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Yesterday we did grocery shopping in our local supermarket, as every week. Normally, my dad would babysit my son (2.5 years) for this time, but it was not possible, so the child joined us.

My son was sometimes a bit loud, he's a bit ill which makes him feel uncomfortable and therefore makes him whiny. He screamed because he wanted to drive the shopping cart, he screamed because we corrected the path of the cart. In between he enjoyed driving the cart and being helpful. Actually, for his conditions it was a mild noise, he can do louder easily.

We encountered an elderly man, who was very angry and asked 'Is he always that loud?' and commanded us to calm him down because he has an hearing aid.

My reaction was to walk away and don't engage in the conversation [and put the child away from him, fast] while my husband became angry, too and asked the man if he wasn't a child himself once.

Question

What I would like to know is how to respond to such an encounter in order to achieve the following points:

  • End the encounter immediately and never speak to them again.

  • Don't leave a bad expression of us as parents and our child, at least not on all bystanders (because the person complaining has likely made up his mind already).

  • Don't make my child feel he has done something wrong (because he cannot control his feelings yet).

I felt sorry for the man, as I sometimes get headache from his voice, but I can't leave him in the car and he is not yet reasonable enough to react positively on 'please calm down, please be a bit quieter, remember there are other people around' kind of phrases.

Background:

My son likes to scream when he's boring, he screams when we help him and he thinks he doesn't need help, he screams when he's angry, he even screams out of joy. All different kind of screams (maybe there are more differentiated words for that in English) but all ear hurting.

I know that, it annoys me too, but I can't do anything against it which wouldn't result in more screaming [except for maybe keeping him busy with eating or so, but this is not a feasible solution]. I hope he grows out of the scream phase with time, when he learns to control his emotions. It got better in the last year, as he started to talk.

15

In such situations you don't respond at all.

You can only control your child to a certain degree at that age. You can certainly not stop them 100% from screaming all the time. There will always be someone who thinks they are something special and need to act out, but the majority of people you will encounter, simply ignore it. Though they might be annoyed by the constant screaming, they know what it's like to be around little children/have little children themselves.

Most people have their fair share of experience wiht little children screaming. Be it their own, some relative, work or something else. The ones who act out because there is a little child screaming (especially at an public place where it's kinda acceptable to be loud) is the one being rude, not you being there with your child.

As I have been on both ends on this, my preferred solution is to ignore it (screaming as well as comments). People will go past you and have forgotten about it 2 minutes later anyways. If they keep following you to bug you further, you can always tell them to leave you alone as that will also turn down the noise they experience. Yet this shouldn't be necessary at all.

At places like a restaurant, the best course of action is to actually apologize, as in this setting people expect a quite environment where they are not annoyed by screaming children. After apologizing, leave the room with the child until they calm down (don't ditch out on paying your food!). Then return and continue your meal.

So to sum it up. It all depends on the setting you are in. Is it acceptable to be loud in the setting? No problem, ignore snarky comments. Do people expect to have a quiet environment? Apologize and try to reduce the noise (by probably leaving if possible).

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A simple return like "sorry, he's not a machine and I can't switch him off" in unaggressive tone and walking on will usually stop the conversation dead in your favor.

As XtremeBaumer points out: Don't worry. You are okay. Your son is okay. That man's behavior was not.

Elderly people often get mad if they feel unwell. Being sick and afraid of it makes people aggressive. The "hearing aid" comment sounds a lot like that. But that's his problem, not yours.

Don't start yelling at your son. Continue to stay calm, talking in a soothing voice, and trying to put his mind on something else. "Would you fetch some butter and put it in the basket, please?" "Would you like to push the cart along?" Kids at that age can't control their anger. Their brain's just not yet capable to.

According to my experience, you don't need to worry about other bystanders. They will usually either forget about it immediately, as XtremeBaumer suggests, or even side with you. Especially parents will remember how it feels to have a screaming kid clinging to your legs, with everyone else watching, and will feel sympathetic.

Some weeks back I carried my 3 year old daughter through the supermarket, screaming at the top of her lungs because she hadn't got a cart of her own. At the exit, the shop owner smiled at me and said: "Man, you've got nerves of steel! Wish I could stay that calm with my little one."

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