"There isn't a whole lot that I expect men to help with when I'm out in public alone with the kids. One of those reasons is because I have played the scenario a few times in my head of what I would do to try to take after someone who takes one of my kids...while I run after him while carrying my other two.
I like it when men hold the door open for the kids and me to all get inside wherever we are going...especially if I have the stroller in tote.
If a man is a real "kid" person and I've never met you, it's okay to say hi and have a very short small talk conversation with my kids, but keep it short and simple and move on. It's different if you're an employee somewhere and I can leave the store with my kids and not worry about him following..again the fear of a kid getting taken.
As for me, I already try not to make eye contact with other men. Small talk is okay if we're sitting watching our kids play at the play area or park. Make sure to tell which kids are yours, and some interaction between them proving it helps, so I know you're not there just scoping out the scene.
If my kids are throwing a fit, it's okay to say something like, "uh oh" or "that doesn't sound like a nice voice" towards the kid with a bad attitude. My kids usually straighten up when they notice a stranger watching their bad attitude. And I appreciate the attitude leaving at that point. Again, be short and simple.
If my kid is walking/running away, look for me, the mom, and go by my gestures. If I'm calm, not saying anything, and have an eye on my kid, I feel in control and I'm testing them to see how far they'll go. If I'm calling for them and looking stressed, get their attention and try to coax them back to me without touching them...i.e. holding a hand/picking them up. I had a lady pick my son up when he was heading a different direction and it totally freaked him out... she was an employee at the mall so I assumed she wouldn't take off with him, but had it been anyone else, I would have been on high alert with adrenaline pumping.
Pretty much, if you want to interact, keep things short and simple. Holding doors open are great...and elevator doors especially so the kids don't get trapped on the elevator and me not on there yet, or vice versa. I don't take the kids on an outting alone unless I know I can handle the time of day and amount of walking, etc. that we'll be doing."
I'm grateful for my niece's advice. In short, here are some things she taught me:
- Be chivalrous. Open the door and hold the door (elevator door, too) for young mothers and their children.
- Don't be alarmed when a child is not standing next to his/her mother. Watch the mother for cues and watch from a distance so that you can help if someone snatches the child.
- Say mild comments (at the most) if the child is throwing a fit. Words from someone they don't know may help him/her control him/herself.
- Keep things short and simple if you do interact. Don't try to monopolize the mother and/or her children.
If you want to follow my niece, here is her youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/godrox