Is it ever permissible to discipline someone else’s child? While there’s no black-and-white answer, Circle of Moms members have helped tease out some of this tricky issue’s different shades of gray.
When Safety is at Stake
For starters, countless moms agree that safety is more important that potentially offending another parent, and so reprimanding—even shouting at—another child is acceptable if the behavior is causing a safety threat.
For example, when unsupervised 8-year-olds were rough-housing in the public kiddie pool, Jodi A. quickly intervened: “I approached them and told them to stop their rough play because they were scaring the younger children and they almost hit my daughter. They didn't stop, so I went to the lifeguard. He dealt with it, and ended up removing them from the pool because they had no adult supervision.”
Krista E. agrees: “I don't make a habit of disciplining other peoples' kids, but if the child is a) in danger of hurting himself, or b) being aggressive with my kid, then you bet your bippy I'll use my mom voice and tell him to cut it out.”
When the Child's Parents are Present
Even if no serious danger is present, many parents believe that doling out some basic discipline to other people's children is acceptable. As Ashley V. relayed: “The way I see it, if I am not watching my kid and someone feels the need to correct them, as long as they don’t cuss at or degrade my child, they have every right to. It takes a village to raise a child and a mother cannot complain when she gets good help!”
On the other hand, if the misbehaving child’s parents are present, several Circle of Moms members argue that informing the other parent of the behavior is a much better strategy than talking to the child. As Nicole explains: “It is my opinion that other adults should speak to the parent, not the child, when they witness disturbing, inappropriate behaviour. If the parent still does nothing about it, (you) should either move on, or (if there is some immediate danger to anyone) contact security or the police.”
Many other moms, including Diana H., agree that it's often best to simply distance yourself and your child from a misbehaving child. As she puts it, “I try not to worry about other people's kids, and just remove my own children from the situation - that's all I figure I can control anyway. I let my children know that they don't need to play with children who aren't playing nicely, and we go find something else.”
When the Child's Parents Aren't Around
But what if the misbehaving child is in your home and his parents aren’t present? “I guess it depends on how close you are” to the child's family, says mother of two Heather W., and Geneen E. agrees: “The only way I discipline another child is if I am told I can do so and it has to be a close friend or family member.”
Or consider Tara C.'s approach: Instead of scolding or disciplining other people’s kids in her house, she simply sends them home: “I will send neighborhood kids home if they are being too rough or not using appropriate language. I usually let people know why this occurred and that I would like them to do the same to my kids if the need arose.”
Have you ever disciplined another person’s child?