Disciplining Someone Else’s Child

Excuse me a moment, I’ve just going to suit up, because I’m aware that I’m about to enter a minefield. Child discipline. Enough of a minefield on its own, but I’m not even talking about disciplining your own child. I’m talking about disciplining someone else’s child. Oh, the horror!

Where do you stand on this? I know that I hate it when a particular family member disciplines my children when I’m there in the room with them. Hello, parent here! More than capable of enforcing my rules myself thank you. And yes, in my house, we go by my rules, so if I say something is OK, it’s not for you to decide otherwise. They are not your children.

But that’s not the scenario I had in mind when I started writing this post. I’m thinking more about other parents in social situations. In the park, at a toddler group etc. How do you feel about a child who doesn’t want to wait their turn and tries to push in front of the other waiting children (your waiting child). Would you say something to them, or leave them to it? Would that answer change if their parent was standing by them, but not reacting to the situation?


Toddler groups can be a nightmare for dealing with this situation. One child takes a toy from your child – what do you do? It’s easy if the shoe is on the other foot because if it’s your child doing the taking you can deal with your child. But would you “deal” with the other child? Tell them to give the toy back? Take it off them? Speak to their parent? Ignore it altogether and find something else for your child to play with?

As children get older, does the answer change? Bean is 8, coming up to 9, so that’s a very different world to Plum and PK and their toddler groups. To be fair, there are rarely any situations I have seen where this question would apply – so I’m thinking hypothetically here.

He often has friends round to play in the garden. Where do you stand on addressing their behaviour? Many of the parents roundabout seem to have different expectations for behaviour than we do. They seemingly allow things that we do not. Although this isn’t a problem, and hasn’t caused any issues for us, I’m wondering – would you say “my house, my rules” or go with what their parents allow? 

When is it OK to step in and discipline someone else’s child? Perhaps discipline is the wrong word – when is it OK to address their behaviour? Is it ever OK?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


EDIT: Since I wrote this post, it’s become a little more than hypothetical. Bean plays with a local boy who is 4 years older than him (though mentally, they’re on about the same level). I heard this boy swearing whilst they were playing in the garden. The little two were around, so I popped outside and spoke to both boys gently, asking them to be aware of their language – that I didn’t want to hear it, nor did I want the little two to hear it.

Soon after, the little two went to play in the garden too. Before long, Bean rushed in and said “PK just said the F word!”. I asked him if he was sure or could he have been trying to say something else? Bean agreed that he could have been. “I don’t even know where he would have heard that word”, I said to Bean, to which he replied that his friend says it all the time, even when the little two are about. I was shocked. “It’s OK”, said Bean, “he’s allowed”. I replied that it was not OK in our garden.

Bean went back outside and told his friend that he was not allowed to swear when playing in our garden. His friend’s response was to suggest that they went to play at his house instead!

As I write this, I’m wondering what, if anything, to do about this situation. I don’t want Bean to get used to hearing that kind of language. I don’t want Plum and PK to be picking it up, and actually I don’t enjoy hearing it either.

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4 comments on “Disciplining Someone Else’s Child

  1. I have school aged children and my rule is, my house, my rules. I would never physically touch a kid of course, but I have been known to say, “We don’t allow that behavior in this house. You can either apologize or go home.” Also, because we live across the street from the neighborhood playground, I have been known to shout out the window, “I heard that bad word, do I need to call your mother?”

    I think especially at school age, kids need to know there are boundaries, even if they are out of their parents sight/ earshot.

  2. If someone else’s child is at your house, for tea and the like, then you are totally within your rights to discipline them, should the need arise. When on your patch, you hold the power. In a social situation such as a playgroup, then yes it’s tricky and more muddy. But, if another child snatched a toy from my child, and their parent saw it happen but did nothing about it, then again I would take action. That we are all taught the basics of right and wrong from childhood is paramount!

  3. This is a really interesting subject to approach and so true for me at the moment. I have a step son who we only see at weekends and sometimes it is difficult when to know to say something and when just to take a step back.

    I think in the situation you had with the young boy, you did the right thing. If it happens again I would give a warning that if it continues you will have to take him home. It may be a little embarrassing but you need to stand firm on your own beliefs for your own children. It could either lead to respect and guidelines for your house with that child which they may appreciate with the lack of them in their own household or just the children no longer playing together.

    I am a youth worker so I am always telling off other peoples children but it is easier when you have to have guidelines in place for work but why should that be any different in your own home?


  4. If children are at my house they abide by my rules. My girls play with a mixed group of girls and boys in our street and they can get a little over excited sometimes. I have spoken to other children nicely to explain we don’t push or call each other names. I think there are some basics that all children should follow, no swearing, being too physical etc If there were not followed I would step in.

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