I came across this article today - by a mother who chooses not to help her kids up the slide ladder at the park. She wants them to give it a try first and requests - "Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you’ve just heard me tell them I wasn’t going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves."
Of course the comments almost immediately dissolve into the inevitable parenting competition that many such posts attract, but I have to say I agree with her. It's one thing if a child is balancing precariously on a piece of play equipment, crying out for a parent who seems to have exited stage left. Of course you help them down. When you're going against what you see the parent is trying to do however, and the child is in no danger, you're being a busy body or a smug parent. Probably both.
It reminds me of when mine were little and they said something I was trying to stop. Perhaps calling me a "big poop"; you know, the stuff designed to make you lose it in public. So I wouldn't react most of the time, thus robbing them of their prize. That's actually what many experts advise - no attention is worse than negative attention.
But then there'd inevitably be the adult-who-is-far-better-with-children, who jumps in and says "It's not nice to talk to your mother like that." (Ironically, it was often adults whose children were, to be honest, the brattiest kids on the block.) Seriously, it used to infuriate me on so many levels. I mean, I wasn't deaf at any point, so ignoring my kids was obviously a strategy of mine - the parent, the person in charge of those kids. I am not, and never have been, a pushover as a parent so didn't need "reinforcements" in the form of adults who thought they had more authority with kids.
I lost interest long ago, in trying to "better" other people's kids. I mean what's the point? You might remind them to say "please" while they're at your house, not to complain that "there's nothing good to eat" in your kitchen, or ask rather than simply opening the fridge and taking what they want, but hey - they're a reflection of someone else's manners, not mine. Similarly, if someone wants to raise their kids with a bit of "tough love" or just by not jumping in and rescuing them at every hurdle, then just leave those kids alone.