The general consensus in our authoritarian culture is "bravo mom" but I want to share a different way of thinking for your consideration.
To my way of thinking... if I wouldn't take an adult's ice cream who forgot to say thank you, then I wouldn't disrespect a child that way either.
And if actions speak louder than words, what have this mom's actions taught her kids? That might equals right? That it doesn't matter if you're sincere as long as you say the right words to keep authority happy? That mom's gifts are conditional? Reinforced their ideas that she's "the meanest mom ever" a title she says she holds proudly?
Not things I want to teach my kid.
I'd rather work really hard to demonstrate respect to Helena, to treat her as I'd want to be treated, and to accept that she's imperfect just as I am, and to be on her team to help her improve. I never want her to be motivated by fear or remembering to do something for fear. I want her to act not out of fear but out of the values she holds in her heart.
This motivation for action issue is REALLY important to me! How many people take years trying to figure out what's important to them or have no idea what their values are because they've spent their lives obeying authority out of fear? I'd rather Helena feel free to mess up around me and that she know that I'm her partner, her trusted friend, to help her fix things and do better next time. I want her to feel safe around me.
That way, when she starts acting mindfully and kindly and respectfully I know she's doing it not out of fear of authority but because SHE IS mindful and respectful and kind.
And, to my way of thinking, kids learn values of respect when they're shown respect. Kids treated with respect don't really have anything to rebel against. To me, my relationship with my kid is more important than if she gets everything right. I think because of that she respects me - as I respect her - and is open to my feedback on things. She knows I'm on her team and not pitted against her to somehow "keep her in line." She knows I trust her to do her best and to be kind and so she does. She knows that just as I remind her if she forgets to say thank you or was rude - she can remind me if I forgot to say thank you or did something that's against our strongly held value of kindness and respect. And just as I'd expect her to listen respectfully and take seriously what I say to her, she knows I will do the same to her.
Kids raised this way don't need to rebel. There's nothing to rebel against! It's so rare to see kids really rebel who are treated this way. A very occasional push of a boundary maybe, but nothing more. Respect becomes a way of life and a strongly held value.
On the other hand...
Kids who fear punishment learn to be sneaky.
Kids who fear punishment learn to lie.
If your kid thinks you're mean and not on their side and out to curtail their freedom .... who will they go to when they need help? We all turn to our friend when we need help. So yes, it's not only ok but important to be your kid's friend.
How will they act when confronted with a school bully?
Will they tell you when they've been confronted by an internet predator?
Will they come running to you when their boyfriend or girlfriend is abusive?
If they're feeling pressured to be sexually active or to drink or try drugs are they going to tell you and discuss it with you?
I think we only have to look at the statistics on these issues to know how often teens go to their peers instead of to the adults who have the power to help them in these situations. I think we only have to look at the statistics to realize how often kids end up in trouble without an adult to help them in these kinds of situations.
So yeah there are those statistics, but they're not even what motivates me. My relationship with my kid, and her health, and my love for her, and my deep respect for her as a fellow human being are what motivate me.
So back to the ice cream lady... Nope. I'm not ok with that kind of treatment. She expects her kids to be considerate and respectful, but she wears "worse mom EVER" as a badge of pride. It's so sad to me. Kids who feel uber controlled and disrespected grow up and finally get to take their place as king of the mountain, dolling out the control and disrespect this time. A vicious cycle... generation after generation...
So what would I do if Helena forgot to say thank you? Simple... I'd say thanks and then she'd say it too. Or if somehow she still forgot, I'd remind her, maybe through a question, "Hey did you say thank you to the lady?" But seriously, this is such a non issue for us. Helena's usually the one making an older woman's day by complementing them on a necklace or the sparkles on their blouse or whatever... She's just kind and polite to people everywhere we go because that's what she's known for the 10 short years of her life.
If you're thinking, "But my kid isn't like that!" then practice treating them with respect, practice tearing down the walls between you, practice listening - really listening and hearing them and taking them seriously; practice being their friend; include them on discussions on values and beliefs and honor their opinions. You'll be surprised how friendly they become in return. But it might take a lot of time for them to think you don't have any ulterior motive other than love and respect, and only then will they reciprocate.
I'm thrilled to be part of some circles of gentle and peaceful parenting and whole life unschooling where I see parents with incredible relationships with their teens and hear about teens who discuss all of life's issues openly with their parents. That's what I'm going for! My kiddo is a beautiful amazing human being and I am privileged to be her mom which means I am also her friend.