Social Question

fizzbanger's avatar

Do you cringe when you see a woman tell her kids to "shut up"?

Asked by fizzbanger (2762points) October 21st, 2011

While shopping at a Target the other day, I encountered a frazzled mom trying to tame her two little boys (looked to be around 3 or 4 years old). Wheeling them around in a cart, she repeatedly yelled “shut up!”, in a rather malicious tone when they complained that they were bored, or wanted to look at something. I can understand that she may have been stressed out, but at a glance, it seemed like she was being kind of harsh to her kids for, well, being kids. Why not a calmer “please be quiet” or a friendlier method of parental distraction to keep them amused?

Do you consider this kind of parenting behavior verbally abusive? Or is it normal for parents to snap at their kids from time to time? (They didn’t seem particularly naughty).

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60 Answers

snowberry's avatar

Unless you have walked in her shoes….

Luiveton's avatar

It is harsh, but not to the extent that it should be rendered as ‘verbally abusive’. It is as a matter of fact normal for parents to snap at their kids every now and then otherwise a behavioral boundary line won’t be established from the kids’ youth. And later on, kids won’t be used to obeying their parents, let alone respect them.
I’d expect that we can’t just judge what appears to be happening in front of us. 3–4 year olds tend to be exceedingly annoying. So her agressive behavior is much expected, maybe not in public, but I do feel empathetic for the lady.

bob_'s avatar

No. Little kids can be fucking annoying.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Perhaps they had been nagging her or disrespecting her all day before that. I know that when my kids push my buttons and push my buttons and push my buttons, I get frustrated. When they do things in stores they’ve been told not to do, like grab things or repeatedly ask for things, it makes me angry.

And I have told my kids to shut up, especially after they’ve been sniping at each other all day or been arguing with me. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that grabs their attention and actually makes them stop.

Facade's avatar

Yes, I do. I feel parents have a certain responsibility to their children, but I’ve been told I’m overly sensitive when it comes to things like this.

Cupcake's avatar

I don’t think I’ve ever told a child to shut up. I think it’s rude. I do cringe when I hear it, but I try to give people the benefit of doubt. We all have a limit and kids seem to easily find it.

Aethelwine's avatar

It’s rude. I’ve never talked to my children that way, even when I was completely stressed out. A child will never respect you if you don’t lead by example.

JLeslie's avatar

It would depend. I am pretty sure if I had kids I would wind up screaming at them a few times, and/or firmly telling them what to do when they are misbehaving. If they were not being obedient when necessary I would probably wind up resorting to telling them to shut up, well hopefully I would use something like, “you have to be quiet,” or act like I am at the end of my rope with facial expressions. Ideally I would be such a great mom it would never get to that, but kids can be a pain in the neck.

Blueroses's avatar

I never tell anybody to shut up, not out loud anyway. It’s rude. I’ll sometimes repeat “shut the fuck up” under my breath like a mantra.

Aethelwine's avatar

I would like to add that I have yelled at my children, especially when they were much younger. I understand every parent gets frustrated at some point. I would yell “quit that” or “be quiet” or “stop it”. Shut up just shows no respect imo. It’s hurtful.

Blackberry's avatar

I’m neutral. It depends on what kind of parent she is, and we’ll never know that.

smilingheart1's avatar

Totally. Because I know that if I am an eye witness to this just once, that it is an act she multiplies over and over and over along with other insults. And her dear little Johnny, when he hits his teen age years, becomes an angry, perhaps rebellious lad. And then when he becomes a bit older he acts out in all kinds of ways – he may eventually become an emotional cripple. We simply cannot live in a world without love and respect. It has us questioning either our own value or other people’s intents for a long, long time. We only get one chance to have our core personality formed. After that, it is just a long litany of re-programming for those who do choose to even bother seeking healing.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Blackberry Yep, Louis CK has it right!

I used to judge. I never do that any more. Period.

We will never know what caused this mom to say “Shut Up” to her two small children.

Sunny2's avatar

You should hear how she and her husband talk. Rudeness is rudeness and some people live with and by it. Unfortunately.

Blackberry's avatar

@SpatzieLover Although “Shut up, I hate you, you’re ugly!” is another story. Hahaha!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Just makes me want to slap her.

SpatzieLover's avatar


“Shut up” though…We all have a breaking point.

fizzbanger's avatar

@Blackberry Ha! I forgot about Louis CK’s kid rants. Perfect.

That’s the word I was looking for… disrespectful.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Shut up and eat your fries! (Relevant material at 7 minutes)

Blackberry's avatar

@poisonedantidote Yeah I should have just posted the whole clip. “Just 40 Fs, fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff! Go clean your room…”

stardust's avatar

No, of course not! Kids can be a pain in the ass. If someone’s being abusive and neglectful, that’s another story, but I’ve often been tempted to scream my lungs out when looking after nieces and nephews.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Blackberry That’s hilarious! And the “why” of it is sooooo true! I’ve been interrogated about “why” for hours upon hours by my daughters.

Oh, and to those who think “shut up” is never useful… let me give you an example of a recent “shut up” conversation I had with my 10 year old:

kid: Hey Mom, Connor told me a joke on the bus, wanna hear it?
me: Sure, was it funny?
kid: I don’t know. Wanna hear it?
me: Go for it.
kid: What did the chainsaw say to the black boy?
me: No, I do NOT want to hear that joke. I already know it and it’s mean.
kid: You didn’t let me finish it!
me: I know, because it’s mean!
kid: But why is it mean?
me: Because it has a mean name in it and I don’t want you repeating it.
kid: Why?
me: Because it’s MEAN!
kid: So can I tell it to my friends?
me: No. I don’t want you to tell ANYONE that joke.
kid: Why?
me: I just said- because it’s MEAN!
kid: But my friends might think it’s funny.
me: I don’t care, don’t repeat that joke.
kid: But Mom!
me: But nothing! Don’t repeat it.
kid: Fine! You never let me do ANYTHING!
me: Yep. You’re right. You don’t have video games, you don’t have a bike and I didn’t get you a cell phone so you could ride that bike around the block without me being worried.
kid: That’s NOT what I’m TALKING ABOUT!
me: Lose the attitude. Now.
kid: I just think it’s stupid that you won’t (I interrupt her)
me: Enough.
kid: It’s stupid that you won’t (I interrupt again)
me: I said ENOUGH. Now. Go to your room.
kid: You won’t even let me talk!
me: Not when you’re arguing with me. You’re about to be grounded.
kid: Fine, but it’s still stupid that (I’ve had more than enough of her belligerence)
me: Shut up right now. (But Mom!) No, I said shut up! Close your mouth and don’t say another word!

My 10 year old does this a lot. She starts to say something rude, I interrupt her and tell her “That’s enough” and she tries to keep going with the same sentence. She’s very hard-headed, just like her mother. “Shut up” is the only thing that seems to really catch her attention and warn her that Mom is pissed off and she’d better stop.

tranquilsea's avatar

As the mother of three very active and intelligent kids I have been pushed to the breaking point on more than one occasion as we’ve been out shopping. If it got really bad I’d just leave.

I don’t judge other parents based on one situation. Actually, I have a hard time judging parents period. It is unbelievably stressful raising kids and judging just makes it more stressful.

Hibernate's avatar

No. Sometimes it’s better to hear shut up then other things.

wundayatta's avatar

My feeling was that I never wanted to say, “shut-up” to my kids. I swear this is not a lie. I can only remember once saying that, and I was so contrite that I had to apologize immediately. I felt awful because I don’t think anyone should be treated that way. It is hugely disrespectful in my opinion.

I also never wanted to to end that train of “whys” with “shut up” or any other parental prerogative ending. What I found to work for me is to take advantage of the fact that they will almost always come around to asking the question a second time. Of course, kids don’t ask the “why” questions because they want information. They want to drive you crazy. What’s so cool is that they are so good at it and we just so buy into it that we fuck our own minds up as we were trapped in a spider’s web.

Anyway when they asked the question a second time, my response was, “I already answered that.” They’ll try again, or they might fall into the trap and defend themselves, “No, I didn’t.”

Then you have a couple of options. You can go into the “Yes you did, No I didn’t” dance until you just decide to stop. Or you can say, “I won’t answer answer any question you’ve already asked. Instead, I will turn it back on you. You must have learned from the first time I answered. So now I’m asking you why. In other words, you outkid the kid. They get kind of frustrated, but unlike their parents, they know when to quit. Annoying your parent is only fun as long as your parent allows themselves to be annoyed.

Usually kids know exactly when you are vulnerable, and since at this time they are also usually cranky and bored, they choose this moment to pounce. It’s called “poke the parent,” and it is not unlike a picador trying to rile up a bull. And the response, if you want to save your life, is to be like Ferdinand. Sit there and smell the flowers in the ladies hats.

I figure my kids are only smarter than I am if I let them be smarter. I can only be provoked if I let them provoke me. I never worry about things like respect or if they tell me I’m stupid or other things that most people might get all upset about if their kids say it. None of that matters. What I’ve found is what matters is what happens on the ground, so to speak. Are they there when we are out in the world and I need cooperation instantly? Are they kind and helpful in public?

It turns out they are completely different people in public. They are helpful. They do try hard. They do good work. And even at home, even if they give me a hard time (and right now, only my son does that), they will cooperate after a while, if I am persistent. Usually. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and I give up because it’s just not worth the battle all the time.

Parenting is a long process that usually ends up being far too short. Three more years and my daughter is off to college, and maybe a year less if she goes for a year abroad program. I think a lot of us feel shame when our kids have tantrums or say stuff we imagine other adults might consider to be disrespect in public. I know that with some kids it’s possible to head off that kind of stuff. Maybe even most kids.

I know what’ it’s like bringing up kids. I know how they can try you. Personally, I made a choice to bring them up without saying “shut-up” to them. I think I was pretty successful at doing that. I think that other parents don’t have the same values about words that my wife and I have. Their kids say “fuck” and “shit” and who knows what else because they see their parents doing it all the time.

I don’t think the words matter nearly as much as the tone of voice. I don’t the tone of voice matters so much as how the parent makes the child feel. If the child feels diminished and wrong for being a kid, then I would hope the parent could stop doing that and find other ways to modify their child’s behavior. If the parent and child don’t argue fairly and the parent doesn’t respect the kid then again, I would hope they could learn how to fight fairly and not use old patterns to escalate things to a place they didn’t have to go.

So yes. I cringe when I see something happen that I would never do. I cringe when I see people behaving in ways I know they could easily change if they only knew how. I cringe because I know there is nothing I can do and it would be stupid to intervene because they parent would get defensive like you wouldn’t believe… except you all would believe, having been in a position where you don’t want anybody to say nuthin to you.

So cringe it is. Then I try to get the hell out of there as soon as I can, and I know my kids are going to bring it up. They won’t be able to believe a parent could do that to their kid. When they ask me why, what do I say? I don’t know. I guess they never learned a better way.

OpryLeigh's avatar

It doesn’t always work but in these sort of “frazzled mum” situations, I try not to judge. I am usually just pleased it isn’t me that is a walking around a shop with two young children!

martianspringtime's avatar

I don’t think it’s polite, but I don’t think it’s a huge offense. I think we judge others a lot more harshly than we would judge ourselves in the same situation. I wouldn’t recommend her method, but we don’t know what kind of day she’s having, and it’s not like she was beating the kid in the middle of the store. Can’t really judge a person’s parenting skills on an isolated minor incident like that in my opinion.

I don’t like when people loudly discipline their children in public; I think it creates more of a scene than just having the child misbehaving, and sets a really bad image for them to follow. But I’m not a parent, and those aren’t my kids, so I try not to judge where it isn’t my place to.

BeccaBoo's avatar

Was she slapping them? Was she hurting them? You know what I think its getting to become a sad day when we can’t even tell our own kids to “shut up” and in a tone where they know we mean it!! Kids are pampered enough, lets face it. Not all kids are angels, boys are far harder to keep quiet and entertained and when shopping and you need to focus, having 2 kids whining in your ear is not the easiest of things to do. I know, been there done that! I adore my 4 boys, but I don’t think that I have damaged their precious little beings by putting them in their place every now and then!

There enough said!

creative1's avatar

I dislike when anyone says shut up, it is so so rude sounding and really bothers me. I don’t think anyone should tell another to shut up.. period!

dk6hgsds9axe3's avatar

I once saw a woman shout “Shut your fucking row” at a baby that was languishing in a cardboard box in her back yard – the single most depressing thing I have ever witnessed.

MissAusten's avatar

I don’t want my kids saying shut up (in fact, it isn’t allowed in our house) so I do my best to set the right example and not speak that way myself. Being flawed, however, the rare shut up has escaped me in moments of extreme frustration. If I heard someone repeatedly telling their kids to shut up, I’d wonder why that parent didn’t try something else, since clearly saying “Shut up!” wasn’t working.

My husband and I try our best not do or say anything to our kids we don’t want to see them also do or say. We sometimes slip up, of course, but then we will apologize to the kids. They know everyone makes mistakes and we don’t try to pretend to be perfect or right all the time.

dk6hgsds9axe3's avatar

@jonsblond Tell me about it. I felt exceptionally sorry for the baby, but also sadly realised that given the almost zero-chance they had of developing into a rounded, well-adjusted adult, that by the time they were 15 I would likely think they were trouble making scumbags…

geeky_mama's avatar

@fizzbanger : Really, at Target? I usually see that only at Wal-Mart.

woodcutter's avatar

No I don’t cringe, I laugh especially if the kids are acting like ungrateful little bastards.

Ela's avatar

Sounds to me like the woman was just plain stupid. You can’t take kids shopping and expect them to just sit in a cart and not want to see/touch everything.
I had a 4 yr old, a 3 yr old and a 2 yr old trotting all over the place with me. It took us forever to get through a store with 6 little hands pawing everything… 8 counting my own LOL I’ve never told any of them to shut up in order for them to be quiet. I completely agree with everyone who found it rude. I believe telling a child (or anyone for that matter) to “shut up” is disrespectful.
These are the children that my children (and yours) are going to have to associate with. Children learn through example and she is teaching her kids how to treat my/your kids…

blueiiznh's avatar

like @snowberry stated. you have no idea what brought it on. Someday each of us does things we would not do a different day.


Yes, very much so. Especially when a woman does it, because it’s so crude and abhorring. Mothers are supposed to be gentle and nurturing, not abominable. Firm in their discipline, not vicious. Fathers shouldn’t say that to their children either. Either way it’s wrong.

By the way, I don’t believe in the idea of “unless you’ve walked in her shoes”. Many adults have had it very rough, yet do not act like morons to their children. That’s just a convenient excuse——a cop-out for lazy, bad parenting.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Gadzooks, I would say telling a kid to shut up over being quiet was harsh but that is where we as a society degraded to. Back in the day, a kid would know at the second “be quiet” to be quiet, or there would be repercussions. However, I believe saying “shut up” is a lot better than I hear a lot of parents these days say when they tell their children, no matter how small it seems, to “shut the f*** up”, or “shut your ass up”.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@BeccaBoo I don’t think I have damaged their precious little beings by putting them in their place every now and then. I wish I could give you a hundred GA’s for this one sentance!

fizzbanger's avatar

@geeky_mama Haha, I know, like, Target is supposed to be classy!

Yeah, I think that if you scream at a kid all the time they will just become immune to it… but “shut up” should only be used at the absolute breaking point, not on a regular basis. Like, a kid hears it and it’s an indicator that Mom’s not f***ing around.

keobooks's avatar

I can empathize with a frazzled mom at the end of her rope, but sometimes I see moms tell their kids to shut up when the kids really not doing anything at all bad. I remember being on the Muni and there was a little toddler talking to his fingers very quietly. His mom shouted ‘Shut UP!” to him and it broke my heart.

I’ve never told my daughter to shut up but I can remember pleading with her “Oh, please Please PLEASE.. stop CRYING.. no.. just STOP!” It didn’t do any good. So I just left her in her playroom and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes. Funnily enough, she stopped on her own after that.

BeccaBoo's avatar

Geeze guys, considering I was bought up in a era where my mother slapped my face when I would not keep it shut, and she is a very demure woman. I don’t think that telling a child to “shut up” is that harsh. Do you not think that some of you are over reacting just slightly? Some children respond to louder more stern tones than others. Mothers don’t set out to do a bad job, and some mothers end up blessed with children that will push them to the limits of their sanity. Long days, broken nights sleep, constant whinging and crying is enough to make anyone scream “shut up”. Don’t sit in judgement of another, when you see her trying to do the best they can. Instead concentrate on the ones that are starving, dealing with drug withdrawal, neglect and general sense of not being loved. They are the ones that are usually not seen and would give their right arm to have their mother scream at them, would show that at least she cares, or is there.

Most of you will have at some point in your life been bought up by a parent who is stressed out to the hilt and would have screamed something at you. Did it make you feel any less loved?

We are living in a generation of spoilt brats and thugs because kids are not given proper discipline (to this is refer to shows like ‘Super nanny’) do you think those mothers are bad, or don’t care?

Hardest job in the world is to be a mother, and none of us always get it right!

Aethelwine's avatar

@BeccaBoo Long days, broken nights sleep, constant whinging and crying is enough to make anyone scream “shut up”.

Um, not me. I have disciplined my children just fine without using words that are disrespectful. (and my parents never yelled at me with disrespectful words) Guess what? My children are polite and respectful with adults. They don’t talk back or yell at teachers or adults. They never got in trouble at school. They learn by example. just my opinion and what has worked for our family =)

creative1's avatar

@jonsblond I second you opinion on that one. My daughter always is polite because childern do as that is done to them.

MissAusten's avatar

@BeccaBoo Of course none of us are perfect and we can’t know what the mom referenced in the question was going through. However, I think we can probably all agree that repeatedly telling a child to shut up is not the best parenting option available. If that kind of thing worked, she would only have had to say it once.

We all have different parenting styles and beliefs, and personally I feel that kids should learn by example. Discipline doesn’t have to be painful or mean to be effective. Although, my kids seem to think anything other than what THEY want is mean, of course.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@MissAusten When my mum told us to shut up she only had to say it once. We knew, at that point, she was mad! Of course, we pulled faces behind her back but we kept our mouths shut!!!!

I don’t think my mum was a bad parent just because she told us to shut up at times. I am wondering if it is a culture thing though, @BeccaBoo are you British?. Some of you guys are using words like hurtful and mean when referring to “shut up” but I can honestly say that I never felt hurt when my mum said it and, I’m sure someone will correct me if they think I am wrong, but over here, we don’t seem quite so offended by shut up. Of course, it depends on the tone and the reason it is said and like @MissAusten said, if someone has to keep repeating it then it obviously isn’t very effective. My mum’s catch phrase when my brother and I were fighting was “if you two don’t shut up I’ll bang your heads together!” She never actually did it but then, I can’t remember continuing the fight after she had threatened us!!!

tranquilsea's avatar

@Leanne1986 I’m Canadian and my mother told us to shut up all the time. I just took it to mean be quiet and I was never hurt or offended by it.

I’ve told my teenagers to shut up but only after repeatedly telling them to lower their voices and be quiet etc in a calm voice. When I got to shut up I only had to say it once. And I believe I’ve only had to say it twice.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I forgot to mention, in my whole culture query, that over here, the further north you go the more “shut up” (or “shut up man” if your a Geordie!) is often made to sound quite endearing.

BeccaBoo's avatar

@jonsblond Hey my children are polite and respectful to adults too. I am not a rude person and believe wholly that ALL children learn by example, but also believe that sometimes they need to learn that ALL parents are human and have limits, when they push them beyond that point they have to learn that its NOT OK and get bought back to earth. Shut up is hardly going to make them an emotional wreck, neither and bad mannered human being. Maybe you should get yourself on tv, and teach us all how to be a perfect parent!

@Leanne1986 Yes I am a south London girl, and I think in this case I’d have to agree with you wholeheartedly that this must be a culture thing. Makes me laugh though as we are known for being “stuffy and uptight” over here, and dare we utter obscenities from our plummy lips ;-)

MissAusten's avatar

@Leanne1986 I’ve often thought to myself that “shut up” is one of those things that just sounds worse coming out of a little kid’s mouth. You’re right, it is sometimes used laughingly between friends. If I tell tell my husband to shut up, it’s usually as I’m laughing about something. In that way, I don’t think it’s mean but it does sound worse to hear a child say it, especially out of anger. My daughter is 12 and old enough to know the difference between a rude “shut up!” and a laughing kind of “shut up!” so I am more likely to talk to her that way. But I would not yell at her to shut up in an angry way. I also wouldn’t jokingly tell my boys to shut up because I know they would start repeating it and at their younger age (6 and 8), they wouldn’t really understand why sometimes it’s OK but other times not.

@BeccaBoo You say you’re not a rude person, but your comment to @jonsblond pretty much contradicts that. All she said was that it’s possible to teach limits without telling her kids to shut up. Why does the idea that someone can do that make you so defensive?

@Leanne1986 I bet every kid knows the exact sign that Mom has had enough! For you it was shut up, for mine it’s probably when I lean over, get in their faces, and say in a low and serious voice, “Cut. It. Out. NOW.” :)

Aethelwine's avatar

@BeccaBoo No need to be rude and snarky. I never claimed to be perfect. I have admitted here that I spanked my boys a few times when they were little. Believe me, I got a bunch of shit for saying that. Many judgmental remarks. When I speak of a parent saying shut up to their child, it has to do with the way it is said, and it’s just not something I would say.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@MissAusten I knew that low, serious voice too and those full stops after each word just to drag the sentance out make all the difference. My mum wasn’t the perfect parent (although she certainly wasn’t all that bad either) and she will be the first to admit that but one thing I can say for her, we always knew where we stood with her!!!

BeccaBoo's avatar

@jonsblond I wasn’t being rude or sarky, sorry if it has come about in that way, just merely looking at your response to my last posting that you can talk to your children without being disrespectful. It just was probably the way that I read it. My apologies for my manners.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t want to judge this parent. I don’t know what is going on in her life. Perhaps she is at breaking point because of other things and normally would never speak to her children that way. She might be a fabulous mother who was just at the end of her tether. If it was a regular occurrence then I don’t think it is an appropriate way to speak to your children, but we just don’t know what else is going on here.

wundayatta's avatar

Today I was sitting at a table in front of the coffee shop and this couple crosses the street dragging their poor son who completely melting down. They stop right next to my table, and the kid is there being really obnoxious not two feet away, while his parents try to figure out what to do. Finally the woman goes into the shop and the boy resumes his caterwauling.

The dad leans down, and says in a very calm voice, “Do you want to go with me or do you want to go with Mommy?”

“I want both of you.” Renewed screaming.

“You can’t go with both of us. Mommy is in the store and I’m going… [didn’t hear]”

The Dad then seems to make an executive decision (yay Dad) and takes the kid into the coffee bar. A few seconds later, he is out walking back the way they came, a little spring in his step. All I could think was that this father has a great future in front of him. As far as I could tell, the kid wasn’t whining or screaming any more. And no one, not even me, yelled “shut up” to this obnoxious little brat!


@wundayatta You didn’t go up to the little brat and bop him one? Lol-lol.

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