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Should You Discipline Another Parent’s Child?

Disciplining other people’s children is something which concerns me. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’ve witnessed other people’s children misbehaving. Times where the parents have turned a blind eye, or haven’t been watching their child. But when your little one is having fun at soft play or running around the park, should you address another child’s bad behaviour?

The expert’s view

“We have a responsibility to discipline other people’s kids – particularly when they’re not doing it themselves,” states Dr. Justin Coulson. Although, he does state that discipline is more about instruction than punishment. “And if done correctly, with gentleness and kindness, most parents would welcome another parent teaching their child about the right way to behave.”

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But what is the right way to behave?

As parents will all bring our children up differently. Obviously, there are some actions which are completely inappropriate and most parents would address such behavior accordingly. However, what one parent views as ‘bad behaviour’ another may not. Additionally, the way each and every parent disciplines a child differs and this could cause confusion and unsettle a child.

Real life experience

Just last week at playgroup, I was forced to tell two children to stop throwing things. There was a sandpit full of bark and pine cones which they were throwing across the patio. It was harmless fun to them and I don’t believe they intended to hurt anyone. However, my daughter was standing next to the sand pit and her friend was behind her. The bark and pine cones were hitting their faces and I feared they would get into their eyes. I had no idea who their parents were, but I knew they weren’t out in the garden. So I told the kids to stop throwing the debris as it was hitting the girls in the face. I really didn’t expect them to listen. But, they both stopped and went and played with something else immediately.

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But it could have gone the other way

Of course, the kids could have gone and told their parents that I’d told them off. That I’d shouted at them and upset them. In such a scenario, would they have believed their child or me? Wherever possible, I would leave it to the child’s parents to deal with their child’s behaviour how they deem fit. Except in cases where there is a risk to my daughter, as in the above scenario. I usually try to move my daughter away from situations where other children are refusing to share, or are pushing her away if the parents aren’t dealing with it. However, I know this isn’t always fair on her. But, I feel it’s the best way to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.

Do you discipline other parent’s children?

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