How Do You Discipline Kids…That Aren’t Yours?
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
It’s just so…uncomfortable. Your child is being uncharacteristically docile when random kid at the playground steals his Matchbox car, shows no remorse whatseoever, and continues with his day as if he didn’t just do something worth being punished for. And you’ll probably notice that random kid at the playground will continue to do these selfish things because, frankly, no one at home is telling him he can’t. Until you came along. You’re going to show this kid that his behavior won’t be tolerated, that the world doesn’t work the way he’s been led to believe. Right? Right? Well, not so fast.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself letting the vast majority of these things go, since it’s easier and less awkward to remain silent. And really, who wants to start a debate with a stranger in the park, or worse, a family member you find irresponsible? Clearly, we don’t want to come across as preachy, but we also don’t want our own kids believing that this type of behavior is acceptable.
So what do we do? How do we handle it when someone else’s kid does something either to your kid or around your kid that you find completely reprehensible? The answer, naturally, isn’t so easily determined (or else I wouldn’t be asking it). Here are some options I’ve found most successful.
Shout in the general direction of all the kids, “What is going on here?!”
It’s safe to say that every kid there had something to do with that lamp being broken, so don’t single anyone out. Chances are another authority figure will piggy-back on your anger and blame the entire thing on their own kid. The downside of this method is it also frequently results in the awkwardness of the respective parent half-heartedly disciplining their kid because they’ll look like a tool if they say nothing. But at least you did something. Most people don’t.
Give ‘em the Danny Tanner treatment
You remember the scene. Full House’s MVP Dad would pull one of his daughters aside (when he felt especially saucy, he’d reel in Kimmy Gibbler, too) for a heart-to-heart about how badly they screwed up. It was brilliant if you think about it. Instead of raising his voice (and his blood pressure), he sent them to their room, made them think about what they did, then calmly explained what terrible human beings they were. Naturally, if you’re doing this with a child other than your own, you’ll need to tread lightly. But as long as you say what you’re saying with a soothing tone (and a string section accompaniment), you lessen the risk of a fist fight with the other supposed adult in the room.
Falsely blame everything on your own kid
It sounds counterproductive, but I assure you it works most of the time. Most of us are decent enough to try to avoid the uncomfortableness of yelling at other people’s children, so we instinctively place the blame on our own, even if they aren’t the main culprit. It happens to me all the time. Antonio wants to play with his friend’s ride-on car, said friend doesn’t want to give Antonio a turn. Antonio then sulks and insists he wants nothing to do with him. At that point, I step in and remind Antonio that the car isn’t his and he has to respect friend’s decision (even though deep down I agreed that it was time to share). Almost every time, the parent steps in and yanks the kid out of the car, giving Antonio what he wants as his friend wails in his rear view mirror. Half the time you’re the one yanking your kid out of the car kicking and screaming. It’s never pleasant and almost every time, you think your kid’s being slightly less of a jerk than the other one.
Naturally, we all live under the guise that our child is better behaved than others. After all, they’re a reflection of us and our disciplinary actions. If they suck then that means we suck. And frankly, a lot of us suck. And the rest have to simply deal with it. The sad fact is that, as parents, we’re almost certain to lose at least one friend over the way we choose (or don’t choose) to manage our kids’ behavior when they’re socializing. Ultimately, you’ll end up spending more time with the parents of children who have similar disciplinary mindsets as you do, distancing yourself from the Mom who lets her daughter pour White Out all over your leather couch. But if said Mom is part of your family, you’re screwed. And if that’s the case, you better have a strong lip, because you’ll be biting it more than you’d like!
Have you ever been in a situation where you held back how you felt for the sake of not starting a battle with another parent? Did you speak up eventually? How did that go? Tell me about it in the comments section below!
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