Now, There's A Stranger Who Could Use Some Of My Child-Rearing AdviceCommentary • Opinion • ISSUE 38•11 • Mar 27, 2002 By Felicia Rudd Felicia Rudd All too often in this world, we turn a blind eye to those who could use a helping hand. Now, I'm no saint, but I just can't look away when I see people who need help. Like, if a couple on the street is having an argument, I'll step in and try to help them resolve their issues. More often than not, the couple is so stunned by the caring and concern shown by a total stranger that they completely forget whatever it was they were fighting about. While my humanitarian streak extends to all aspects of life, there's one particular area I consider my specialty: child-rearing. Hardly a day goes by when I don't come across a struggling parent who could use some of my advice. When most people see a woman screaming at her 3-year-old to keep quiet, their impulse is to look away and mind their own business. "This doesn't concern me," they rationalize. Well, unlike these people, I realize that we're all connected. Instead of turning away, I'd approach this woman and say, "Excuse me, but I couldn't help but notice you having some parenting difficulties. Maybe you should consider getting a toy or something to keep your daughter occupied. Not only would it keep her from upsetting passersby with her shrieking, but a play object would be a boon to her motor-skills development." Why do I help this woman when so many others would choose to pretend it's not happening? Because I know it takes a village to raise a child. Even though I've never had kids, I've been around enough of them to know what to do—and what not to do. But despite my expertise, some mothers are surprisingly resistant to my advice. This stubbornness is unfortunate, as it's the child who loses out. I know if I were a mother who didn't know what she was doing, I would welcome the helpful advice of a knowledgeable stranger. Take, for example, the mother I recently saw giving her child a Hi-C drink box. Concerned that she mistakenly thought Hi-C was made with real fruit juice, I told her that it's largely artificial. Sadly, she felt threatened by my superior parenting skills and told me to "get lost." I assured her that it was an understandable mistake for her to think Hi-C was real fruit juice. The product's box, after all, deceptively features a bevy of oranges, apples, and grapes. I told her not to feel bad or embarrassed and then gently advised her to read labels more carefully in the future. "Anything called a 'fruit drink' or 'juice cocktail' is probably only 5 or 10 percent juice, at most," I told her. "So you should really try to avoid those." Instead of thanking me for the free advice, this woman showered me with invective and urged me to "get my own damn kids." Did my generous offer of help really warrant such hostility? (Keep in mind that I repeatedly assured her that this one error did not make her a bad parent.) Things only got worse when I helpfully pointed out that maybe if she could better manage her temper, her kids would probably grow up more well-adjusted. It's kind of strange, but once you realize that most people could use a little common-sense advice to help raise their children, you start seeing it almost everywhere. About a month ago, I was strolling through the neighborhood and saw a woman letting her children run around the yard in clothes that looked like they hadn't been washed in a week. So I told this woman that even if a parent doesn't have enough money for spanking-new clothes, it's still easy to maintain a neat appearance with regular clothes-washing. Next thing you know, it's raining F-bombs. Even though she was threatening to call the police to get me off her lawn, I bet she's going to make sure her children will be a little more presentable in public in the future. As long as that's the case, I'm happy to be yelled at. It's all about doing what's best for the little ones.