Disciplining Other People’s Children

Five Young Children sitting on a bench and smiling

We’ve all seen it. Experienced it. Sometimes painfully – a complete display of obnoxious behavior by someone else’s kid.

Maybe in a checkout line. Or the candy aisle. Or at a school event or party.

For most of us, it takes a lot of willpower to not take over and manage the situation. Divvy out some discipline. Give that child a piece of your mind.

Of course, you don’t. Because that would be inappropriate and awkward. There are boundaries to respect, after all.

However, there are two scenarios in which it is appropriate to intervene:

1. If the child is in danger

If a child is in immediate danger, then of course, you should intervene swiftly and without hesitation.

This applies to a child running into a street, playing with a dangerous object, or doing something that is unequivocally unsafe.

However, this doesn’t necessarily apply if a kid is extending himself on a playground—attempting physical challenges that some parents may deem unsafe. If the child’s parent is present and watching, then you can confidently default to their comfort level when it comes to their child’s acrobatic stunts.

2. If the child is under your “watch”

In this case, you must still act with extreme care.

In a situation where you are hosting a playdate or babysitting another child, here are a few ways to set yourself up for success…

  1. Define the perimeters. Ask the child’s parent to share any house rules THEY have for their children, and then ask how they’d like you to handle discipline if those rules are broken.

    Gauge the parent’s temperament on how they handle discipline. Naturally, if the other parent’s form of discipline is outside what you believe to be appropriate or respectful – keep to your Positive Parenting strategies.

  1. Talk with the kids about YOUR house rules and the consequences for not following the rules:

    • Example – When guest children are not playing gently with the toys: First remind all the kids what “gentle playing” looks
      like, then explain that if they can’t be gentle, they’ll lose the privilege to play with that toy.

    • Example – Hitting or fighting: After you calm the situation, brainstorm ways to peacefully resolve the problem. If the
      hitting or fighting continues, explain that the play date will then be over and they can try again another time.

  1. Gain agreement. Ask the children to repeat back the playdate rules and the consequences so everyone is on
    the same page.

  1. Stay calm and carry on. If things go south, respond calmly and focus on solutions to solve the problem.
    If you have to follow through with a previously revealed consequence, do so without frustration or lecturing.

  1. Communication is everything. If you do have to implement a consequence – share that with the other parent
    so she/he hears your version of the story.

Lastly, remember that when we see a child having a meltdown in the aisle or misbehaving, there’s probably a backstory we
don’t know. Maybe she’s overly tired or hungry or just having a bad day.

Just like we’ve had our “less than glowing” moments as parents, our own kids have probably shown their less than angelic
sides in public! Be kind in your comments about other children and encourage your kids to be as well. 

With your kids and others, keep the lines of communication open and set the boundaries that make sense for your family. When we lead by
example, good things happen!

Final Thoughts

I know it can be tricky when you’re navigating friendships with discipline, but the Positive Parenting strategies I teach are effective for all children and won’t leave a sour taste in another parents mouth if you do intervene.

If you’d like to learn more discipline strategies that actually work I’d love for you to JOIN ME FOR A FREE ONLINE CLASS at a time that’s convenient for you.

I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen without yelling or losing control.

As always, we’re wishing you all the best on your parenting journey and we are here for you when you need us!

Title image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock https://www.shutterstock.com/photos

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.