Should you discipline someone else's child?
Parents, here are four helpful tips and key points that you can consider before yelling at toddlers and disciplining other kids.
As parents, there are situations, like play dates and birthday parties, where you find other people's kids in your care. It's one thing correcting your own children should they act out or misbehave. But things can get a bit tricky when it comes to disciplining other kids. What are the repercussions of yelling at toddlers?
Is yelling at toddlers okay? When is it okay to discipline someone else's child?
It might be super tempting to discipline someone else's child when you encounter bad behaviour, but there are lines that cannot be crossed.
Alan Kazdin, author of The Everyday Parenting Toolkit, told Fatherly that there are only two situations when you can discipline someone else’s child:
(1) When someone’s life is in danger (or physical violence is involved).
(2) If you know the child and the parent well, and the guidance you’re offering is very minor.
Here are some helpful tips on dealing with other people's children:
- Approach the parent in case of issues: If you feel that the child is being mean or disobeying rules, talk to the parents and let him/her know your concerns.
And yes, try not to be rude, accusing or judgemental. :)
- Don't lose your cool: Refrain from yelling at toddlers and kids, and spanking no matter how irritated you are.
- Lay out the rules beforehand: If you are going to be dealing with a group of children (for example, a house party), lay out the rules clearly and in a simple manner that children can understand.
Rules like “No fighting, share toys, don’t touch furniture with dirty hands, no mean language allowed” are good ones to have.
- Looking after other children: If you are going to be looking after other children, discuss matters with their parents beforehand - about rules, consequences and discipline strategies.
Let's take two potential situations at a playdate you're hosting, involving John and Kerry (not your own kids).
Situation 1: John scribbles on your floor. While you might be a neat-freak, you could probably just ignore this behaviour (unless he starts scribbling on your white couch...). You're going to have to clean up after all the kids leave anyway.
Situation 2: John punches Kerry, repeatedly. You certainly cannot turn a blind eye to this kind of behaviour. So what should you do and how should you discipline other kids in a situation like this?
4 Things to Consider Before Disciplining Other Kids
1. Know the Parent’s Preference
What do they usually do if their kid misbehaves? The best way to find out is to speak to the parents before they leave their kids in your care.
Know your boundaries. Always listen to what their parents think is good and effective then do your best to comply with that.
You can be proactive on this one so you know how to handle certain situations with their kid by simply asking them directly about what they think is appropriate.
But if you forgot to check with them before they leave their kids, you could always use the following questions later: “Andy had a little trouble earlier with Tommy, his friend. If it happens again at the next playdate, what should I do?”
2. Adjust to the Parent’s Thinking
There will be times when you and the other child's parent/s are not on the same page. You might consider a certain type of behaviour as something serious while the other parent may think it is no biggie.
What should you do then?
Again, the best way to find out about how to discipline other kids is to ask their parents about how they apply discipline in advance.
But generally, a gentle but firm, "Please don't do that again, sweetie, or I'll have to tell your mum," will do the trick to rein in little rioters.
3. Apply Discipline When Necessary, React When Appropriate
What is the difference between the two?
Discipline includes the application of consequences for certain actions – for example, a time-out. But giving another person's child a time-out might not be appropriate if they do not use it as a form of discipline themselves.
In this case, you could simply react. How? Let the child know how you feel about their action.
If a child accidentally hits you on the arm, tell them how you feel. An example reply will be, “Ouch, that is painful, it makes me sad and it hurts when you do that.” More often than not, you will get an apology and the child will not repeat the behaviour.
This is also an excellent way of tapping children's power of thinking and teaching them values such as empathy and respect.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Eating chocolate before their main meal might be a big no-no for your own kids. But if you're hosting a playdate and you catch someone else's kids stuffing their mouth with sweets before lunch-time, you might want to take a deep breath and let it go.
Expecting perfection from another person's child will just cause both of you emotional distress, especially since "perfection" is subjective to each person. However, you can mention this to the kids' parents later: "Hey, just letting you know that John really enjoyed the cake, so he might be a bit too full to eat his dinner later!"
But at the same time, it is your home and your rules should apply, even if you have to water them down. Again, speak to the kids parents before they leave their children with you and ask them if they are okay if you need to pull up their kids for whatever reason.
Remember: It is NEVER okay to hit another person's child, even if you believe in corporal punishment. Likewise, yelling at toddlers and kids is a big no, unless you shout to alert them of a dangerous situation they are running head-first in to.
Source: Psychology Today