Can Other People Correct Your Child?

Can Other People Correct Your Child?

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?

Do you get upset when someone else corrects your child?

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.  🙂


  1. Good post.
    Good discussion. I don’t know when it became a bad thing for people to correct someone else’s children, probably about the same time that it became a bad thing to discipline even your own children. I expect my children to respond respectfully and obey adults who speak to them. But I also try to teach them discernment, that all adults are not Christians; all adults are not “right” about everything, but that we do respond with respect.
    My children are not corrected often by others (even as often as I would like). They are generally well behaved and I am around most all of the time. I struggled more, especially when my bigs were little, with other people correcting ME for correcting my children! Other moms would be quick to explain to me that they were just kids or their behavior was fine and that I should let it go. [I really don’t understand this!!] It isn’t ok to discipline other children, but it is ok to correct other mom’s for following through and parenting their own children!?] And I was not parenting in anger or spanking or any other thing that someone might want to correct me for. I was just taking their behavior seriously and expecting other results. The worst experience I had with this came with a Sunday School Teacher. When I went to pick up my four year old little girl (typically very well behaved), her teacher pointed out some behavior issues (which I was grateful to be informed). She told me in front of my daughter (my 4th child, by the way). I immediately turned to my daughter to show support for this teacher and knelt down and told her that it was her job to obey right away and not to delay in her correct response. I was certainly not upset but I was serious (as I always am about my children listening to me). This teacher (also a public school preschool teacher) stopped me mid sentence and said, “no, no…that’s not how we correct these precious little ones. Here….” and she proceeded to give me an example of how I should talk to her with lots of “ok’s?” and question marked tones thrown in there. No wonder my daughter disobeyed her. She made everything sound like a choice and an option. I had to tell this teacher that I was trying to support HER and HER efforts. But since she wasn’t interested in that and since she chose to correct ME in front of MY daughter, undermining my parenting efforts, my daughter wouldn’t be attending her class anymore. I kept my little one with me in adult Sunday School until she was old enough to graduate to the next teacher’s class. I have no idea why anyone would undermine a parent’s efforts to discipline her children.
    My husband and I do not routinely correct other children randomly in public places unless truly warranted, but when we see a mom correcting her children or a child being incredibly disrespectful, we always try to pop in and speak up telling that child to “mind their mama!” or words to that end. Moms seem to really appreciate that especially when coming from my big husband.

    • Amy, I totally agree! I thought about adding something about people thinking I was OVERLY-correcting and saying it to me in front of my kids. That was definitely more of a problem for me than people correcting my kids. It boggles my mind!
      I have learned to be sweet about it, just smiling and saying, “Thank you, but I will manage my children the way I believe is honoring to God,” and go about my business. I let them know without being rude that I have no interest in their advice in this area.

      Great point! Thanks for adding it. And that Sunday school teacher story…. wow.


  2. Wise words. Thanks for speaking them. I remember some times when my little boys needed correction in Sunday school. Their teachers came to us and shared what had happened and then we also dealt with the situation. Going back to the teacher with an apology was the next step. In each case, that child and teacher bonded in a special way. Though the situation was uncomfortable, we were always better off in the long run. Often it seems our pride gets in the way in these situations.

  3. Loved this post! Here’s a question for you. (maybe for another post?…) I know there’s other ways to correct a child other than physical correction. Can you give some examples of that please? (think geared towards a 2 year old who will soon be an older brother….lol)

    We don’t want to be parents who spare the rod, of course. But some places and environments are ones that can’t or shouldn’t be addressed in that way. …and we also have a toddler who has shown he couldn’t care less if he got a spanking sometimes. Sometimes we can have the correction be as simple as something gets turned off, a toy gets put on ‘time out’, leave the park/party/situation, but there are still times where that isn’t the possible solution. What have your experiences been? Ideas?

  4. Agreed with all of it, very good. We are slightly different on spanking though. We are leaving our four year old boy with a family we know well for a couple nights and I am only comfortable with it because I know they will spank him…. some kids are sneakier than others and this guy is one of them. If he knows there is no spanking at that house I can’t imagine what he will do. My other three, not so much. They very rarely need a spanking from me much less anyone else.

  5. I routinely teach classes in my home for papercrafting and card making, and one time I had a lady here that was new to town. My daughter was about 4 at the time and she came into the room and I introduced her to “Mrs. Johnson”, and at some part of the conversation the lady asked Amanda a question, to which she replied, “Yes, ma’am.”

    The woman turned and said, “Oh, you don’t have to say ‘ma’am’ to me, or call me Mrs. Johnson! My name is Sally, and I don’t believe in all of that ‘ma’am and sir’ stuff.”

    Amanda just looked at me like she wanted to cry, and I kindly told the lady that we do believe in using proper titles for adults out of respect, and that “ma’am and sir” were not optional in our home and conversations, they were required. I reassured Amanda that she had done the right thing and sent her on her way to play. The rest of the class this lady went on to basically disparage all forms of respect, saying how unnecessary it was, how it must just be a southern thing (she was from California), and that she felt it was actually disrespectful for children to have to talk that way to adults…disrespectful to the child, that is.

    Finally one of the other ladies who has been coming to my classes for years asked this woman about her own child, and the story was one of substance abuse, run-ins with the law, and an overall disobedience due in large part to never having been taught or modeled obedience. Well, after hearing that tale my regular lady (who could have been my mother) turns to me and says, “Sweetie, you just keep on raising and training up Amanda just like you are, and you won’t have to worry about any of those issues when she is older!”.

    Needless to say Mrs. Johnson never came back to one of my classes.

    I am so grateful to have friends who are willing to correct my child if need be, and understand that I will do the same with theirs as well. It makes parenting easier from my perspective to know that you have other women out there that have your back, and it reinforces to the child that obedience doesn’t end at the threshold!

    • I have found that “titles” really are specific to location. For example, our dear friend from Malasia was raised to call other women “auntie” as a respectful title, which is common where she grew up. In the Northwest location where I grew up, “Mr.” and “Mrs.” were titles reserved for school teachers and it would have been weird for children to call their friends parents by those titles (we also never say “ma’am” or “sir”). We have moved to another Northwest location and in the conservative circle we have friends in, I find that probably half prefer to be called “Mr.” or “Mrs.” while at least half prefer some other name or title. I believe that respect is more than using a title. I have heard some children speak very disrespectfully all the while using the “respectful titles”. I have also had children who behave and treat me very respectfully who have called me by my first name. We are training our children to politely ask others what they would prefer to be called and honoring their wishes. Having known so many people from so many places, I do believe that this is truly showing respect as well as honoring their pasts and their feelings. God has designed us each uniquely and we each have had circumstances that have shaped us. Another point we try to teach, is that, regardless of what you call someone, portraying respect is how you treat someone, your tone, your body language, and most importantly … the climate of your heart!

      • As a side note on “titles”, I find it interesting that in Jesus’ time here on Earth, He did not concern himself with titles. People called him Lord, Master, Teacher … and just by his first name, Jesus. Personally, I try to follow that model and I don’t have a preference for what I am called. Whether it is “Mrs.” “Miss A”, “Auntie”, or my first name … it is all about looking into another’s heart and gaging their intention. Aren’t we to love, really love others, pride aside? The most well-respected people I have known are the ones who think of others (all ages!) and not themselves. I think of them and think that they haven’t ever demanded to be called anything …
        Anyway, thanks for listening to my thoughts. Love in Him, A.

  6. Great post! I totally agree. I’m a 21 year old mom of 1 toddler boy. I know a lot of parents my age have no grasp on discipline, a lot of them weren’t disciplined well themselves. However, we hang out with some friends from church who are good people and we all feel like we can tell each other’s kid not to play on the piano, or not to play rough, or not to run. Simple things that are just behavior choices the kids made. However, if I ask a friend’s kid not to do something and she refuses or throws a fit, I always defer to the mom if she is around. That’s beyond my authority, like you said, to discuss with a kid what will happen if you disobey an adult. I totally don’t agree with your friend who said her kid doesn’t need boundaries! I had plenty of boundaries growing up and still made plenty of mistakes, so I can’t imagine life without boundaries!

  7. Being a classroom teacher for 17 years, and just recently working with my son’s cub scout pack, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with correcting children. I always seem to starts with “I don’t know what is acceptable at home, but here…”
    That way I’m recognizing that while the behavior might be acceptable at home (which is probably not the case), it is not acceptable nor permitted in the present situation. And it’s always spoken quietly and calmly and to the point.

  8. It takes a village to raise a child. – Sounds silly, but is true. When I was a child (56 now) and I did anything wrong in school, by the time I got home my Mom already knew about it. Without a telephone in the house. If I went to the grocery store or bakery (at that time there still were neighborhood stores you could send your child to) and wanted to by something I was not supposed to have the grocer/baker would not sell it to me. If I was riding the bike w/o hands the neighbors would stop me. — It’s not that times were safer, but that people cared more. Or were not afraid of being sued?

  9. It all boils down to “Is there good intent in the person’s heart?”
    When my children visit anywhere for the first time I generally ask the host “Are there rules we should follow?” My children are well aware that each person may have a different set of rules than in our home. Whether it be what rooms they can go in, to what is acceptable behavior. But in saying the last my children also know that I expect them to be on their best behavior no matter if it is not expected. We are old fashioned in that we believe in Yes sir and No Ma’am and by calling the person by their formal name. Even close friends are Miss Kelly, Mrs. Pam, etc.
    I am sure this will serve us well in our soon to be new home of Texas even though we are originally from California. Good behavior and manners help teach kindness and respect.