Should You Discipline Other People's Kids?

When it comes to disciplining someone else's child you don't want to offend the kid's parents, but if his behavior is dangerous or harmful you can't simply ignore it either. "It's not intruding on another parent's turf when you're protecting your own child," says Michele Borba, EdD, a Parents advisor and author of No More Misbehavin': 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them. Still, the right response depends on the circumstances -- we'll tell you how to respond here.

Playground Bully

Your 3-year-old is drawing with sidewalk chalk when two 5-year-old boys ask to borrow some. You give them a few pieces, but then they return asking for more. Your son says "No," but they pull the chalk away from him.

What you're tempted to do: "You want to say, 'Hey, stop that -- don't you kids know better?'" says family therapist Hal Runkel, author of ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool. But if you lash out, Runkel cautions, you'll only scare the children and put their parents on the defensive.

What you should do: "Your first step is simply to make your presence known," says Dr. Borba. "Often, that's enough to stop aggressive behavior." If it isn't, address the boys calmly but sternly: "We don't grab things from other people. Somebody might get hurt." Let them know your son is happy to share his things, but they need to share too -- and to stop grabbing. If their behavior continues, put the chalk away and head for another area of the park.

When Ellen Morris's 5-year-old son, William, was being pushed around by an older child at a playground near their Louisville, Kentucky, home, she felt she had to intervene. "I said, 'Fighting is not okay,' then asked the boy nicely to play in another area, which he did," says Morris.

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