Parental Behaviour Scenario: Dealing With the Homeless

Yesterday I was stopped at a red light, with my toddler in the car seat in back, when a man ran up and started “cleaning” my windshield.
I waved him off.
He continued.
I honked my horn, and waved him off more sternly.
He got mad, said “Relax man! It’s free!”, and continued to smear my windshield with dirty water from his squeegee.

What would you do?

Some things to consider:

  1. We were about to get on the highway, and it was night time, so I wasn’t keen on having my windows smudged.
    B) I’m not fanatical about my car, but I’m not thrilled at the idea of it being accidentally scratched by someone’s unwanted behaviour either.
    III) Ignoring him could have led to him standing outside of my window demanding money - an escalation of sorts.

I ended up leaning in close to the pasenger side of the windshield, pointing an angry finger at him, and shouting “DON’T TOUCH MY CAR!”, at which point, he backed off. I’m a little disappointed with myself over what I did, as it was tough to explain to my little guy after.

What bugs me is that I can’t really think of a better way to have handled it…

What would you have done?

I might have shouted, “PLEASE! DON’T TOUCH MY CAR!” maybe, but that’s about it as far as differences go.

Remember that your kid probably doesn’t have as much background information to wade through as you do. He’s not considering the sociopolitical ramifications of homelessness, or the inequity inherent in the capitalist system, or the ontological meanings of hearth and home, or the legislative budget cuts that destroyed the long term mental health programs.

He saw a scary looking man who was touching your property when you didn’t want him to. It’s entirely appropriate to tell someone no, and to tell them louder when they don’t listen the first time. And it’s entirely appropriate for your son to see that you will protect him from scary looking dudes who won’t stop touching your stuff, or him, when you first indicate to them that they should stop.

Later on, when things have calmed down, you can have another conversation if you wish. Tell him how you support homeless shelters and mental health and drug addiction programs (if you do) or whatever other thoughts you have about giving or not giving to panhandlers. But that’s a conversation that’s bigger than one moment, and probably best had when you’re not concentrating on driving…and probably when he’s a little older than “a toddler”. :slight_smile:

I would have just let the guy wash my window. And I would have given him some money, too. While he was washing, I would have taken the time to count my blessings (including being inside a car with a toddler instead of being out on the street risking wrath from drivers when you’re trying to make a few bucks).

I would probably have done the same thing as you, and I don’t think there was anything wrong with your reaction.

If people want to stand on streetcorners asking for money, that’s their business. On occasion, I’ll give them some. But I draw the line at someone touching my possessions without my permission.

This was invasive. When you let him know that it was unwanted he continued. It’s not about his feelings at this point.

You explain clearly the safety issue concerned. I think you handled it well.

You can explain to your child as time goes on that we have programs to help the homeless but in order for them to work they have to follow the guidelines. Some people don’t want to do that. When they can surrender their last urge for control sometimes they are helpable.

That’s the most difficult thing a down and out person will ever have to do but it’s when the programs can work the best. They are designed to help you succeed.

All this can be explained to your child as he grows. You can help understand what works best by getting him involved at volunteer projects and discussing what you see there and what you think.

As far as the stern voice? Toddlers understand that.

I would have done the same thing you did.

If my kid wanted to know why I yelled at that man, I would have explained that the man was touching my car without asking. When I asked him to stop, he didn’t listen so I raised my voice. Just like when I ask you to stop doing something and you don’t listen, then I raise my voice.

At this age, I don’t think he needs to hear anything about homeless people at this young age, unless he specifically asked about the guy being homeless.

As a parent with a small child, I’d have been worried about a car-jacking. At the minimum I would have rolled up the windows and locked the doors. The squeegee guy would have been in a lot of danger if he made any threatening moves.

Yelling for the guy to get away would probably be a good first step. Honking the horn if that didn’t work might have been second on the list for me.

I would have also called 911 and reported him. What he is doing is most likely illegal and putting himself in danger.

As far as the child goes, it could be a good learning experience depending on the age of the child.

Your point is not without merit. I am indeed quite fortunate to be have a car and a family. The man who attempted to wash my widnshield is no doubt less fortunate.

I agree that I have an responsibility to give back to the community, and to help those less fortunate, but I have the right to choose how I do it.

It is winter here, and the salt spray off the roads makes keeping the windshield tranpsarent a challenge at best. Having someone smear dirty water all over it does not help in this eneavour. As such, I was not interested in his services.

Also, no means no. Am I right?

You have all raised some good points about a learning experience, both about setting boundaries, and further down the road, about the workings of the world.

I just felt bad that I may have scared my son, since I’m always careful to temper my temper when dealing with him. I’m sure I’m over-reacting, because he didn’t cry, he just tried to try and make sense of it, talking it out to himself afterwards. I talked to him about it too, and it hasn’t come up since.

Honestly, sounds like your kid is dealing with it better than you are!