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Disciplining Someone Else's Kid

Scene No. 1: The end of a celebration dinner with good friends. Two best friend 4-year-olds, mine and our friends' son, run around the restaurant. I round them up and make them sit against the wall, refusing to let them get up. I talk with them about how the other people in the restaurant do NOT want little boys disturbing their nice dinners.

Scene No. 2: Out for a day of fun in the snow with me as the parent-in-charge. The same friends' 4-year-old won't listen about not eating extraordinarily filthy snow. Sit him away from the fun for a few minutes for not listening.

Usually, I'm not in the habit of disciplining other people's children. Sure, I'd jump in if I saw a child in real danger without a parent or caregiver in sight. And once, I told a child at a day care not to hit when she smacked my son. But beyond that, my discipline has focused on two very important children -- mine.

Frankly, the whole situation has started me thinking: When is it okay to punish someone else's kid?

In Britain this month, politician David Cameron made news by saying that adults in the country need to enforce social norms on children in public who are not following the rules. "We need adults to feel able to exert authority over, and to show compassion towards, other people's children," Cameron said.

That's what a stranger did for me once, for which I was thankful at the time. One of my sons, then a preschooler, was in danger of running onto a busy street and wasn't responding to my yells to stop. A stranger -- clearly someone who'd been there -- yelled his name as I'd been doing. My son stopped instantly, looking around for the strange voice. And that gave me just enough time to capture him and sit him down for a choicely-worded mommy chat.

Have you ever disciplined someone else's child or had your child punished by another parent, either friend or stranger? When is it okay and when should other adults keep their mouths shut?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Discipline
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I mostly see parents step in to straighten out other parents. Often the issue is over something trivial and they had no business interfering. Almost always the bigger problem is pompous self-righteous bullies. Society does not like activity and children need to be active or they will become unhealthy. For this reason I totally disagree with disciplining other people's children. What we need instead is better communicated rules when we recognize where problems tend to occur. Leaving rules to chance is a recipe for chaos.

BTW warning a child of danger or preventing an accident is not discipline.

Posted by: Sharon Phillips | February 22, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I have, and I will, discipline another child if I know them and their mother, and it goes both ways. This really falls into the rules/scenarios as described in the blog; that is to say, I will freely use a time-out if it is warranted, or I will shout (across a distance) at a child to get their attention. If a situation requires more than a time-out in my book, I'll administer the time-out and the rest is up to the other parent.

My kids and I are close to another mother with two children of the same age (3, 18 mos.) and we spent countless hours last summer at a playground together. Often one of us ended up on one end of the area with the older kids and the other had the younger two, and these rules applied.

Of course, if I were the closest adult to a dangerous or safety-situation (such as a child running away from a parent and in to the street), I'd step in to help until the parent had a chance to catch up.

Posted by: harerin | February 22, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

I recently had a friend over with her 3 year old daughter. When my friend and I are chatting, my friend seems to be completely unaware of her daughter's calling out for her to meet some request. This inevitiably escalates into blood curdling screams- probably just another tactic to get mom's attention. This happens on more than one occasion, where it's as if my friend doesn't even hear her child -like the mute button is pressed on her brain to receive any external intrusions while she's conversing. By the time the screams start, she answers the child in a nurturing tone.."What is it sweetie?" The last time it happened, instead of waiting for my friend to respond to her daughter, I excused myself from the conversation and went over to see what I could do for her child. I'm not sure if this falls into the category of discipline, but I am often amazed when parents don't notice their children screaming, jumping on other people's sofa's, etc. My basic rule now is that if it's in my house and the behavior violates a rule that we have for our own children, I speak up.

Posted by: Mom From Chantilly | February 22, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

My youngest son is mildly autistic. You wouldn't BELIEVE the number of people, it is worst with old people, who see fit to say or do horrible things to me or my child. I have several times had people tell me that I need to "get control of that child" - and my son is not running around a restaurant. He's humming, or screeching a little and flapping his hands in line at the grocery store. How, exactly, is this a top-level problem for people? If people start enforcing their precious social norms even more, and what we're discussing here is just behavior that is atypical (which people find highly troubling, even outrageous, although it is neither dangerous nor harmful).

IMHO, as a person who has been there, keep your big fat mouth shut. If you don't know the situation, don't stick your two cents in. Sure, absolutely - children that you know, put them in time out. I've also Caught people's kids from falling, running off, various things. These are acts of love for the child, and don't make a judgment on the parent. They seek to help.

But use this test: is what I'm about to say judgmental and implies not that I care about what becomes of this child, but that I have contempt for this child or his/her mother? Put a sock in it.

And yes, I feel viscerally about this. A lot of mothers in this situation do.

Posted by: Bad Mommy | February 22, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Another "Autism" day in the making...

Posted by: Jake | February 22, 2008 8:19 AM | Report abuse

i agree that protecting another child from harm doesn't constitute discipline. and when i'm with children i know well and whose mothers i know, i feel pretty free to enforce rules as i would with my own kids, though maybe not quite as forcefully or authoritatively.

one thing i think has been good for my daughter has been her enrollment at a co-operative preschool where her classmates' parents participate in the daily instruction. a side benefit of that set-up is that it puts the kids into a setting where EVERY adult is an authority, not just the teachers, and in that way it helps teach the kids to accept correction from lots of different sources, not just mom & dad or teacher.

since i moved to fairfax county i've noticed how differently people from other cultures interact with other people's children. i've had experiences with latinos, middle easterners, and chinese people who were much freer and friendlier with my kids than i'm accustomed to, and it has made me think about what i'm used to. i think we treat other people's children with such deference in this country it's a little ridiculous; we're so afraid of offending another parent, or frightening them, that we tend to treat the kids as if they're untouchable. in fact, they're little people learning how to live in this world, and the more help they get in learning, the better.

Posted by: Vikki Engle | February 22, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Bad Mommy - I feel for you, I really do. Keep standing your ground with rude adults (who, if they followed their own freakin' advice, would know better). I suggest using the all-situation-appropriate-Haxian "Wow..." when someone you don't know butts in with unwanted advice.

I've also had a fantasy about printing up little cards to hand out that say "Thank you for minding your own business." Why not come up with something like "You'd like to pay for my child's behavioral therapy? That is so generous of you! I accept check, Visa, MAsterCard..." It'll shut them up, fast.

Posted by: harerin | February 22, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

As a teacher I am constantly called upon to discipline! The comments thus far reflect the fact that there are numerous levels of discipline and numerous situations in which it is required. What I see as a disturbing trend are the absent parents who don't dicipline. I have had to discipline both parent and student on field trips!!!! Appropriate behavior needs to be modeled for everyone. There is no right answer on this! My sister and mother are in fact disputing over this very topic and my sister has told Grandma that she is not allowed to discipline her Grandchildren!!!! In my view it takes a village to raise a child! Therefore, the more help the better.

Posted by: Teacher Talks | February 22, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I had an incident at Disney World last year where a little girl around 3 years old was jumping into me while I was standing in line with my own 3 year old for one of the rides. The first time, I just figured I got bumped. That happens when you are in line sometimes. No big deal. The second time I looked behind me and the father grabbed hold of the little girl and said he was sorry. I said, "Not a problem." After the fifth time, I turned around and bent down and said in a friendly but stern voice, "You need to stop that now." The father apologized and I said, "Not a problem. It's hard for kids to stand in line for a long time." I thought that was the end of it. About an hour later, as we were coming out of another area of the park, a woman comes up to me and says, "My daughter bumped into you while in line for the ride." I again said, "Not a problem. I have a 3 year old and it's not easy for them to stand in line for a long time. Don't worry about it." She then said to me "I was appalled that you would talk to my child like that. My husband said you were very mean to our daughter." Mind you, the mother was standing there in line with them as well. I told her that after the fifth time that her daughter jumped into me (pretty strongly--enough to move me a step or two) without them doing anything about it, I took it upon myself to speak to the little girl and I did it in a friendly, but stern, tone--and the behavior stopped. She actually tried to make it my fault that because she has a three year old daughter, an 18 month old, and is pregnant with another, and I ONLY HAVE ONE CHILD TO WATCH, that I should not have said anything at all to her child. My son was standing in line patiently (softly singing "I'm a little tea pot") holding my hand and not disturbing anyone. She then pushed me and my husband stepped in, as did hers as he was trying to pull her way and telling her to "shut your mouth." We laugh about me almost duking it out with a prenant lady at Disney now, but at the time it was quite upsetting.

Posted by: Arlington | February 22, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Generally speaking, I believe it's appropriate to discipline an unrelated child when the concept of In Loco Parentis applies. If you are a designated authority figure (hosting a playdate, a chaperone on an outing) it is not only permissible, it's required. If there is imminent danger, it's also required. If a child is being disruptive and there's no clear guardian around, an intervention may also be necessary (although not necessarily in the form of "discipline" -- usually just any attention will settle the child down.) I don't want to see this discussion digress in the autism battle, but I don't think it's *ever* OK or even effective to tell another parent to "get control of your child." That said, if a child has limitations, he has limitations and should put into a situation where there is a high probability that the child will behave in ways that are inappropriate (i.e., screaming babies at a wedding, a child with Tourettes in a library) with the indignant posture that everyone else should just tolerate the behavior simply because the child has special needs.

Posted by: Dad of Kids from A-Z | February 22, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

My sister lives in a wonderful townhouse neighborhood in Fairfax where all of the parents discipline each other's children and keep an eye on them when they are playing around the neighborhood. They all have an agreement that they can put any kid in timeout when needed and all of the kids know it. The parents regularly talk to each other and let each other know if they see the kids doing something they shouldn't be, or if they put one of the kids in timeout, or just had to have a talk with them. No one gets offended and all of the kids are pretty well behaved since they know that someone is always watching. It even came in handy when it was time for potty training. Any parent that saw "the look" would direct the kids to the nearest bathroom and give praise when they were finished. Many of the families have outgrown their townhouses, but no one wants to move out of the neighborhood. They've even gone househunting together to see if they can find affordable houses located in close proximity to each other so they can all stay together. It's a really wonderful environment. I wish I had that in my neighborhood!

Posted by: Fairfax County | February 22, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I agree that the adult in charge should discipline, and the owner of the home should where a child is visiting should explain the rules of the house and uphold them ("we don't run in the kitchen in our house"), but you should not discipline a child in their own home when the parent is present.

My sister, who has no children, does this all the time. There are things that she would handle differently than we do and it is NOT her place to enforce her standards on our children. An example is that we tell our children to stop a behavior and if they repeat it, we send them to time-out. My sister has told my children they need to go to time out without a verbal warning first, and has done this in front of us. She should not be disciplining our children while we are present. I would have no problem if she said "DS just did something? Do you want him in timeout?"

If they are visiting her and she chooses timeout without a warning, that's ok - just don't discipline while we are present = that's our job.

Posted by: lurker | February 22, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I have no problem with disciplining other children if i know them and their parents, nor do I have a problem with their disciplining mine. But norms sharply differ and that can be a real problem. A year ago my 6 year old daughter was at a friend's house and they were horsing around where they shouldn't have been, and broke a pretty valuable lamp. Her friend's mom spanked both of them in a very humiliating way. I have never laid a hand on my daughter and she was very confused and scared about what had happened. Obviously i was upset and I had every right to be. I almost called the police but a conversation with the family (during which the mother realized her mistake in not calling me or my wife before disciplining the children and was very remorseful, and apologized to my daughter and us) convinced me that it was a bad mistake of judgment that could be forgiven.

Posted by: Angry Dad | February 22, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Oh, please. I know there are rude people out there who offer their opinion in situations that are none of their business. Such folks interfere with innocuous child behaviour AND innocuous adult behaviour. Griping about rude folks allows the discussion to avoid the real question and, by the way, demonstrates why many of us childless folks think many parents need to get a grip.

Ya'll can jump my case for the rest of the day, because I'm headed to work in a minute. But I am more interested in an answer to THIS question: should adults other than parents discipline a child WHO NEEDS DISCIPLINE. Not a child who is behaving in perfectly acceptable (to normal folks) child behaviour. Not a child who may be acting slightly diffently than others, but is not negatively impacting others. But children who are acting out in public. I am referring to: the child who has been kicking the back of my airplane seat for 10 minutes while the parent doesn't appear to notice; the child who is talking (loudly) with their parent for 10 minutes, directly behind my seat at a movie; the children who are playing tag in the grocery aisles while their parent shops elsewhere.

My first thought usually is that the parent needs some training in socially acceptable behaviour and to feel sorry for the children who have not received proper home training. After all, children who don't learn polite public behaviour often grow into tiresome adults. But as I get older, I feel very comfortable correcting a child who's poor behaviour is directly impacting me.

To the extent there is a distinction between "discipline" and "correction," perhaps I am talking about correction. I'm not going to take "action" against a child who continues to misbehave -- that's not my place. However I WILL correct other people's children when their behaviour affects me: I will tell kids at my house not to tease the dog or jump on the beds; I will tell a disruptive child at the movies that you are to be quiet at movies; I will tell the kid kicking my back on the plane to stop. And a if a parent wants me to "put a sock in it," all they have to do is AT LEAST TRY to get the child to behave.

Posted by: carolfb | February 22, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Arlington - I was threatened by a pregnant lady - with very foul language - in the Target parking lot. It had nothing to do with disciplining her child. I chalked it up to hormones and gave her a friendly gesture. I was just walking to my car and crossed the street to avoid another car backing out, which held her up for perhaps 10 seconds, and she completely lost it. It was bizarre.

I disciplined a 3 year old neighbor boy several years ago who was punching my son in the head repeatedly, he was very scared that I yelled at him. I immediately went to the parents and told them what happened and they didn't even care, their kids (3 of them) were very wild and played way too rough. One was a biter and they constantly had to be watched, so I didn't feel bad at all.

Otherwise in our neighborhood parents keep all the kids in check, reminders to keep it down, don't poke so-n-so with a stick, watch out for the little ones, etc. It is friendly and I invite it. We have some nice kids in the neighborhood (the wild ones moved) and now that our kids are older they don't need as much supervision. When they were younger it was really nice though.

I don't think I have ever disciplined a child at the grocery store, etc. I know I have seen some very obnoxious parents and children (apple and tree scenario) that I'd like to say something to, but I keep my mouth shut. I do compliment young ones when they are being good standing in line, positive reinforcement always worked with my kids. Telling kids that they are being patient, kind, fair, is something we do in the neighborhood too.

Posted by: cmac | February 22, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I don't have kids yet, but over the years I've had summer nanny jobs, and I'm always happy to babysit for friends' kids. Last summer, while at the playground with a friend and his 2 year old twins, an older boy, maybe 7 or 8, pushed one of the little ones purposefully, knocking him down, because the 2 year old was blocking access to the bridge. I don't know if it was discpline, but I did tell the older child that pushing other children isn't very nice, and he could have started by asking the toddler to move. The kid's mother responded to the baby's crying, and took her child to a bench for a brief conversation. Frankly, I was glad I was there to comfort/catch the 2 year old, and I was glad to see that the mother responded. I don't know what she said to her son, but she didn't give me any dirty looks for reminding him that pushing is not appropriate behavior.

Posted by: JB in VA | February 22, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

My in-laws, who perhaps out of habit since their daughters won't discipline their own children but feel perfectly free to yell at others' kids, jumped at every opportunity to push DH and me out of the way to be the first to yell at our DD. They just didn't get that WE are the parents and will take care of discipline/correction, their actions undermined our authority and were frankly insulting since they did not appear to apply it to their other grandchildren (will concede that perhaps they do and we just don't see, but niece and nephew behavior tells me I don't want that kind of parenting from any in-law). Setting that boundary caused a huge fight in the family. But then these are people who don't get that it is unacceptable for them to smack or shake our children in anger and it borders on abuse that FIL cannot control himself when tickling the kids. First time someone set a boundary for them? Agree with other posters -- if it's life or limb, step in. But that's not discipline, that's protection.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I have a simple rule--if it directly affects me, I say something/discipline. For example, if a child is kicking me, I say something to the child, and if the parent apologizes rather than the kid, I tell the parent that they were not the one who kicked me, and I want an apology from the child.

If it is behavior in my house, then the child follows the rules of my house--again, it directly affects me.

Of course, this applies only if the parent is present. If I am the adult-in-charge, then that's it--I am in charge, the child will do as I say or be disciplined by me accordingly. To wait for the parent to do something destroys any authority I have over the child, who will then only begin to behave worse.

This is how I explain it--if your child throws something at me in your presence, I will say something, and expect an apology from the child. If your child throws something at someone else, it's not my problem.

Posted by: Direct Effect | February 22, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Thankfully this hasn't presented itself too many times, but since we're expecting our first in June, it will probably pop up a lot more. I've had to discipline a friend's child exactly once, and he deserved it.

Our friends were visiting and it happened to be over a holiday, so decorations were around. They had previously told us to remove all items within toddler reach because he likes to "explore".

Um, sure, if by "exploring" they meant "do whatever the heck he wants whenever he wants because we don't feel like actually watching our child." He picked up one of our decorations that was soft-plastic with a hard plastic bottom. That was fine, play away.

I was appalled when he began banging this item, as hard as he could, on the glass insert in our coffee table. This went on for what seemed like an eternity, with me shooting looks at our friends, who were sitting mere inches from their son.

It only stopped when my wife and I became concerned for the glass insert's well-being. We both very firmly told the kid to stop and I yanked the item out of his hand. He did not cry or even look upset. He simply moved on to one of his actual toys and sat there playing happily.

It was amazing to me that they were so complacent about their child's behavior, but they are apparently fine with that type of "exploring" and will not do anything about it.

At least at this juncture, my opinion on the matter is: If the actions a child is taking directly affect you, and the parents do nothing to stop the behavior, you would be within your rights to stop it yourself.

Posted by: J | February 22, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Addendum to my above post-- When I see my children's playmates misbehaving while with my children, it DOES directly affect me in the sense that my children are being exposed to bad behavior without discipline. If the misbehaving child is not reprimanded, it is tacit approval of that behavior to my own child. Again, "Direct Effect" applies, and I step in.

Posted by: Direct Effect | February 22, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

And yes, I feel viscerally about this. A lot of mothers in this situation do.

Posted by: Bad Mommy | February 22, 2008 08:11 AM

Have you thought about educating people who make comments? Instead of being so angry at your situation, perhaps you should turn the situation around and educate people who make comments. What, would it take 5 minutes out of your day?

Posted by: Wondering... | February 22, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

In my home, I will discipline a visiting child. If their parents are present I will say something such as "Can you let Johnny know in our house we don't jump on the furniture?" I have never had a problem with a parent failing to discipline after that. In public, I will not say anything unless the situation is dangerous or directly involves one of my children.

I do have a story about a day that I wish someone had intervened with my children. We had walked to the library which is about a 1/2 mile from us. I had the baby in a stroller and everyone else was holding hands. On the way back, a few blocks from home, one of my 3 year olds decided she was tired and sat down in the cross walk in the middle of a really busy intersection. She refused to get up. I could not pick her up and push the stroller at the same time (the bottom was full of books). Plenty of other people were crossing the street and watching this scene unfold. I was able to get the other children safely to the other side and run back and scoop her up. Several people commented on the obvious fact that I had my hands full. One woman even said, I remember how it hard it was was my 3 were that little and stubborn. It would have been great if someone had either scooped her up or grabbed the stroller to help me out. No one even suggested to her, as they stepped around her, that she might want to get up and out of the way of traffic! Thankfully we were all fine and a reinactment between playdoh people and some Tonka trucks had ceased all issues with crossing the street.

Posted by: Momof5 | February 22, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

If the child's behavior is merely annoying or just something I don't like (being loud, running, around, etc.), I say nothing. The minute it directly affects me (and the parent does not step in), I will say something to the child. The second that behavior becomes physical or nasty to my child, I will also say something. That is not something I will tolerate, ever.

As for keeping out of harm's way, I will intervene if necesary. That's not discipline, imo.

As for someone not happy with me doing either of the above, too bad. I would simply not indulge any sort of conversation or confrontation about whose business it is to disciline their child. Just is not going to happen.

Posted by: JenRS | February 22, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I have also had the situation where we have been out in a restaurant with our three year old and we have had a delightful time. I have had people stop by our table on their way out to compliment us and our son on his good behavior. That really meant a lot to us, and my son was very proud of himself. It really helped to reinforce the good behavior. I have since taken the time to do the same with other parents whether after disembarking from a long and crowded flight, or in a restaurant. It doesn't take any time at all, and it makes all of us feel good.

Posted by: Arlington | February 22, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Direct Effect, I agree completely, those are my policies too.

In particular, it amazes me that people are willing to let other people's kids run wild when they are visiting. My house, my rules.

Posted by: Lugo | February 22, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I have a question. One of my son's friends is a tattler and uses awful language to describe my son: "He ALWAYYYYYS never listens to the teacher." "He ALWAYYYYS gets in fights." While my son is not perfect, there are two kids with discipline problems visibly worse than him and from what I understand he's pretty much in the middle of behavior. I've told this kid that I do not want to hear any more tattling from him and that when we're in class, the teacher is in charge, not him, but he feels very self-righteous in doing so and won't STFU. How would you handle this?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the autism, a friend used to say, "My son has a medical issue, PLEASE!" And they usually left her alone.

I have no problem with other parents commenting, but I have a serious problem with childless people whining. If you don't have your own kids, you don't and won't understand, so keep it to yourself, period.

It was a hard concept for me to believe when I was childless, I thought parents who told me that were rude- of COURSE I understand what it's like to be a parent. Any childless person who thinks they understand, even a teacher, is a fool fooling themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

10:08: How old are these boys?

Posted by: Arlington | February 22, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

One thing on the flip side that I think is very important is to recognize good behavior in other children when you see it. Whenever I am in the presence of a well behaved child, I try to make sure I tell the parent and the child how nicely they behaved and that I appreciate that behavior. It makes the child feel good and lets them know that their efforts don't go unnoticed. You'd actually be amazed at the number of parents who can't take the compliment and use it as an opportunity to slam their kid's normally bad behavior. It is sad. I think we should be willing to praise as frequently as we criticize.

Posted by: Moxiemom | February 22, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I have enforced the "My House My Rules" dictum. After all, it is my home, and I have a clear right to control what happens there.

Outside the home is a little more tricky. AS a mom of now-grown children I would resent it if some busybody tried to "discipline" them if they were acting up (and I was dealing with them) in the supermarket.

On the other hand, I know what that Mom with kids in the stroller and one won't cross with the group went through. I have(as I suspect all moms have) been there.

Now the mom of college-age kids (joy!) I will not act unless I see the child is in danger (the person who called to the child is a saint or observe (more than a minute or two) that Mom is not watching. Other than that, I steer clear.

Posted by: donna | February 22, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"My son stopped instantly, looking around for the strange voice. And that gave me just enough time to capture him and sit him down for a choicely-worded mommy chat."

Huh? I did this when I was little and my mom beat mt butt. I never did it again.

On topic, I have had the opposite happen here in the Midwest, people correct me because I am making my kid behave. She's just a kid is really starting to get on my nerves.

Posted by: irishgirl | February 22, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I have no problem with someone disciplining my kids if they're acting up and I'm not there or oblivious, and I'll do the same. There are certain basic rules of civility that I expect my kids to learn (like not kicking the seat on an airplane), and if they're not following those basic rules, then then it seems to me that facing someone else's displeasure is a natural consequence. Now, if the adult is acting worse than my kid (yelling, threatening, getting physical), that wouldn't be any more acceptable than my kid's acting up. But something like a "please stop doing that" is perfectly fine -- heck, I'd encourage it. Of course, flip side is that I also appreciate the occasional "atta boys" like Moxie mentions -- it really puffs up my kids to see grownups notice their good behavior.

We've been lucky and not run into many of the nasty types. My most recent example is more of the "rescue" variety: Chick-fil-a, my husband and daughter go off to gymnastics, I let the 2-yr-old play in the play-place for a while longer before nap. At one point, he started coming to get me, so I went in to meet him. He asked me where his sister was; I said they left; and he immediately cut around me to leave, too. Unfortunately, there were others trying to get into the play area, so while the short one wiggled through, I was blocked. Within a bat of an eye, he was at the door to the parking lot, and I'm yelling and flailing and have that horrible realization that I Can't Get There. Suddenly, one of the dads who was trying to get into the play place realizes what's going on, turns around, and literally grabs my boy by the back of the jacket and holds him for the seemingly interminable 1.5 seconds it took me to get to him. I very, very gratefully said thank you.

Posted by: Laura | February 22, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes you really have no choice. I have noticed around here that lots of parents totally ignore their kids while on the playground, and the parents of bullies seem to be the worst culprits. My mother took my 2.5 year old to the park a few weeks ago and had to step in when a 5 year old girl actually walked up to my child and *threatened* her. The other mother was chatting with her friends, paying no attention. I have had to step in on occasion when older kids have tried to hit, kick, and throw things at my child, or tried to forbid her from playing on the equipment. The other parents just don't seem to care because their kids aren't on the receiving end of it.

Posted by: reston, va | February 22, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm a retired teacher - gray-haired and grumpy at times. I'm so used to disciplining other people's children that I am hyper-sensitive to saying anything when I see kids acting out although I do use "my teacher stare" a lot at parents. However, I don't want your child running around my table at a restaurant or ramming a grocery cart into me, and I will speak up.

I have to say, it was great fun the evening that we shared a restaurant with two families. It was 10:00 PM. One family was obviously enjoying being on vacation together. The kids were having fun learning how to eat lobster, and they behaved beautifully without being told. The other family was a train wreck. Mom and Dad were flustered and frazzled themselves by the behavior of their children. When my husband and I finished our dinner, I went over to the table where the calm, well-behaved children were having dinner and told them how much I had enjoyed sharing the restaurant with them that evening. The kids responded very well to the praise, and Mom and Dad were pleased. The mom from the other table actually followed me out to the sidewalk to tell me that it was "unfair" of me to compliment the other children and not hers. In my very best "you-have-to-be-kidding" teacher voice, I explained that I found no fault with her children, but rather with her as a parent. It was far too late to be feeding little ones dinner in a restaurant where a meal could easily take two hours to be served and eaten. My compliment to other children was that they had risen to an occasion beyond what should have been expected of children under 10.

My point is that if you don't want other people to think that you cannot control your own children, don't put your children in situations that demand more of them than children should be expected to be able to handle, and in situations where they should be able to handle it, discipline them yourself. I expect to be surrounded by children at a fast food hamburger joint, but it's the perfect place to begin to teach your child how to behave at the four star restaurant. Your child will not be scarred for life or have his creativity damaged by the expectation that behavior in public or in someone else's house is, perhaps, more restrictive that in his own home.

Posted by: misspeach200m | February 22, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

It takes a village. If we don't all chip in, to help all kids, how do we expect them to learn to behave in society?
And they can ask you if you agree with another adult's comments.

The flip side: a 6 year old told my friend friend yesterday that it was impolite to speak her own language to her kid. My friend was so shocked. And the kid's parents seemed to think it was OK....

Posted by: Toni | February 22, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I have corrected children's behavior when it directly affects me, or when the parents are clearly ignoring them. For a while I went to a laundromat where this was a persistent problem. I get it--that's a really boring place for a kid to spend time (it is for me, too, after all). But when one three- or four-year-old boy was throwing a small, hard ball against the glass doors repeatedly, and his mother was paying no attention to the behavior, I did calmly say, "You shouldn't do that because the glass might break." Then he threw the ball at me. I ignored him, since he clearly was looking for a reaction. At some point his mother came over and said, "Oh, don't throw that at the lady." Without looking up from my book, I said, "If he throws it at me again, I'm not giving it back." Her response? "Oh, he just wants to play with you!"

I do correct the behavior of my friend's daughter, but only when my friend is out of the room and her daughter thinks she can get away with something. However, I've spent a lot of time with them and know what my friend's rules are, and I never do that when my friend is present, because she's the parent. At one point I said, "Wow, I totally just disciplined your daughter. That was probably inappropriate," and my friend said, "You're fine. You know what's okay with us and what isn't."

I agree that if someone is the parent in charge, they're in charge.

Posted by: Kate | February 22, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I am a teacher and I am used to guiding children, so it is natural for me to speak up and say how something affects me. "Please don't do x. I'm concerned that y." or "Ouch. That hurt. Please stop." or whatever.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

They say it takes a village and this is one of those instances where that is the case.

I have actually had mothers tell me that they didn't feel comfortable with me disciplining their kids.

I told them flatly, "then either tell them to behave when I am in charge of them or don't have them come over to my home. If they cannot follow the rules, they don't need to be here anyways."

Posted by: shocked dad | February 22, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

When my DS goes to someone else's house to play, I make a point of telling the adult(s) in charge that they may discipline him as they see fit, and to please call me immediately if his presence becomes tiresome. I also make a point of having this conversation in front of DS.

Of course, I have to be reasonably sure that the adult is not nasty or abusive, and that DS knows he can call me at any time as well.

If have to speak to a kid in public, I always try to be direct but loving--to the kid and to the other parent. You never know what kinds of issues the kid has, or what kinds of stressors the family is facing. If you are dealing with strangers it is highly unfair to judge their entire character based on one bad moment. A little kindness can prevent people getting angry and defensive. Rightly or wrongly, many people get angry when they are embarrassed.

Posted by: Floomby | February 22, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

So what are we supposed to do when your kid is driving the rest of the world nuts? Smile, and say what a sweetheart your child is? I'm sick of parents ignoring their children's horrible behavior and inflicting the little monsters on the general public. I tend to glare at the parents a few times, but most don't care. When your kid is kicking my seat on a plane, or screaming in nice resturant, I understand it's hard to control the kid, but at least TRY.
When a kid is being a monster in public I don't blame the kid, I blame the parents. I won't discipline your kid, but I sure hope you do.

Posted by: annoyed non-parent | February 22, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

As a mother of a who small children who didn't have her first child until she was almost 40, I find the whole question a bit strange, as the world I grew up in was full of other mothers who acted as compassionate enforcers of the social order. I want my kids to realize that there are standards of behavior that EVERYONE should observe, and that they are members of society and as such not subject to special privileges. It seems to me that you do your child no favors if you ignore that society has some non-negotiable expectations by maintaining your own list of what is fine with you and then using this as a reason for other adults not to intervene. House rules may vary, of course, and should be explained as necessary, but even here some standards apply (tormenting pets and using magic markers on furniture come immediately to mind).

Posted by: College Town Mom | February 22, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

This is a subject both my wife and I have pondered for some time now and believe we have a solution that helps us in raising our eight-year-old twin daughters. And that my friends is what parenting competition is all about... raising them right and better.

First, when we see spoiled, bratty, obnoxious behavior in public we use it as a way to improve our girls. We point out the behavior and say, sometimes in a stage whisper, 'Now those children are being raised by lower middle class parents who go to public schools, they drive American cars, eat peanut butter & jelly, wear clothes from the gap, Target, Sears, and do not send their children dance classes or worse feed them fast food. If you ever do anything like you will not have Chilled Maine Lobster, Mango, fresh Artichoke, and Serrano Ham with Passion fruit, fresh Coconut and Tamarind for dinner!'

It generally works and the girls understand they have reason to behave better and demonstrate who we are. If we are in public I refuse to do a parent drive by and say anything. Sometimes one or both of my daughters will go up to the parent of the aberrant child and say 'Your son is so de classe. Where was he raised, in the suburbs?' They turn on heel and walk off...LOL so cute.

If we are at home if there are children visiting who are acting up and out what we do is not correct the child but offer behavior modification with a small does of constructivism. We put the child in a chair in the center of the kitchen and the girls, my wife, I and other children if there make fun of the child's behavior. Telling them they are so middle class and lower class that they embarrass an entire entitled generation. That they are a looser who should be sent to public school and made to eat at McDonald's. I will tell you that 9 out of 10 times that child does not repeat that behavior.

Posted by: NYC | February 22, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

NYC, while I find your humor to be sharp and funny I find your spelling and punctuation to be flawed and distracting. Beware of this before someone discovers that you're the product of public schooling. :)

Posted by: Dear NYC | February 22, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Off topic poll: when it snows do you clear your sidewalk?

Posted by: Moxiemom | February 22, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom: It's the law in Fairfax County, so "Yes". Plus it's very annoying to be walking on a clear sidewalk and then having to move into the grass or street because what used to be snow is now ice.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"if a child has limitations, he has limitations and should put into a situation where there is a high probability that the child will behave in ways that are inappropriate"

Wow, I guess I will just shut my kid up in a box like a veal so he doesn't disturb you. Let's take all of these "limited" children and hide them away. Great way to teach them and your "normal" children how to deal with disabilities.

Posted by: gracep117 | February 22, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

to Dear NYC:

You must be who he is talking about. LOL!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

haven't had a chance to read everything, but...

Yes, I will tell other kids when they are acting inappropriately - if that's hitting my kid, throwing sand in the sandbox, whatever. I know it's not usually cause the parent isn't involved, but if you have 2 or more kids on the playground, you can't possibly be with all of them the whole time.

My SIL continually gives my DH he** when he says things to our nephew. This pi**es me off. As in - SHE is the only person who should discipline HER child. I think that this teaches him that he can disobey everyone else, that only certain adults are authority figures, that he can do what he wants if *she's* not there.

Posted by: atlmom | February 22, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

""if a child has limitations, he has limitations and should put into a situation where there is a high probability that the child will behave in ways that are inappropriate""

Grace, I didn't read anything about disabilities in this. I read it like: set your kids up for success. If you take your kid out to a fancy meal at 10 p.m., and he or she isn't capable of behaving him/herself, don't do it. It's not her fault - 2 year olds can't do what 12 year olds can.

My daughter consistently gets praise when we fly. One, she's flown a fair amount so she's used to the whole process. Two, we talk to her beforehand about rules, so when we get on the plane, she says things like "Mama, we don't kick the seats. We keep our feet down." And three, she loves to fly, so we tell her that she will only be able to fly in the future if she does well now. It's worked so far. This is perhaps the place where she is best-behaved. If she kicks someone's seat and I'm not aware, I absolutely want them to turn around and tell her/me. I grew up in a culture where everyone disciplined everyone else's kids, so it's what I'm used to. And I discipline the kids at daycare all the time - if a kid hits another kid, I intervene. By all the time I mean I have no compunctions, not that my child's classroom is full of pre-K hoodlums.

Posted by: anny | February 22, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"Have you thought about educating people who make comments? Instead of being so angry at your situation, perhaps you should turn the situation around and educate people who make comments. What, would it take 5 minutes out of your day?"

I am wondering why it is her job to educate people? Most of the time, you can tell when a child has a disabilty. People should mind there own business unless the kid is affecting them or going to hurt their self or others. Acting up in a checkout line is not bothering you.

Posted by: PLEASE | February 22, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I can always count on NYC to put a smile on my face!

Since when did removing snow from "your" sidewalk become a law in Fairfax County? The sidewalk is not even property own by the home resident(s).
I doubt it's a law in Fairfax County. Perhaps it's a Home Owner Association rule. One that may or may not be enforced. I know several neighbors who don't remove snow from the sidewalk that borders their property.

Posted by: Soguns1 | February 22, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

My mom (raised in the 1930s) related how it was understood that, on her street, any parent had the right to cut a switch off the nearest tree and "discipline" any kid, their own or their neighbors' (and indeed it happened more than once, as she related). It seems so freaky to me that this attitude ever existed. I personally use the positive reinforcement for friends' or strangers' kids and don't have problems, but I'm often amazed at other kids' rude/hurtful/frightening behaviors where parents seem entirely unaware. I'm too scared to say anything in these cases in fear of those parents getting angry with me, or even violent in the defense of their children. I certainly don't agree with how things were handled back when my mom was young, but has the pendulum perhaps swung too far the other way?

Posted by: Brady | February 22, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh, don't get all on your high horse - people without kids may not fully understand what it's like to be a parent, or may not understand what normal 2YO behavior is -
THEY DO understand that your child should NOT be having a tantrum or running around in a restaurant, and if the parent can't stop it, then they should leave. Or whatever behavior. Sometimes, as in someone's home where you're visiting overnight, or something like that - maybe you can't just leave, but then the hosts should understand. But people WITHOUT kids SHOULD have an idea about how people, no matter how old they are, should behave.

Posted by: atlmom | February 22, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I ask about the snow because only a few in our neighborhood clear their walks and it makes me crazy. It makes it impossible to go for a walk until you have a coupl eof weeks of really warm weather. What really makes me crazy is that the bus stop house never clears that corner, so the kids all have to wait on a sheet of ice for the bus. Sometimes, I go shovel it even though my kids don't ride the bus. I thought they might get the hint or one of the snowblower guys might follow suit, so usually its me. Anyway, pet peeve - just wanted to know if I was alone or not!

Posted by: Moxiemom | February 22, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

At a pub last Sunday afternoon, I was upstairs in a room with a dart board and darts. Some older kids saw us, joined us and started playing with the darts. their parents were downstairs. The kids clearly had never played the game and i was worried they would get hurt-- since their parents weren't arond, I told them "everyone has to stay behind the line when darts are being thrown." The kids listened to me and immediately fell behind the line. I suppose I could have said "you can't do that without your parent's permission," or "give me those darts, you clearly don't know what you are doing" but it didn't seem like my place. I would have done that if they hadn't done what I told them about being behind the line.

Maybe I should have immediately left and told the parents, but they were older kids and seemed very responsible and it would have been awkward-- as if I was accusing them of being bad parents for letting their kids be unsupervised. At pone point, one kid left -- evidently to ask the parents about playing darts and when he or she came back said something about certain kids could play but others couldn't, so at that point I figured the parent's know and if they trust them, who am I not to?

Anyway, the kids stopped playing after awhile and they left the pub-- no one was hurt.

Posted by: capitol hill mom | February 22, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom: well, in atlanta, the homeowner does NOT own the land where the sidewalk is, but is responsible for the sidewalk, i.e., repairing it if it needs it, etc. As in, someone would sue YOU not the city, cause the city passed a law abdicating their rights to having to do anything about it - so I guess, *if* we ever got enough snow, we'd still be responsible for cleaning it, as the city has made their view clear.

I don't believe anyone has actually taken it up (as in sued the city) about it. I would say offhand, since i don't own the land, I shouldn't be liable for it, but who knows, I'm not a lawyer.

Posted by: atlmom | February 22, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Some adults are just jerks. My 3-year old fell down in target a few weeks ago because the floor was wet and she slipped. So she cried- not a whole lot, but I was giving her a hug and asking if she was okay and people were giving me death glares. Because apparently it is unthinkable to have your Target-shopping experience disrupted by a hurt child, even for 30 seconds. Thank goodness no one said anything to me, but I still can't believe I got dirty looks for that.

Posted by: va | February 22, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

From Fairfax County Government Website: Who is responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalks in my neighborhood?
Neither the Virginia Department of Transportation nor Fairfax County clears snow and ice from public walkways (sidewalks and trails). While not legally obligated, citizens and businesses are asked to help keep sidewalks safe. They should, as soon as feasible, clear snow off the sidewalks in front of their property so that all pedestrians, especially school children, those with disabilities, and the elderly, may walk securely.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

to va: Oh, I always think: yeah! it's not my child. That's my thing - if your child is crying and you are helping with whatever needs to be done - I always have sympathy for the parent and am a slight bit happy that it's not my kid causing a ruckus. Cause I know how terrible a parent feels in that situation...

Posted by: atlmom | February 22, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse


"Because apparently it is unthinkable to have your Target-shopping experience disrupted by a hurt child, even for 30 seconds."

Another reason to shop at Lord & Taylor...

Did you sue Target's a$s?

Posted by: Jake | February 22, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

" "Have you thought about educating people who make comments? Instead of being so angry at your situation, perhaps you should turn the situation around and educate people who make comments. What, would it take 5 minutes out of your day?"

I am wondering why it is her job to educate people? Most of the time, you can tell when a child has a disabilty. People should mind there own business unless the kid is affecting them or going to hurt their self or others. Acting up in a checkout line is not bothering you. "

Not ALL children with disabilities "look" any certain way that would suggest they have a disability. So, yes, educating people on the disability may be beneficial to future encounters--for the person making the comment, not the parent with the so-called "unruly" child. Something as simple as, "This is what Autism looks like". The child flapping his arms in the checkout line is not being obnoxious and acting like a bird. This action is a part of who the child is, just like the color of his/her hair or eyes. I'm sure responding in this way would promote empathy rather than scorn.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry to all. I apologize for not being as smart as most of you if not all (ie commas, grammar, etc.).

I only have a GED with a minor in dyslexia, but I was able to score a job on Wall Street and spelling does not count, just the amount of money you make off of sub prime mortgages etc. I am trying to win the parenting game like most of us. But, the girls are doing well and they live an entitled life. Isn't that what it is about?

Posted by: NYC | February 22, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

seriously, how do I tell an autistic kid from a non-autistic kid? it seems pretty unrealistic to think that we should assume that all kids are autistic? truth be told most kids don't have a disability the makes them incapable of behaving well.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Discipline other people's kids? Heck yeah! Have you people seen the state of children today? The latest versions are rude, self-righteous, selfish, and indignant. Since their parents all seem to be doting and spineless eunuchs, it's our moral responsibility to pitch in and help!

If we choose to sit on the sidelines while these children remain undisciplined, we're going to end up with a society that we deserve!

So, in my quest to make the future of this country a better place, I discipline other people's children all the time.

Also, since most of them are overweight and suffer from childhood obesity, I also try to shame them and give them eating disorders.

See! Two birds, one stone!

Posted by: TribecaDad | February 22, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I once found myself on a field trip with an extremely tiresome mom who was practicing some form of parenting that involved never saying "No" to your child for fear that it would damage his fragile self-esteem. So when he threw food, she would follow him around as he charged around saying, "food is for eating" and as he walked on the park benches, OVER the elderly women sitting there, she would say, "Jason, honey, benches are for sitting on." I would LOVE to know how Jason turned out in the final analysis and how Jason's teacher handled this bizarre parenting philosophy.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"The second that behavior becomes physical or nasty to my child, I will also say something. That is not something I will tolerate, ever."

Or, you could teach your child to fight his or her own battles. You're not doing your kid any favors, unless there's a huge age gap on the part of the offender.

Posted by: Dad of Kids from A-Z | February 22, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I'll order the 8 year olds off the toddler play equipment at the pool. I do this a couple of times a week in the summer. I'll also order the older children out of the wading pool since they're in violation of two rules: 1) They're too big for that pool and 2) Rest periods must be enforced.

Posted by: Dad of Kids from A-Z | February 22, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

To va 1:13. People may just be looking to see that the crying child they hear is OK, and ascertaining that the parent they see isn't doing something nasty like smacking the child. It can come across as a dirty look, but it may just be a certain nosiness coupled with not thinking about what their expression might look like.

Posted by: Tom T. | February 22, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

re: dirty looks, I always try to look sympathetic when a kid is freaking and mom is trying to deal with it. I aim for a look of sympathy coupled with I've been there. Dunno how successful I am. So, don't always assume the looks are dirty.

I've always thought that there should be a hand signal for moms that we can give each other in solidarity like when a kid is screaming on the floor of Target and mom is walking away ignoring it. I want to say "right on sister". It's us vs. them - we've got to stick together.

Posted by: Moxiemom | February 22, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

10:08: How old are these boys?

I posted the question about the boy who tattles incorrectly on my son. My son may be a handful, but not one kid "always" does anything. This other boy is suffering and not getting invited places because of his big mouth.

Both kids are 5.

Anyone care to talk about how they'd handle it?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

My child is very small and so, yes, I will intervene. Not sure how you leap to the conclusion that my child cannot or will not be able to fight her own battles if I do so. Geez.

I also teaching her that it is inappropriate for others to act a certain way to her (hit her, for eg) so that she will recognize that in the future. I'm also teaching her that her mother and father will be there for her and come to her defense if need be. At the age she is now, this is appropriate. At 18, I can expect a little more of handling things on her own.

Posted by: To Dad of Kids from A-Z | February 22, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Here's an interesting thing, have you ever seen or heard a parent discipline someone else's kid wrongly? I was at a toddler park about 4 years ago when a Mom got real nasty to some Latin kids who were like 6 years old- really pretty young- and she told them they were too big for the park, to "get the hell" out of there or else she'd call the police and they'd go to jail. Then later she commented that "those kids infest the place." Clearly racist.

I told her she was out of line, but she just kept up the self-righteous routine as I left the playground.

I think that if you discipline someone else's kid and you get called on it, even if it's in your own house, you have to self-evaluate whether "your house, your rules" aren't totally F'd up. I'm of the age- think early 70s beer bbqs- where I was smacked by my friends' fathers and my dad would roll up his sleeves and threaten them back.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Like I said NYC, I think your humor is great and I hope you didn't take my comment as a dig. I just had a hard time following one or two sentences.

Hope you made a killing in Sub-prime!

Posted by: Dear NYC | February 22, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Not sure how you leap to the conclusion that my child cannot or will not be able to fight her own battles if I do so. Geez.


because it follows logical sense. because while I wasn't the initial poster, I've seen this played out in the daycare center where little Janey can't do anything for herself whereas Jill gets what she wants out of playtime even if she's a little too bossy. and Jill's mom tells the kids to "Work it out" themselves and Janey's mom situates herself as the go-between for Janey and the world.

It's not really really wrong, but I got the lecture when my son was two that I had to force him to stand up for himself to the bullies. His buddy whose mom followed Attachment Parenting let her kid get mousier and mousier until by age 4 my son didn't want to play with him.

because a little kid who forces a big bully to step down has learned a valuable lesson in self-assurance.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

re; the 5 yr. old boys. Does your son enjoy playing with this boy? If no, then I would suggest just taking a break from the friendship. One thing I've learned is that these things go in phases and sometimes a kid that I found to be really unpleasant will grow a little and be a lot more enjoyable after a few months. If you can't do that, then I'd certainly work on some positive reinforcment with guest kid. Recognize when he doesn't tattle and give him attention for positive behaviors. Good luck.

Posted by: Moxiemom | February 22, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I believe "Jason" featured in several films, as I recall.

(hint to other age cohorts: think '80s slasher flicks)

Posted by: dear 1:56 | February 22, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

2:56, I just disagree (and I do not practice any part of attachment parenting, btw).

"Disciplining" another child who has hit or kicked by another child (esp. when that kid's parents are not paying attention or adressing the matter), I don't believe, will make my kid "mousier." Just don't see the logic there. Have a word with another misbehaving child on occasion now ensures my kid will be a future doormat? Come on! I know lots of kids whose parents have and do intervene in situations like this and their kids are by no means mousey.

I just don't think that you can say that that EVERY kid whose parent intervenes on their behalf when small (we're not talking 18 year olds, her) will end up a door mat who other kids may not want to play with. That is a gross overgeneralization. So, on this we disagree.

Posted by: JenRS | February 22, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

fr NYC:

>...If we are at home if there are children visiting who are acting up and out what we do is not correct the child but offer behavior modification with a small does of constructivism. We put the child in a chair in the center of the kitchen and the girls, my wife, I and other children if there make fun of the child's behavior. ...

That is incredibly RUDE, and completely ignores a child's feelings. Rest assured if I had a child that you did that to we WOULD be having a serious discussion. You have absolutely NO right whatsoever to do that. I suggest you (1) grow UP and (2) take a class in preschool manners.

Posted by: Alex | February 22, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

"That is incredibly RUDE, and completely ignores a child's feelings. Rest assured if I had a child that you did that to we WOULD be having a serious discussion. You have absolutely NO right whatsoever to do that. I suggest you (1) grow UP and (2) take a class in preschool manners."

Um. Unclench. It read like a joke to me.

Posted by: To Alex | February 22, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

As I said before, please mind your own business if the kid in the next aisle is flapping his wings, singing or even throwing a fit. It is none of your business and yes, most times I can tell if a child has an issue. Maybe I am just better at paying attention than you are.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I think NYC _teaches_ classes in preschool manners.

Posted by: Tom T. | February 22, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

If your child is being repeatedly corrected by different people at different times, then chances are you are doing something wrong as a parent.

Posted by: A_Mom | February 22, 2008 9:46 PM | Report abuse

There are so many wonderful parents on this blog. The real world seems to me made of parents defensive of their children regardless of their behavior, and self righteous twits that demand all public spaces in america be free of children and their chatter.

I love children, currently pregnant, have a lot of patience for them and I am completely intimidated to discipline, touch, or do anything other than smile at a baby or child I don't know. For all I know, they'll shove me like the Disneyland lady. =)

Also, I will say under the cloak of anonymity as an Asian, I think white parents (sorry) are crazy narcissistic about your kids. I say this because this entire topic in most countries is not even a point for consideration.

Asians accept that other parents will discipline all children from misbehaving: no questions asked. In my experience same for African Americans and Latinos. Most of my mideast friends same thing. Provided of course, there is not some weird bias in the punishing (like the lady who thought hispanics were taking over the playground. some of my black friends have had adults tell their children they were dirty without context).

And as just a side rant: you parents that let your kids kick airline seats and wait for me to say something first are the worst offenders of all. Some of you are tired and some of you are lazy. And all of you need to tell your kids to stop.

Posted by: Hmm | February 22, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that we are talking about two very different things, as a previous poster already alluded to: correcting (please do not throw that ball at my head/kick me/torment my child) and disciplining (putting someone else's child in timeout without permission/spanking someone else's child/removing someone else's child from a situation). I welcome 'the village' correcting my child in a compassionate manner if she got out of line in public and I wasn't right there, but if someone tried to discipline her without my giving them that authority I would be really angry. Not everyone agrees on discipline strategies (ie: time out versus spanking) and I don't want my kid subjected to what some stranger thinks is appropriate. If she's in someone else's care, then obviously I would consider that a situation where I have given a person authority to discipline, according to instructions I have left.

All that said, I think most parents are lazy when it comes to discipline-- after a long work day it seems like folks just don't want to take on this necessary battle. I've had to correct kids well old enough to know better from name calling and pushing my 19 month old. It shocks me what people let their kids get away with, particularly around children too young to stand up for themselves.

Posted by: Correcting Vs. Disciplining | February 24, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

NYC, the biggest LOSER is the person who doesn't even know how to spell LOSER.

Posted by: DC | February 25, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I have worked various retail jobs and it is amazing how kids will run around and touch everything and the parents stand there and do nothing. I worked in a china shop and one child was running around and climbing on the little stool touching things. I told the child he needed to be careful and not run around because he could get hurt or break something. The parents give me the dirtiest look. They should have had better control over their child. It was a china shop, not exactly a playground for small children.

Posted by: Katie | February 25, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

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