I Ask: Do You Tell Other People’s Children What To Do?

Last week, my son and his friend were all standing in the middle of this circle of tables (that I forgot to take a picture of so instead used crayons and markers to illustrate the scene of the crime).

This is the table and chair set up. Give or take the black arrows and letters.

The head of the school came over and asked them to come out. She explained: The tables are in a circle so you DON’T go in the middle.

I thought: That did not even occur to me. followed by OOH! We just got in TROUBLE!

This week, a little girl, who’s probably five, went into the middle. (cue DUNT DUNT DUH)

I debate whether to say something. Her mom hadn’t been among the rebel parents of last week and is immersed in a conversation many feet away so I can’t easily enlist her to then explain the crime to her daughter.

So I opt to tell this five year old offender. I explain that we had gotten in trouble for standing in the middle of the tables, and I ask her to come out. Oh and I say: You’re very good at crawling under tables. You know, to give some positive reinforcement.

Well, I’m thinking: SUCCESS! until I notice that she’s clearly upset with something and begins whispering to her mom. And I decide that something is me.

So, completely unprompted, I begin explaining to the mom what happened. The mom seems both understanding and annoyed by my attempt to be helpful.

So I say: I was nice although I probably shouldn’t have said that we got IN TROUBLE. Because some kids are WAY more sensitive than others.

And then I trail off. As I may or may not have just insulted her daughter.

But at least I can say that I successfully made the conversation MORE awkward.

I thinking of adding that special talent to my business cards.

So I ask: Do YOU tell other people’s children to stop doing something?

(let’s discount danger to them or others or being mean to your own child because DUH!)

I didn’t respond to the answers or choose one. Because I’m afraid. Y’all are OPINIONATED. Which I respect enough to not take sides. Plus I’m not sure which side WINS. And I always want to win.

Today, a favorite post of mine is featured on Mamapedia: Never Underestimate The Joys Of A Public Bathroom With Two Kids

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

33 thoughts on “I Ask: Do You Tell Other People’s Children What To Do?

  1. I’m going to pretend I invisibly co-author your blog-because most of your Iasks are my thoughts-that I never end up asking.So I’ll just stick around to see what other people say here. 😉

  2. I always feel like a dick in these situations. I never ever feel like a grownup and almost always like a playground tattle-tale. It’s the world’s biggest rock and hard place and I waffle depending on the situation.

  3. Yes. I always feel like I’m invading someone’s territory but I do speak up to other people’s children. I think we need more adults willing to speak up – it takes a village – right?

  4. Good Lord YES! But I am a teacher by trade. It has been my job for the past 8 years to spend 7 hours a day, 10 months a year, telling other people’s children what to do – and also doling out punishments!
    In public situations, I don’t quite go as far as putting others’ children at time out or taking away recess. But it takes a lot of self control for me not to tell kids how to behave. It’s in my genetics.

    I’ve gotten better about it. But I used to thoroughly embarrass my husband by correcting unruly children EVERYWHERE we went (mall, grocery store, park, etc.).

    Here’s my true take on it. Unless it is what you mentioned as a “DUH”, NEVER reprimand children in a harsh tone. That is for parents to do. But I think that it is OK to speak to children about their behavior (much like you did – great job by the way!). No matter what, some parents will always be offended or annoyed that you told your child to do or not do something. But you are offended or annoyed that THEY aren’t telling their own child to do or not do something. So the feelings are mutual. But I also feel like a majority of us would want someone to tell our children the right thing to do if we were distracted (or ignoring our own kids) from what was going on. Which in my book, makes it ok!

    Oh, and never explain yourself unless a parent wants to know why you said something to their child. If you start the explanation it seems like you did something wrong. Which you didn’t.

  5. Well, if it meant keeping the little miss from getting into trouble with the teacher who has pointless and random rules, yes, I’d tell her.

    What kind of school is this, anyways? They configure tables to look like giant vulvas?

  6. I TOTALLY don’t have a problem with telling someone else’s kids to stop doing something. I do it politely, but I don’t have a problem doing it. My favorite all time best time was DH, DD and I were in church for Easter Sunday and there were a bunch of teenage boys behind us and their mother was sitting it another pew and couldn’t see what they were doing. They were totally misbehaving. Jumping OVER the pews, talking loudly, not sitting and standing when the rest of the church did, I looked over my shoulder and told them to “show some respect!” They were a lot better behaved after that. I felt like I was channeling my Grandmother 🙂

  7. Um, yes, this happens to me all the time. But it also happens in the reverse. I was at daycare talking to Alex’s teacher about Alex’s day. My feet hurt, so I was chilling on the floor while doing it. A two year old girl, not mine, came and sat in my lap. As I debated whether I should shove her off me so her parents wouldn’t think it was weird, her mom came in to give me the stink eye. Awesome.

    1. Ahhh gotta love this. I often wonder if the kids @ my sons daycare respond to ever other parent as they do me. I get kisses blown to me, songs, babble, the sitting in the lap, hugs, etc. Sometimes it is cool but then I try to avoid it for fear of the stink eye. I mean is it my fault your kid likes me more?

  8. I am spring loaded to meddle. I figure that when my kids are doing something stupid or dangerous, I hope there’s a parent there to jack them up. That said, I have learned to draw a line in the sand. If it’s dangerous behavior and they are heading for a hurting, I throw my cape back and jump in with all the “Dad’s Home and You’re in Trouble” authority I can muster. At the other end I enjoy watching parents discover exactly how stupid their genes can be.

    I have another situation I enjoy. I come across a parent dealing with the unruly child. Parent is negotiating (wrong tactic) and the child is pouting (read-winning). I step in and say to the child, “Listen to your Mother/Father.” If it’s a variation of the “Stranger Danger Lecture”, I say something like “Listen to Mom, I’m the stranger she’s talking about”. I then wink at the Mom to reassure that rape is not imminent.

  9. Yes, I do.

    I’m not a fan of doing it, but I’d rather not let something slide to the point where it’s like, “WHY didn’t you say anything sooner?” because that would make me really uncomfortable.

  10. –>I have in the past said something to other children about their behavior as recently as last week when I picked up my kid from daycare. He was the ring leader of throwing pine cones and after I corrected him when the other kids continued, I told them to stop too.
    ~deb

  11. I don’t have kids, so the answer is obvious. I think what you said to the little girl was totally ok. I can’t for the life of me see anything wrong in that. But, I always appear to say the wrong thing so I’m not a good example. People are just getting to prissy and just need to chill the fuck out you know what I mean? And there are times where I so want to scream at kids, like in restaurants when they think it’s ok to lie on the floor where waitresses can easily trip on them and their mothers think it’s so cute… Maybe more strangers need to be like you, not like that mother!

  12. tsk, tsk, tsk.
    Touchy subject I must say as I’ve contemplated this many times. I have to admit though, at the daycare, I have spoken up to the kids about a wrong. I sometimes provide a little reinforcement and then sometimes I am stern. I leave the sternness for for those bad___ kids – they need it.

  13. It depends on the kid. My family or my friends kids know exactly where I stand on most things, and I’m willing to back up their parents concepts if they’re not in sight.
    For people I don’t know though I tend to keep my mouth shut (obviously if they’re not in danger). I think parents can be hyper-critical of people who “correct” their children, even with good reason.
    With your specific situation though, had I been the kids mother I would have been wondering why there was such a strange rule to begin with, and would have thought nothing of you telling my child about it.

  14. I have no children so OF COURSE I DO.

    At LAX a little girl was hanging off a rope that’s used to separate terrorists from little old ladies. I looked around and saw a mom with a stroller going through luggage check, seemingly unaware that she even had a child.

    I told the little girl to go stand with her mother, 8 feet away.

    I recently told a kid in a boutique to “beat it” but that’s because he was getting on my nerves.

    He did.

  15. I think you should treat people how you and want to be treated and same goes for treating other people’s kids how you would want them to treat your own.

    That’s a lot of treating.

  16. When undisciplined children grab baguettes off the counter at a local pastry shop and run circling around me while beating my shins with said baguette (while their mom talks on her cell phone while “ordering”), yes… yes I do tell other people’s children what to do.

  17. I have a hard time correcting MY students when their own parents are in the room…… I WILL give unruly children the evil eye in the grocery store though.

  18. LMAO-I want to see those business cards.

    When I went to pick up my 4 year old from her nursery the other day she was sitting with a few boys in the sand box playing then a little boy standing behind her started kicking her.

    I said something to the teacher who was next to me, and she was a bit slow on the uptake to say something and when he finally came over I said to him I am not upset with him and I understand he wanted to play as well but kicking someone is not right.

    I got an earful from the nursery teacher how I am not allowed to reprimand a kid in the nursery. I was not impressed with her. Especially after she kind of as a way of proving her point aside from the fact that legally it is a problem…, she said how this boy never cries for his mother and now he is crying for his mother. I will just chalk it all up to stupidity and butt covering on her part. Had I yelled at the child or touched the child, I could understand it. I was very positive.

    Deep breath Susie.

  19. Yep! I do find it funny that some of the very moms who preach “it takes a village” in the moms group I belong to are the very same moms who give me the stink eye when I tell their children what to do.

    Then again, I’m also naturally very bossy. Comes from being an oldest child.

  20. Great post. And yes. I do tell other people’s children what to do. Mostly to great success as they then stick to me like glue and want to talk and play with me and why the hell won’t they leave me alone? But it’s always a tricky line about when to step in and what to say. So…I’m sensitive to it, but then I just can’t help myself.

  21. I want to believe that it takes a village but am I allowed to hand-select the village members? Because there are many, many people I don’t want correcting (read: parenting) my kids, even if they are doing something unattractive.

    Seeing as I’m so picky about who gets to correct my kids, I always hesitate to correct anyone else’s. I mean – obviously *I* would hand-pick ME to be in MY village – but I don’t know if other moms would. I try to approach other parents before I approach their child(ren).

    Two times I ALWAYS get involved though:
    1. If someone is hurting my kid
    2. If a kid is about to do something really dangerous.

    I think I remember a post about parenting other people’s children…something about a benefit dance? Would be a good repost! 🙂

  22. I don’t say anything to other people’s children. Ever. I’m terrified of confrontation and well aware that, for some parents, anything I say to their little ones in the form of corrective encouragement will feel like I’m usurping and undermining their role as a parent and authority figure. Especially if they are struggling (secretly or not) with some developmental and behavioral issues and questioning their effectiveness as a parent.

    I have to say though, I usually don’t mind when when someone helps direct my child. If, of course it’s done in the spirit of being helpful and not scolding or admonishing them. That’s my job. 🙂

  23. If someone else´s child wants to dive off, head first, from a sky scraper, I might say something, but in any other situation…no!!
    On the other hand. Anyone is welcome to tell my children what to do. And I know, they might stop. They will not listen. And they will certainly not obey!!

  24. Yup, I do, and I welcome people to give a little feedback to my own kids when it’s necessary. Or heck, why wait until a kid needs correcting? If an adult has shown that they’re interested in the kid as a person before some random infraction happens, the kid is so much more likely to respond when the adult redirects them. One of my favorite things about our preschool community (and the friends I have made there) is that there’s kindof a group-parenting thing going on. The kids seem to trust the adults, the adults know the kids and are comfortable chatting with them and sometimes setting them on another course when need be. So long as somebody isn’t being a jerk to my kid, I’m cool with them stepping in.

    Personally, I think it’s weird to think that only a child’s parent should ever interact with the kid.

  25. sometimes NO (just b/c i’m really TIRED of being in charge and correcting and redirecting and being responsible by that point in the day or week…)

    and sometimes YES (b/c wait, uhhhhhh, whoa, is there a parent for this little person anywhere in sight?? ) – case in point a few weeks ago at a big wedding where some unattended little boy was repeatedly igniting tablecloths with tea light table decorations. (me: how do i say this nicely since i have no idea who this kid or his parents are, or how much they’ve had to drink already ??…um, hey, i know it’s dark out here and that makes a nice light, but since these tablecloths don’t belong to us, and since there’s also a table full of unattended half-finished alcoholic beverages on top of this smoking tablecloth, yes, you need to stop doing that…right now!)

  26. I thought of this entry earlier today at a music event. Some kid was being obnoxious to other littler kids, and all the parents were silently eying each other trying to figure out who was the negligent parent. Eventually one woman stepping in and asked him where his mother was and told him to go to her, but he just wandered off. I tailed him and started looking asking event staff if there was a missing persons area (maybe his mom was frantically looking for him elsewhere?) but eventually the mom ambled up behind him. I skirted out without saying anything, but I kind of wish I’d had the balls to tell her to parent her kid. Or, you know, have the courage to address him directly like the other mom I witnessed.

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