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Disciplining Other People's Children: Where Do You Stand?

Last week I got together with some fellow moms for breakfast. We chatted about several topics, but the one that we lingered over was the aforementioned. Oh my stars! There are so many differing opinions on the subjects of disciplining others' children and when others discipline our children.


Have you ever reprimanded another's child, in the best interest of the child, only to find the the parent took offense? How did you handle the situation? On the reverse, has your child ever been scolded by another parent when you feel you should have been the one to handle the scolding? How did you approach the other parent? Did you address it or avoid it altogether?


There are dozens of scenarios, and it's likely that most of us handle each one differently. That's part of the problem. With so many differing opinions and different approaches to resolving the problem, there are likely to be many angered and disappointed parents, not to mention the children.


We walk a very fine line when we make the choice to reprimand someone else's child, but I do believe that if the child is in danger or is endangering others, SOMEONE must step in. It is our duty as responsible adults to prevent an injury, or worse yet, a tragedy from occurring. Although the decision can be an easy one in many cases (a child is throwing stones or running with sticks, for example), we, as parents, still struggle with whether it is worth it to scold another's child. For me, it's important to consider what the eventual outcome could be. If it's anything remotely close to serious physical harm, I'll do whatever is necessary to prevent it.


Then there's the opposite side of the coin: someone reprimands your child. Once we have children, we put up protective barriers. We defend our children, sometimes knowing the full story and sometimes not knowing at all. We are loyal to our children. We think they do no wrong. But the reality is that they do. They throw stones. They trip children. They push. They resort to name-calling. And they try to do it while we are looking in the opposite direction. It isn't always malicious. Kids will be kids. They like to push the envelope and test us.


It's been my experience that parents aren't looking for excuses to reprimand someone else's child. If they are doing so, it is out of concern and safety. If my head were turned or I were otherwise engaged in conversation while my child was about to inflict harm on another child, I would certainly EXPECT another parent to intervene. If we don't, what kind of message are we sending to our children?


Where do you stand? Have you had either of these experiences and how did you handle them?



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Comment by Nicole Aikins on October 24, 2011 at 4:05pm
I agree with Chrissy. My daughter was recently invited to a birthday party at a children's museum. While climbing to the top step, a little boy pushed her in the face, and I just barely caught her from falling on the floor. There was no one running to reprimand the little boy, so I had to tell him 'We don't push, and we don't hit. That is not nice, and not safe'. I was stern, but not mean. When it comes to potential harm of my child or someone else's, I have to step in. It is definitely a fine and sensitive line, but when safety is involved, I feel obligated to step in.
Comment by Chrissy Fleming on October 20, 2011 at 7:54am
This is a great topic!  Personally, I dont like to step in when it's someone elses child unless it's for the reason you stated above - to prevent harm - or if it's  areally good friend and their children are practically family and know me well.  I guess I look at it like this:  would I be ok with THEIR parent disciplining my kid?  It's hard, though, because there are times that I certainly take on a more authoritarian role, such as when I am teaching a kids fitness class or acting as the Den mom, those are times that I feel it's my duty to keep everything running smoothly and that I must discipline if necessary.


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