When is it ok for you to discipline someone else’s child?

Is it ever ok to discipline someone else's child? What are the boundaries?

If you encounter plenty of kids on a regular basis, you’ll likely come across bad behavior that’d make you want to intervene. But the reality is, we can’t just step in and start disciplining other people’s children—how would you feel if a complete stranger went up to your child and started scolding them?

So what you should do when you see a playground bully messing around with your child? Alan Kazdin, author of The Everyday Parenting Toolkit, told Fatherly that there are only two situations when you can intervene with someone else’s child:

(1) When someone’s life is in danger.
(2) If you know the child and the parent well, and the guidance you’re offering is very minor.

discipline someone else's child

Photo: Shutterstock

Kazdin’s advice is wise—after all, we can’t just go out and discipline every single child we see misbehaving, or we’d make enemies everywhere we go. If we’re never going to see a child again or if the offense is just minor, you can let things slide. But what should we do when the child is a guest at your home? It varies from situation to situation, but here are some helpful rules to help you along, compiled from Parents and Metro Parent.

6 Guidelines to follow when disciplining other people’s kids

1. Don’t lose your cool

Even if the child does something dangerous or destructive, don’t ever spank or yell. Correct his behavior calmly, but don’t punish.

2. Agree on consequences beforehand

If you’re going to be in charge of someone else’s kid, talk to the parent first about the rules and discipline strategies beforehand.

Read more tips on disciplining other people’s kids on the next page.

3. Set the ground rules

If you don’t tell a child the house rules, how can she follow them? Take some time to tell her the rules so she knows the boundaries.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff

You don’t step in if a child just offends you a little bit—if they don’t say please or thank you or if they make a mess, for example. Pick your battles.

discipline someone else's child

Photo: Shutterstock

5. Don’t single out a child

Disciplining a child in front of his friends will only embarrass him. Instead, you can redirect the entire group’s energies by suggesting another activity or letting them take a break.

6. ‘Fess up

If you ever lose your temper and speak sharply to another child, call up the child’s parent and explain your side of the story. It’s best that they hear it from you first. You’d probably even get some sympathy.

READ: “You have 5 minutes to discipline your child or I will do it,” cafe owner tells parents

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