A while back, I got together with a group of friends, mostly moms, and the topic came up about disciplining other people’s children. Everyone seemed to have very different opinions on this. It makes sense that there were such a wide variety of responses; raising children is about the most personal, vulnerable thing you can do. As parents, we make what seems like hundreds of decisions a day that impact who our children are becoming. We are trying our best and doing what we believe is right. However, we all raise our kids our own way and have different standards for discipline within our home and families. What is right and what is tolerated in one home, is not in another. As Big Brother N gets older and is gradually with friends and grandparents more, this topic continues to stay on the top of my mind.
Of course, we hope we have taught him well enough that he will behave in other people’s company and they won’t have any issues, but just in case, here are my opinions:
Physical Discipline is Off the Table. While I support and understand the need for discipline, do not ever put a hand on my child. It is my husband and my choice as to whether we support physical discipline and it is an incredibly personal decision. In raising our boys, we will teach them what type of physical touch we feel is appropriate and respectful. Please don’t disregard our decision. If you are to a point where you are so frustrated that you think he needs physical discipline, please call me and I will come and take him off your hands. As a caveat, we believe physical discipline is causing pain or discomfort in response to an undesired behavior; not physically pulling my child away from from a dangerous situation.
Safety, First. If my kiddo may harm himself or someone else, please stop him and communicate the issue to both him and me. This one is simple. I don’t want my son hurt in any way, or anyone else hurt because of his actions. He is learning, he pushes boundaries AND, I swear, he’s going to be an adrenaline junky. These things alone or in combination often lead to bad choices. Right now he doesn’t fully understand what could hurt him or be dangerous; years from now when he does, I’m still not convinced things will change. When my child is with you, I expect you will make your best effort to keep him safe just as I would with yours.
Stricter Rules Prevail. Whether one of our kids is doing something we would let them do in our home is irrelevant. If our boys are in your space, your rules go. Seano and I like to think we’re pretty middle of the road parents. Not too strict that our children have to walk on eggshells but strong enough that they’re not maniacs (at least that’s the goal!). There are certain rules that will follow our children wherever they go. But, if your rules are stricter and one of them is with you, those will be our guide.
Quick and Dirty up Front. Let’s have a quick and dirty conversation upfront about discipline and what works with my kiddo. Also, if there are important words, signals, or issues you need to be aware of, I will tell you. For example, around 12 months, Big Brother N started throwing major tantrums. They seemed to mostly stem from two things: one, him knowing what he was trying to communicate and us not understanding; and two, us telling him no. As he learned more sign language and as we started to understand his signals, the first issue practically disappeared. When we would tell him no, and he would continue to test us, we used a process, pretty successfully, including communication, timeout, reassurance, and affirmation as necessary. When we left Big Brother N with anyone, we were sure to communicate some of his common signals that he used to communicate and the discipline process we implemented. Let’s also visit about how you typically like to discipline and make sure we’re aligned.
I Will Answer. Trust me, if my son isn’t with me, my phone is within arm’s reach, and I will answer. You have one of the people I cherish the most in your company, and I will be available for you. If my son is with you, and he continues causing problems and repeating behavior after you’ve asked him to stop, call me. I fully understand you have rules and standards that, at some point, my child may push and defy. It’s not fair to you to have to deal with an ongoing problem. Calling me and worse, him having to leave, will hopefully put a chain of events in place so that you won’t have to experience this again, ever.
No Rescuing or Distracting Please. If I do happen to be with you, and I’m in the middle of communicating with or disciplining one of our kiddos, please don’t try to distract or rescue him. As the parents, Seano and I will decide what is and isn’t allowed and how we will handle these situations. When it comes to our kids, this is law. Clearly, if I am disciplining, I believe he made a bad choice. You swooping in will only confuse him and make him lose respect for me.
What about you, what other discipline standards do you have for people who have your kids? Is anything glaringly missing from my list?
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