and contact information of the person who called. They simply do not reveal that name until they need to during any court proceedings that ensue.

    In other words, you are correct that you will rarely be told at the onset that Jane Smith of 123 Main St. called 911. However, the police know who called and you will be told that information and given a copy of the 911 call if you are actually prosecuted for something. In fact, you can possibly get a copy of the 911 call through an open records request even if you are not arrested and that recording will likely have the name and contact information of the person who called.

  3. C. S. P. Schofield March 9, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    Or you couod, you know, mind your own flaming business.

    Seriously; just flipping THINK. Governmemts are, as a rule, good at brute force and bean-counting. They are consistantly bad at anything requiring nuance, subtlety, or tact. If you see a child in a sub-optimal situation, before you call in the government, ask yourself how likely the government is to improve the situation.

    I’m far from convinced that CPS should even exist. Their mission is one that calls for everything governments are miserably bad at.

  4. Beth March 9, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    I liked this essay, except for this:

    “We can teach our children that if they’re alone and feeling scared, they can seek out a woman with children and ask for help. Teach them not to fear all strangers.”

    So, only fear strangers that are men with children, I guess? Because seeking out a man with children is a sure fast track to becoming a pedophile victim? I’m disappointed that the author needed to add this because it, to me, negates her whole message.

  5. Beth March 9, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    And Donna, as I’ve mentioned before, I guess I have the weirdest 911 center ever (county population 500, 000) because if a caller says they want to be anonymous, they get to be anonymous. They are not forced to give their name, and the phone number they called from is to be erased from our call screens. There is no way a cop or anyone else would know who called unless they listened to the tape and said “Hey, I know that voice!”

  6. Tim March 9, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    If the situation appeared bad enough and children appeared to be in distress or endangered I might call the police. But not as a knee-jerk reaction. People need to think of the consequences of involving the police. There are too many aggressive, poorly trained cops out there. It’s important to remember that the police officer at the door of the Meitiv’s threatened to pull out her gun and start shooting. If you call the police, that’s the kind of person who’s likely to show up.

  7. Martin March 9, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    I’m going to disagree with Donna. 911 calls can be anonymous. I recently witnessed a violent assault and at no time did the 911 dispatcher ask for my contact information. While she no doubt had my phone number, I was never asked to provide my name. Nor did police ask for my name when they arrived on the scene. It wasn’t the first time I’ve had to make a 911 call of that type, and as a witness, I’ve never been asked for contact information.

  8. David March 9, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    Never call 911. Ever. People die fro 911 calls.

  9. Marie Inshaw March 9, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    I was passing a woman cyclist who apparently was calling 911 to report kids throwing snow balls at cyclists.

    Our neighborhood has feral kids who do bad things to hipster adults and some good free-range kids.
    Yeah, call the cops on the rock/hard(or dirty) snow-ball throwing mini-criminals. Don’t bother the kids minding their own business…. (until they start throwing stuff at grown ups).

  10. pentamom March 9, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    I would never call 911 “on a parent” unless I saw that parent ACTIVELY hurting a child (i.e. hitting — and I don’t mean a swat on the bottom — or throwing around) but how likely is that? People who do that, generally don’t do it in public.

    I might call 911 for an unattended child who seemed to be in REAL danger, but that wouldn’t be defined as “seems perfectly okay but I don’t think that the right person is physically close to them.”

    I.e., I’d call 911 if it appeared that the child would be harmed or *very* likely to be harmed unless someone intervened to rescue him. The point wouldn’t be to get the parent hauled in, but to get the child out of an obviously and genuinely dangerous situation.

    If I saw a situation where the child didn’t seem to be in immediate danger, but I was somehow made uncomfortable because I thought the child might be exposed to danger, I’d keep an eye on the child myself until I was satisfied that no real danger was present.

    Isn’t that what used to be called common sense?

  11. pentamom March 9, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    Or, as Marie suggested, if the kids were hurting other people. But in that case the issue wouldn’t be parenting, it would be the behavior of the kids themselves.

  12. Donna March 9, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    Beth, I don’t recall saying it was illegal to have anonymous 911 calls. It is true that a caller can ASK to remain anonymous. However, everyone is asked to identify themselves so that they can be reached later if necessary and almost everyone does. In 10 years as a criminal defense attorney, I can count on one hand and have fingers left over the number of cases involving an anonymous 911 caller. People tend to answer simple questions asked to them without really thinking about it.

    So, my point is that these calls are not frequently being made anonymous because few 911 calls are anonymous. I never said it was impossible, just that it is not the problem that so many here want to makw it.

  13. Donna March 9, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    Well maybe there are large numbers of 911 calls coming in that are anonymous. They aren’t frequently making it to court in my state so they don’t seem to be the scourge on society that some want to make them.

    In cases where several people call in the same incident, we will get some as anonymous. The original call will be documented, but the succeeding ones will not. But we don’t get a large number of cases involving all anonymous 911 callers.

  14. marie March 9, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    Even if they are doing something you find sub-optimal, remember no one is on point every second. Kids can and will experience some moments that are not perfect, or even good. That’s okay, even good.

    Too bad that won’t fit on a bumper sticker. 🙂

  15. lollipoplover March 9, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    The ease of dialing 911 and reporting non-crimes has become drastically easier with technology. I wish there was a catchphrase like Stranger Danger that made 911 callers THINK before they report good parents, like
    “Think Awhile Before You Dial”.
    If there is a pressing threat, like a rabid dog about to attack a child (or an adult!), please call in the danger to the police. If the danger is in your head, please think about the consequences and the domino-effect bee’s nest you are about to stir up for a family and realize you are not helping the children.

    Like those” DUI: You Can’t Afford It” signs that are on roads, we need
    “CPS: Most Families Can’t Afford It (and will be destroyed by it)” signs at public play areas and areas that attract families. Be kind, look out for one another, follow the Golden Rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated. Would you want someone calling the police on you? CPS in your life?
    Probably not.

  16. Kenny Felder March 9, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    It’s important to keep in mind that even though such instances are growing, and being widely reported, they are still rare. I said to some friends recently: “If you wouldn’t keep your children prisoner for fear of kidnappers, don’t keep your children prisoner for fear of busybody neighbors either.”

  17. lollipoplover March 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    “Yeah, call the cops on the rock/hard(or dirty) snow-ball throwing mini-criminals. Don’t bother the kids minding their own business…. (until they start throwing stuff at grown ups).”

    Several years ago, at the request of our neighborhood children, I called the non-urgent police line to report a driver throwing hot coffee at the neighborhood bike line commuting home from school.
    The officer said “Sometimes kids biking in the road annoy drivers” and said there was nothing he could do because they didn’t get a license plate. And the kids weren’t even in the road, their bike line was on the sidewalk.
    But I got the very clear impression that kids in public are a nuisance.
    I think the sight of kids in general, much like a dog off-leash (no matter how well trained) just makes people very uncomfortable. Of course, these folks probably need psychological help.
    Personally, I would rather drive slowly around a group of biking kids than be stuck behind a school bus stopping at every driveway and chatting with each child’s individual security detail.

  18. EricS March 9, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    If parents today weren’t old enough, or they have forgotten themselves. Maybe they should ask THEIR parents or grandparents how they raised THEM. Then follow suit. After all if it was good enough for their parents and grandparents, and it worked out well for everyone. I can bet money it will be just as effective with this generation of kids.

    One just has to think, how are kids today compared to the kids of yester years. From what I’ve seen and experienced, many of today’s kids are weaker, and uncertain of their own abilities and potential. Mentally and emotionally more fragile. Mostly due to being conditioned by parents and society. They don’t understand. They just follow blindly. Because they are taught blindly. If people truly cared about kids. They would do what is best for them. Not what they (adults) makes them feel better about making those ignorant decisions.

    Of course, there are a situations when the children are truly in danger or distress, and people should react accordingly. Should never stand idly by. But always THINK before reacting. It’s funny and baffling how society is these days. When they know that they can’t be harmed physically or monetarily, they are very gung ho about their actions. But as soon as they feel that they can face repercussions, they ignore, and don’t actually help as they should. They instead just pull out their mobiles and start recording. eg. A parent is abusing (excessive “discpline”) their child in public, one or two may try intervene. But then would back off as soon as the parent started getting hostile with them. Most, will just stand around and take pics and videos. Doesn’t sound to me that they are there for the welfare of the child. This is how society is primarily today. The “good citizens” as we used to know them, are now just people looking to get some attention by posting on social media.

  19. EricS March 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    ^^^ lollipoplover, I think you may have something there. 😉 If people can’t use their common sense and reason on their own. Maybe signs will help them put some wide scope perspective on the WHOLE situation. Not just the little, and ill thought out things in their head.

  20. Erika March 9, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    I can’t agree with the poster who says these calls are rare. I have three children and have had 7 interactions of this kind with police in 4 different municipalities. In two of these cases, my husband was with his own children (apparently suspicious), one happened because my children were on the sidewalk in front of our own house, and another because a train engineer on a passing train saw my child playing in our yard. The others involved my 10 year old riding her bike on a rural rails-to-trails bike path that crossed thorough our property. I was fortunate that in every case nothing further came of it, though I was warned by police that children should not play on sidewalks, ride bikes, or play in yards without a parent present. This kind of thing is rampant.

  21. Beth March 9, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    I have answered 911 calls for 17 years, and more often than not the answer to “What’s your name?” is “I want to be anonymous” or “Can I be anonymous?” for serious crimes on down to the neighbor playing loud music. We also ask something similar to “Are you willing to talk to an officer about what you witnessed?” (in which case I need their contact info). Again, sometimes they say yes, but more often it’s “I told you everything I know” followed by a click as they hang up.

    I give credit to places that require callers to provide contact info, but I don’t know how they do it. And I wonder how much goes unreported because people don’t want to provide their names.

  22. JJ March 9, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    I would love to have a window into the minds of those who call 911 when they see things like a 10 year old alone in a car or on the playground. Do they set out to punish the patents? Are they truly worried about the kids because of a warped sense of risks? Are they similar to pyromaniacs who get excited by putting drama into motion and then watching anonymously on the sidelines? Where are they coming from? I wonder if any such caller has ever expressed regret later and what she or he had to say about it.

  23. lollipoplover March 9, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    “If you wouldn’t keep your children prisoner for fear of kidnappers, don’t keep your children prisoner for fear of busybody neighbors either.”

    The best way to tackle fear is to empower yourself. If you fear busybodies and police presence, get to know your neighbors. I truly think busybodies can become allies with a covered dish.
    I am proud to say I know (after 15 years) every family on our street. Several years ago, we had a new family (older couple, married, no kids) move in and we sent treats over with the kids. Starting off our relationship on a positive note is a good life lesson to teach our children. They said they loved kids.

    The kids asked if they minded them playing manhunt in their yard. They said that’s why they moved here, to be part of a neighborhood. So now they are part of our block parties. My son shoveled their driveway and helped push their car when it was stuck in a snow drift. We got fancy dark chocolates from their trips to Europe (which I promptly hid for my secret stash). They send thank you notes for goodies and recipes exchanged. They’re good people.

    I routinely have neighbor’s kids in and out of my house on a daily basis. I love these kids (and their parents). If I wanted to HELP children I felt were endangered in some way, I would mentor them, feed them and entertain them when they are going through a crisis at home (like a parent dying), and guide them to the best resources (counseling, relatives, and perhaps the police).
    I would get involved.
    I wouldn’t anonymously call and be a douchebag.

  24. Warren March 9, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    I still say the problem is cellphones. People can now call 911 instantly, without thinking without common sense. When you had to go home to call, ask a shopkeeper to use their phone or search out a payphone it gave you time to think, or sometimes time to explain to the person whose phone you wanted. This delay probably gave a lot of people time to rethink and come to their senses.

    Also with all the media these days, these so called concerned citizens also get their 15 mins of hero fame to brag about.

  25. Reziac March 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Instead of calling 911 if you see a child in *real danger* — DO something. Because if you have time to wait for the cops to arrive, the child wasn’t in danger in the first place. 911 doesn’t make cops instantly appear; it’s seldom less than 20 minutes and the average is more like 2 to 4 hours, and sometimes they never do show up. If it’s a REAL emergency, by then it’s too far late for that child.

    If you can’t find the balls to DO something YOURSELF to save that child, maybe nothing needed to be done in the first place.

  26. Nadine March 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Call the cops on kids throwing snowballs? What kind of little vandals are they supposed to be? We have kids throwing fireworks round newyears and i will give them an earfull and threaten to call their parents when they keep on messing with the mailboxes and trashcans around my block. How is that a police issue? It’s the saying: it takes a village.

  27. Reziac March 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    JJ, what the busybodies get out of it has been called “moral masturbation”. It’s not for the kids’ benefit; rather, it’s to make themselves feel good.

    It occurs to me that this is on the increase because helicopter parenting makes kids feel incompetent, and when those kids grow up, they have no ability to judge competence, but they still seek the good feeling one gets from *being* competent, because that’s a human instinct. So everything they don’t understand is automatically reprehensible, which in turn gives them that feeling of superiority they crave to assuage their own feelings of incompetence. Helicoptering is raising kids who can’t make judgment calls, but they know how to make themselves feel morally superior once they reach adulthood and can exert this moral power over others.

  28. SOA March 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    I would call 911 on a parent but not in the examples in this article. Those seem fine. A big kid happily chilling in the car is nothing to be worried about. A baby in a car alone with no parent in sight is something to be concerned about. I don’t know if calling the cops would be my first thing. I might flag someone down and have them go in the store to page the parents first. Then call the cops if no parents showed after awhile. If the baby was in distress like looked too hot or cold I would break the window and call the cops.

    I would call the cops if I found a toddler or very small child wandering around in the street if I could not find out where the child belonged. If the child could not show me their house and no one came out to claim said child I would no choice but to call the cops to get the child back where they belonged.

    I have approached kids and just asked if they were okay and then take their word for it. I saw a little girl in the mall and she looked alone and wanted to make sure she knew where she was. She told me her Grandpa was behind her and I saw him. Nothing wrong with checking.

    I would not mind someone checking on my kids either. Calling 911 though is an overreaction.

    However, there are times it is necessary. My best friend is raising her nephew over such an instance. Basically the mother was a drug addict and passed out on the couch. He was like 2 year old and left the house, got in his power wheels and took off down the highway by himself. I think he was trying to run away from that bitch. I don’t blame him. Of course cars stopped to get him to safety and they tried to figure out where he belonged and could not so the cops of course got involved.

    She lost custody with good reason and now my friend has been raising him for almost 3 years now because neither parent can stay clean. I feel for my friend because she gets no money for his support hardly. And they impose rules on her as to how to care for him she has to follow. Its shitty that she tried to do the right thing and gets rules imposed on her life like where she can live and who she can hang out with. She is not allowed to sleep over at her parent’s house because her brother lives there and they are not allowed to be in a house with him over night. Its dumb.

  29. caiti March 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    REZIAC, I love your analysis! I think you are, at least, partially right about why people call 911.

  30. Liz March 9, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    I think the main problem is that too many people believe that other people’s “bad” parenting choices should be criminal. If you call 911 because you see a kid walking down the street alone it’s because you think the kid’s parents are bad and that social services would better care for the child. The problem with calling another parent “bad”- not abusive- is that it’s a completely subjective term. What one person thinks is bad another person thinks is perfectly acceptable. For example, I know a lot of parents who co-sleep. To them, having a child sleep on their own is bad for the child and going to damage them in the future. People who think co-sleeping is too risky with very small children see the opposite, that those children are being put at risk. Some parents call pack-n-plays (really new word for playpen) a “baby cage” and talk about how unhealthy it is for them to be in one. Some parents go all-organic or vegan or gluten-free, so for them seeing a kid eating in a McDonalds means the parents are “bad.” I could go on. The point is that to call the police because of these things should seem completely ridiculous. Calling the police because you see a kid playing in his yard without the parent should seem equally ridiculous, because it’s based on the same thing: “I wouldn’t do that as a parent, therefore you’re a bad parent and I think your kid would be better off in foster care.” Anyone who claims they report for different reasons is lying.

  31. bmommyx2 March 9, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    Sometime I think it’s less about caring & more about control & making others do it your way. Sad. I’ve been scolded by supposedly well meaning strangers about my parenting “errors”, I guess I should be thankful they didn’t call 911

  32. Warren March 9, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    With you all the way on the if it is important enough to report, it is important enough for you to act. That is the problem with some people, they call, report, and runaway without knowing the situation, without even finding out what happens when the cops show up. I call them cowards.

    They get to go home and brag to all that will listen how they saved the day, saved the child, stopped the criminal or whatever. All their friends tell them what a hero they are, how brave they were and all other sorts of BS.

    If you are not willing to sign a statement, testify in court, and stand up and be counted, keep the damn phone in your pocket or purse.

  33. Troutwaxer March 9, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    And in the Debra Harrell case I’ve got to ask if race was an issue… sigh.

  34. Havva March 9, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    I saw that article a little time back and it got me thinking about what supports a parent in letting go.

    At my synagogue we have a “tot Shabbat” program for infants through Kindergarten. We also started doing an occasional “tot Movie” in a separate room from the service and the food. When the movies first started, there were quite a few moments of parents finding themselves torn between leaving one child (usually 3-5 years old) at the movie or forcing the child to come with the parent. For instance when a sibling needed a diaper change, or dad wanted to grab a coffee, or mom left her purse in the other room.

    You could tell the parents really thought it best to leave the child happily enjoying the movie, but didn’t feel they safely could. They would start telling the child the things they should and shouldn’t do IF they were allowed to stay, and then hem and haw, and finally tell the child “No, I can’t let you stay.” After seeing this a few times I started speaking up during the hemming and hawing phase. While the child was looking at the screen instead of mom I would quietly say … “I can keep an eye on him/her/them.”

    The first time leaving, the parent always came back needing a report and a little assurance. And then, having seen/been assured that the instinct to trust their child was okay. More trust followed little by little, from both sides. For instance I might watch a child walk back to the main room if the child was one I recently had volunteered to keep an eye on. And mom would talk longer to follow the kid to the movie. Now the kids mostly show up to the movie well ahead of the parents. Little clots of friends or siblings walking, scampering, or bouncing down the hall to the movie. And the kids pop in and out of the movie room at their leisure. There has never been much alarm. And nothing that couldn’t be solved by a nearby parent saying, I saw, I was watching.

    There is something about having your own child in the mass of free-floating children that makes you keep an eye on the roaming kids. But rather than feeling (as many fear) a heavy burden of having to “parent” the children of others. There is a pleasant co-parenting effect. You know the kids are being watched in every zone. and ultimately it is easier to help every kid who asks, and stop every kid you see headed for trouble in your zone, than it is to stay glued to one child’s side. I’ve never regretted volunteering to keep an eye on the kids. Because now their parents keep an eye on my kid too, and the children have learned to help themselves as well, and to follow rules even when mom/dad isn’t looking.

    I also started hearing a phrase I haven’t heard much since I was a kid … “Run along. I’ll be there soon.”

  35. Donald March 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    If you are insecure you can make yourself feel better by pushing others down.

    911 has become a tool for bullies.

  36. SKL March 9, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    So far I have never called 911 on a parent. I won’t say I never would. But it would have to be an emergency that I couldn’t handle without the cops.

    I’ve had them called on me and yeah, hero complex. There is NO WAY that hag believed my kids were in any kind of danger. Thankfully the cop limited his interference to only words.

  37. Scott March 9, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    I heard a great story on NPR today (3/9) about how, over the past 30 years, children have become more narcissistic. Not more kids with narcissistic personality disorder, just more self-centered. The assessment was made in part on a questionaire given to the kids, and partly on one give to the parents. The questions they asked the parents, snd the responses they got back would be fodder for an SNL sketch they were so funny, were it not for the seriousness of what they are doing to the kids. Go find the transcript on the All Things Considered website, or the podcast. Sadly, I see the hints or outright results of this parenting in my classroom. I think this is where the “hero complex” stuff comes from – “it’s all about me”, “see what I did”, “I did such a good thing”. Narcissism pure and simple.

  38. Lisa @ Four Under Six March 9, 2015 at 11:56 pm #

    Love this post. Again. And no, unless I saw something very disturbing I wouldn’t call 911 on another parent.

    I think *much* of this new phenomenon stems from the parenting judgment we now all seem to engage in. All the Huff Po pieces, the random articles and memes you see linked on Facebook. Parenting has becoming a competitive sport. Who can do it the best and how can we judge, ridicule and criticize those that do it differently? We don’t band together. We judge one another and assume the worst. (Worst-first thinking right?)

    I also think modern parents have completely lost historical perspective. Let’s remember that 100 years ago children were either running around completely independently for multiple hours a day, or were working in a factory or on a family farm. Or some combination thereof. (NOT that I advocate for child labor – please.) But really. The kids will be ok. A little discomfort, a little freedom and independence. A little fun. A little risk. (gasp!) It’s all going to be ok. Everything please calm down. Stop the judging and stop the hyperventilating.

  39. Donald March 10, 2015 at 5:17 am #

    The 911 service is being abused. If more people understood the narcissist/hero complex, it wouldn’t be abused as much. This is because the narcissist would know that they are as transparent as sandwich bags.

  40. Emily Guy Birken March 10, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    To be entirely and pedantically fair to busybodies–it used to be that parents would generally welcome another adult’s input/involvement/interference with their children. But inserting yourself into a parenting decision these days is likely to get you abused rather than thanked. I taught high school from 2006-2010, and anytime I called home to discuss a problem or issue, ˆI would often have to defend myself for there being a problem with their precious child. Considering that you can’t get much more legitimate than a teacher, I am somewhat sympathetic to busybodies who deeply feel that something is wrong but do not want to get personally involved. In those situations, I understand why they call an authority to intervene.

    That doesn’t change the fact that busybodies are often assuming the worst when it is not warranted. But I think pieces like this can help those who really do want to be a force for good realize that the consequences of personally getting involved are much better than the consequences of getting the authorities involved. (When faced with the decision between getting yelled at by a parent who thinks I’m a busybody and seeing a family go through a CPS investigation for no reason, I know which one I’ll pick.)

    Of course, those busybodies who have a hero complex are not going to be helped by anything, because their actions are not actually about helping children.

  41. Buffy March 10, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    Are we all good with “if you need help, find a woman with children”? A commenter on the WAPO story mentioned that she, too, tells her kids that. I feel sorry that some boys growing up in this world are taught practically from birth to fear men.

  42. Edward March 10, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    I feel outraged that all boys in this world are being taught they WILL BE FEARED as adult men.

  43. pentamom March 10, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    If the situation is bad enough to need the cops, what is a 5′ 3″, almost 50-year-old not very strong woman supposed to do about it?

  44. Amanda Matthews March 10, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    “911 doesn’t make cops instantly appear; it’s seldom less than 20 minutes and the average is more like 2 to 4 hours”

    That depends on a lot of factors. Last year I called the cops (for a real issue) and they showed up in 3 minutes.

    When I lived in a bad area where the cops were frequently needed… yeah, 30 minutes – 2 hours was the standard.

    The two times I called the cops in my life, it was because I had already done everything I could do and stay within the law. (But, those were about real issues. I would never call about someone making a parenting choice I disagree with.)

    “Are we all good with “if you need help, find a woman with children”?”

    No, I’m not. Mine have been taught to find an employee if we’re at a place where it’s appropriate, but other than that to be indiscriminate. I never taught mine to fear men. The idea that you/your brother will be a monster in a few years has to be damaging. People are doing more damage in the name of protection, than the damage that would be done by the very things they think they are protecting the children from!

  45. Warren March 10, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    That petite lady that calls 911, what can she do? Stay around, give a statement and testify if needed. Not willing to do that, then don’t call. It is really that simple.

  46. SOA March 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    I think Emily has a point with a lot of people don’t want to get involved because they often will get yelled at by the parents and told off when they were just being helpful. I would tell a kid on the playground not to throw rock at my kid and then have a parent shooting me dirty looks over it. I told a kid to stop climbing on a display of pools that was precarious that was my job as the store employee and had the mother bitch me out for daring to use a tone with her kid.

    So maybe if parents stopped getting chips on their shoulders and minded their own kids, then others would not feel the need to step in but be scared to step in themselves so they call the cops.

  47. ad March 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    Of course, any of those suggestions could possibly get you accused of being a paedophile. It’s what happened to me the last time I answered a childs question.

    It’s safer not to interact with other peoples children, at least if you are male.

  48. lollipoplover March 10, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    “I told a kid to stop climbing on a display of pools that was precarious that was my job as the store employee and had the mother bitch me out for daring to use a tone with her kid.”

    Sometimes it’s how you say it.
    If you stop the kid with “Hey buddy, I don’t want you to get hurt so you’re going to have to get off of that now” vs. “Get down from there, you little brat, and where is your mother?”

    I’m guessing that’s what the mom meant about “tone”. We can help other children AND talk to each other respectfully, including children. I don’t believe my children will behave perfectly all the time and hope others will correct behavior (like climbing in a store) but correct them with a respectful tone.

  49. Buffy March 10, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    “The idea that you/your brother will be a monster in a few years has to be damaging.”

    Amanda, exactly.

  50. Mholtebeck March 10, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    I teach high school and have noticed a trend of parents feeling ‘good’ parenting means being involved with every aspect of your child’s life. I’ve got 16 year old kids who get picked up from one monitored activity to the next activity, never actually relying on their own for anything. As a result, they suffer anxiety the first sign they are taken out of their comfort zone.

    As for calling 9-1-1, and the examples are crazy for things like walking to a park. Guess what, an 8 year can play outside the house by himself. They will be fine, and by the time they are 10 they can go to a store by themselves. By 12, they will know how to look out for themselves. It’s fostering independence, and helping them prepare for what will happen when they become adults.

  51. SOA March 10, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    Or maybe the mom was just being a bitch. I love kids and am a kid person. I know how to talk to kids effectively but politely. My boss even heard me say it and said I said nothing wrong. You need to accept that some parents don’t think their kid’s shit stinks and nobody better ever say a word to their little precious. That is the everyone gets a trophy mentality that their kid is beyond compare.

    When in reality if she was doing her job and parenting I never would have even had to say something, because she would have kept him off the pools in the first place. But guaranteed had little precious fallen and gotten hurt she would have tried to sue us.

    and yes, parents like that are the ones that keep people from wanting to get involved themselves because they don’t want the conflict, so they just call 911. So some of the blame on this societal shift is going on those parents that get all butthurt if someone says anything to their kids and they are not watching their kids in the first place so we don’t have to say something. I don’t like saying things to other people’s kids. I wish their own parents would do it.

  52. lollipoplover March 11, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    Dolly, I will say it again:
    It’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. There’s a difference between effective and polite and respectful. If you initiate the conversation, you actually have a lot of control in setting the *tone* as to how this will be resolved.

    If you enter the conversation with:
    “When in reality if she was doing her job and parenting I never would have even had to say something, because she would have kept him off the pools in the first place.”

    You are perpetuating that if she were a good parent, she would have helicoptered and controlled every action of her children, otherwise she is a bad parent. And this is her *job* and her kids have no personal accountability at all, it’s all about parent shaming.
    What do the children learn from this encounter? Nothing, because they are not accountable for their own (bad) behavior because someone just yelled at their mom, who isn’t doing her *job*.

    If you enter the conversation with an attitude that your intention is keeping the children from harm, “It takes a village” and not make the parent feel like they did something wrong, you will have more positive social encounters with other parents. If you intend to shame them for every parenting mishap, you WILL have negative interactions. It’s honey and vinegar. Your choice.

    The whole message of this post was to not be so judgemental. Kids make mistakes. Adults do too. I can’t tell you how many supermarket displays I took out driving the “18 Wheeler” extended cab shopping cart with the kids in the front car, loaded with weight. If you automatically think it’s not worth it to say something because someone might be a bitch to you, that’s really sad. It’s worst first. I’m sorry you’ve had so many negative encounters with other parents, but that’s not the norm. Most parents would appreciate someone saving their child from imminent danger. Accidents happen.

  53. lollipoplover March 11, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    I think there should be community building campaigns similar to the DARE (Dare to keep your kids off of drugs) but with CARE (Care to not automatically call the police).

    If your really love kids, you wouldn’t call the police as your default just to avoid a confrontation. You would CARE to get involved and reserve judgement. The police are not parents.
    They protect us from crime. Calling them because you “don’t like saying things to other people’s kids” or “Where is the mother??” only takes them away from the real crimes.

  54. SOA March 11, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    You are ignoring the fact again that my boss witnessed the entire interaction and said I did nothing wrong. Bosses don’t often side with employees over customers but in this instance she certainly did. Because that kid was doing something very dangerous and destructive and I got him off the pools quickly before something awful happened. The mother was just embarrassed her kid got called out for doing something that she should have been on top of in the first place.

    Again, you are in straight denial if you don’t think there are parents like this out in the world. If anything, they are becoming the majority. Party because of this anti free range movement where we treat kids like precious snowflakes instead of calling them out when they need to be called out.

  55. SOA March 11, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    and for the record I said nothing to or toward the parent. The parent was not even anywhere to be seen at first. All I saw was a big kid climbing a mountain of inflatable pools and my instinct jumped in to say “You need to get down now before you get hurt!” Then here comes Mommy Dearest around the corner pissed off because I “used a tone with her child”. I guess she wanted me to use the “Honey baby prince darling, if you would be so inclined to get off the pools at your quickest convenience that would be great okay darling?” Sorry by the time I got all that out, kid could have already fallen and gotten hurt and/or damaged the merchandise and then I get fired for not stepping in quicker.

    Parents need to get control of their kids in public and that is not anti free range. Your kids don’t get to be independent in public until they have enough sense to act right. A kid of 8 or so that thought it appropriate to climb a pool display like that had no business being out of Mommy’s reach. An 8 year old with sense and decorum not to do something like that, let them free range away. Free ranging does not excuse you making sure your kids know how to behave. If they can’t behave, they can’t free range.

  56. pentamom March 11, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Warren, great. I just got the impression that I wasn’t supposed to call 911 at all, I was just supposed to take care of things myself unless I had some psychologically suspect reason for calling instead of handling it on my own. No problem with staying around to make a statement.

  57. lollipoplover March 11, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    Dolly, I don’t wish to dissect your store encounter to decide who was *right*. You can be firm without being nasty. But I don’t make excuses for nasty people. You can’t put a flower in an asshole and call it a vase.

    I was suggesting that the reason for all of these negative encounters you seem to have is not bad parenting, it’s just not YOUR parenting. I don’t know where you shop that you see so many out of control kids, but I RARELY see anything more than kids throwing tantrums. And when I do see an out of control kid, I feel empathy, not superiority. “Been there, it stinks, stay strong mom.”

    I don’t have negative interactions on a daily basis. Yes, I’ve encountered a few crotchety judgemental types, but not often. I am a happy person and tend to seek the good in other people (and their children). I also don’t go about my daily routine trying to parent partrol other people’s kids to make myself feel like a superior parent.
    I’m not. Just trying my best. Empathy goes a long way.

  58. Warren March 11, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    Will you shut the hell up! Ever since I have been here, I have seen you go on about parents giving you a hard time for interacting with their kids.
    At the pool, infront of the store, at work and so on. This is not the first time we have heard this.
    So look at it. Different kids, different parents and you. The only common factor being you. So noone is going to believe your story about your boss backing you up. And noone is going to believe with your abrasive personality that you handled things nicely and were the victim of an attack by a parent.

    Time and time again you complain about other people. Parents, neighbours and the public in general. Time for some anger management classes, group therapy or heavy meds. I don’t care which, but get some help.

  59. SOA March 11, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    I worked at a toy store so I saw a lot of inappropriate behavior. Parents thought it okay to drop their kids off at the toy store and for us to act as babysitters while the parents went to shop. I had no issue with a well behaved kid being left to quietly browse the store. But that was rarely the case. Many of the kids dropped off would do things like knock items off shelves and leave them in the middle of the aisle. Damage merchandise like the kid that opened up a $200 lego set and made it where we could no longer sell it. The kids would bug the employees and try to talk to us while were busy helping other customers. Also where the kid tried to climb the mountain of pools.

    You expect a certain amount of that working at a toy store, but its not a babysitting service. The parents had no business dumping their kids in there and then going way off down the mall to shop so that they were unreachable. Because it becomes our liability if the kids damage anything while in there and if the kid gets hurt on our watch, we get held responsible.

    My mother often let me walk around stores alone and it was fine because I knew not to mess with stuff, but if your kid cannot handle that responsibility, then they don’t get to do it. We had kids often try to steal things too. Usually the parents were nowhere to be found.

  60. SOA March 11, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    When my job is on the line, I have no choice but to get involved. If I see a kid ripping open a toy they did not buy, and the parent is nowhere to be seen. I have to get involved and stop them. I don’t see how you can say that I should not get involved in that situation. It has nothing to do with “parent patrolling” other people’s kids.

    If some kid won’t give my kid back their toy they brought to the park, am I just supposed to leave the park without it or god forbid “parent patrol” someone else’s kid to tell them to give it back? So much for taking home something we bought with our own money. I can’t be guilty of “parent patrolling”.

    I don’t care when other parents say something to my kid if it needs to be said. If my kid took your kid’s toy, by all means, tell them to give it back. Won’t bother me at all.

    My main point is we are discussing why people feel the need to call 911 over just trying to step in yourself, and this is one reason why that I and another poster brought up. People get jumped on for daring to speak to another person’s child so that makes them go with the phone call instead. Maybe if people calmed down and did not get all butthurt if someone tells their child something, then people would not be so quick to call 911. I think like most things this is a culmination of many different factor changes in our society and this is one aspect to it.

    Other aspects as someone brought up are that everyone has phones on their person now. The helipcopter parenting movement is another factor. People jumping on you if you say something to their kids is another factor. The media and fear movement is another factor. They are all to blame.

  61. Tannis March 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    just to chime in on the “seek out a woman with children and ask for help” bit: I get the reaction and that it makes people think that all men are out to get them. But I’ll probably still do it, at least in some form, because its practical. I tell my kids that if they are lost to look first for an employee because the employee has access to a PA system or procedure to find me. If they can’t find that (or we aren’t somewhere there are employees, like a park) they should look for kids and a parent to ask for help. I wouldn’t necessarily say look for a mom, but 99% of the time that is who is with the kids so that’s who they are looking for. I would say find the kid first though that’s easy for kids to do. I tell them this not because childless adults are scary, but because a parent who is with their own children is, in my opinion, more likely to know what to do to find me, less likely to be annoyed by and/or ignore my kid interrupting their day, and more likely to know what to do to help my kid feel better until they find me. At a park, or hanging out at endless tournaments where I let them wander to a playground while the big sibling plays ball, they are likely to have found a peer to play with anyway, so that will make them more comfortable talking to the parent.

    I generally try not to talk to other kids in a disciplinary fashion unless I think its urgent. I will talk to my own child within earshot to make sure they get the point though. I suppose that’s passive aggressive of me? but it seems to work. an example: another kid took a toy from mine (not one we bought but one that belonged at the play area) I would say to my kid “I’m so sorry he took your toy, sometimes other kids don’t know how to play nicely. Lets find you something else” If my kid takes a toy from another kid I make sure they return it and apologize, and if they aren’t willing, I return it and apologize for their behavior. But I don’t find it necessary to march over and demand an apology from another parent if their child is in the wrong. I have had groups of friends over the years where we would take the kids out as a group and somewhat “group parent” and in those cases I might give some light discipline, but even then I felt as long as it wasn’t dangerous it wasn’t really my place.

    I can’t imagine what scenario would result in calling 911? the only one I can really think of is unsafe driving – now that I have a teen driver I am much more aware of other teen drivers and its a bit terrifying!

  62. Cathy March 22, 2015 at 1:47 am #

    If it’s 95 degrees out and some idiot parent decides to go into a store leaving their little child (under 5) alone in a hot car so they aren’t inconvenienced, they deserve to have the police called on them. It always amazes me that they assume everything will be OK just because they think it will. Sorry, but you don’t leave them unintended in a car. The responsible thing to do is call the police. It is not my job to watch someone else’s kid until they get back. It is the parents job to be responsible and care for their children. Leaving them in the car unintended is negligent, at best.