Editorial: Mean-spirited observers need to grow up

A CHILD lies on the floor in the full throes of an all-consuming tantrum, filling the shop with blood-curdling screams.

An embarrassed parent becomes increasingly desperate as they try without success to placate their convulsing offspring.

Fellow shoppers walk past shaking their heads, shooting dirty looks and muttering under their breath at the very public display of disobedience.

This is a scene that plays out numerous times a day in supermarkets and shopping centres right across Bendigo.

It might only last a few seconds or even a few minutes, but for many people it is long enough to form a snap judgement about a complete stranger’s parenting ability.

Without so much as a moment’s hesitation, blame for the child’s tantrum is sheeted home at the feet of the parent.

However, as every parent knows, or at least should know, it doesn’t take much for even the best behaved child’s mood to turn sour when things don’t go their way.

Yet, that truism seems to be forgotten whenever a child’s wails disturbs the peace in a public. It is this tendency for strangers to rush to judgement that prompted Flora Hill mum Samantha Neaves to go public with a plea for patience and understanding.

Ms Neaves’ five-year-old son Alex, who has autism, recently had a “meltdown” in a supermarket car park and the reaction of passers-by shocked her.

She was hurt by the “disgusted looks” and ill-informed comments levelled at her that day and wants to spare other parents the embarrassment.

“People need to understand they’re children, they’re learning and they’re learning in different ways,” she said.

“Nowadays you can’t have a child out in public be a child or you’re judged for it.”

Ms Neaves’ brave stance immediately garnered plenty of support on social media from other besieged parents all too familiar with the accusatory glares and derogatory comments.

What possible good does it do to shame a parent who is struggling with a difficult child? It is merely a self-serving reaction designed to make one feel superior at another’s expense.

Here’s a radical idea. Instead of contributing to a parent’s despair, why not go over and offer a supportive word?

It might be just the encouragement a parent needs to get through the day. 

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor

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