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I was in the grocery store and there was a child having a complete meltdown. Another woman, a stranger to me and also to the mother with the tantruming child started yelling that the mother was 'a stupid idiot'.

I am an older woman with severe arthritis and not going to try telling off the nasty woman. Trust me when I say, she was not looking to hear anything from anyone.

I offered to take the mother's grocery cart to the front counter (so that she could remove her child or deal with him) -- though I made no suggestion, just smiled and asked if I could move the cart. I said nothing, nor even looked at the opinionated stranger.

The mother called us both a nasty name and after a few minutes, abandoned her cart and left the store. I did take the cart to the front.

Anyone with another idea? I felt useless and like I did more harm than good in spite of my intentions.

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    It seems to me you responded well—quietly offer support without directly confronting the harasser. Not your fault that your support was rejected rudely. – microtherion Dec 6 '16 at 21:00
  • thanks, but I don't think the mother felt that way. I'd hate to just ignore it, but maybe I should have. I think she thought I was thinking she wasn't a good parent. Nearly anyone with a kid has been out with a kid in full tantrum. – WRX Dec 6 '16 at 21:08
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    As the father of a 3 year old, the combination of my child's meltdown and other people's disapproving remarks can sometimes unnerve me to the extent that even well meaning, supportive behavior no longer gets through to me. Best I can do is extract myself & the child from the scene ASAP. – microtherion Dec 6 '16 at 23:42
  • so there is probably no way to help short of calling out the unkind commentor? I fear you are right. Thanks. – WRX Dec 7 '16 at 0:12
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    That lady was embarrassed to heck. She didn't want even friendly support; she wanted to get lost. – General Nuisance Dec 7 '16 at 3:50
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I think you did the right thing. You offered to do something that would make the victim less overwhelmed. You did that thing. You ignored the other woman (which I personally would have struggled to do).

The victim was upset and reacted badly. That's just something that happens when people are overwhelmed.

The only way you possibly could have approached it slightly differently is to ask "Is there anything I can do to help?" rather than offering a solution. But that's not better (mildly more respectful, but puts the onus on her to think of something, so she's now more overwhelmed), it's just a different approach.

If she'd been receptive, you then sympathise with her, offering no criticism (except maybe of the aggressor).

As a young (humour me) man without arthritis, I like to think I would have run after her to apologise for being a busybody, and offered to grab some stuff and bring it out, try and mitigate the damage. But no-one would ever expect me to do that, and it might have just made matters worse.

To be honest, it sounds like you were plunged into a difficult situation w/o warning, did more than anyone could expect, and were decent enough to want to do more. If the mother could read this now, she'd probably be delighted someone cared about her that much.

  • thanks! I like your idea of asking if there is anything I can do, instead of offering what I think should be done. I was slightly afraid for my/our safety. The nasty was perhaps not 'all there'. I did not want to escalate the problem. – WRX Dec 8 '16 at 12:54
  • In that case, always contact store security/staff. In their best interest to ensure that their customers do not feel unsafe. – deworde Dec 8 '16 at 12:56
  • I did that, but it was over before they could help. – WRX Dec 8 '16 at 13:35
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    Well, there you go then, you did everything better than anyone had any right to expect. – deworde Dec 8 '16 at 14:04
  • and still failed, thanks. I just wanted another way and I think you helped. – WRX Dec 8 '16 at 14:06
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The mother was more than stressed out. So many things could be going on in her day that even the thought of someone bringing the incident to light would set her off. Your heart was in the right place, don't for a moment think it wasnt.

  • as we know having our heart in the right place doesn't mean another person agrees. Thank you though! – WRX Dec 8 '16 at 15:35

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