Disciplining Someone Else’s Child

This past summer, a group of us moms and kids were at the beach. As I was chatting away (what’s new), my friend politely turned to me and asked, “Is it okay if I ask him to stop?” I bolted up (as fast a someone preggers with twins can) from my beach chair, turned around and saw that my son was throwing sand at her daughter!!!! “Yes!” I answered but was on it before she had to be. This situation got me thinking how tricky it can be when someone else’s child (in this instance MINE) is misbehaving. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if she had asked my son to stop, but I have definitely witnessed times where a mom actually did care. It’s a sensitive subject and one Breezy Mama turned to Emma Jenner, a child development and behavioral specialist and star of popular TLC series Take Home Nanny, to get the best advice on how to discipline someone else’s child whether it be anywhere from the stranger at the park or to a playdate gone bad.

Should a mom step in if a child hurts or is hurting her child, even if the aggressive child’s mom is sitting right there?

Absolutely. Wait to see if the aggressive child’s mum is going to do anything, if not you should definitely intervene.

How should she go about it?

Depending on what they’re doing, try to redirect the child. Or say “No thank you, that doesn’t feel good, it’s hurting him/her”, you can also say, “arms are for hugging not for hitting, hitting hurts”. But say it in a pleasant way so no-one gets offended.

When is it NOT appropriate to say something to another person’s child?
If the parent is trying to discipline their child it is not appropriate for you to say anything. You must let the parent handle it as they see fit and you shouldn’t get involved.

When is it okay to say something to the mother if she is neglecting to see her child is consistently hurting other kids?

When you first realize it, the sooner the better!

What are the steps for approaching her?

I don’t think any parent intentionally lets their child run around hurting other children. However, parents are often distracted, too tired or unfortunately turn a blind eye. Speak to the parent away from the children. Think about the tone and words you use. Don’t be accusatory, state it as more of an observation. “I’ve noticed your child is having a hard time playing with the other children”. That should open up a dialect, show you relate and sympathize to the situation. You can even say that your child went through a similar phase and it was difficult. Suggest methods or books that you’ve used that helped you.

What is the best approach for disciplining or correcting or stopping behavior of someone else’s kid?

Establish with that child what is and isn’t acceptable while in your company and in your home where your rules apply. Redirection is always a good method for every child. Encourage the child to make a better choice and model a desired behavior.

When you are with someone else’s child and they are not present, what is the best way to handle disciplining them if they were to do something?

As I said above for question 6, always try redirection first. There are boundaries when disciplining other people’s children and you should be careful not to overstep them. Depending on the age of the child and what they have done feel free to take something away, cancel the special outing that afternoon, separate them. Pretty much as you would your own child. I think it’s helpful to take into consideration how you would like your child to be disciplined by another parent in your absence.

If you catch another child doing something wrong, should you tell his/her mom about it?

I think it depends what it is. If it’s something minor and you’ve already told them off for it then there’s really no need. If it’s something more serious then absolutely, the parent should be informed and made aware of their child’s wrong doing. This will help them to keep it under control and correct it.

If your child keeps coming up to you and telling you another child is doing something wrong, but their mom isn’t doing anything to stop it, should you go talk to the child or ask the mom to talk to the child?

Depending on what the other child was doing, I would be inclined to tell my child to stop telling tales and have them work through it on their own. Children need to learn how to resolve conflict. However, if it became a real problem I would ask both children what was going on. Get both sides of the story, ask the children to share, play nicely and remind them what’s acceptable and what’s not. If it continued I would try to redirect them and ask the mom to talk to their child.

If you’re hosting a playdate at your house, and a child is breaking your rules (i.e. jumping on the bed), but doesn’t stop when their mom tells them to, is it okay for you to give them repercussions if they don’t stop?

Yes, it’s your house and it’s perfectly okay. Say “we don’t jump on beds in our house, now please get down.” Try to redirect them into playing something else. If all else fails say, “If you can’t listen we will have to end the playdate and you will have to go home”. It’s not fair for your child to see another child get away with things in their house that they wouldn’t be able to do themselves. If the child’s parent is offended then she and her child probably aren’t the right influence you want for your family.

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About Emma Jenner

Emma Jenner, a child development and behavioral specialist, was raised in Oxford, England until the age of 12 then proceeded to live in various parts of the world including Germany and Cyprus before returning to England where she specialized in childcare at Salisbury College.

Emma first worked as a nursery school teacher. Her love of children, of all ages, led her to a career as a professional nanny and baby nurse for over a decade. During this time, Emma worked with a variety of high profile and celebrity families.

An entrepreneur, Emma founded a sleep consulting business and a nanny-training academy in the Los Angeles area. She was also the star of the popular TLC series Take Home Nanny, where she worked closely with parents to give them the tools necessary to allow them to regain control of family chaos.

For more information on Emma, visit: www.emmaschildren.com — click here!

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  1. great article and one i feel every parent needs to read…i know i don’t always see what my child is doing and i hope my mom friends are respectful and caring enough to let me know if my, or their, child is misbehaving.

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