Should You Discipline Someone Else's Child | Good Morning Britain
How to Discipline Someone Else's Child
Perhaps your friend’s child is playing with your child and things get out of hand. When you step in with discipline, know how to treat the other child. Get any information about discipline beforehand, especially if the child is coming into your home. Find ways to discipline the child in a way that feels comfortable to you and that is okay with their parents. Handle problems as they arise with firmness and care. Talk to the parent about problems you encounter and be open to feedback on how to handle problems in the future.
Anticipating Problems In Your Home
Ask about special challenges.Before having a playdate or inviting another child over, ask the parent if there are any challenges you might anticipate. The child might have food allergies, take a nap at a certain time, or have problems sharing toys. Briefly ask the parent ahead of time if there are any considerations or challenges you might face or your child might experience.
- Say, “Are there any things I should be aware of for your child’s diet or behavior?”
Inquire about their home discipline.If a child is coming to play or stay with you, ask the parent ahead of time what kind of discipline they implement and how you might be consistent with it. This is especially necessary if the child is sleeping over or in your home for a few days or more. Notice if their discipline style differs from your own and find ways to compromise, as consistency is important to help the child learn.
- For example, if the child has a timeout chair, establish a similar chair designated for timeouts.
- Talk about any differences in discipline styles such as using physical force like spanking, utilizing timeouts, or taking away privileges. If the other parent has a different style, find a compromise.
Enforce your rules at your house.If a child is acting up in your house, enforce your own house rules, even if they differ from the child’s house rules. Don’t expect them to know your rules, though. If a rule is broken, calmly let the child know what is and is not allowed.
- Say, “I’m sorry, but we only eat food in the kitchen, not on the couch” or, “Our family takes our shoes off when we come inside the house.”
- You may also want to let the child know about the rules of your house in advance. This helps prepare them in case they are different from the rules in their home. You can even write the rules out if you think it is necessary.
Handling Problems in the Moment
Ask the parent to intervene.If the child’s parent or caregiver is present, let them know their child is misbehaving. Ask them to take action. Draw the parent’s attention to the situation without interfering yourself. If necessary, remove the child from the situation and bring them to their parent.
- Say, “I think your child is having a problem right now” or, “Your child needs some help.”
Intervene in important situations.While you may not want to step in for all situations, there are some situations in which you must intervene. Aggressive behaviors such as hitting, punching, kicking, biting, or using items as weapons that may hurt someone need intervention. Other problems such as yelling, screaming, or screeching and destructive behaviors like tearing apart the toy room should also be addressed. While you may not want to address all problems, do use discipline when it is warranted.
- Say, “This is not allowed” or, “It is not okay to do that.”
- For example, if a child is about to throw something at another child, touch their arm and say, “Rocks need to stay on the ground. Please do not throw this.”
- While it may be important to intervene in certain situations, remember not to use physical punishment as a means of discipline. Scientific data suggests that it may be ineffective, and the use of physical punishment may also cause resentment or action on behalf of the child's guardian.
Make your presence known.Whether in a big way or a small way, show the child that you are supervising and seeing things get out of hand. Give the child a glance. You can also cross your arms or shake your head in disapproval. These nonverbal behaviors are subtle interventions that show the child that you’re paying attention, yet you are not taking direct action at the moment. They may serve as a warning of intervention.
- If more intervention is necessary, use a calm but stern voice. Say, “This behavior is not tolerated.”
Remain calm.You may have more patience with your own children yet little patience for other children. Keep your cool, even if the child is pushing your buttons. Yelling often leads to more yelling and hitting into more hitting. If you’re upset, take some deep breaths, count to ten, or walk away until you feel more collected.
- If you find it difficult not to raise your voice, sing what they are doing wrong. For example, sing, “Uh oh, you hit. We don’t hit in this house.”
Be fair.When handling discipline and consequences, be fair in what you give. Some situations may have natural consequences (like throwing a toy and having it break) while other may have logical consequences (like saying that if your child does not put away their toys, they cannot play with them). Decide what is best and whatever you choose, be firm. Don’t give in to negotiations or tantrums.
- Don’t give a large consequence for a small misbehavior. If you’re angry or upset, take a few moments to gather yourself before determining a consequence.
Redirect the child’s attention.Use a distraction or change activities if the child is having a problem with the current activity. It may be effective to change scenes entirely: move the children into a different room, go outside, or start an entirely different activity, like art or music.
- Say, “Let’s go downstairs for a snack” or, “I’d like you to work on these finger paints now.”
Communicating About Behavior
Praise their positive behaviors.If you feel like another child is getting into a lot of trouble and you have to spend considerable time with them, focus in when they’re doing things well. Catch them being kind, sharing, or following directions. Reinforce these behaviors by giving verbal praise. You should also point and and reinforce the child's positive traits to help build confidence in the right areas.
- Say, “You did a great job putting on your seat belt without being told. I’m really proud of you.” You can also say, “Wow, I’m really impressed you picked up all these toys without being asked. I’ll let your parent know you did a great job.”
- When giving a report to the parent, bring up the positive and negative behaviors.
Be impartial.Especially if the child’s parent is a friend of yours, it’s important to treat their child impartially. Disciplining another child can damage friendships, especially if you have not discussed what is and is not acceptable between friends. If you’re intervening with discipline for an interaction between your child and another child, be cautious in how to move forward. Don’t immediately take your child’s side. Listen to both children, especially if you did not see the fight. Also, don’t make comparisons such as “Be more like this child,” as this can hurt the other child.
- Say, “Tell me what happened. You go first, then it’s your turn.”
- When it comes time to talk to the parent, talk about the process. Say, “I asked both of them what happened, and they both said that Charlie hit first.”
Mention problem behaviors to their parent.If a child has a major meltdown or behavior outburst, let their parent know. However, don’t have this discussion in front of the child. Be open to hearing feedback from the parent and ask them how they’d like future behavior to be handled.
- Say, “Your child had some problems today that I wanted to mention to you. This is what happened.”
- Ask, “How would you like future problems to be handled?” This allows parents to provide ideas on how to handle certain problem behaviors that you may not work with regularly.
Video: Disciplining Someone Else’s Child – Is It Ever Appropriate?
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