Should You Discipline Other People's Kids?

Bad Table Manners

While having dinner with your family, your daughter's 5-year-old friend eats her mac 'n' cheese with her fingers.

What you're tempted to do: Tell her to use a fork -- she's old enough to know better.

What you should do: Hold your tongue. "Give kids a little leeway with certain kinds of manners," says Daniel Buccino, a clinical social worker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore. The child's bad table habits might be the result of her cultural background, or she could have a manual dexterity problem. By overlooking the poor manners, you're teaching your children to be gracious hosts. But if the sloppy dining leads to truly bad behavior, like throwing food or belching intentionally, it's fine to (gently) correct the child. Later, praise your own kids for using their utensils and eating properly, so they're not confused by the apparent double standard.

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