People seem to feel very strongly one way or the other about telling off other people’s children. From what I’ve seen, it’s often from parents who’re incensed that someone has told off their child in front of them, or that they’ve wanted to tell off another child, but haven’t felt they could.
Overall, it appears there’s an unwritten rule (outside of childcare or school settings) that no-one is allowed to tell off another person’s child.
I don’t agree with this. I’ve told off others children before and if it’s a suitable situation I will continue to do so. Not once has someone complained to me about my doing this. So why do I think it can be appropriate. Obviously I don’t go round sticking my oar in whenever there’s a child behaving in a way I think is inappropriate.
There are 2 or 3 situations I’ve told other children off in. And when I say telling off, I mean stating the correct way to behave, not shouting, and not disciplining them in a way I might with N (where I obviously have other methods I can use like sitting out, removing treats/rewards etc).
1, Soft play and other public play areas (playgrounds)
Soft play brings out the best and worst in children (or maybe I just draw the naughty behaviour to me). Whether it’s older children playing in the areas for younger children, or being horrible to other children, I’ve had words with a few over the years. I’m not a child fan overall unless they’re behaving appropriately, and if there aren’t parents within view or they’re taking no notice of what their children are up to, then another responsible adult should step in and say something.
I’ve told older children to move of equipment that they’re too old for, by pointing out they’re over ae, or stating the place that they are welcome to play in. Most of the time this works, although on holiday in Jersey, our playground experience didn’t go to play with obnoxious lippy older children talked back. Even when N made the point that they were too big for the equipment they didn’t take note.
I’ve also seen an older child blocking the entrance to a playhouse, stopping other children from entering by kicking them. Noone else was saying anything. I warned other parents that their child may be kicked if they went near the playhouse. In the end, with the parents still nowhere in sight, I told the child that they were being violent and hurting other children, and that it was a playhouse open for everyone to play with and that he should stop. Unfortunately the child’s parents were still oblivious (or ignoring the bad behaviour). I couldn’t manhandle the child and drag him away like I would have done with N, so the child continued kicking. The staff members obviously felt they couldn’t intervene either, but I’d presume that the child is still getting away with behaviour like that unless his parents have eventually noticed behaviour like this.
2, When a child has come to play
I’m acting in loco parentis when children are at my house and there’s no parent, so of course if the children are doing something they shouldn’t I would stop it in line with my house rules. I am quite lax though, so apart from stopping them going on rampage through bedrooms other than N’s, and asking for the noise levels to be lowered, I’ve not had to ever tell any off.
3, In front of other parents
Like above, if a child is doing something that isn’t allowed in our house, and the parent hasn’t stopped them, I would deal with the behaviour myself. If a child is bashing furniture, drawing on things, breaking toys, then why would I let them continue to do so in my house (or theirs if the parents aren’t around)? The behaviour can usually be diffused by saying ‘we don’t do that in my house’ or questioning whether ‘should you be doing that here?’ Usually, they’ve got carried away, and after a word will stop.
I would expect other parents to say something, but if the parent is in another room I’d not go and tell them to come – the child needs to be told there and then, by the person who’s seen the behaviour ideally. I’d expect another parent to do this if N was acting badly too.
I’ve also reinforced rules and behaviour that the parent has already said where the child hasn’t stopped the behaviour. We were once out at a National Trust property with my godson and best friend, and he had one of N’s toy trains with him. He was driving it on the furniture and had been told not to several times. I got sick of him still doing it – I warned him that if he didn’t stop I would take it off him. And ended up then removing it from his hands until he was back in the car.
The tears were pretty immense for a while, but he wasn’t taking notice of his mum, it wasn’t his toy to bash around and he couldn’t damage anything this way. As I saw it, if he wasn’t obeying his mum, sometimes it can shock them into behaving by having another adult notice what they’re doing an saying something. His mum was then able to deal with the rest of his behaviour without that distraction.
My friends and I have something talked about telling off each others children. There’s certain situations where it is appropriate and may even work better when the person having words is the owner of the house they’re in, or if there’s no parent to step.in.Should you step in to tell off other people's children? I believe you should where appropriate Click To Tweet
It’s not appropriate to tell off other kids
1, When the parent is there and disciplining
2, When you don’t know the parent or parenting style and they are in the room. Unless the child is being dangerous or hurting someone and the parent is ignoring them, although you might be better saying something to the parent and removing the other children from the situation.
3, When the child is acting erratically or has a potential weapon. Remove the other children and report to a staff member if there’s not a parent around.
It’s also not appropriate to touch the child or shout at them. Yes sometimes you wish the child could be dragged out, but that’s not your job. A statement of facts or a question will usually make the child respond to someone telling them the rules in a public place or someone else’s house.
Other parents might not want me telling off their child. But if the child isn’t behaving according to age appropriate behaviour or the rules in place, and there’s no parent stepping in, then why should other people have to suffer? If there’s a reason for the behaviour then I would expect the parent or carer to be within viewing distance and to step in ahead of someone else needing to.
I think more adults should step in to point out right and wrong when there’s no-one else doing so. Especially if the child is causing potential harm to others. People are too scared, but maybe if they did, children would understand what behaviours aren’t suitable and are more aware of others. In the Jersey playground, I reminded a group of rowdy older children, who were scaring younger children of the playground age rules. They were 11ish and should have been able to read the signs. No other parents said anything. Even my 5 year old told them they might break equipment and were too old.
What do you think about telling off other people’s children? Would you/do you do it or is it a no no for you?
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