I'd like to preface this by saying that I think I'm so annoyed by this because as a teacher, I'm used to seeing parents defend indefensible behavior in their kids. Too many parents really don't believe discipline is ever warranted, and even after this particular confrontation was resolved, it left me feeling like no one learned anything valuable. The entitlement is just. so. frustrating.
Tuesday, I went to the park for speed work. When I parked, I noticed a boy of 9 or 10 standing near the water. He was pulling bark off a tree and tossing it at the ducklings that have been in the lake lately. His mom was standing nearby, watching him.
At the end of the first lap, I noticed the boy had moved to follow the ducks and was once again tossing bark and twigs at them. I motioned to his parents (his dad had joined them) to see if I could speak to them, but they ignored me. Or didn't see me. Or something.
So I put on my best nice-teacher-face and approached them.
Me: Hey buddy, you know, we shouldn't throw things at animals.
Boy: I'm not. I'm throwing it like...like this. [Tosses the bark near but not AT the ducks.] They think it's food.
Me: Oh I see. Well, you know, they're very little. What if you accidentally hit one?
Dad: Is there a problem?
Mom: [comforting son, who looks confused/contrite but not really upset] It's okay honey. [To me] They think it's food.
Me: [Speaking to all three, still in my nice-teacher-voice] I was just telling him that he might accidentally hit one of the ducklings and he shouldn't throw things at them.
Now, the dad immediately got defensive, and I get that. Some out-of-breath stranger came jogging over and is admonishing his kid, however kindly, while he's right there. But that's the point, isn't it? I wouldn't have had to say anything if he'd been doing his job as a parent.
(I also got the impression, based on how Mom spoke to me and comforted her son, that she seemed quite nice and if it had just been her, this confrontation might have gone differently.)
I'm going to be honest - I can't recall all of this conversation exactly because I got my hackles up, but basically Dad told me to mind my business. I told him, "I was being nice about it, but he shouldn't throw things at animals."
He told me, snidely, to call someone if I didn't like it (like a park ranger or something?), and I told him that wasn't necessary. Then he told me I should just ignore it.
Me: "I don't ignore cruelty."
Now, his kid wasn't being cruel, but I think the current political climate has shortened my fuse when it comes to things like this. I started off trying to sugarcoat things and be gentle about it, but the bottom line is that I saw a kid throwing things at baby animals and I saw parents letting him do it, so I stepped in.
I won't stand by and let things go if they look harmful; I wouldn't want other adults (or kids, for that matter) to let things go either. And I certainly wouldn't have to have started this conversation if the parents had been parenting in the first place.
Finally, in response to this, he goes, "Enjoy your time at the park."
I said, kindly, but clearly annoyed, "You too."
"We're leaving." They began to walk away.
Me: "Well, I hope you enjoyed your time."
Then he turns back and goes, "We're going to buy bread, is that okay?"
As if because I didn't want his child to throw shit at ducklings I was trying to be some high-and-mighty park authority figure.
I just said, "Sure," even though bread is actually terrible for ducks.
That was it.
I passed the family a few times during my repeats, and I have to admit that I got them done faster but my heart just wasn't in the workout. I know I did the right thing - I maybe could have handled it better in some way - but encountering such an entitled jerk with his young, impressionable kid was pretty deflating. Kids will be kids, but I expect better from adults.
Sometimes when I get myself into these situations, I wonder what I'd do if people just completely told me off or ignored me. That basically happened Tuesday, but I guess in a way I still got the outcome I wanted (the kid stopped throwing things) but nothing makes you feel quite as a powerless as confrontation.
How could I have handled this better?
Have you ever had to butt into someone's business to do the right thing?