Picture source: telegraph.co.uk
Recently I received the following email from someone seeking advice. The person emailing me took his wife and three children to a nearby tavern for dinner. They met up with friends and their two children. He said:
“My 3 kids and his 2 little ones were playing in the enclosed play ground at the tavern while we were waiting for our meals to arrive...
“4 of our 5 kids came out along with other peoples kids crying within the space of a few minutes claiming another child in there had pushed them and yelled at them.. another lot of kids also came out...
“(one lady saw and came up to us and told us she was a school teacher) and wanted to address the child but didn't feel right - her child was also pushed...
“The final straw came when my mates’ little 3 year old girl came out crying saying this kid had pushed her... he got up went into the enclosure (I followed) and we saw this kid push another kid during this time) and my mate was not happy...
“He slapped his hand on the side of the play ground which made a very loud noise and in a heavy voice told the offending kid to cut it out and play nice.... the kid almost crapped his pants....
“Minutes later the offending kids’ parents tried to find out who the adult was that revved their child... my mate admits he was probably a bit over the top but he was at his wits’ end.. enough was enough... the father of the offending kid was very angry at the adult who revved his kid which he couldn't identify...
“After about 10 minutes walking around, huffing and puffing... he and his family left...
“So... Did my mate do the right or wrong thing? What should parents do if their children are bullied in a play ground?”
So what is ok and what is not ok when it comes to disciplining other people’s children?
I’m not sure that there are any hard, fast rules. However, a few basic principles probably apply, including the following:
Don’t ever threaten, hit, or intimidate another person’s child.
No matter how big a bully or brat your child might be, how would you feel if a stranger (or even a friend) were to hit or frighten your child? In most cases, most parents would be upset by such action.
Some years ago I was playing a game of ‘brandings’ with some teenage boys in a youth group I ran. We had been throwing tennis balls at each other for fun. About ten minutes after the game was over, one of the boys (aged 15) stealthily approached me and threw a ball at my head from about a metre away. I responded aggressively, grabbing him by the collar and putting him on the ground, my knee against his chest. His mother didn’t see him throw the ball, but she saw me being physical with her son. The incident was over the top and damaged our relationship for years. And it never changed the boy’s behaviour.
Find the child’s parents
Not all parents respond warmly to another adult ‘dobbing’ on their child. However, unless a parent appears overtly aggressive, the best thing to do is to go to the parent of a child who is behaving anti-socially and politely let them know what is going on. You might say something like,
“I’m sorry to bother you. It seems that your child is a little upset. He/she has been hurting some of the kids in the playground. I thought I should just come and let you know.”
If the person in the scenario above had sought out the boy’s father rather than taking things into his own hands, my bet is that the father would have responded more calmly, and certainly wouldn’t have huffed and puffed while he tried to work out who had scared his child.
Remember what discipline is, and what it is not
If you feel that you are the one who needs to deal with things, remember that discipline is not punishment, ‘consequences’, or anything of the sort. Rather, discipline is teaching good ways to act. If a child can be approached and spoken with kindly, and be given appropriate and gentle guidance, it is unlikely that other parents will be offended by our actions.
Sometimes it’s best to leave
If a child or her parents are aggressive, abusive, or otherwise anti-social, sometimes it might be best to simply find another place to play or eat. While this can be inconvenient, it can also be the difference between being on edge versus having a nice time in public. Let’s face it, some people are unreasonable and there is nothing we can do about it.
What are your thoughts? Should strangers be disciplining other people’s kids? Have you ever taken matters into your own hands with someone else’s children? Or has it ever happened to you?