Over the weekend my friend Connie asked on Facebook, “How do you feel about other people correcting your kids?” I thought it was interesting, so I asked it on my page too. It started me thinking, why do people get so upset about this?
First I will say that I not only don’t mind, I appreciate it when other people correct my children. It doesn’t happen very often because I am almost always right there and I am quick to correct my kids. But they know that if someone else corrects them they are to show respect and heed the correction. I also really appreciate if a friend tells me if she had to correct my kids (in case I didn’t hear) so I know how to deal with it later.
The most common response on FB was something like, “I don’t mind unless the other person is mean/grumpy/telling my kids not to do something I let them do.” The problem with this thinking is it is arbitrary and impossible for other people to know. Other responses were they get annoyed if someone does it while they are standing right there. But there are times when this is acceptable.
This is about authority, not feelings. There are clear times when someone else has authority to correct your child. If you are in my home, I have authority over some areas, even if you are standing right there. If your child is drinking his grape juice on my carpet, I have the right to tell him to stop and give him direction for where he can drink his juice.
I will generally tell children some of our house rules when they arrive so they know what is expected. I understand that people have different sets of boundaries in their homes of course! But I have actually had a woman tell me, after I just announced which rooms were off limits, “We let Johnny explore. I don’t want him to have boundaries.” I asked her, “Are you planning to follow him around while he’s ‘exploring’? If not, then he needs to stay where I told him.” I have a right to make those kinds of rules in my home and to enforce them. (She later told me that she believes her children should never have to obey anyone but their parents and she has told her children that they don’t have to do what I say. This woman has robbed her children of a God-given life lesson. And you can imagine how unpleasant her children are to be around.)
If we are at the park and I tell my kids where they can go, I don’t have a right to expect other kids to follow that. It’s not my area of authority. If we are in the grocery store and a child is running their cart into things, I have authority to tell them to stop. It is against the general rules of the store. In the movie theater, I have the right to ask the child behind me to stop kicking my seat.
I have been in other people’s homes where their children were jumping on furniture, hanging off balconies and doing things I would never allow my children to do. But I don’t have any authority to correct them, especially if the parents are right there. It definitely makes me uncomfortable, but I stay quiet.
But that is not necessarily discipline. If it’s just something they really didn’t know and not a discipline issue, I like to speak directly to the child. I feel like it shows them respect and helps me build a relationship with them. I see telling them not to drink on the carpet as a teaching situation, not necessarily correcting. It is best if possible, when dealing with a discipline issue, to speak to the mom instead of the child. This is especially if you don’t have a good relationship with their family.
This gets tricky because, as we all know, moms get really defensive about this. Look, I get it. The times I have had someone tell me something about my child or harshly corrected them in front of me I got my back up for a second. It’s a natural, fleshly reaction. But I almost immediately make myself stop and realize that I need to practice self-control and maturity. It’s not an insult or a criticism, and even if it is I can handle that and I want my children to know how to handle that. Their lives will be much better for it.
I have 2 ideas on this….first, I want my kids to learn respect for others over protecting their own feelings. If they are corrected and it hurts their feelings in some way, they will get over it. If they can be respectful and generous to the grumpy person, they have the satisfaction of knowing they are developing a wisdom that is pleasing to God. Second, you can tell someone that you prefer they not correct your child without turning it into an offense. Why do we have to get so upset about it?! It is an opportunity to grow and learn and become better at dealing with problems.
I have, if I have a relationship with them, spoken to a child about a character issue. But I try to do it in kindness and love with the goal of helping, not criticizing. It is not always received that way, but then it’s just another opportunity for me to learn to forgive. We can’t seek a perfect, trouble-free life and ever really grow.
In closing, I want to add that it is never OK to physically discipline someone else’s child. Again, it’s a simple matter of authority. Even if someone told me I could do that, I wouldn’t. There are plenty of ways to teach a child in your care without touching them.
I know this is long and if you are still reading, I really just want to say that my goal in sharing this is that we all become a little less sensitive about letting other people speak into our child’s life. It is good for them to understand that other adults have wisdom and authority over them in some areas. And if it’s a gray area then they should be kind and generous no matter what it makes them feel like.
Thanks for hanging in there with me for this LONG post.