Should You Discipline Other People's Kids?

When You Lose Your Cool

The playdate is out of control. Kids are spilling drinks, throwing toys, and fighting. Finally, when one child leads your son up the outside of the stair railing, you yell at them to get down -- now. And when they don't, you send them to separate rooms.

An overreaction? Probably. But what's your damage-control strategy? "My advice is the same as it is for wayward politicians," says social worker Daniel Buccino. "Disclose all, and do it early." Call the child's parent right away and give your side of the story: "Kyle and Joey were climbing the stairs on the outside, and I was scared they might fall and get hurt. I spoke sharply to them and gave them time-outs. I realize I lost my cool, and I just wanted you to know." Fess up, and chances are you'll get sympathy on the other end of the line. Keep quiet, and you risk having Kyle complain about Joey's mean ol' mom when he gets home.

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