We’ve all been around a “That kid”. “That kid” that refuses to take turns. “That kid” who is being a bully. “That kid” who is being rude… “That kid” who…. well to be completely honest is just pissing us (and our kid) off- but it’s not your kid. So what do you do?
The Mama (and Papa) Bear in us of course wants to protect our cubs. It’s normal, instinctive even- but disciplining other people’s children is a slippery slope my friends. A slope so slippery, that I flat out steer clear of it for the most part. If the parent is not around to correct their child, or just doesn’t care (because you know, there’s always those types too) I simply remove my child from the situation.
However, there are other parents who feel much more comfortable with said slope and do not give thought before reacting- and well, *that* pisses me off more than “That kid”.
After the kids had their fun playing, we gathered around for the ritual adrenaline detox that we parents like to call pizza and cake. This time is an essential 20 minutes for these wee little ones who have just spent the last 45 minutes jumping around and bouncing off walls (sometimes literally) to come down from the high. They’re excited, chatty, and quite honestly only agreeing to eat the pizza in hopes that when they’re done they can just go back to play.
During this particular detox, sitting next to my daughter was a cute little boy about 5 years old. I am not sure exactly what happened (nothing enough to pull my eye) but the next thing I know that cute little boy was being reprimanded by a very angry father of the child sitting across from him-
Lunging over the table, finger pointing in this child’s face, speaking in his best “I’m trying not to make a scene” voice he sternly said to the boy-
“Stop kicking her chair! You are going to knock her over… Do you hear me? Just stop kicking her chair! Because … if you don’t… (frustrated pause)… I am going to be VERY . VERY . Angry.”
It was his tone. It was his finger waving. It was his implied threat. And worse- it was his dagger stare that lingered as if to say “meet me in the school yard at 3 o’clock”.
The child seemed to just look at the man. No cries. No look around for his Mom. Nothing. For a split second I thought, maybe it’s his kid. And then the woman next to me quietly stepped forward and whispered something in the child’s ear and stepped back. It wasn’t his kid. He didn’t even know him.
I cannot tell you the level of discomfort, heart break and fury I felt all at once for this mother. Because worse than having “that kid” is having to be that parent who is so taken back by another adults behavior that they don’t even know how to react. I know because we experienced a similar situation when our son was four that left our son in hysterics and my usually cool calm and collective husband freaking out on another parent.
Listen, kids push the limits. It’s kind of their job. And we parents are only human- we get frustrated. I’ve BEEN THERE! But its important to think before we react because lashing out on another persons child is only making the worst of an already uncomfortable situation. It has the potential to turn an issue between children into an issue between adults– and that just benefits no one.
I came across a great article in parenting magazine that addresses the issue of deciding how to handle these types of situations.
You can read the full article here, but here are my top 3 favorite tips–
- Tread lightly. Don’t ever spank or yell, even if the child does something dangerous or destructive. Your goal is to correct his behavior, not to punish him.
- Let the little things go. If a child knocks down a block tower or doesn’t say thank you for the homemade cookies and lemonade you made, don’t correct him. Remember: Every parent has a different set of expectations about acceptable behavior.
- Don’t embarrass her. Never discipline a child in front of her friends. Address her as part of a group: “I can see everyone’s tired of playing this game. Let’s all take a break and sit down for a snack.”
- Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Parents magazine
What are your thoughts on disciplining other people’s kids? Do you do it?
Have you ever witnessed or been in a situation like this? How have you handled it?