Sticking Up for Your Child

by Jasmine Carlson on May 21, 2010

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I am going to take a little Babywise vs AP blogging break and talk a bit about something that touched very close to home this past weekend though the incident(s) were not a one time thing  but something that seems to happen fairly often in my new parenting life.

People seem to think that children are property of some sort that are just up for grabs or up to the discipline of anyone that randomly feels like stepping in and “parenting” for a moment. As you can tell I can be a little bitter about this topic. Maybe bitter isn’t the word for it. I am not bitter I just believe very firmly that the only people that should discipline a child is someone who is invested in that child’s life. When you are invested in a child’s life, when you love them, then you will discipline accordingly.

I have been in several frustrating situations regarding this issue. Just this past weekend it was actually a young girl who followed my son around and told him no or re-directed him every time he did anything for a while. I just remained silent and kept removing my son from the situation but it finally became apparent that I needed to do more. I calmly turned to the girl and told her that I appreciated her attempt to help but I that I was his mother and was watching him carefully and would be the one to discipline him if need be. Believe it or not my heart was pounding and I was nervous to say anything!

This brought back the moment in the coffee shop that I had with an older woman where she actually grabbed my son and told him no even though all he was doing was wandering the shop under the close supervision of my husband and I (we were sitting having coffee with my sister and bro in law). I didn’t say anything to that woman. I was, and still am, disappointed with myself. I didn’t stick up for my child. I will not miss an opportunity like that again.

One of the best things that my parents did for me was to stick up for us, their children, all of the time. We were well behaved in public and we were disciplined but with love by parents who were fully invested in us. Every time that someone else who was not invested in us stepped in to that position our parents very nicely but firmly corrected the situation. They always told people in our hearing that they wanted us to stick around and that we were not an inconvenience, that they truly enjoyed our company. Those words made all the 3567239145_fea0530f32difference in our lives. That is what I want for my child.

I’ll sign off now to go build myself a mommy backbone of steel.

Jasmine is a co-housing, home birthing, missions minded, community living mama with a passion for fierce writing. She blogs.

Photo used from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnera/3567239145/

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Jasmine Carlson (50 Posts)

Jasmine is a community living mama with a passion for fierce writing and fitness. She her way on Team USA by fitness coaching. Shaping Her. (www.shapingher.com) Join the conversation at (www.facebook.com/ShapingHer)


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane May 21, 2010 at 6:55 am

I definitely agree that, as parents, we should stick up for our children, and that we need to make sure that we are the primary forces for positive discipline in their lives, not to mention the primary source for comfort and affirmation. One of my pet peeves as a parent is hearing someone tell my child, “Oh, you’re OK, stop crying!” if she fell down or got hurt. It’s also never OK for someone else to grab my child, humiliate them, or discipline them in a negative way.

But I have to disagree on the idea that only parents (or other emotionally invested people) should discipline a child. As the mother of three children who have had lots of playground time with much bigger as well as much smaller children, and having had the oldest two go through co-op nursery school and start elementary school, I think there are many times in life when we have to act like we live in a village and discipline each other’s children, even strangers’ children. That discipline should be positive and gentle-but-firm, in my opinion, but I think it’s not realistic or part of what socialization is all about to set up a rule that no one can discipline anyone else’s child.

For example, on the playground, if a bunch of older children are being too rough on the play equipment around smaller children, I will step in and remind them of the rules. (No pushing, one at a time, be careful of the little ones, etc.) It doesn’t matter whether my children are the older, louder ones or the smaller, more vulnerable ones — the rules have to be enforced or someone is going to get hurt. And the fact is, other parents aren’t always there to do the disciplining of their own children. Maybe they’re distracted by the needs of another child, or maybe they’re on the phone, or maybe they’re just not where the action is — it doesn’t really matter. If I need to tell someone else’s child that he may not push a younger child out of the way, I do it in the same way that I do it to my own children — without yelling, but firmly and with the expectation that that child will listen to me.

Disciplining other people’s children is also part of protecting my own. Again on the playground — I will not hesitate to step in if another child is doing something that is hurting or scaring my child or threatening to cause him or her harm. In order to protect my own child I have to enforce the rules against another person’s child and it’s not always the case that I can find that parent and ask her to step in in time to prevent harm or hurt to my own.

Do I rush up and butt in where a parent has the situation under control? No, of course not! But many times other parents have provided appropriate discipline to my children in a social setting where I wasn’t right there (for example, sitting on a bench nursing the baby or changing her diaper) and I’m OK with that. There have also been times where I’ve had to intervene to protect my children from inappropriate discipline, or talk to them afterwards about how a parent disciplined their child in a way that we try not to do in our family.

I think it’s a very tricky subject and definitely one that can cause a lot of discomfort and second-guessing after the fact. But I don’t think there can be a hard-and-fast rule that we’re only responsible for our own children, and no one else’s.

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Tracie May 21, 2010 at 7:23 am

I totally see what you’re saying, and I think in a situation with another adult your approach sounds really reasonable, but by telling the young girl not to discipline your child aren’t you actually disciplining someone else’s child? Were her parents nearby?

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mamapoekie May 21, 2010 at 9:00 am

Wonderful article. I need to learn to do that more too. I usually lie down and take it… and get so frustrated with myself for it. Anyway, what makes people think they have the right to discipline other people’s children?

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Erin May 21, 2010 at 10:03 am

Thank you so much for posting this. I had a similar situation with a young girl and my son. I was reluctant to say anything to her because her mother was right there. I was hoping her mother would take care of it. At one point she actually grabbed my son’s clothes and shouted in his 17 month old face “No! We don’t do that!” I finally took him away. Her mother just kind of laughed and said “Oh, she just thinks she’s the ‘Playdate Police’.” We never went back. And I feel guilty for not saying anything. It won’t happen again.

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beth goldflam May 21, 2010 at 11:17 am

And then what do you do when your child is well behaved, but the children he is playing with are out of control, and no parent steps in to discipline them? I do not want to have to discipline other people’s children, but when they’re whacking my son over the head, or pushing him off the side of the playground, I often feel the need to stand up for him that way as well, by protecting his safety.
I really like your article, and I’m glad you are encouraging parents to stick up for their children, because that is our job!

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Holly May 21, 2010 at 11:38 am

I don’t know where you live but HERE.. well… disciplining other people’s children is a necessity! Parents here do NOT care about their children! I have SO wanted to teach some of these parents a lesson and invite their child into my home for some ice cream and just let them hang out here for awhile… Meanwhile waiting for the parents to have a heart attack when (if) they realize their child is not “around”. WHY you ask, the kids here play outside from morning till night with NO supervision. There was a four year old who routinely walked from our apartments to the neighboring apartment complex!! His parents NEVER knew where he is. Another property I managed a FIVE year old was out playing with his two year old brother. The two year old would ROUTINELY walk up the stairs to the second and third floor balconies and then SCREAM because he didn’t know how to go DOWN the stairs. The five year old would be punished when the two year old did this (he should be watching his brother!!). The five year old also crossed construction caution tape, climbed a ladder and was “surfing” on scaffolding built in an akward spot. The spot was so bad (On a flight of stairs) that there were TWO men holding it steady while another man was on it. Now this five year old is surfing on it! When the parent was notified she asked where her child was now, when told it was unknown she decided instead of LOOKING for her child she would stand at the front door and just SCREAM for him. This is NORMAL here. As a parent and community member we here often have to tell children to stop, no, don’t do that; even though they are not our children! Last night there were about six children digging in the dirt creating huge craters for people to fall and twist their ankle in. I told them to fill in the holes and STOP digging them. They have been told this SEVERAL times before. Me and my downstairs neighbor have filled the holes in ourselves SEVERAL times (they are right in front of the downstairs neighbors front door, where her child and mine play on a regular basis). There is one child who INSISTS on carrying around my child and my neighbors child. She is about 7 or so and has NO business carrying around a 2-3 year old child.. but repeated requests to not pick the children up falls on deaf ears until the neighbor snapped at the child.. then she stopped. I asked a child on the playground to apologize to my child after he hit her head on the side of a slide as he pushed her out of the way when it was her turn. He went and told him mother that a lady on the playground “yelled” at him and his mother came and verbally attacked me.. the solution.. be outside with your children! DUH! If *she* had been around perhaps I would not have had to say anything to the child. (He was 11!). Perhaps you were distracted by your guests at the coffee shop and the lady saw something that you didn’t.. or perhaps she thought your child was NOT being supervised and decided to take matters into their own hands! It happens ALL the time here! When we are in a restaurant my children sit IN their seats and amuse themselves at OUR table.. where they belong.. but there will be little ones wandering around that I have to ask NOT to pull my hot drink down on their head, not to take my knife, not to break the items on shelves for sale… because their parents *think* they are watching them but have gotten involved in a conversation and forgotten their child is out and about. Could this have accidentally happened or been perceived to have happened? Just another viewpoint!!!

It is truly amazing that there are not MORE missing children! The kids here could EASILY be picked up and carried off and no one would know the difference for MANY hours! That child could be out of the state in two hours, he country in probably less than a day!! That is a scary thought for me! I don’t understand how other parents don’t see this and take more precautions!

This is what gives people the right to discipline other people’s children… and you kind of did discipline the other person’s child when you told her you were your child’s parent and you would deal with him! Perhaps the other child’s parent thought her child was being cute.. or was not paying attention….. either way you know the frustration that leads people to discipline other people’s children! You did it!

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Kathy Ortiz May 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I have to step in with my mother in law. She is someone who speaks louder and more harshly than she intends. She can be being nice or joking, but her tone is always very crass sounding. She often says to my 18 month old son “you’re bad”. I try to coax her to saying “we say ‘silly’”, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears. We are also gentle with our discipline. Sure there are times when I have given my son a firm “no”, but in general I explain things…. and he listen and responds very well. For example, I will explain that the dog’s food and water is for the dog and not for him to play in, and that it is yucky for babies. Now he stays away from the dog’s bowls and makes yucky sounds at them. If she sees him even going toward the bowls she yells “NO” too firmly and too shrill. It scares him and hurts his feelings. I have to stand up to her and tell her to back off, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings or put strain on our relationship. What a tricky subject!

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Rachel May 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I think we should stand up for our children. I was visiting family and my 3 year old niece kept taking her toys away from my then 8 month old son. I went and brought in his toys from the car. She grabbed his toys and still didn’t let him touch hers. I didn’t want to discipline her, so I removed my son to an area with there were none of her toys.
I played there with my son with his toys and she joined us also playing with his toys. This time when she went to take away a toy I told her he was playing with it and it was his. When she kept it up I suggested that she go play with her toys.
My sister-in-law said nothing. I was so annoyed with her.
At my house I share my son’s toys with my niece. Although, when she goes to grab the toy we are playing with I stand firm. Still no interaction from my sister-in-law. And always a tantrum from the 3 year old.
Another niece (13 years old) was playing with a toy and the 3 year old threw a tantrum until the toy was taken away from the teen (her cousin), I never said anything to my sister-in-law. But I wish I had. Letting a 3 year old run over all the other children is wrong.
We do not spend hardly any time together because she had to move away. Part of me is glad.

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MamanADroit May 21, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I haven’t had this yet, but I definitely agree with other commenters that it depends a little bit on whether the other parent is “present”, both physically and mentally, and if the situation is dangerous. I think everyone can agree it’s ok to “discipline” another child if their parent isn’t present and they are doing something dangerous , but that we should be very careful to respect the rights of others to parent their own children when they are present!
I have had a couple times at playgroups where other people’s kids ask me if something is okay. I try to say things like “well, I don’t have a problem with it, but you need to ask your mom if it’s okay with her” in response.

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katepickle May 22, 2010 at 12:25 am

I think it’s the random strangers that give me the most grief….
The lady in the shop that lectures me about why my infant twins should not have a dummy. The school Mum who I don’t know who yells at my 2 year old son to ‘walk with your mother’ when he is only a few paces ahead, inside the school grounds, with me supervising and is completely safe.

Then there is the people who know my child who I feel over step the mark… the relative who went to smack my child….

I don’t have a problem with other people helping to redirect my child or keep them safe when I am NOT around… but when I am clearly there, watching, part of the action I would hope that people would address their concerns to me, not assume and address my child.

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FC Mom May 23, 2010 at 4:26 am

It’s ok- the coffee shop was your learning experience! We can’t be perfect parents right away.
I’m a teacher, so I feel comfortable saying to children even I don’t know, “Careful sweetie-” and often just those couple of words are enough to “discipline” a kid!
I think that’s an OK thing to do if another kid is being too rough, and it’s gentle enough not to offend another parent…

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Jasmine Carlson May 24, 2010 at 11:37 am

I have been very interested reading all of your responses and all the perspectives are great.

Just to clarify the young girl that I was talking about is 13 and her mother was present though she doesn’t say anything.

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Shen-Li May 26, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I, too, tend to be a little too timid when other people step in and say things to my kids that I don’t approve of. I think I need a Mommy backbone of steel, too.

There have been a couple of times when I stepped in and spoke directly to someone else’s child and these have been potentially dangerous situations. The first girl had a plastic bag over her head and the second was attempting to remove the socket protector from a power point.

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anne marie July 4, 2010 at 7:34 am

I just had an experience a few weeks ago when a newly married in to the family member grabbed my daughter by the front of the shirt and was very rude in talking to her when the only thing she did was put something on the table instead of the trash. I did have words with her, and the rest of the family agreed with me that she didnt have to talk to her so rudely and she definatly crossed the line when putting her hands on my child. I believe you should NEVER put your hands on someone elses child, wether you are grabbing there shirt or slapping their face, It’s all the same to me.The only time you have a right to disipline is if the child is doing something dangerous and you as the parent are not in the room at the time. I was very close to grabbing her by the shirt and yelling at her to see how she liked it but thankfully I was able to control myself, However I was not polite when I confronted her so I hope for her sake that wont happen again.

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Michelle July 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I just had this happen today and I’m really upset about it. My 6 year old daughter and I were on an outing with my best friend and her children. Joining us for the first time was my friends live-in partner whom my daughter has met but has never really spent time with.
Towards the end of a great day the girls were all climbing on a firetruck that was parked at this fair. When my daughter went to get down he put his hand out to help her. According to him my daughter first pushed his hand away and then when walking by him hit his open hand again with her open hand. He grabbed her by the arm (I saw this part) and spun her around and got in her face! This man does not have a relationship with my daughter and I felt this was very inappropriate! Of course I do not want my daughter to hit anyone……she says she was giving him a “hard high five” I’m not sure if she’s just trying to get out of trouble……..I had the talk with her about hitting regardless. When I confronted him with the fact that he grabbed her he acted like he had done everything within his rights…….This is my best friends partner……..any suggestions????

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Jasmine Carlson July 30, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Michelle – What a difficult circumstance! Of course it isn’t right for our children to hit but I do not think it is right for a man, one you don’t really know especially, to grab your daughter. I would probably tell him that I did not want my daughter learning that it was ok for a man to touch her, EVER, without her permission. He could have easily brought you in to the situation or moved away from it. I would be very angry.

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Tina September 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm

My son was bowling at the local bowling alley and my husband is
there with him when he bowls but was not around at the time this
incident happened.A man on the other team came up to my son and
his friend when they were about to bowl and came up behind them and
pushed his hand into their necks hard and told them to step behind the
line even though my sons friend was about to bowl and was in front of
the line like he was supposed to and my son was behind the line. This
man agreed he did it and was out of line stating he was old school.
Is there anything that can be done to make sure this doesnt happen
again, this man was out of control. Isnt the bowling alley supposed to
keep our kids safe. Should this guy be banned because he is a hothead?

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Latisha March 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

I totally agree with you. I will and always have stuck up for my children. In fact one situation that comes to mind was at our pet supply chain store. My children were getting a little too playful near the fish as I asked a question so I picked up my two year old and put her in the cart. Her crying continued to our next stop in the store, the dog food aisle where an elderly lady looked at my daughter and loudly shouted at her, “BE QUIET!”

I still remember exactly what I said. I looked at her and said “Excuse, me,” thinking I misheard her or she was trying to be funny. She looked at me and said, ” You need to keep her quiet , we don’t all want to hear that crying.” I looked back at her and loudly told her in front if my children… “She’s two years old and crying because she’s being disciplined. Why don’t you mind your own business. I’ll take care of my children.” She looked at me like she had never been talked to like that before. I thought her jaw was going to hit the floor and I left the store feeling so good about myself and knowing that I had done the right thing sticking up for my children. Never be afraid to defend your child. I think it reaches them to stick up for people who might not be able to stick up for themselves.

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