By Dr. Michele Borba Real Parenting Solutions
When I was growing up and misbehaved I was set straight by the parent in charge. And if my friends misbehaved at my house there were held accountable by my mom and dad. But these days the parenting rules about disciplining other kids have changed.
Parents are far much more cautious about disciplining kids who aren't "theirs." One reason is out of self-protection - our society has become so litigious. But the neighborhood block as well as parent support systems where we know each other's children and help raise them has broken down. So how do you navigate those tricky issues of disciplining the "other kids" when the child is in your care and you are in charge?
My view: it's never intruding when you're protecting a child. You also don't want to offend the kid's parents, but when his behavior is dangerous or harmful to another child, you can't ignore it either. Still, the right response depends on the circumstances-and in this day-sadly!-you also have to be a bit cautious on how that other parent just may respond. (And you wonder why so many kids are rude or engaging in risky behavior? All these mixed messages or being allowed to get away with those inappropriate behaviors have a lot to do with it). Here are a few tips from The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.
Get on board with the other parent. Anytime you are responsible for the care of another child always introduce yourself to the other kid's parent. You can exchange emergency information but also bring up discipline. "Are there any special rules you'd like your child to follow?" What would you like me to do if they act up when they're with me?" A brief chat will clue you into the parent's discipline views and also make things easier in case there is a problem.
Review ground rules. Lay down the law with your child before the friend arrives and even post those core house rules on your refrigerator. You or your child can quickly review those rules to any first-time guest.
Know your discipline limits. Most parents have no problem if you remind their kids of your house rules or enforce them. The problem is when you use certain types of punishment. A few general no-no's: Don't spank another child. Ever. Don't be judgmental-- "You're so naughty." Don't push. You may not use time-out, take away the other kid's personal possessions or ground a child from a future event. Don't discipline if the child if his parent is present. Whatever the kid does, the parent is in charge of the child. (You may take the kid by the hand and "return" him to the parent. You may review your rules in front of the parent: "We don't throw balls in my house." But you can't discipline.)
Make "safety" your core policy. Step in for any safety issue: Aggression or cruelty (hitting, biting, fighting, slapping, or exclusion. Risky behaviors like jumping off the roof, running with a sharp object, experimenting with alcohol. Leaving your property. Using technology with Internet access that can access adult or inappropriate content.
Use "cool" discipline and watch your terms. You do not have to tolerate any guest's acting inappropriately. Just remember that the child may later share with his parent how you discipline (and those stories can be embellished). For instance, it's best not to use "time-out" but you can still say, "Looks like you both need time to cool down. Why not sit here a bit until you're ready to play again."What do you do if all that fails? Read more...
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