When you see a parent losing their rag try this…


Following on from my experience last week, where my son losing it in public drew attention from the law enforcement, I decided I better walk my talk about being a support to struggling parents while others look on. The opportunity arose when I saw, late one sunset flooded evening, a mum dragging her screaming kid across the field at Buddhafields in a wheelbarrow. I didn’t see what happened to flip the mama’s lid, but when she threw down the barrow and the (biggish) kid rolled out, I ran over just as she was tossing her daughter back in and scolding her to stay there.

Hey, tell me how hard it is, I’m with you” I said.

She surveyed me apprehensively, not quite able to make eye contact in her rage. I couldn’t tell if coming over had been helpful or was just making her more furious, but I was happy for her to channel her feelings towards me.

It’s Ok I got you, tell me, or just take a minute for yourself, I can stay with her”

She turned to her kid “I just can’t take you screaming any more. I am SO beyond my limit and you are too, you are making this so hard and I just need you to get to bed now”

I tried to encourage her to tell me instead of the kid but she said she just had. Her little girl was screaming hysterically

“You’re not being a kind mummy.”

I just CAN’T anymore… I’m so tired, I don’t want to do this.”

I colluded that parenting was so hard and relentless and that she was doing a beautiful job and with that she was off, tearfully advancing down the field. I have no idea how the mother received my support and in that moment it didn’t seem to have the effect of calming either of them down, but I really hope she felt my loving intention. Any suggestions of what might have been more helpful most welcome in the comments!

I have decided to break the taboo around never mentioning anyone else’s parenting, by commenting on it at every given opportunity! Yesterday at my posh spa (where door bellowing is likely frowned upon) I yelled through the shower door to a mother washing her screaming tot

You are a wonderful mama!”

It’s easy to tell parents how great they are and usually that is extremely well received. When they are not doing great, I think it’s important to cut in with an air of ‘I’m right here, I know you are a good parent and that it’s hard AND I won’t let you take it out on your kid’. I’d love to hear stories from anyone who has intervened with a parent acting inappropriately or lent support to a fraught situation.


  1. Hi Roma,
    First of all you did great by reaching out to help the mother and the daughter. What is most important is your intention, and yours is awesome: I know you are a good parent and at this moment things are to much, so please tell what is going on. = so that they can empty their emotional ballon
    That is way way better then telling them that they are not a good parent.

    I think it is important to “pick your battles” where can you be helpful and where not.
    Try to make a connection, eye contact, toutching the person (if appropriate).
    First listen to their story then share yours.
    acknowledge that parenting can sometimes be difficult.
    Offer them some kind of help, listening for a few minutes is one of the best things you can do.

    Recently I have given a lecture about this subject for professionals. Even they find it difficult to approach a stranger to change a non supportive parenting situation.
    One of the big problems of the lecture was that they feel to much negative emotion and anger to the person that it is hard to feel love for that person and try to offer sincere help.

    If everybody, like you, has the same attitude to help other people with difficult parenting situation the world will be more beautiful.

    Keep up your good work.

    With Love
    Happy Parents Happy Kids

    • Wonderful Conrad, thanks for your thoughts. Love your suggestions. Yes connecting with the parent’s innocence in the situation is key. x

    • When my son was very young, he was screaming in costco. I couldnt get him to sit in his stroller. Nothing I did helped him stop screaming. I was in tears because I was so frustrated and humiliated at the scene he was causing. I finally yelled “WHY CANT YOU JUST BE GOOD??” A bunch of women, most older than me approached and just told me how hard it is, and they’ve all been there and I’m doing a great job. One woman comforted my son while I was crying. It was such a beautiful and loving experience. I have been judged and looked down upon many times for what other people perceived as bad parenting (like letting my son play on the floor at his dad’s store), it’s so nice when other parents say nice things.
      I loved your article, but I have one critique. I think in the shower situation, you weren’t able to make eye contact with the mother and she couldn’t see your facial expression. If I were in her place, I probably would have assumed you were being sarcastic, despite your sweet intentions. As for your approach with the mom in the field, I think keeping it simple would have helped more than you trying to make yourself the target of the mother’s anger. Just a simple “been one of those days, huh?” or a kind smile and “I know it’s so hard at times like this, but you’re a great mom.” She’s not going to open up to a stranger, but your kindness will help her calm down and keep things in perspective as she went on her way. Plus it seems less confrontational that way.

      • Aw so glad to hear you received this kind of support. Yeah I think you are right about the mother in the field and definitely eye contact is helpful, but in this shower context it felt ok. Thanks for sharing your thoughts xx

  2. Yay for you Roma! I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately – the idea that we shouldn’t comment on other people’s parenting is pretty ingrained for me, but supporting parents and kids is so important to me too…

    The other week I was at he shopping centre when I saw a little boy (maybe 3) with a couple I assumed were his grandparents. The little boy was walking while the woman pushed the trolley around, but he really needed connection – he wanted cuddles, to look at the things in the shop, to push the trolley, but his grandma had no attention for him and was getting really cross. I was debating with myself about whether to say something supportive when she pushed him down to the ground and started hitting him. I wasn’t close at hand (and I was really upset by what was happening) and by the time I got over to them she had stopped. She looked at me and said something like: “people think you’re a monster for hitting kids”. I said “hang in there. I think he might need a hug,” he was crying and tugging at her leg. “I know it can be hard, I’m here with you.” She looked at me slightly confused, then called to the man she was with and turned her back on me. I was shaken, not sure what to do next so I moved away.

    I’m so pleased you have opened up a conversation about how we can help distressed parents in public. Thank you!

    • Oh bless you Claire, sounds like a very distressing situation and you did well do offer your help. It sounds like this lady was worried what folks would think about her and you offered your compassion. I’m sure it interrupted the violence too that you moved in. Indeed we are all responsible for taking a stand and supporting off track adults xx


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