's kids - Bubbablue and me

Why you should tell off other people’s children

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.

's kids - Bubbablue and me

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.

grumpy child

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.

[bctt tweet=”Should you step in to tell off other people’s children? I believe you should where appropriate” username=”etusty”]

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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  1. I really enjoyed reading this post and I think its important you have explained where you feel it is it is appropriate and where it is not. I’m happy for people to tell of my son, though as long as its not screamed at them. I do set rules and do this for both my son and any little’s playing at my house…the only time I have done it outside of the help is I dropped my son off at breakfast club and a bigger boy was sitting on a table telling smaller kids that Santa was not real. They were all getting teary so I look at the boy did my stern look and put my finger over my lips #Thelistlinky x

  2. I find the worst when the parents are right there and ignore the behaviour. I try to then say loudly to my children, it’s ok I am sure their parent will tell them soon. I have no problem telling my niece off and my SIL is the same with my girls. It definitely comes down to the relationship you have with the child and parent and where you are. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Ah yes, you do the subtle tut, rather than me. I go straight in for the kill! So annoying when the parents just look right through the issue.

  3. I would, and have, told off other people’s children, although I’m not nearly as harsh with them as I am with my own kids! I would ask them to ‘share nicely’ or ‘be gentle’ etc. Like you, I wouldn’t do it if their own parent was around, but if you’re the only adult there, or if the children are in your care, I think it’s perfectly acceptable. #TheList

    1. I’m glad so many of us will step in. I find it’s usually the kids of the parents who aren’t around who’re those nightmare children terrorising others. Not surprising really. Thanks for stopping by

  4. Definitely a difficult one because basically any normal person doesn’t like confrontation and is growing their child to be a good natured person etc… I think it’s easy to worry, if this naughty child is acting this way because their parents do chances are they might be confrontational too.
    Without a doubt a kid at my house would be told off because chances are I know and like their Parents but outdoors socially I think asses the situation and act accordingly. Brilliant post #sharethebloglove

  5. I absolutely agree with this! I used to like soft play when my eldest was young enough to be safely hidden in the baby area, but now he’s old enough to go on the real equipment with the older kids, I can’t stand them! I am constantly on edge watching the other kids being naughty and parents saying nothing, feeling anxious that one might hurt my son with their behaviour! ( I once saw a boy about 12 kick a girl about 3 at least 4 ft clear across the play area after coming down a slide! He didn’t do it maliciously, but it was as a direct result of doing something that was against the rules and it was horrifying to see!) xx #sharingthebloglove

    1. Scary. Yes, older kids get caught up in things and excited, and often don’t think about younger children taking longer to get out of the way etc. Thanks for stopping by Claire

  6. I completely agree with you – although I did think on reading the title that I wouldn’t! What annoys me is when other adults tell off other people’s children when their parents are right there – it’s so undermining. Like you say though, it’s about your relationship with that parent and knowing their parenting style. I have no issue with having words with my nephew (and my sister is the same with my son) – in fact, sometimes it has more impact coming from someone other than Mummy!

    But there are so many instances where there is a lone child causing havoc and no parent to be seen (soft play really is hell!) and I always seem to find myself having to tell other children how to behave. I’d never shout or raise my voice, but I do think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell children when their behaviour isn’t appropriate. Thanks for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove

  7. Yep all for telling another child off. A girl pushed my daughter over (who is 1) in the baby area in the soft play. The girl that pushed her was too old to be in that section so I told her No, don’t push. She then told me that my daughter couldn’t play in that area so I said yes she can. My husband then told the girl off later on when she tried to do it again. He has the added advantage of being a teacher so he told her off properly haha! I would expect someone to tell my daughter off if she behaved the same way!


    1. It always seems to be lippy kids in soft play. I let them off and was nicer when the older kids were in the wrong side after they’d changed the ages over, but otherwise older children do need reminding sometimes that a) they’re being watched (ha ha) and b) that they need to abide by rules and be aware of others. Handy having a teacher husband though. Thanks for stopping by

  8. As with all these things it depends on how when and where doesn’t it. A quiet statement of fact like you say – “it’s not OK to do that” etc – seems reasonable, it’s the telling off in the old fashioned sense that I’d have a problem with and possiblty what other articles on the topic are talking about. But I think if I were there I would want someone to tell me first, and let me sort it out with the children in line with how we enforce our boundaries at home.

    1. I think in a lot of situations, mostly parents are there – especially at home, or in school situations etc. I suppose it’s the more public places where it’s harder to locate parents. It’s a lot harder to say something to children when they’re in front of their parents because you don’t want to step on their feet. But I also think it’s quite hard to say something to parents because it’s almost like judging the way they’re bringing their kids up if they’re not correcting behaviour. As you say, it’s certainly dependent on a lot of things. Thanks for commenting Carie

  9. I’m with you 100% on this. If my kids were acting up I’d definitely support another parent for intervening if for some reason I couldn’t or wasn’t present when it happened. Likewise, I feel we all have a joint responsibility for showing kids what is acceptable and what isn’t – for the good of everyone. Isn’t that what a good society is about?

    We had an interesting experience the other week. My hubby was the photographer at a children’s birthday bash (for 2 year olds). There was one little boy there a lot older than the others (about 8 I’d say) and he started heckling him. He tried to ignore him, but then he started to throw things at his camera. He actually pulled him to one side and said ‘listen here you little shit…’ I couldn’t believe my ears! I was mortified. But do you know what. That very same kid then pulled himself together and then cuddled his sister for a photo. The mother said it was the most amazing photo of the two of them she’d ever had. If only she’d known… Just goes to show that kids sometimes want a bit of discipline. Not that I agree with my husband’s approach mind you!

    1. Brilliant, that’s what we’re all hoping to be able to say. I think sometimes another adults saying it shocks the child and makes them behave. Thanks for stopping by

  10. Reading the title of this post, I thought I was going to disagree with you, but no – we’re totally on the same page! I think soft play centres are the worst culprit – I sometimes feel like I’m policing the place because so many parents just turn up and let their kids run riot while they sit back with a coffee.

    I have a few friends, though, who tell my kids off all the time, right in front of me. I hate it because they tell them off for stuff which I am watching and don’t have a problem with (e.g. leaving their shoes on in my house, holding a cup with 1 hand instead of 2, going on the slide without asking my first). I am fully aware of what is going on and I know my kids’ limitations. They also know what I expect of them. It is not up to other people to step in. Grr! #SharingTheBlogLove

    1. I agree about soft play parents. Definitely grrr there.

      At home I’ve not had many other parents tell N off. Mainly because we’re always gassing and never notice what they’re up to. But yes, I’m pretty laid back too, so it would annoy me about basic things that aren’t really doing any harm. And with shoes, you take the lead from the house it is anyway, not your rules at home. Although no shoes on in our house – our carpet’s in enough of a state as it is!). Thanks for stopping by Lucy

  11. I agree (although I’m not very good at doing it). I’m a bit of a softy but I have told off children at soft play and in the park before. My hubby once told a kid not to throw stones in the school playground and the Mum came and shouted at him and said how dare he tell off her son! I now work lunchtimes at a school so I’ve had to harden up and start telling children off. Sarah #SharingTheBlogLove

    1. From what one of my teacher friends says, it’s often the naughty kids’ parents who complain about teachers telling off their children. But maybe if the parents did it the kids would be better behaved.

      Thanks for stopping by Sarah

  12. YES to all of this! I read a post a few months back where someone was saying parents should never tell off other people’s children. I disagreed SO strongly. If a child needs telling off, I’m going to do it. Obviously, as you say, only if their parents aren’t doing the disciplining themselves. I had it happen the other day at soft play, and I’m glad I did so as three boys were ganging up and being horrendous to other children. Great post.

    1. Thanks Halina. Yes, everyone I’ve ever read online has said no to doing it. But I think if no-one else is doing it and children are doing something obviously horrible or dangerous they need to be told if the parents aren’t. Nice to know we’re not alone in it. Happy new year.

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