Judgemental mums & naughty toddlers


When Reuben was a toddler, I was the mum with the kid that pushed, hit and ran into other kids. I was the mum who felt inept and like I just couldn’t control my beast of a child who was running around like a feral animal, much to the distaste of the other mums around me. Toby was used to standing his ground but never snatched or fought for toys, rather just letting it go in his oh-so mellow way and Edith can wilt even the strongest flower with her “Give me the fucking toy or I will beat you when no one is looking” look, so I haven’t had to put up with these momentous delights since Roo grew out of his phase.

And that’s what it is ladies and gentlemen, a phase. Nothing more, nothing less.

You see, I have friends who now have that over-enthusiastic child, and I watch from the sidelines as other mothers are “irritated” by their over enthusiasm, or are just plain rude because, well, Trixie couldn’t possibly cope with a little push or snatch, she’s just too delicate and not used to that level or barbarous behaviour, and I know you told your child off and explained for the fifty-bajillionth time today that this kind of behaviour wasn’t going to cut it, but hey, let’s make you feel *just* a little bit worse shall we?

I firmly believe that children’s behaviour says a lot more about us as adults, especially judging by our reactions and the reactions we have to our fellow parents. Believe me, as the mama to a toddler who was “so over the top”, your sly glances at each other don’t go unnoticed. In fact, they are noticed. They hurt.So do the whispers and the clucking of your tongues, because when you are reprimanding your toddler, trying to help them understand that their behaviour isn’t acceptable and STILL it’s not enough; that is pretty distressing and demoralising.

Don’t get me wrong, the mum who sits on the sidelines and laughs it off pisses me off too. The mum who watches as her precious angel terrorises all in his or her path while she sips her (still hot – bitch) mocha as you run around trying to stop your child’s head rebounding off the floor from each little shove? She grinds my gears alright, but these ladies are not the same as the mum with the rambunctious toddler who she can’t control. Who is a ball of energy and enthusiasm, taking her every last sliver of strength.

I’ve been that mum. I’ve been the mother who has listened to advice from every pretentious cow with her happily-crafting poppet and every “helpful” just-give-him-a-smack aunt. I’ve sobbed to my mum that no one will want to play with him, invite US – when I really needed those play dates – because I can see them rolling their eyes as I bellow “Reuben!! Noooooo” across the room while he shoves at the child half his size. I have seen and felt the disapproval.

I see it now with the more exuberant kids in my play groups, the whispers and eye rolls – no matter what those mamas do, it’s not enough. Their “bad egg” is a problem and the judgement will roll in, while the other mums bunch together with their coffees and watch the terror ensue with judgemental glances a-plenty. A few jump forward to say “I’ve been there” but that’s the thing about motherhood, it shouldn’t be just a few. It should be everyone. We should be there for each other, acting as the metaphorical village to our offspring. I realise your precious sweetheart might be crying because they had a shove, but believe me when I tell you that life is going to shove them far harder than the toddler at playgroup, and there won’t be anything you can do. Take a “naughty” toddler as a chance to reach out to the mum who is doing everything she can to curb it and remember that your reaction is the biggest example to your child.

And to the mamas doing all they can? Just remember: your child might be being an asshole now, but the examples shown to the other children will set the foundation for them in adulthood and I know what I’d prefer.


  1. September 26, 2017 / 2:55 pm

    This is me now with my toddler since the new baby came along…I definitely needed to read this today x

  2. August 18, 2017 / 2:45 pm

    My daughter has become that child that seems to want whatever someone else has…and usually the smallest most delicate looking child in the room. I’m mortified if she hurts another child and am working on different ways to deal with it (she’s 21 months). Some parents are so lovely and you can tell they genuinely understand and don’t mind but some can be so rude. One woman left a group I was at and was really rude to me because my daughter tried to take a hoop from her child. The funny thing is I tell her to use kind hands and she then goes after the child to try and hug them. The poor child usually is then terrified of her and doesn’t want her anywhere near them but she’s determined to hug them!

  3. July 18, 2017 / 10:26 pm

    We all know our own kids best. From day one i have learned how to switch off when those comments start. None of us are perfect and likewise none of our kids are.

  4. July 2, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    All kids have tantrums to some extent and any parent that says otherwise is lying. Children are egocentric for a long time and don’t really share for a while. They may just give another child something for positive praise. Just like adults, no child is perfect ? X

    Look forward to reading more posts from you.

  5. March 23, 2017 / 4:10 am

    The judgmental parents and talking behind my back but no far away that I can’t hear them. Sometimes when picking up Master 7 from school my two year will chuck a tantrum because he doesn’t want to hold my hand. Or wants to walk/run in the opposite direction I get from these other parent’s : my child never did that. Cant control him without her husband and young mum comments. Yes I look younger then I am but im 30. Sorry for essay.

  6. March 11, 2017 / 4:33 am

    Yes! My Reuben is just like yours was. The other day I was getting the whining baby out if the pram when Reu pushed another child (I didn’t see the incident but boy did I hear about it!) The victim’s mother gave me verbal abuse even calling Reuben a bugger. I was mortified, shocked and so upset. People can be so judgemental. It’s not good for our kids to see, and you’re right, it’s so hurtful and demoralising. I’m glad Reuben is passionate, enthusiastic, strong and energetic, even if right now I’m at my wit’s end. Thanks for writing this.

  7. February 14, 2017 / 11:52 pm

    Great post. I always try to reach out to other Mums and either say I’ve been there or try to be sympathetic, and I say that as the Mum of the child who is often the one getting shoved or a toy taken away from him (and I am sooooo aware that that could change and the tables turn at any moment, which I think is partly why I do it I think, as I know this motherhood malarkey is ever changing and so tough). I don’t get why everyone is so into tearing each other down at the moment?! It’s infuriating!! But it sounds like you’ve done a great job of getting through the phase 🙂

    • Harriet February 15, 2017 / 9:41 pm

      It really is! Such a frustrating thing, I’ve been on both sides too – we should all stick together x

  8. January 28, 2017 / 11:49 am

    Great post. My first child was a poppet. My second was not. I was rather smug with the first, thinking ‘I’m just bloody brilliant at this parenting lark’. My second was a total trial by fire. She was stubborn. She was clever. She was often furiously angry with me. She was also a total joy and the funniest child I have still ever met. My number 1 is still so damn reasonable. In many ways she was a mini adult. Most of my parenting efforts now with her are encouraging the little sparks of mischief I see in her. Teaching her when you really should be bending a rule or two (this blows her mind, she is such a good girl). And being outraged at how much advantage other children take of a sweet soul who wants to please and is supremely easy going. Being a mum is so many things, it is never easy, if it is, you should probably be paying more attention or raising your game. So I probably have thought some of the things that you mention, I am totally guilty, but I never lost my compassion for the other mums. We are in this all together after all. Apart from the buggers just drinking their (hot) coffee and ignoring their little thugs tearing around the soft play, sending wrecking balls into my delicate 2 year old that had innocently wandered into their path. I am totally Mama Tiger with those cases!

  9. Ester
    January 26, 2017 / 12:50 am

    My first born sone, when he was below 6 it was the same. He even earned the nick name of the hurricane. I did not sit down when out of the house with him. It was a very long 4 years. Lonely time.
    The comment that used to the worst, was have you tried smacking him, one big smack should fix him, it did when my kids were little. I had a doctor once suggest dog training tactics on him. 😈
    Now with my other children who are quiet girls, shock and surprise to me. I will always back up the mum with the intense child. Even if it is just stand next to her in a silent you are not alone.
    You were spot on in this article.

  10. January 21, 2017 / 2:39 am

    We are so with you on this! My son is the withdrawn, ultra-shy, sensitive kid and my biz partner, McKenzie, has a shy but spirited wild child. We’ve both been on the receiving end of judgment from other moms. Sigh…

    Great post! Retweeting it now!

    • Harriet January 23, 2017 / 1:48 pm

      Ah thank you Malea!

  11. January 6, 2017 / 6:22 pm

    Great post! Moms can be so judgmental when it’s not their own child can’t they? If it’s not the child’s behavior they are judging what the mom’s feed them or how they cloth or so on and so on! We are all trying so hard and should be building each other up, not knocking each other down. XOXO

    • Harriet January 6, 2017 / 7:42 pm

      Yes, it drives me mad. Thanks lovely x

  12. November 25, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    I think a lot of children go through phases and there’s nothing wrong with that it’s all apart of growing up but either way parents should be on hand if they’re witnessing naughty behaviour so the child is correct but parenting everyone has their own styles, beliefs and wants for their child so nobody should judge – I’m sure it’s not an easy one.

  13. November 24, 2016 / 4:09 pm

    Love this. It’s so easy to judge. Everyone is guilty of it because the temptation is so strong. But rationally we know, we HAVE to remind ourselves that judging on appearances is never going to be accurate… and there’s a hair’s breadth between being the judger and the judged. I think that’s why judging is so tempting- it feels good to know you are not on the judged side, even for a second. I didn’t think I was judgemental before I had kids, and even more so before E. But parenthood and autism have taught me that there is always room to be less judgemental. You always have to check yourself and think ‘Wait… am I falling into the trap?’

  14. November 24, 2016 / 10:29 am

    It must be strange to sit and watch how other parents react to how their children interact x

  15. November 24, 2016 / 12:32 am

    It really annoys me when people are judgemental of parents, it must be so hard and you can only do your best xxx

  16. November 24, 2016 / 12:28 am

    Such a fantastic post. I am SO happy that for you, it was just a phase. Can’t wait. Haha. The other day I saw a mum with her two little ones in the shop, they were being crazy naughty. I kind of smiled at her as if to say ‘I know how you feel, well done you’ sort of thing, but I feel it came across as ‘Good luck! I’m glad they’re not my kids’ and I didn’t mean that at all! In the end, I stopped her outside the shop because I felt bad. I had to explain that my two monsters were at home, because they’ve been too naughty to come out with me!!

  17. November 23, 2016 / 9:56 pm

    I must admit I am guilty of being that person that looks at the rampant kid and then look at the parent but after becoming a blogger I have learnt a lot every parent is trying there hardest and doing there best.

  18. November 23, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    Great Article! I had one of those kids, He’s all grown up now but I think copes with life a lot better. It’s so easy to tell others how to parent and the fact is kids will be kids so let them be kids instead of moderating everything and judging everyone else parenting!

  19. November 23, 2016 / 2:02 pm

    Oh my god, I’ve just had a near identical post published on Meet Other Mums! My youngest is a total biting, kicking, shoving terror, and we can’t seem to go anywhere without seeing some of his past ‘victims,’ and see their precious offspring be pulled in sharply, to shield them from the monster. And the looks I get have reduced me to tears. I just want people to remember that I used to be a childless person, with interests and a life, and I’m not just ‘that naughty ones mum.’ I’m not the byproduct or cause of my child’s behaviour. You’re so right where you say that life is going to treat them a lot worse in the future-I bloody wish they’d think about that xx

  20. November 23, 2016 / 10:54 am

    I’m so pro-realism with kids. I hate how some mums are still judging parents because of a tantrum or a shove (as you say). They’re kids don’t poop rainbows so stop being so high and mighty eh!

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