Every parent has known the feeling. Sitting on the bench at a playground, you see some little snot nosed kid pushing and manhandling the rest of the toddlers. His mom is nowhere in sight and it takes all the restraint you find possible to keep from approaching him and reading him the riot act. Unfortunately, disciplining other people’s children is not an easy thing to do unless you are preschool teacher and many parents struggle to find the words and behaviors to deal with these situations. Help is on the way.
First of all, safety should always be at the foremost of your mind. If you are witnessing a child who is not only breaking rules, but also threatening the safety of your child or another’s it is your duty as an adult to step in. If the child’s mom or dad is in plain sight and seems to be noticing but ignoring the behavior, you may want to approach her first. Tread softly. Parents across the board can have pretty unbelievable reactions when another adult is perceived as ‘blaming’ their child for bad behavior. This is partly due to embarrassment and probably also because this mom knows what a monster her child is and can’t find any productive way to deal with it. So you become the bucket to catch all that downhill running manure. Shrug it off.
When disciplining other people’s children, there is one rule that you must follow. No touch! You never place your hands on another child in effort to get their attention or so you can be sure that they you are getting through. Obviously, if this is a child that you care for often and are close friends or relatives with mom or dad this rule can be broken. However, never place your hands on another child to pull them off a slide when they are blocking the path etc.
If you speak to other children as you do your own and lay down a level playing field of expectations many young children will catch on to this mom persona of yours and easily fall into order. If you notice something going on rather than point out a particular child, get the attention of the whole lot and ask ‘who knows the rules of the slide?’ This way you help the children to focus on the positive and the rule breaker may more quickly take on the rules of game. As they begin explaining the rules, all the children will be eager to follow them. Generally speaking, children do want to please adults and they don’t want to be ripped from the playground because they are continuously hurting or bullying other kids.
The rules to disciplining other people’s children change drastically when these children are visiting your home. The rules of your house apply! If your children are older you can leave it up to them to keep the rules of the house. Just by threatening to intervene if they aren’t upheld can be exactly what it takes for your 12 year to admit they can’t drink all the sodas in the fridge or be on the phone after 9pm. When children come to your house, they should follow your rules. Lay them out immediately and anytime you notice one being pushed, don’t feel guilty about reminding them of the rules. After all, you would want your child to follow rules when they at someone else’s house. This includes manners. If your children say please and thank you and the rugrat from across the street doesn’t, remind him. You are doing him or her a great service. Consider that some parents don’t have any rules in their home either because they are lazy or just don’t care. Therefore your influence of rules and appropriate behavior will help them.
There is another side to disciplining other people’s children that you need to remain aware of. If you are at a school party with your child and her classmates, unless you are designated with authority, don’t use it. You will only make yourself look like an idiot. While most moms will encourage their friends or other parents to keep their child in line if need be, they don’t really mean it. Especially if they are standing right there. You can easily spot those moms where any form of discipline directed toward their child will not go over well and it is best to keep your distance and remove your child from the situation rather than cause a scene.
Disciplining other people’s children takes practice. When you learn to correct their behavior without sounding too authoritative or demanding, you can do it easily in almost situation you may encounter. Often, it is much better to just leave things alone unless the child in question is one that you are either in charge of or very familiar with. It does take a village to raise a child, however there are far too many parents out there that seem to have been raised by wolves and who become defensive and territorial even if your attempts are rightful and respectful.
That all being said; safety does come first! And it should. Anytime you witness something happening that could be dangerous or is hurtful it is your right, duty and responsibility to take control of the situation regardless of what the circumstances are. If you can use a hands free style of discipline and try to involve the other parent in a solution you will make much faster headway. Some moms go so far as to call other parents or set up meetings in order to settle discipline issues. This can lead to parental wars, hurt feelings and more often than not doesn’t fix the situation at all. The call is yours to make. Realize that not every parent disciplines or enforces rules the way you do and even though you may think your style is perfection it doesn’t mean other children are raised in that manner.