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Why It's OK to Discipline Other People's Kids

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Guest blogger Jill Simonian: For those of you freaking out about the title of this blog, let me clarify: I'm talking about VERBAL discipline. And I very well might eat my philosophy once my precious little newborn turns into a toddler. But as a brand-new, first-time mom, I've suddenly developed beliefs about why it's important and necessary to take an active role in saying "no," "stop it" and anything else you deem appropriate to the misbehaving spawn of your circle of friends.

kid being disciplined
Over the course of three childfree years of dating and marrying my hubby, I silently endured unacceptable behavior from some of our friends' and relatives' kids. I've dined in fine restaurants while the adorable rugrats ran circles around us adults and played hide-and-seek under our table, tripping the staff and patrons while crawling all over my new shoes. I've repeatedly witnessed one toddler punching his buddy in the face, to the point that the victim winces in anticipation every time the two get close. I've snottily been told, "Can't you ask someone else?" by one of my favorite 6-year-old girls when I politely asked her to help me distribute birthday cake slices at a party. Sure, I probably did these things when I was a tot, but I got in trouble. In my experience, the parents see their children's behavior firsthand and do not make a single effort to remedy the issues as they arise.

I'm not suggesting stifling kids with antiquated rules, but what ever happened to appropriate parenting? Now that I have the clout of being a mom, I'm sick of pretending that their kids' wild behavior is OK because "they're kids." It's NOT. I didn't grow up in a world where my parents allowed me to run amok, and I'll be damned if I'm going to raise my little girl as a self-centered brat who doesn't respect others or understand the meaning of the word "no."

I respect that each parent disciplines differently, but some of these kids desperately need to be put in check. Here's why I haven't been shy about expressing my opinions to the parties that cross me.

THE KIDS SHOULD KNOW YOUR RULES. For the good of our social structure, kids should learn what is respectful behavior towards adults outside their home. What might be acceptable with their parents might not be OK with you at your house. I've had plates broken and beautiful cakes smashed by dirty little fingers because I assumed the parents would see their kids' behavior and prevent disaster from happening in my home. Wrong. Be assertive for the sake of your own personal property (and sanity), and it might rub off on the kids. You soon might become the only adult that they listen to ... at least, that's what's happening with me.

THEIR PARENTS SHOULD KNOW YOUR RULES. This is just a respect-for-your-fellow-adults thing. If you reasonably take charge when absolutely warranted, maybe their parents will get a clue? They might realize that you don't tolerate out-of-control nonsense, and make an attempt to enforce some of your rules -- when in your home -- out of sheer embarrassment. If they get angry, well, that's an adult-to-adult conflict that must be dealt with sooner rather than later. Nip the bad behavior in the bud while the kids are young (age 2) to prevent larger falling-outs with their parents in the future. (Otherwise, the problems might only get worse as your kids grow up together and reckless behavior becomes potentially dangerous.) Best-case scenario? Their parents might thank you for having the gusto to teach their kids some basic manners. Again, that's what's happening with me.

YOU NEED TO PRACTICE YOUR RULES. I've heard that one of the hardest parts about parenting is following through with discipline. Some say they feel guilty about being a "Mean Mommy," and that it breaks their hearts to see their wee ones unhappy with punishment. Who exactly is in charge here? Since I was raised in a household with consequences, I figure there's no harm in testing my skills on a modified scale. I'm currently finding that the afore-mentioned "punching toddler" responds best when I stop him in his tracks (yes, in front of his parents), bend down six inches from his face, look him square in the eyes, point my finger and firmly say "NO" in a loud, intimidating way (as opposed to his parents yelling "No, honey" from the couch across the room while the other kid is getting pummelled in the face). True, the little offender pouts and screams at me, but he always stops beating his friend. His glares initially devastated me, but now I've developed a tough skin. You must build up your disciplinary confidence for correcting your own child's bad behavior when it's time. I'm hoping that my assertiveness also deters Mr. Punchy from picking on my baby in the future!

DISCLAIMER: This philosophy is currently my experiment, and takes shameless guts. You might also feel like a real bitch for a brief time. However, from what I've found, the kids will adjust and their parents might even grow to respect you more (even if they talk a little smack about you behind your back at first). Fear not: It's for the greater good. Stand your ground. I have done this, and so can you.  Who's with me?


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29 comments so far | Post a comment now
StaciO December 13, 2010, 4:47 AM

In my group of friends our kids are not surprised to have more than one set of parents. If any of our kids are misbehaving then who ever is the closest will stop the bad behavior. We don’t physically discipline them though, if that was needed we would take the child to their real parent and have them tell what they were doing. I believe it does take a village and have surrounded myself with people I trust to help and be helped. This love extends to supporting the kids by going to each others games or concerts when we can. We may occasionally discipline each others kids but we also are one of their biggest fans in other situations.

Jeff S December 13, 2010, 5:42 AM

I totally agree with discipling other children in my home. If my child is at a family/friends house, then it is their parent’s rules and I expect them to be on their very best behaviour. I don’t want them breaking things or crawling all over furniture. It is not allowed at my house, so why would I expect anything different when they visit. And if they act up, then it needs to be dealt with then.

But on the same note, if my child has friends over, then I expect the same respect from the other parent’s. Even if they are not present. My house, my rules…simple as that. But I believe the parent’s need to be able to try and deal with it first. If that doesn’t work, then home parent can step in to deal with it.

Celia December 14, 2010, 11:15 AM

In psych class, we learn that children don’t listen to what other people have to say unless they have trust in thwm. So if a parent’s friend reprimands them, they’re not getting anything out of it. It is counterproductive. Most children will not really learn from it unless they know the person has authority over them. It would be more effective if the parent tells the child beforehand “Listen to what ‘this person’ tells you” then we might have something. That’s basically obtaining permission. The blog shouldn’t encourage people discipling so freely, instead it should address parents being more mindful and take part in the rules. I think it should encourage people to seek the parents to “lay down the rules” as she mentions. But that must come first. Otherwise we’ll be dealing with more issues after the fact. There’s no point in creating one problem trying to correct another.

Jennifer December 15, 2010, 10:39 AM

Go to jail b/c of slapping child’s hand? LOL!! Did you not read the other story on ML where a 19 yr old might get 4 whole years for driving over a man and killing him? Get real. I totally agree with everything KS said.

Tracy December 15, 2010, 3:05 PM

KS, you’re not very astute r u? Never said you’d end up in jail. Re-read if ya have to. And yes lots of people make unnecessary ignorant comments & are incapable of seeing past superficialities. What world do u live in?? U must be living in a bubble. Not sure where u come up with half the crap u commented, but no I don’t believe discipline is abuse. Did u not get the part about me working for SS. I get to see the worst of the worst. Sometimes I’m a little desensitized. I know what inappropriate is. This day & age u can’t go around slapping people’s kids or telling them what u want just bcuz u feel that’s what works. We have to be respectful. If that sounds extreme to u, then can’t help ya there!

To Teacher: you’re a moron! Why would I keep my child from being out in public?? Is that what u teach ur students? “If facing adversity, hide!” How effective of u! We can’t escape morons in daily life…..teaching children how to deal with them is better than hiding dumba$$.

The hand slapping incident was obviously bad enough for law enforcement to do something about it. My niece’s hand was bright red….u can imagine how hard the lady hit her….all for inserting a coin into a slot. The lady was biligerent towards my niece until I could stop it, then she was going off on me. She seemed to be on drugs. Lest we forget my niece was only 5, she was mortified. If it was your 5 yr old, I would hope u would do something about it. And if u wouldn’t then I feel sorry for your kids. We’re hear to protect our children. it’s no wonder some kids are taken advantage of. They have parents like u who think it’s ok for strangers to do what they will and have no protection.

If u don’t like children, don’t be around them! Stop complaining about it!

Tracy December 15, 2010, 3:21 PM

KS, you’re not very astute r u? Never said you’d end up in jail. Re-read if ya have to. And yes lots of people make unnecessary ignorant comments & are incapable of seeing past superficialities. What world do u live in?? U must be living in a bubble. Not sure where u come up with half the crap u commented, but no I don’t believe discipline is abuse. Did u not get the part about me working for SS. I get to see the worst of the worst. Sometimes I’m a little desensitized. I know what inappropriate is. This day & age u can’t go around slapping people’s kids or telling them what u want just bcuz u feel that’s what works. We have to be respectful. If that sounds extreme to u, then can’t help ya there!

To Teacher: you’re a moron! Why would I keep my child from being out in public?? Is that what u teach ur students? “If facing adversity, hide!” How effective of u! We can’t escape morons in daily life…..teaching children how to deal with them is better than hiding dumba$$.

The hand slapping incident was obviously bad enough for law enforcement to do something about it. My niece’s hand was bright red….u can imagine how hard the lady hit her….all for inserting a coin into a slot. The lady was biligerent towards my niece until I could stop it, then she was going off on me. She seemed to be on drugs. Lest we forget my niece was only 5, she was mortified. If it was your 5 yr old, I would hope u would do something about it. And if u wouldn’t then I feel sorry for your kids. We’re hear to protect our children. it’s no wonder some kids are taken advantage of. They have parents like u who think it’s ok for strangers to do what they will and have no protection.

If u don’t like children, don’t be around them! Stop complaining about it!

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Layla Macaraig March 29, 2011, 4:30 PM

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sara hull April 4, 2011, 8:03 AM

I disagree with you because, YES I do have friends who have children that needed to be diciplined and if I was to say something to them its not like its gonna stick and they would change I would talk to their parents and give them my opinion and what would help!! I think your opnions in these blogs are too opinionated and are youa DR. or something that specializes in psychiatry???


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