Sometimes I get stuck in awkward situations with other adults where the other adult feels like they need to correct a child in some way that feels wrong to me. It might be exacerbated by my presence — like, for example, at a park when a parent is over-correcting what their kid is doing because of feeling judged by other nearby parents. This also happens at work when a teacher might be feeling extra observed with me in their classroom. On the other hand, sometimes it might seem like it has nothing to do with my presence but is just happening in front of me. Sometimes they’ll even make eye contact with me like, expecting me to agree with them while they snap at the child or micromanage them in some way.
In some situations it’s more appropriate to stay quiet and mind my own business, but there are some times where speaking up feels right instead. I find that my quick tip for “speaking up, especially on behalf of other kids” is to either use humor, or to verbally align/compare myself with the child who I’m trying to speak up for, or both.
For example, a commenter was recently talking about a situation in which she was trying to pick up her kid from preschool and a different kid was laying on the rug instead of sitting like they were “supposed” to be doing. The teacher, probably feeling anxious about being judged by parents seeing a classroom “out of order”, was getting into a completely needless power struggle with the 3 year old over whether or not he could lay down.
So: humor, aligning myself with the child. What that might have looked like in this scenario might be for me to comment “oh yeah that’s how I feel at 3 in the afternoon too!” with a smile and a laugh.
It reassures the other adult that you’re not judging them for not “controlling” the kid, and it goes a long way toward being a small reminder like “oh, yeah, this thing this small human is doing is just a very human thing to do, so much so that even a large human is saying that they agree with the sentiment.”
A baby screaming and their parent feels like they have to overly shush them because they’re embarrassed in public? “Oh, man, buddy, I feel the same way on a Monday morning,” or whatever, goes a long way toward defusing the situation.
A kid sitting dreamily at the top of the slide for an extra two seconds and blocking it and their parent feeling like they have to hurry them along or scold them? “On a glorious day like this I just wanna soak up the sun and take some deep breaths too!” goes a long way toward defusing the situation.
I’m prone to freezing up in unexpected situations and often can only come up with good things to have said in retrospect. So I completely understand if this isn’t something that works for you or feels authentic for you. I just also know that with practice, I’ve gotten better at thinking in advance about what types of situations I might encounter, and so this is an example of that. I might not know what to say 100% of the time, but practicing gives me a chance to have the option to choose to speak or stay quiet.