You’re over at someone else’s house and your little one breaks something or throws a tantrum. This person then proceeds to swat your child on the bum or slap their hand. How do you react?
Most parents fall into two camps. Those who believe it’s all right for others to discipline their child when they misbehave and those who believe it’s never okay for anyone besides them to discipline their child. They will become furious if someone else does it.
Now mind you, for those who think it’s okay, it’s safe to assume that they are okay with it only because it’s been discussed beforehand with caregivers, friends or family members with very clear set limits. It’s a very small percentage, if it exists at all, of parents who will allow a complete stranger to come up to their misbehaving child and slap their hands or scold them.
We all know when it comes to disciplining a child, everyone’s got an opinion and is willing to share it, whether they know you or not. How many times have you been out shopping and your child throws a tantrum and a stranger will come up to you and offer suggestions on how to handle it, or if they aren’t so vocal, their disapproving glares certainly speak volumes. They clearly know how to raise their children better than you do or your child wouldn’t be throwing a tantrum now would he? (read: sarcasm)
So barring those disapproving strangers, is it ever okay for anyone besides you or your spouse to discipline your child?
How to React and Avoid External Disciplinarians
For Brenda, a 24-year-old mom from Crockett, Texas, it’s definitely not okay. “I don't like it. If they are doing something bad I would prefer they told me or if I see him I would tell my kids to stop. They can't spank my kids but they can do time outs and take away his favorite toy.”
Tracey, a 36-year-old mom from Rhode Island agrees. “I think it's fine as long as it's warranted and she needs to be disciplined, like if she is being somewhat destructive at someone's house and if the person we're visiting says "please don't do that”, I think that's fine. But I more often than not I correct my own child before someone else gets the chance too.” She continues, “Spanking is out of the question and the only people I trust with my child would never spank her. Time outs and losing privileges are fine.” Some methods of discipline may be okay and others may not, depending on who’s doing it. For a friend, you might allow them to only do time outs or taking away privileges, while a grandma or sister you might allow some form of spanking.
There are many parents who are wary of leaving their children with others, including daycare professionals because they worry about how these people will discipline their children. In the case of daycares, you can rest assured that there is no physical punishment allowed in this day and age, but to put your mind at rest you should feel free to visit the daycare to observe how they deal with children who misbehave. You’re also within your rights to let the daycare know what methods of discipline you find acceptable and those you don’t. The objective is to make you as comfortable as you need to be with charging these people with the care of your child.
Some parents see it as a lack of respect for their authority over the child if they are at someone’s house and this person tries to discipline their child. Crystal, a 21-year-old mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma feels this way. “I usually tell other people that I can discipline my own child and I do not need their assistance. If they do not listen then I usually will just leave where ever we were or tell them they need to leave.” It may seem abrupt but it’s important that you set the boundaries when it comes to how your child is treated and if others can’t respect those limits you’re certainly within your rights to remove yourself and your child from that situation.
As a parent, you need to be very clear about what you will not allow in regards to the discipline of your child and you should expect everyone to respect those limits. Diana, a 30-year-old mom from Milwaukee, Wisconsin concludes, “Before I leave my children with anyone that includes relatives and play dates I always make sure to let them know what my children are/are not allowed to do. This includes how far they can go without an adult from the house they will be at if going outside to play, what they can and cannot eat as well as my preferences regarding video games, movies, etc. Most of the parents are fine with it and they let me know the same for their children if we have the play dates at our house. I think it's good that parents communicate what the guidelines are for their family. It makes it a lot easier planning activities for play dates and cut down on the 'well so and so's mom lets us' stuff.
"As far as discipline goes, I always let the parent know to call me if problems occur. At the same time I let them have my child/children sit out away from other kids until I can get there to just pick them up or if it's something minor, I just let them have them sit out for a little bit and let me know about the problem when I come to pick them up. My kids normally do not act out on play dates because I let them know in the beginning what the rules are and what the consequences will be if they choose to not follow them. Most of the time discipline isn't even an issue.”
There’s that old saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ but when it comes down to it, you’re the only one who can make the rules about how that village is allowed to do it when you’re not around.