Questionable Parenting…is it ever ok to say something?

I’m not a parent. I’m not an aunt. I’m not a godmother. I know that right now I wouldn’t have a clue of how to be a parent – I can barely look after myself! However, we all have a grasp of the very basics of what you should and what you definitely shouldn’t do as a parent – we all have some kind of moral compass.

However, I was in a situation the other day when it reached a point where I started asking myself if it is ever ok to comment on someone’s parenting for the well-being of the children?

You may think I am being judgemental – and if you do think this, please just pass over this post. It’s a bit out my norm blog-wise, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

I was sat on a train the other day from London to Bristol. Across the aisle from me was a table with a woman and her 4 children. The children must have all been under the age of 7 or 8. They were being a little noisy, but nothing that I wouldn’t expect from a group of children that age, and it wasn’t a “quiet carriage” or anything like that, so absolutely no problem.

I’ll say right now, I wasn’t watching them with a view to judge, however as they were in my eye-line I couldn’t help noticing when things were happening that I thought were a bit off. The first red flag went up when the mother declared “Alright, lunchtime. Sit down and shut up.”

She then brought out a sandwich and a large family size bag of Doritos. She opened the Doritos and put them in the middle of the table for the kids, plugged in her headphones, looked out the window and started eating the sandwich herself. Yes, she was feeding her young children Doritos for lunch. Just Doritos. While she ate a sandwich.

The next thing that wound me up was that half way through eating their “lunch” she declared that the youngest needed a nappy changing. I understand that this could be a tricky situation if you have to keep an eye on the other 3 children, however changing the youngest child’s nappy on the same table that the other children are eating from (by this point she had tipped the bag up on the table so they could finish it) seems simply unhygienic.

After they had finished eating, and she had handed then 3 chocolate digestives each (talk about a balanced diet!) they were sat and playing happily. The only problem was that their mother was sat on her iPhone, not even looking at the kids, headphones in. She didn’t notice when her youngest got up and walked straight into the next carriage. I wanted to stop her, but thought that it was probably not my place. I was keeping an eye on her and she was just being friendly and chatting to the grown ups in the next carriage, who were giving her the attention she was obviously craving from her mother.

By now, other people in the carriage were rolling eyes, commenting to each other & some had even left the carriage to sit elsewhere. When her mother finally realised she wasn’t there, she stood up and yelled at the top of her voice “Twyla, where the fuck are you? You’d better come back here right now or else!” It wasn’t a concerned call, it was almost threatening.

I informed her that her daughter was in the next carriage and was absolutely fine, to which she gave me the filthiest look I think I have ever received, as though I had no right to tell her where her daughter was. Should I have stopped her child from going into the next carriage because she wasn’t going to notice? Maybe, but I was watching her and keeping an eye on her, she was safe, and I didn’t want to cross any lines. Frankly, this woman was quite scary.

When she had practically dragged her youngest back to the table and sat the children all back down again, she plugged back in her headphones and went back to her iPhone, only to unplug ever few minutes to tell her children – who were getting louder to attract their mother’s attention, which they weren’t getting – to “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” After she had said this more than a few times the final other person left the carriage, leaving just me and this family.

I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I couldn’t leave. I shouldn’t leave, for the wellbeing of her children. So I could keep an eye on them and make sure they were ok for at least the small part of their day I could witness. The final thing that almost made me cry was when her little boy, who much have been 5 or 6, tapped her on the hand that was placed on the table until she unplugged and gave him an aggressive questioning look.

He simply asked “Why do you love Twyla more than the rest of us?” (I know children ask about favourites for attention, but he seemed genuinely upset.) 
She replied “Because she is the youngest and the cutest. And you go to school.” He looked completely crushed and sadly said “You never spend time with us” almost under his breath as his mother plugged in her headphones and looked away from him. I wanted to give him a hug.

We were drawing to the end of the train journey by now, just me in the carriage with them, and I started wondering – is it ever ok to say something about someone else’s parenting? I desperately wanted to leave with a comment that would make her think about her attitude, but preferably without gaining physical injury from this woman who I have no doubt could have easily knocked me out cold.

I was even trying to work out appropriate phrasing in my head, and it was making me even angrier at the whole situation. I felt horrible for her children. They were obviously these happy, lovely, sociable children and all they wanted was love and attention from their mother, who sat there and ignored them most of the time and when she was paying them attention it was to swear or shout or make them feel unwanted.

The train pulled into Bristol, she grabbed her children and pushed them, quite forcefully down the aisle towards the exit, yelling at them “don’t go fucking off in the station now” without a backward glance. I said nothing.

Even now, three days later, I feel terrible. I know I probably was right to keep my mouth shut, but the idea that those children are being treated like that every day, and I was in a position where I was witnessing it and didn’t say anything makes me feel sick.

Should I have said something? or was I right to keep my mouth shut? I still don’t know.

Please no-one take any offence by this post – I know I am not a parent, and I know that I wouldn’t know where to start being a parent right now and am in no position to tell anyone how to parent.

This is merely a post to see what other people would have done in a situation that made me feel uncomfortable than to make a statement about good and bad parenting. 🙂

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  • Reply
    April 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

    My gosh that is simply horrible. I hate seeing things like that, it makes me feel sad. I used to live in a small studio and the couple below were truly horrible. They had a 2 months old baby and 2 kittens and at all times of the night you would hear them scream and play really loud electronic music, throw things, tell the baby to shut up.
    Needless to say I called social services immediately. The child was taken away after a few other incidents. At least there was no time for them to truly mess up that child.

    I cringe just thinking about that time.

    You were on a train, and there is nothing much you could have done dear. Confronting people like that brings nothing at all. I just hope people who are closer to them (family, friends, neighbours, school) say something to the mother or do something if all else fails.

    Mathilde x

  • Reply
    April 18, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    This is truly sad. Some people really do not deserve the right to be a parent. Its horrible. I feel like I would have said something to her or maybe might have given her a lot of questionable stares so she knew I was watching her. Its definitely a tough call though. Some people.

    Renee | Lose The Road

  • Reply
    Kimberley Vassell
    April 18, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Oh dear…

    I think Mathilde is right. If you lived by these children, and witnessed them being treated like this on a regular basis, then it would be your duty as a citizen to intervene, whether that be calling social services or having a word yourself.

    Because you don't know this woman, you're right, it's not your place to pass judgement on her parenting style, as abominable as it may be. The truth is, she might be a brilliant mother (VERY doubtful, but still), she could have been having a bad day, her kids could be a nightmare most of the time and she just snapped. You just don't know. And unfortunately, you'll never know.

    Don't beat yourself up about it. All you can do now is know that if/when you have kids, they'll be better taken care of than what you saw on that train. And hope that, if it is a case of neglect, someone will step in and sort it out.

    Best wishes,

  • Reply
    Paige Wallbank
    April 18, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    That's disguting, being a mother myself that's not nice to read at all. What a vile woman,
    don't feel bad at all like you said it wasn't your place to 'look after her child' I can't believe she put earphones in! I would never swear at my children wether I had a bad day or not, it's nice you did take out your view on this in a post though.

    Paige 🙂 – x

  • Reply
    Iga Berry
    April 18, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    I think you are touching a very delicate subject right now. I appreciate that everyone has their own way of dealing with kids as well as to saying opinion. Sometimes I just think that if you even try to say something to a parent they will chop your head off just for trying. You can visit me at Have a lovely Sunday, Iga x

  • Reply
    Charity Howell
    April 18, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Honestly, I think if you had said something she would have snapped more and maybe even taken it out on the kids more so than you. As just a stranger passing through the moment she wouldn't have respected your opinion. I think it's up to the people closer to the situation to say or do something. But by writing this post you are helping to bring light to a bad situation and maybe giving other people the courage to say something in a situation where they are able to.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    The only thing I can think to do is leave the carriage while there are other adults present, find an attendant, and ask that they notify the proper authorities. Those children are being abused, even if that hag never lays a hand on them. If everyone on that train was as compassionate as you, this sort of thing would be stopped before "parents" like that one can traumatise the poor kids for life.
    Like Charity Howell said, she'd likely have punished the children if you'd spoken directly to her.
    And just so you know, I'm a mom. If you see me doing something you deem bad parenting on my part, please come up to me and quietly ask about it. Your instincts seem spot on. 🙂

  • Reply
    Samantha M.
    April 21, 2015 at 12:57 am

    It's hard to be present when things like that happen. I work with special needs children, and often times we see and hear questionable parenting, even physical abuse. It hurts because you want to alleviate the problem in order to help the child, but there are certain protocols that must be met in order to do so. More often than not, the best thing to do is to notify whomever is responsible for the safety of those present in a public place, whether an attendant, the police, a teacher, ect. and let them be the ones to question the parent. As was mentioned by others, it is not beneficial to directly involve yourself in a situation like that as you don't know all of the facts behind the behavior. You are a wonderful, outstanding person for being so concerned over the safety of those children.

  • Reply
    Carries Closet
    April 22, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    I feel so sad for these kids its hard to watch it happen but nothing you can do. (yay for bristol parkway station my old home) x

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Wow. How very brave of you. Well done for doing your bit.
    I know – it's still difficult. I wonder where they are now and what is happening. I know there is nothing I could do but I hope someone does say something to her in the future. It's so important to look out for those around us who are more vulnerable.
    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I know – I was giving her all the glances and stares under the sun, but I genuinely didn't know what to do.
    I hope someone closer to the family, who knows a bit more about the situation, has said or done something – I'm sure they must be aware.
    Thank you for your comment though,
    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I know – it's tricky. I guess I know it's not really my place to make a judgement – I hope that someone who sees them on a regular basis and has a better concept of they parenting they are receiving has made a call and decided if it's worth acting on.
    I just hope they are ok.

    Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate it.
    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    I know – no way to treat a child. I was horrified.
    I guess I did the right thing at the time but I hope someone does something if they see it happen more frequently than that one occasion.
    Thank you for your comment.
    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I think that was partly why I didn't say anything – I genuinely think she was quite an aggressive person and I was on my own. Self-preservation has to kick in at some point. I still don't know if I did the right thing. I suppose I did. Who knows really.
    Thank you for your comment,
    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Absolutely. that's how I've justified it to myself for now. I just hope they are ok – and that someone closer will say something if they think it needs saying.
    Thanks for your comment,
    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you. I'm glad you think I may have done the right thing. I guess I will never really know but I hope someone keeps an eye out for them and if they see it happening to them again, says something.
    I really appreciate your opinion, thank you.
    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    It's difficult. There is a line of where a stranger getting involved is deemed inappropriate, but where is that line?
    I hope that someone who knows the family keeps an eye out for them and says something if necessary.
    Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate your opinion,

    R xx

  • Reply
    Rosie Ladkin
    July 9, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Yeah, at the end of the day, nothing I could do about it….guess I just hope they are ok now.
    R xx

  • Reply
    October 31, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    I live in Somerset and that kind of parenting is horribly common here. I can pretty much guarantee that I will have to bite my tongue every time I walk to work. I hate those adverts on TV for milk formula that tell mum's 'don't worry, you're doing great' and it's so indiscriminate it irritates the hell out of me. The mum you saw on the train would watch that advert.

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