To Scold Or Not...
Other people's children
I suspect his moral intentions were right, but I also guess he never lived in the sort of place I lived, an estate where the woman living above us had serious mental health issues. Her children constantly borrowed my kids' toys, and returned them, broken, or didn't return them at all.
One day, after they left four broken toys on our doorstep, I saw the boys and said, "I understand things get broken, but it's nice to say 'I'm sorry' when you return a broken toy." They stared at me blankly. The eldest sucked his teeth. Moment later the mum was at my door, fists clenched. She hissed, "You've been troubling my children?" I said, "I'm just getting a bit fed up of them breaking my kids' toys and not apologising." She said, "You gotta problem with them you come to me, you DO NOT EVER trouble my children"
This incident instilled a life long fear in me of confronting other people's children. The other parent might be psychotic.
When to correct
But is this wrong, as Cameron says? Should we engage with the parents or speak directly to the child? I asked adolescent therapist and deputy director Peter Bradley of the children's charity Kidscape and Doreen Jones, spokesperson of parentlineplus, what to do in various situations which may involve being stern to a child who is not your own.
If you know the child and the child's parents in primary school: If you are hosting a play date, or sleepover, for example, talk to the parents first. Bradley says, "Make an agreement with the other parents what is acceptable in your house and what is not. If the child does something wrong, don't explode, but do explain what they have done wrong and why it is not acceptable. Do inform the parents."
If the parents of your child's friend have a very different parenting style to yours, explain what is and what is not acceptable. "If parents of the other child are far more liberal than you are with your child, it's important to explain the rules of your house to the parents. If your child has well defined boundaries and the other child doesn't, it will unsettle your child."
If you do not know the child, but that child is bullying or hurting your child or another in a public place, let your voice be heard. "Do intervene," says Bradley, unequivocally. "Yes, be careful, your safety comes first, but if it's getting nasty, try to stop it."
Doreen Jones, of kidscape, says, "If you tell off another person's child, this could result in a confrontation with the parent. Comfort your own child and say in a voice that can be heard, 'That was not a friendly thing to do. It must have hurt. It may be possible to make eye contact with the other parents, which might encourage him or her to talk to their child."