Consider a case where a young child is doing something that directly impacts me, and most everyone would consider it reasonable to want them to stop. Here are a few real examples of things they've done in the past:
- Pawing through my purse
- Repeatedly and loudly talking in a theatre
- Kicking the back of my seat
- Pushing me out of the way to look through a window or use an arcade game
I get that young children do not fully understand boundaries and being polite. I have no desire to teach them a lesson, make a scene, scold them, or anything like that. I simply want them to stop the behavior that is directly affecting me in a negative way with as little effort and drama as possible.
Sometimes the parent notices the behavior and immediately fixes the problem for me, which is perfect, but often that doesn't happen. In that case, my current approach is the same as it would be with an adult: I politely ask them to stop doing whatever it is they are doing. In the case of something blatantly rude, I might be a bit more forceful ("hey, quit going through my purse!"), but it's not ever filled with fury or malice or anything like that.
I feel like this is reasonable, but it often prompts parents or even bystanders to object to me speaking directly to the kid, because "it's the parent's job to parent." I don't understand this sentiment at all; I'm enforcing my own (entirely reasonable) boundaries against a stranger, not "parenting", but it seems to be a common sentiment. I'm not sure if this is caused by the way I'm addressing the kid or if it's the very act of speaking to a child I'm not the guardian of.
I have occasionally tried talking directly to parents instead, but generally they tell the kid to stop, which they do for a minute, then start right back up again without any further intervention from the parent. At that point, I feel uncomfortable asking them repeatedly to do something about it or talking directly to the kid, so I'm stuck dealing with it.
So talking to the kid is generally effective, but sometimes causes a scene, which I'd like to avoid. Talking to the parent usually doesn't cause a scene (though they sometimes get huffy about it), but it is often ineffective.
What's the best method to get a youngish child (under 8) to quit doing something to me with a minimum of fuss? Alternatively, what's a response that will quickly shut down the "don't parent someone else's kid" complaint?
Note: I meant this to only include children who are complete strangers to me, but including the case where you know the family is okay too.