Have you ever been in a situation where a stranger took it upon herself to either instruct your kid or blatantly scold them in front of you? It’s uncomfortable and complicated indeed- on so many levels. First, if your ego doesn’t completely overtake you and send you on a rampage to tell that person where they can “stick” their unsolicited advice, you may feel inadequate as a parent. Why didn’t I address that issue with my kid first? Secondly, perhaps that other person is a friend, co-worker, acquaintance or other parent and has something valuable to offer- something you hadn’t thought of. Lastly, how is this total disregard for your status interpreted by your child?
Of course, when one takes it upon himself to discipline your kid in your absence that’s one thing; when it is done in your presence - that’s another story.
Let’s address the first scenario - in your absence. Granted, if neither parent is available, the supervising adult has the right to “gracefully” reprimand depending upon the circumstances. It’s best to have this “who’s in charge” thing all figured out ahead of time. When I send my kids to friends’ homes, I tell the caregiver to “feel free” to reproach my kid as they see fit. Now, that doesn’t mean that person could mentally abuse or take full advantage of my child by sending them into 30 minute time-outs. To avoid this, before I send my kid anywhere, I know the person well enough to assume this will not happen. Yet, in the end, we are at the mercy of the unknown.
Second scenario - in your presence. Now this is a biggie and certainly many of you can relate as nosey neighbors, moody cashiers, stressed-out servers and self- righteous repairmen who are all more than willing to butt-in and flat-out scold your kid at their own discretion. Some are sincere and believe they are helping to better a situation and actually teach something. Others are… well, let’s just say, busy-bodies who are more concerned about being sued over your “happy boy with the new running shoes” slipping and falling on their property. Personally, this is the one that irks me the most, especially when this obvious intention is poorly masked as genuine interest in your kid’s well-being.
Depending on from whom it comes and the particular situation, I seek to act accordingly. I’m not omnipotent and with five kids under my care, sometimes I’m remiss about addressing an important issue on the spot. I simply haven’t enough eyes or ears to catch it all. If the person is graceful and kind in their approach, I will thank them for their concern and address the problem again, with my kid, my way. If the person is overly neurotic, (I encounter this all the time with all the “retirees” residing in my development,) or outright nasty and scares my kid, I will politely, yet firmly state that as the parent, it is my responsibility to instruct my child. Sometimes it’s necessary to tell the nothing-better-to-do-with-their-time outsider to for example, let the (bickering) kids work it out by learning some good negotiation skills that’ll serve them well later in life.
Later, I try to always address what happened with my child so she will learn to respect adults and authority from wherever it may come and also, why sometimes the aforementioned must be totally negated!
What do you think? How do you handle it when an outsider interferes and admonishes your kid in your presence?
Darah Zeledon. Mother of five, freelance writer, small business owner, and fitness freak, Darah has just returned to the US after living 9 years with her large brood in South America. Through an angle of humor, Darah´s uniquely optimistic perspective of raising children in today’s unstable world has been strongly influenced by her experiences running a household and various businesses in several foreign lands. You can read more of her here and here.