I discipline other people's kids. It's my job. I'm an elementary school teacher so when it comes to telling kids what to do, I'm your guy. Get in line. Don't talk in the halls. Use your words. Sit down while you eat. There aren't many situations for which I don't have a suggestion or admonition. I spend a good six to eight hours a day telling kids what to do. That may be why I was surprised to see all the fuss surrounding a blog post by a mom who wanted to thank a stranger who took the time to correct her son on a playground. She starts by asking if this person has a right to discipline her boy when he tries to push past his daughter on the monkey bars. Yes, mom insists, he does. She gives this father clearance to tell her son to knock it off and to act as if his mother were there watching because, in that it-takes-a-village way of thinking, she is.
Mom is everywhere. It is the question I ask some of the tough cases at my school: "What would your mother do if she were here?" Depending on the infraction, some of them will tell me "nothin'." More of them will look off into the distance and tell me that they would get a whuppin'. They know that I won't give them a whuppin', but thanks to the simple prop of a smart phone, I can imply the connection between myself and those who might administer said whuppin'. The degree of separation between that kid and a whuppin' is one: me. I tell them that I have no interest in anyone getting a whuppin'. I want kids to take turns on the monkey bars. My job doesn't require that I ask permission from a kid's parents before I tell them to knock it off and wait their turn, but if I were to try that same tactic on a public playground, things might go a little differently. I hang around kids all day and I am here to tell you that unless we all step up and tell those kids to get in line it will be anarchy. Or at least there will be a whole lot of tears.
And it's not just kids on a playground. Who among us speaks up when they see someone cut in line at the supermarket? Or when that Mercedes jumps out in front of the Volvo to race down that residential street? Grownups with lizard brains shouldn't push anyone aside to get on the monkey bars either. Get in line. All of you. Now.