Description of the scene

A video I saw portrays a kid in the arms of a woman who (I assume) is the mother. The kid is maybe one year old (my naive estimation). They are at an ice cream shop and the vendor tricks them (now very popular among ice cream vendors) by giving them an empty cone where the kid was expecting to receive ice cream as well. The customers are enjoying the trickery.

The kid didn't expect or appreciate the empty ice-cream cone. She then throws the empty cone at the vendor and starts a (fake, IMO) cry. In the shop, everybody laughs (including the mother) and the ice cream vendor quickly gives the ice cream to the kid.

The mother's reaction

I'm not judging the woman's response, but trying to put myself in this position and think about what a good reaction would be. I am well aware that this is just one recording and getting ice cream for this kid can be an exceptional moment. That being said, this video appears to be bad parenting to me (I am not a parent and know little to nothing about parenting)

The kid expresses anger by throwing the cone and then cries toward their mother to immediately get what they wanted. This might teach the kid that for any trouble, anger and cry is the good reaction to have. Also, the mother's reaction to laugh might lead the kid to think his mother does not care about their emotional distress or even that she enjoys seeing them angry.


What would be the ideal response on the part of the mother?

Should she have punished her kid for throwing the cone? If yes, what type of punishment? Should she have refused the ice cream from the vendor or at least delay the reception of the ice cream by the kid?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 1:25

8 Answers 8


You already have received a fine answer to which I want to add a bit.

Kids that age pretty much wear their feelings on their sleeves, and while fake crying as manipulation isn't rare, the whole thing looked quite genuine to me. Genuine sadness is not a punishable offense; it is always an appropriate option (and one I would choose) to console the child in the case of genuine sadness.

Should she have punished her kid for throwing the cone?

Punished? No. Maybe spoken to her about it later, assuming she's a bit older than 1 year. The child was having a hard time with her emotions, and justly so. It's wise to help children learn to process their emotions in a socially acceptable way, but it doesn't happen quickly. I would not have been surprised at all by the child's reaction.

What would be the ideal response on the part of the mother?

As a mother (but not really versed in the culture in which the event took place), I would say that the ideal response would be for the mom to have a word with the vendor after things settled down. I would simply say that my child was too young to understand that kind of jesting, and please to avoid doing it in the future.

Really, the vendor is emotionally exploiting the child for the amusement of adult onlookers. That is - in my opinion - inappropriate. Kids are powerless enough; they don't need an adult to show them how much worse it could be.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 11:54

Maybe unpopular opinion: Tricking children, especially ones who are too young to understand and appreciate it as a joke, is at best unkind, and can be outright mean, regardless of intentions. For children who can understand it as a joke, it can still come across as condescending. Think about how you would feel, even as an adult, if a vendor did that to you but wasn't doing the same thing to people with higher status (from the child's perspective, adults are treated as higher status, but as an adult you could imagine it as socioeconomic or racial status). You probably wouldn't like it.

Expressing anger when someone has treated them inappropriately is a perfectly normal and healthy response for a child, and the expression in this video clip was in no way disproportionate (even though such a small child can't be expected to understand proportionate responses). Depending on how one's child takes it, an appropriate response would range somewhere from trying to remain light and humorous while expressing that you're "siding with" the child to speaking up that the adult's behavior was inappropriate towards a child.

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    Laughing at her own kin while in a state of utter turmoil is just mean. Don't do that, and don't bring a 1yo to an ice cream parlor where one half of the deal is that you get screwed with.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 0:52
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    Why would this be an unpopular answer? I think it's completely accurate. +1 Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 1:29
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    @anongoodnurse: Thanks. I guess I said that because it felt like it was against the grain of OP's thinking about the situation, and would border on being a "challenging-the-premise" answer if OP hadn't asked it in a way that was technically open to contrary values. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 1:35
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    The age at which kids can comprehend and accept a joke is highly variable. And when then can take a joke from a parent or grandparent that doesn't mean they can take it from a stranger. Judging "too young" is difficult so best avoided. A better vendor would give the kid theirs and play the joke on the parent (assuming they were having an ice cream too) -- most kids' entertainers know this and have an eye for a parent who will be a good sport. +1
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 10:56
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    @DanAnderson: "at best unkind, and can be outright mean, regardless of intentions". Yes it's possible to realize that in the middle of the situation and and act to mitigate it, but that doesn't make it any less wrong to have initiated it. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 17:13

I don't think there is much that needs to change here, you can't judge the way a child is raised by some isolated incident that happens to be caught on tape.

Getting the icecream for the child at this shop is likely a treat / special occasion, intended purely to make the child happy. In that situation, with a child of that age, it's not a good time for lessons or scolding. There is already a lot of stimulation for the little one, nothing is going to sink in. Get them their icecream and get them smiling again.

In addition, for a child of that age, losing a treat like that is about the worst possible thing that can happen. Imagine losing everything you ever wanted in a flash. That is the emotion that child is dealing with. As an adult, or even an older child, you can rationalize and say "oh it's just some icecream". A baby does not have that emotional maturity, it is all or nothing for them.

By the way, if I had to guess I'd say that's a grandmother!


The vendor's behavior was inappropriate, and their failure to manage their customer's expectations was rapidly called out and punished by the child, as it should have been.

I consider this kind of ice-cream vendor to be the same kind of person who probably played "piggy in the middle" with younger kids' schoolbags.

I have never had the dubious delight of being served by one, but I find them embarrassing and power-trippy. The fact that if YouTube is to be believed they seem to most often target young pretty girls is also very discomfiting.

I'm a guy in my 40s and at the end of most days would typically have no more patience with him than the kid here did: if he didn't immediately respect my raised brow and "no bullshit today, please", then yes, I'd shrug, toss the cone to him and walk out. But young girls often don't have enough self-confidence to say "stop that" when they're bullied and mocked like this.

On the other hand, it's perfectly OK, it's part of the experience, when the customer is expecting the show, or understands the meaning of the show from context and doesn't object. Then it's part of the deal, and you can appreciate the sleight of hand and magic.

But the child didn't come to the vendor expecting to be pranked and mocked and laughed at: it came expecting a treat, and had no context to understand the show or the sleight of hand, or that the withdrawn treat was only temporary.

To the vendor's credit, he appeared to feel immediately sorry for the child, and likely learned an important lesson about the importance of choosing an appropriate audience for shenanigans.

[Edit: The answer to the question is "the mother, in comforting the child, already acted in an ideal way".

The child was not the one at fault here and crying was appropriate, so punishing the child would be arbitrary and senseless and they'd learn nothing from it. The initial fault was the vendor's, but once made, everyone acted in about as ideal a way as possible to make it better. A situation that could've exploded in drama was defused into a few seconds of amusing video.]


this video appears to be bad parenting to me (I am not a parent and know little to nothing about parenting

Actually Laughing, as the mother in the video did, is how most parents I know (family and friends) would have reacted in that situation. And is infact what I did when I watched the video. The look on that poor little guys face is so cute.

What would be the ideal response on the part of the mother?

Personally I think lauging was a good response. The teasing was harmless, funny, and temporary, if also very disappointing for the poor kid.
I think she did a good job modeling to her child how best to deal with disappointment. Laugh it off.

I won't say that it was the most IDEAL response because with out knowing the kid personally I really can't make that judgement. But it was certainly reasonable.

Should she have punished her kid for throwing the cone?

Deffinatley not. He was legitimatly disappointed and that's a hard emotion to deal with. It is better to model the correct behavior for him.

Should she have refused the ice cream from the vendor or at least delay the reception of the ice cream by the kid?

No, the server was teasing the child, who didn't take it well. It should be returned as quickly as possible so that the child can learn that Teasing doesn't cause lasting harm (or in this case deprivation of what you want).

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    Good points, laugh it off and let the kid learn what teasing is. This is definitely not a case of "exploiting children emotions".
    – CPHPython
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 8:48
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    @CPHPython Agreed. I keep trying to understand why so many people here think this innocent teasing is equivalent to exploitation. I just don't get were they are coming from. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 14:11

There's two things that stand out to me:

  • The vendor did what so many adults do, presumably to get cheap laughs: tease a child. While they may defend it as 'a bit of innocent fun', to the child it doesn't feel that way at all, and it certainly displays an amount of disregard or even contempt for the child. I wonder if we don't all recall situations from our childhood, in which we genuinely wanted an answer to some question, like "What is that thing there?", and got an answer like "It's a thingumajig" or some other nonsense. When children are treated with disrespect, one thing they are likely to learn is that it is OK to be mean to others, so don't.

  • The other thing people have reacted to in the replies is that the mother laughs. In my view that, in combination with the comforting, is exactly the right way to handle it. This combination tells the child that this is not serious - it's OK to be a bit upset (hence the comforting), but mum isn't angry or afraid, so it is not a big deal.


I have to disagree with most of the answers here... The vendor is paid not only to serve the product but to actually perform tricks and surprise customers that way to attract onlookers. He is just doing his job and he is not expected to consider different types of customers before the "show" starts.

The fact that a baby is getting an ice-cream screams of spoiled-grand-parenting practices. Not only she will get addicted to sugar from a very young age, the assortment of chemicals in a (Chinese) ice-cream are likely harmful to any baby. However, this is not the question addressed by the OP.

In China, the grandmother laughs to save face of an embarrassing situation. If she was alone with the vendor, she might have scolded the baby right when the cone was thrown. Since she realized there was a crowd, smiling was the cultural thing to do. The ideal response's purpose, whether to teach the child a valuable lesson in front of an audience or saving the parent from being publicly embarrassed, depends on the surrounding environment.

From a Chinese culture's point of view, the grandmother's response was appropriate, and perhaps ideal. From a western country's perspective, perhaps smiling would not be the right thing to do: passiveness to the baby's reaction and apologies to the vendor would perhaps be more adequate.

  • This conversation has been moved to chat, which is a more appropriate venue for it. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 15:50

I see three things that actually or potentially were wrong about the situation:

  1. The child was greedy and entitled, reaching for the cone as soon as it was nearing his or her reach. The young one appears be quite a bit older than 1 year (I would guess more like 3 or 4, even if the grandmother is quite small) and ought to be old enough to learn to respond appropriately and keep his temper, but it appears that the parents/guardians have not taught him that yet.

  2. The vendor was teasing a child that was possibly too immature to "get" the joke (which was giving the paper wrapper for the cone to the child and keeping the cone itself to fill with ice cream). This is less of a problem, because his smooth movements indicate he's done this before, likely with a fun result, and as noted in another answer, his job is to entertain. It just so happens that this time the kid threw a tantrum about it.

  3. The woman (grandmother?) laughed about the kid's outburst. As also noted in another answer, that may just be a cultural practice to "save face," but even so, care must be (and should have been) taken to teach the child that such a reaction is inappropriate.

What would be the ideal response on the part of the mother?

In my opinion, the grandmother should have reprimanded the child for the outburst, preferably immediately.

Should she have punished her kid for throwing the cone? If yes, what type of punishment? Should she have refused the ice cream from the vendor or at least delay the reception of the ice cream by the kid?

Yes. I think refusing the ice cream would have been an appropriate punishment, at least until the child apologized for the tantrum and expressed gratitude for the ice cream.

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    Getting the ice cream from vendors that do this can be a time consuming endeavor, but your patience is eventually rewarded. Punishing the child or requiring the child to apologize would be completely inappropriate. If you want to turn this into a teaching moment, the thing to do would have been to take over the part of frustrated buyer. Let the child observe how the game is played.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 3:14
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    "The child was greedy and entitled, reaching for the cone as soon as it was nearing his or her reach." Excuse me?? What else would you expect from a child that's max 3 years old? Would you expect the child to hesitate politely and say that it really wasn't necessary? Of course the child will grab the icecream if it is offered.
    – sleske
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 21:02
  • @sleske I don't have a problem with the kid grabbing for an offered cone, if it was offered to the child. 2 or 3 years is definitely old enough for children to be learning that they can't have everything they want, that they shouldn't just grab for things they want that are in reach, and definitely that throwing something down is the wrong response.
    – Jed Schaaf
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 9:51

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