When It's OK to Discipline Someone Else's Kids

One mom's story and an expert viewpoint on this touchy subject.

ByABC News
February 25, 2015, 8:58 AM
Is it Ever OK to Discipline Someone Else's Kids?
Is it Ever OK to Discipline Someone Else's Kids?
Getty Images

— -- Picture this: Your child is at a play date and you stop by to pick her up. As you walk into the family's yard, you see your child crying and what appears to be the mom who is hosting the play date scolding her.

How would you feel?

In her recent article for Babble.com, Chaunie Brusie details the tale. Except that she's the mom doling out the discipline.

The short version: Brusie's daughter and the other child got into an argument over a swing. The friend breaks into sobs. Brusie, who is a few steps away, starts to make her way over to the girls and says, “I can’t hear you if you’re crying, honey!”

Brusie writes: "I admit that I may have sounded slightly unconcerned to her plight and I admit that I may have sighed that sigh of tired mothers everywhere as I said it, but I swear my intentions were simply to distract her from crying so I could remedy the swing situation.

But it was at the exact moment that the words left my lips that I saw her.

The girl’s mother.

Who had just come into the yard to witness two things: 1) Her daughter crying hysterically and 2) a woman she barely knew basically scolding her for crying.

I was beyond mortified and even more embarrassed when the woman pretty much sprinted to her daughter, scooped her up, and made the hastiest of hasty retreats."

After the incident, the relationship "kind of deteriorated," Brusie told ABC News.

Despite what happened, which she said "looked a lot worse than it was," Brusie did not and doesn't "ever think it's appropriate" to discipline someone else's child. "There is so much going on 'behind the scenes' so to speak with someone else's child that you aren't privy to, so you really can't know what's going on enough to be able to discipline them effectively."

Plus, "I've never been a fan when people have disciplined my child," she said.

Parenting expert Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and author of “If I Have to Tell You One More Time…,” said seeing your own child disciplined by another adult can be very difficult.

"Assume the other person did it out of love,” she said. “It’s natural to feel like we’re being judged and get defensive but if we can assume the person did it from a place of love, we’re more likely to respond with kindness."

She added, however, that if the direction or reprimand goes against how you parent, you should "calmly let the other person know you handle things differently and you’ll address the issue with the child in private."

And while McCready generally advises against disciplining other people's children, saying "anytime children are involved parent’s emotions are heightened," there is one time where it is completely appropriate. "If the child is in danger then, of course, you should intervene swiftly and without hesitation."