I am writing this entirely out of personal experience, lest you think I am judging others for being judgmental.
Yesterday, as I was checking out at the grocery store, there came the sound of crying - tantruming, really. A young girl was sobbing and whining loudly that she wanted something her mother was not going to give her. And her cries persisted. She went on until I left the store, which was at least 10 minutes from when I first heard her.
But as I stood there in line for that entire 10 minutes, I felt sick with anxiety for the mother of that child. Because when you're the mom in that situation, you are absolutely certain that every eye is on you, wondering why you can't control your child. People look with disdain and others mutter under their breath. I know this because I used to be one of those people thinking that mother must be doing something wrong because this isn't the way children should act in public. And I sincerely, humbly apologize to anyone I ever passed judgment on, because my erroneous thinking came from the fact that I had never fully understood a 3-year-old child, who, at the end of the day, is overwhelmed with busyness and is hungry and tired and just wants some quiet and comfort.
I've been in that situation, like that young mom in the grocery store yesterday. I was in that stage for what seemed like endless years, when I would be forced to drag many young children to the grocery store; young children who would undoubtedly start fighting, playing tag in the aisles, or try to hide from me just for fun (and not realize that it caused me to have a full-blown panic attack). Those were the days that I promised little treats at the checkout for good behavior, and I was fully prepared to withhold the treats if their behavior didn't measure up. I was also fully prepared to leave my cart - half full of all the items I had searched for and price-checked and found coupons for - in the middle of Meijer and just walk out because of my children's negative behavior (which I did exactly one time.)
But my children were never perfect. And there were many moments when I was on the receiving end of the disdainful looks and judgmental muttering. I remember one time that I had a 3-year-old, a 1 1/2 year-old, and either I was hugely pregnant or I was carrying a baby on my back (my memory is fuzzy, probably because of all the brain cells killed by stress). The second child, who has consistently been the best tantrum-thrower I've ever known, was having a screaming fit about something and I had to keep buckling her back into the cart so that she wouldn't run away. Another mom, a kind soul, walked up to me and kindly said, "You're doing a great job."
Now, THAT is what every mom needs when they are dealing with children who exhibit less-than-perfect behavior in public. She doesn't need to look around at all the people who are showing their annoyance at her obvious lack of parenting skill, she doesn't need to hear people whispering, "my child will never act like that". She needs someone to look her in the eye and say, "hang in there, you're doing great." If you've never fought the battles of parenthood, you won't understand how huge such small words of encouragement are.