Is it ever ok to discipline a stranger’s child?
This question has plagued me for months now. I still don’t know if I have a great answer, but I’m hoping getting it out and getting some feedback will help me wrap my head around it.
To clarify, by discipline, I simply mean with words…in a normal tone.
Two incidents have led me to ponder this question, and I’m sure there will be many more during my time as a mom.
Scenario #1: I took my kids to the park one beautiful fall afternoon. This park has two different size play areas…one for toddlers and one for bigger kids. My 2.5 year old twins were happily playing on the toddler size play area. Suddenly some bigger kids rode up on their bikes, hopped off, ran right past the big play area and stated running up the slides and all over the small play area.
What do I do in the situation? I calmly asked my children to come over to me and I took them over to the swings until the big kids left. What I wanted to do was tell the big kids to be careful and mindful of the smaller children and to consider playing on the more age appropriate play ground. I didn’t say anything because it was a public park and I wasn’t sure of “the rules” when it comes to other kids.
Scenario #2: We have a spot on the Boulevard at SMU where we gather with our friends before SMU home football games. We bring a small bounce house for our kids and our friends’ kids. Occasionally we get parents we don’t know come up and ask if their child can join in the bouncy fun for a few minutes. Yes, of course! Then sometimes we have people come up and put their kids in without asking, but we usually don’t say too much if there is room at the time. One time, a parent let his son get in the bounce house and left.
The child left with us was probably around 4 years old (I’m guessing…I’m really bad about that). At one point, I’m chatting with my friend and out of the corner of my eye I see a stream of liquid. The unknown little boy had pulled down his pants (to his ankles) and started relieving himself. My husband calmly (but very quickly) got up and walked to where the dad was hanging out. I just stood close to the unknown kid but didn’t say anything to him. I mean, I didn’t want him to turn in mid-stream and get me! Anyway, the dad came and got his son and made him apologize.
We had to take down the bounce house since it could have been contaminated and had to explain to all of our children that they were not in trouble but the bounce house got dirty and had to turn off. A while later, the mom of the little boy came down and thanked us for how we handled the situation with her son by not speaking to him directly. Then I started thinking about other possible scenarios. What if he started physically harming one of my children? That would have been a completely different story, but it got me thinking about what is appropriate and what isn’t when it comes to someone else’s child.
When I couldn’t come up with any firm answers, I consulted Google, naturally. The responses were all over the board from never ever reprimand someone else’s child to children sometimes react better and learn a lesson when a stranger explains it. I think it depends on the situation, age of the children involved, whether or not the parents are present, etc. Just one more learning curve on this crazy but wonderful journey!
Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments.