Would you let a stranger discipline your child?

When meltdowns push you to your limit, should you let a stranger step in?
When meltdowns push you to your limit, should you let a stranger step in? Photo: Getty

We're told that it takes a village to raise a child and yet, if you've found yourself exhaustedly wondering, "Where's my village?" then you're not alone. It's one of the oft-discussed challenges of modern parenting.

Without village support, for many mums and dads there's nothing quite like the feeling of being centre-stage in a public place when your child has an epic meltdown. Would harnessing the power of the village – even if it's made up of strangers – help in these situations?

It's something one US mum suggested in a Facebook post that has since gone viral. After witnessing a fellow mother struggling with her screaming child, the woman had an idea. She writes:

"There should be a secret signal parents can give when they can't take anymore so a random stranger can mean mug the kid and tell it to shut up."

The woman argues that there are three good reasons for this approach:

1.)  The kid will be so shocked they will shut up.

2.)  It will reinforce stranger danger.

3.)  It will show them, from an early age, that while your parents love you and put up with your shit, the rest of the world doesn't care about you (or your feelings), no matter how cute you are.

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The post has attracted thousands of comments - and has divided parents. While many thought the idea was brilliant and a wonderful way to support other parents, it also drew harsh criticism.

"I like this idea," wrote one commenter. " I have often wanted to go up to a child who is misbehaving and tell them to settle down. I think most parents would appreciate the help."

"You never know what other people are going through," argued another. "Instead why not offer to help mom? Children don't always "act out" because they are bad. Sometimes it's an off day for them or maybe they are struggling with something. Be kind."

But what do Australian parents think? Our views, it seems, are also divided.

One mother-of-three told me, "Nope. Can't call on other parents to help us. Cause we are all so different in how we handle things."

Another mum, however, believes a different face and voice can help to de-escalate a tantrum, "just through the shock." She said, "I like the idea behind this … the fact that we might not feel so alone in this gig. It wouldn't be a matter of managing our kids but helping break that moment and allow you, as the parent, to regroup. I have had that so many times over the years, where someone has stepped in to make a joke with the kids or even pull them up on their behaviour so I could take a moment to breathe."

"I like this," a mother-of-one said. "Almost like a look that says, "I'm going to pretend to walk away from my child who is throwing the tantrum, can you discretely watch him/her for a minute?"

Most mums did, however, agree on one thing: while it may not be appropriate to intervene when it comes to another person's parenting – a sympathetic look, a wry smile, an "I've-been-there-nod" never goes astray.

What do you think? Have you ever stepped in and spoken to a child when you've seen a parent struggling?

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