I am a male childless adult living in England. I rarely interact with children. Last weekend, I observed how a boy (perhaps 8 years old) threw a piece of garbage onto the ground, despite being metres away from a bin. His parents (or at least, an adult couple who appeared to have that role) were just around the corner and did not see what happened, they appeared perhaps 5 seconds later.

In such a situation, should I do anything? Some alternatives I could think of:

  • Do nothing, it is none of my business.
  • Tell the child to pick up the garbage (clean streets are everybody's business).
  • Pick up the garbage myself and throw it away (it is not up to me to reprimand a stranger's child and it is not my immediate problem if he grows up throwing garbage onto the street).
  • Pick up the garbage myself, hand it to the parents, saying I believe your child just dropped this on the ground or similar. Might get me some strange looks.
  • Tell the parents what just happened.
  • Anything else?
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    There will be plenty of opportunity for the parents to teach this. I would put it in the bin and say nothing. If the child sees you, lift the litter higher and let him see you exaggerate binning it
    – user27143
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 0:29
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    I think it is important to at least let the parents know. That way they can be aware of their child's tendency's. It is up to them what to do. If they want to have a respectful child they can take steps to correct the problem. If they are not aware of the problem then they can't. Of course how to mention is pretty important.
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 0:43
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    Some parents might appreciate it but many would simply feel defensive. You have no idea what the reaction might be. The boy could be severely reprimanded, you have no way to judge. I like the answer @user27143 gave.
    – WRX
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 2:23
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    I like Rishi's answer, but not sure he is saying what I read! I think it is uncomfortable to address it, but I do believe it is a responsibility to the parents, the kid, and the rest of us that you do. I don't have time to explain it all right now, but I think we can all see how there is a responsibility to each party (agreeing on how to meet the responsibility is always another matter :) I think @Willow has a point to be aware of the feelings of the parents and kid, but I think Willow is wrong that we should avoid the whole situation.
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 13:49
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    @AdamHeeg I'd be careful telling parents. I think user27143 got it right even if s/he did not say smile. I think it was meant to be friendly. I am from a large city . If I were to tell a parent anything, I stand the very real risk of being verbally or physically abused. My responsibility to the world in general and this kid specifically does not extend to being harmed over a piece of litter. Picking up the litter and putting it in the trash is the way I'd go. If the child saw me, I'd smile and toss it in. He'd know what was meant and there's no threat.
    – WRX
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


You are right "It's none of your business" on one hand, But if you look at it from another perception. You will find out that it is your social responsibility.

What can be Done:

In Addition to @user27143's comment, if he does not see you tell him what is right with great love.

Okay and if he does not liesten to you tell his parents, it may also happen that parent's response are not as you expected.

Good mind, good find always does not work, Sometimes Stubborn people don't listen to you till they have a very good thrashing.

"There are only two ways to live life: Tolerate things the way they are... Or, take responsibility to change them."

  • I think you're saying what I tried to say, but with a lot more gentleness. Are you saying there is a good reason for the op to be socially responsible not for the environment but rather for the social growth of the child? That is what I read, but it is what I am already thinking, so I don't know if I'm putting that meaning there or if you did intend that.
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 13:46
  • You probably should quote the comment rather than reference it.
    – user26011
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 19:39
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    @AdamHeeg Yes sir sorry for my English, I request you to edit my answer, I want to say is we all are supposed to make the Balance between National, social or Environmental responsibility. but some times there is priority and Nation always comes first, (Nation is made by good citizen), But i think i made my point that some action must be taken towards to betterment of child, parents and self.
    – Ritesh.mlk
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 5:57

Interesting question.

I would definitely not tell the parents. Kids do stuff all the time that adults think is irresponsible, because they are often impulsive/irresponsible. Goes with the territory.

I like @user27143's comment, but the bleeding heart in me says, life is hard enough, no need to go out of the way to make the kid feel bad by exaggerating the binning.

In the end, you don't know what made the kid do that or how he behaves 99.9% of the time. If he could see you, I'd either smile warmly as I was tossing it (sends a message that it's good to dispose of garbage properly, but you do not feel that he is a piece of garbage) or wait till he was gone and toss it.

If it's a kid you see often, and he does this routinely, I'd let the parents know - kindly - and let them correct the little criminal.

  • 1
    You probably should quote the comment rather than reference it.
    – user26011
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 19:37

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