How would you feel if someone else took it upon themselves to tell off your child?
Or, not to put to fine a point on it, how do you handle it when a family member or relative gets involved in telling your child what to do - or not do?
Thankfully it hasn’t yet happened to me - but this came up during conversation with a bunch of mums recently, and several of them had pretty toe-curling stories of other people - family members in particular - interfering in matters regarding their children’s discipline.
Now call me naive (I’ve been called worse…) but this surprised me. I‘d always sort of thought there was an unwritten rule about telling off other people’s kids - no matter how you may be related. Apparently I’m wrong, according to my friends.
One says her biggest bugbear when it comes to other people telling her kids off is parents at the park seeing fit to boss her babies around. We’ve all known the sort of scenario. Your child is playing on the slide and some other kid's pushy parent, rather than telling them to wait their turn, pretty much managed to intimidate your child into moving off that piece of play equipment quicksmart.
But other pals tell me they have watched open-mouthed as perfect strangers have taken issue with their child’s actions, and thought nothing of giving the child a ticking off right in the presence of the parents. Overwhelmingly, my mum friends agree that it’s a step too far.
“If you have an issue with something my child is doing, why on earth wouldn’t you take it up with me, his parent?” comments one pal. “I am deeply distrusting of anyone who tells off someone else’s child. Unless it’s a matter of life or death, like shouting at them to get out of the way of a ton of bricks falling on their head, then you have no right to address my kid directly in a disciplinary way. That’s my job, and if you can’t man up and speak to me, you've no business belittling my kid.”
Speaking personally, I am a seasoned avoider of conflict. A coward, in fact; the kind of person who says sorry when someone else accidentally steps on my foot, so I'm not in the habit of wagging my finger in the faces of other people's little darlings. But I know that not everyone shares my view.
Another friend sees it as her duty to have a word with another kid if they step out of line - as much for the benefit of her own child, as anything else. “My child learns from the behaviour of other kids around him, more so than from anything I tell him to do or not do, so I think it’s important to call out other kids if they push, don’t share, or do anything which I’m trying to teach my son not to do. In fairness, I’d expect anyone else to do the same with my kid, so I don’t really see what the issue is.”
Where the proverbial really hits the fan, however, is when it comes to other family members sticking an oar in - well-intentioned though it may be - around matters of our kids’ behaviour.
One friend in particular admits to seeing red whenever her mother tells her nippers off. “I know she means well so I try not to let it get to me, and I wouldn’t dream of upsetting her by making an issue of it, but every time she tells them off for talking with their mouths full or forgetting to take their shoes off, I feel a teeny bit like it’s ME she’s really criticising," she explains. "My kids are an extension of me, after all, and to a certain degree their behaviour reflects on me, so if someone else tells them off I feel like they’re really having a go at me. I’d much rather they just pointed out the behaviour and left me to deal with it; that way I’d feel like they weren’t bring my own parenting skills into question but actually trying to help.”
So tell us... what’s your view?