Screaming kids throwing temper tantrums in public aren't fun for anybody — neither the parents or guardians of those kids, nor the people around who have to listen to said temper tantrums. It's not really fun for the kids themselves, either. When a kid loses it in a public place, you have to know the parents feel bad.
They didn't want this. They didn't ask for this. And if you, a bystander, get all huffy and annoyed, that's only going to make them feel worse than they already do (and they already feel Very Very Bad!).
I'm not saying it's not grating to hear the screams of a kid who has lost complete control of themselves. I too have been on a flight with a baby who doesn't understand the popping in their ears won't last forever and only knows how to wail in reaction to something they don't like. It's not fun. But I don't go up to the crying baby and pinch it or cry back in its face or do something to make it worse.
That's kind of what this guy did. He took to Reddit's "Am I the A-hole?" to ask if he was wrong for picking on a kid who was already losing his cool in a restaurant.
He explains that, while on vacation with his wife at the beach, they stopped at a casual crab restaurant for lunch. The family seated next to them was a grandma, a grandpa, and a grandson who was around 7 or 8 years old. The minute they sat down, the kid started immediately crying and yelling "at ear-piercing volume," screaming at his grandparents about how he "told them that he didn't want to eat here!" and "didn't even want to come to the beach!"
The grandmother was trying to console him while the grandfather barely engaged with the kid, just sitting there in silence. (Honestly, my beef in this situation is mostly with the grandfather. It's called parenting, dude! Get in there and help your wife out!)
Anyway, at first, the poster and his wife tried ignoring them, but I guess this kid was really loud and disruptive. He says he was wearing his prescription sunglasses indoors because he'd forgotten his regular glasses on the beach. While he was looking at the drink menu, the kid started pointing at him and screamed that the man was staring at him. The grandmother politely asked the poster not to stare at the kid, and he responded that he was just reading the menu.
Grandma turned to the boy and explained that it was a misunderstanding, but he wouldn't let up. The kid kept accusing the poster of staring at him. So...the poster...a grown man...actually did start to stare at this little kid. He explains that "when he would have an outburst, I would just move my gaze slightly somewhere else and play dumb." He thought it was amusing to torment this little kid who was clearly uncomfortable and already throwing a temper tantrum.
Later, the poster clarified that he "wasn't sitting there reducing a child to a blubbering heap of tears and anguish, that would be horrifying and heartbreaking. Poking a very frustrated bear of a kid? Sure." He says the kid wasn't actually crying all that much. The crying stopped quickly and was replaced by "anger and yelling."
At some point during the lunch, the grandmother got up to use the bathroom, and "the kid just turned in his seat and puffed up aggressively and said, 'I'm not going to tell you to stop staring at me again.'" It was that moment that the poster decided to slide his sunglasses down his nose, wink at him, and slide them back up, "at which point he had a massive meltdown and asked his grandpa to make me stop."
Finally, Grandpa lost it, grabbed the kid, paid for the meal, and they left. That poking the bear metaphor is quite apt here. The kid was already a blubbering mess, and instead of ignoring it or even trying to help calm him down (clearly, those grandparents needed assistance), this dude decided to make the kid and his grandparents feel worse than they already did.
He brought the issue to Reddit to decide because his wife got angry with him for messing with that little kid and ruining that family's meal, even though the kid was clearly being disruptive. She thought her husband was definitely being an a-hole in the situation, if not the a-hole. So they wanted to see where the people of Reddit landed on the issue.
Commenters were pretty unanimous in their belief that this guy was wrong for doing what he did, but some understood his position more than others. "Bruh it's a kid," one commenter wrote. "you're a grown adult. Kids can be awful sometimes sure, and his behavior is 110 percent uncalled for, but if you know full well that what you're doing is going to make the situation worse because you think it's funny, you're no better than he is."
"ESH [Everyone Sucks Here]," another commenter wrote. "Wife is right. They sucked and you made it worse instead of allowing it to potentially de-escalate."
Many pointed out that this guy had no idea what this kid's deal was. He could have ADHD or other behavioral issues that his parents and grandparents were in the midst of trying to get a handle on. "My nephew is a sweet kid almost all of the time," one commenter wrote, "but [he] has ADHD and occasionally has outbursts that can be unpredictable."
Even if that was the case, several commenters said, the grandparents didn't handle the situation correctly. "Having ADHD or any other kind of behavioral issues is no reason to allow that kind of behavior...You may be more patient and understanding with them, but those kids need even stronger boundaries and discipline." It could be that the grandparents haven't been taught how to deal with their grandson's behavioral issues. If that's the case, though, it still doesn't seem cool or right for a grown man to knowingly exacerbate the situation!
"Honestly if you really wanted to teach the kid a lesson," one creative commenter wrote, "I would've bought the grandparents something sweet and make sure they don't share with the kid."
Better yet, I say don't get involved at all! Unless maybe it is in the capacity of trying to get the kid to laugh or to offer your sympathies to the grandparents.
Ultimately, this poster was a grown man who was stooping to the level of a small child, and that's where he went wrong. As adults in these situations, we have the power to approach them with compassion and empathy rather than annoyance and disgust. You never know what a family's situation is, so you can't automatically assume the whiny kid is just a spoiled brat. Imagine the tables were turned and you were the parent trying to calm your crying child? Think about how you'd want other adults to treat you. It's that simple.