It’s Not Your Job To Discipline Someone Else’s Kid
Kids are precious, which is why it’s so insanely difficult to let them go out and explore the world, knowing they’re going to encounter things and people that can hurt them. The first few times you take a child to a park or a kids’ museum are downright nerve-wracking. You feel responsible for every mishap and ragey whenever someone bumps into them or takes a toy they were using. It’s tempting to go all “mama bear” but we have to let our kids learn to stand on their own.
I came across a thread on Reddit recently where a parent asked what the protocol is for disciplining other people’s kids. Her reasoning was that it’s not her job, but other parents are so nonchalant these days that she’s often forced to step in for her child’s sake. User Boo-Wendy-Boooo writes:
“More often than not I find myself using the same stern, slightly louder tone of voice that I use with my own son at home… I imagine it comes across as a little primitive and harsh to other parents, and I don’t doubt they get offended when I reprimand their kid. We’re all very protective of our
lovely little angelsangel-faced hell spawns. But, it makes my blood boil when a kid throws sand in my son’s face and the mother just calmly says ‘Don’t do thaaat. That’s not niiice…’ just to see the child then hit my son with a stick out of frustration. This time met with nothing but a tired ‘Jacksoooon…'”
I can understand this parent’s frustration, but having been on both sides of the equation, I’m not sure reprimanding someone else’s kid is always the best move.
I remember the first time someone hurt my daughter out in public. She was about 2.5 years old and we were at our local children’s museum. An older boy who was maybe six or seven ran up out of no where, pushed her down for no reason at all, and laughed. It was so needlessly mean and she looked so genuinely shaken that I couldn’t help myself. I snapped at him, “What are you doing? Go get your mother!” His mother made him apologize and I walked around butthurt about it for another 20 minutes.
It’s not easy to watch someone purposely go after your kid, but situations like that are actually pretty rare — at least when they’re young and bullying isn’t a huge issue yet. More likely you’ll encounter the normal sort of playground arguments that lead overzealous parents to step in when, really, it’s better to just let the kids handle it. A kid throwing sand is obnoxious, and if he follows your child around and repeatedly wallops him with sand, then yes, step in. Otherwise, let your kid assess the situation and decide when it’s time to move away or ask for help.
You don’t know that another parent is being nonchalant just because they don’t parent the way you do, and in constantly stepping in just because someone is doing something obnoxious, you’re not giving your own child the opportunity to learn how to cope with difficult behavior or set boundaries for how much of it they’re willing to take. If your kid is in imminent danger, by all means, do whatever you have to do to keep them safe. But, if they’re involved in a harmless playground scuffle, step back and watch them work it out. You might be surprised.