Disciplining Someone Else’s Child–Does it take a Village?

Over Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of taking my half-brothers to a neighborhood park. A parent of another child present decided that one of my brother’s was misbehaving. They were handing out admonishments and dictating what playground behavior was appropriate. Since I am not a mother myself and have little experience  with such occurrences, it left me wondering how you should feel about others disciplining your child. I asked my father to answer this question for me. How did he feel, did it bother him? Did he like it? Does he believe it takes a village? These are his thoughts.

My daughter grew up on a street with a host of other children. They were constantly running up and down the street, in and out of each other’s houses. There was an unspoken agreement among parents on the street that they would watch out for whatever group was in their yard.

It generally worked. We knew — and the kids knew — someone was in charge and someone was watching. It wasn’t just discipline. Many’s the time I dealt with a tearful scraped knee. But we also made sure the kids were safe and treating everyone nicely. I didn’t mind the neighbors telling my children what to do, perhaps because we knew them, but also perhaps because I was fairly confident they had the best interests of all the children at heart.

Outside the neighborhood, occasionally you’ll have a parent attempt to discipline or correct your child. How that goes over depends on what they do. Certainly, no stranger would be allowed to punish my child. And don’t correct them if they’re not doing anything more than being children, boisterous and messy as that can be.

But correcting truly bad behavior, especially if done calmly and focused on the behavior itself, is generally fine. “It’s not nice to take someone else’s toy. Can you share?” is certainly acceptable.

I’m almost more worried a parent who ignores or excuses bad behavior. Again, it’s a matter of degree — you don’t yell at someone else’s child, and certainly never touch them. But a reminder that there are standards of behavior can be welcome.

What is your opinion? Do you agree with my Dad or do you feel you are the only one who should discipline your children?

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2 Responses to “Disciplining Someone Else’s Child–Does it take a Village?”

  1. Paula February 5, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    “I was fairly confident they had the best interests of all the children at heart.”

    This is the kind of flawed, self-deluded assumption that gets children molested by neighbors, family friends or even relatives.

    I don’t think it is ever okay to discipline a child that is not your own. Parents may have very different parenting philosophies, and it is presumptuous to assume that their’s is like yours.


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