Have you ever been the sole parent hosting or supervising a play date that started to go south because your child's friend was acting up? Did you intervene and discipline the friend or did you ignore and deflect? Nikki wants to know what's appropriate and when: "Do you go there or hold off?"
Our members frequently debate these questions. Here, culled from many conversations on the topic, are guidelines for when it's appropriate — and even necessary — to step up and discipline someone else's child.
1. When Safety Is a Concern
Many moms agree that safety is more important than potentially offending another parent. If the behavior is causing a safety threat, they feel strongly that reprimanding another child is acceptable. "I would step in if another child was doing something that was dangerous," says Caitlin A.
Christi H. agrees: "When my kid's friends are over I have no problem disciplining if I need to verbally prevent an accident or dangerous situation. When we are out at public place like the park or McDonald's, if another child is cussing or could hurt my child, I will ask them ever so kindly to please don't do that. My children and their safety are my responsibility and if a child is going to jeopardize either I will say something."
2. When the Child's Parents Are Oblivious
Readers say it's considerably more complicated when the child's parents are present and are ignoring misbehavior. As Rebecca T. relays, these situations can be incredibly frustrating: "My oldest was playing on an indoor jungle gym and a kid kept trying to push him, and his parents were there but not paying attention and too busy talking." Rebecca is glad she stepped in, as the parents never acknowledged what was going on, even to their child. "It was like they weren't even there."
Assuming the parents are at least approachable, Nicole F. will point out the child's poor behavior to them rather than disciplining the child herself. "It is my opinion that other adults should speak to the parent, not the child, when they witness disturbing, inappropriate behavior," she says. But, she adds, "if the parent still does nothing about it . . . I take my child away."
Then there's Peita S's more indirect approach: she makes a point of trying to show parents who are ignoring the situation that they need to step in. As she explains, "I tell my child in front of the other child and their parents (making sure they can all hear), 'Don't worry about what they are doing, as long as you are doing the right thing that is all that matters!'"
3. When Your House Rules Are Being Broken
Many moms who are hesitant to intervene in a public setting like a playground feel more confident about stepping up when the play date takes place in their homes. Erin J. tries to preempt any negative reactions by communicating her house rules upfront: "I let parents know the first time they leave their child with me that the rules are to be followed." She is also sure to report poor behavior to the offending child's parents along with the message that "it's not acceptable in my home."
Sandra P. seconds this approach, explaining, "When I had my friends come over with their kids I told them this is my house and I will discipline them if you don't, as it is my stuff that will get broken. I told them how I disciplined them and they were fine with it. The kids became fine with it too as they got to know their boundaries in my house."
4. When You've Make a Pact With the Other Parents
If you're not sure how your child's friend's parents might react to your intervention, several moms recommend discussing in advance how discipline will be carried out at each other's houses. Jodi Z., who favors this approach, says, "I have no problem with my sister talking to my child and she has no problem with me giving her children time outs. And I have no problem if someone else gives my child a time out, but we (all the parents and I) all understand each other and are okay with that."
Ashley C. agrees: "Our best friend's children are kind of obnoxiousto put it lightly and if their 9-year-old is hurting someone or something, I will step in," she says. "I have had to talk to our friends about this and they agree and have given me permission to put their son in his place if he kept it up."
When Not to Discipline Another Child
Many moms agree that it's best to not intervene if the misbehaving child's parents are present. Belinda L. explains: "If they're at my house and their parents are there as well, I redirect them and rely on the parents to discipline. I let their parents be the ones to actually discipline."
Denikka G. is another mom who will only discipline if the other parents are not present. "I will verbally reprimand a child in my own home or when they are pushing my child on the playground, [but] only when the other parents are not nearby." She adds: "I also don't like when someone steps in with my kids while I'm sitting right there."
Do you discipline your children's friends?