Discipline How do you discipline someone else’s child?
It’s happened to most mothers. Your child has a play date and all goes well, until his friend does something that your child would never get away with. What now? Do you shout at the other child or do you just let it slide and look the other way? You don’t
“I HAD A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE,” says Cape Town mother, Louisa Brink. “A mother and her son (our boys are in the same class even though they are not really friends) came over for a visit because I had to help the mother with something. The boys played in my son’s bedroom, but after they left, the room was in a state of complete chaos! All the cupboards and his bedding were covered in khoki pen scribbles. The bedding was ripped off the bed and there were so many toys on the floor one could hardly walk on it.
“I confronted my own child immediately, but he put the blame on the other boy. Luckily our nanny was there to back up his story. I decided then and there it’s the last time that this boy would visit our home. With my child’s birthday party he was not invited and I avoid the mother at school. Yet I feel sorry for the boy because he is being punished for something he might not even know he’s doing wrong.”
A mother should lay down the rules in her home from the onset, says Cape Town clinical psychologist Maryna Johnson. “When a child does something wrong in your home you should first ask him nicely to refrain from the behaviour. Explain the rules of the house and tell him that everyone abides by those rules.
“When the child persists with the bad behaviour, take him home. You must then explain to his mother what happened and that you could not handle her child. Let her know that the child will always be welcome in your home, provided he sticks to the rules.”
LET HER KNOW THAT THE CHILD WILL ALWAYS BE WELCOME IN YOUR HOME, PROVIDED HE STICKS TO THE RULES
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE CHILD’S BEHAVIOUR HAS AN INFLUENCE ON YOUR FRIENDSHIP WITH HIS MOTHER?
“This can happen, but you cannot allow a child in your home who does not follow the rules. Weigh up what is important to you and your family. If the child starts damaging property or hurting your child it might be time to end the friendship.”
Maryna says sticking to one rule is crucial – never hit someone else’s child. “This is a major no-no. One way of handling the situation is to give the child a time-out. Take him to a space where he can calm down until he is ready to play nicely. It’s best to speak to the other parent and come to an agreement about the best form of discipline.”
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WHOLE BUNCH, INCLUDING YOUR OWN CHILD, MISBEHAVES?
“In this case you cannot discipline your child alone. The other child should know that they too did something wrong. Mothers should also realise that a different set of rules applies to every home. You might not allow jumping on the couches, but it could be acceptable elsewhere. Be firm about what behaviour is tolerated in your home.”
When a certain child is out of line during group play, Maryna’s advice is to take the culprit aside and reprimand him. “The others will want to know what happened, but explain that it is between you and the other child.”
One important aspect to remember when you discipline children, including your own, is to always do it from a place of love. “When another child comes to your home to play, he is in your care,” she says. “You are responsible for him and he relies on your care just as much as your own children do.”
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A CHILD DOES SOMETHING THAT DRIVES YOU UP THE WALL WHILE HIS MOTHER IS PRESENT?
“The responsibility always rests with the mother to discipline her own child,” says Maryna. “You cannot take over another person’s responsibility. If her child is jumping on your couches, for example, you can nicely ask if she would mind if you ask him to stop.”
Children who constantly interrupt adult conversation can be another irritation. If the mother does not intervene you can inform her that it bothers you and ask her if there’s a way she can put a stop to it.
Mother of two Liezel Mathee of Melkbosstrand says for her it’s very simple. “I have rules in my house and everyone, including my own children, have to abide by the rules. This includes children who come over to my home to play. I believe children appreciate having guidelines and structure. They need to know that they cannot get away with misbehaving at your home. This has always worked for me.” YB