Friday, June 10, 2011

Miss Manners

My mother's all-time favorite Miss Manners column, republished in one of her books, runs something like this:

Q: Someone else's child is doing something intolerable and dangerous to persons or property, and the parent is either physically or mentally absent. How can I politely discourage this dreadful behaviour?

A: Grab the child by the arm and say, "Now, dear, you really don't want to do that. Someone might get hurt." And give a gentle pinch so that the child is in no doubt about exactly who might get hurt, and by whom.

This week at the library, someone's wretched seven-year-old was drop-kicking foot-long plastic blocks towards the babies. (For fifteen minutes, while her father ignored it.) And I did. I grabbed her arm and said, "This is not a soccer field, this is a library. That is not safe. [PINCH.]"

You know what? I didn't do her any lasting harm. And she stopped. She may even think twice next time.


  1. I'm going to find you and SUE YOU for assault!

  2. I really wish one could also get away with pinching the parents for looking on while all this goes down. Kids are gonna do stupid stuff sometimes, there's no way around it. But, they do have to learn at some point that it's not safe/considerate/whatever...and the parents shouldn't rely on strangers in the library to teach them.


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