Written by: Phindile Le Bris Sithole-Spong
As someone who gave birth during a global pandemic. I didn’t have to put much thought into how I felt about other people disciplining my daughter. Being South African and living in France, I also realized pretty quickly that things work differently in both countries. In South Africa, children belong to the community. This means the aunts, uncles, sisters, nieces, nephews and so on. So often times the child will be disciplined by other people wether you like it or not. People don’t even ask what you will and will not allow as there is a general feeling about how kids should behave. In France on the other hand things work a bit different. Other people (even family members) seldom interact with your child unless they have been given explicit permission to do so. And don’t even get me started on friends as they have a very hands off approach.
When people do take care of, or interact with your child they will ask first what to do. How to discipline the child and so forth, which is great because I feel like parenting is not a one size fits all. Beyond that I think that some children respond well to discipline whilst others don’t. And then there is the question of parents. Often parents of kids will not take too kindly to you reprimanding their children or telling they are naughty. I’ve learnt the hard way on this one with some friends and families kids. Whilst other parents are happy when you set boundaries and tell their child no.
Which begs the question is it ever ok to discipline other peoples children? Personally I think it depends. And before we even get started we should define what discipline is. I know for me and many of my friends growing up, discipline often meant being spanked. And personally I do not prescribe to this mode of discipline as I feel it does little to teach the child and instead builds a relationship based on fear rather than respect. I do however believe in talking to my child or saying no. There are general things that I think we can all agree on. Things like no jumping on the bed, or playing with the electricity or anything else that can be deemed hazardous and dangerous to the wellbeing of the child.
Beyond that I think we should take it case by case. And when possible, ask the parent if they allow the child to do something. Or if they are in your home doing something you don’t like, asking the parent of the child to please discipline their child as you do not like it when people or children play with certain things. At the end of the day, what I’ve come to learn is everyone has their own style. And we need to respect that as much as we can. And if you find your family member or friends kids often do things you do not approve of in your house. Then ensure that most of your interactions with them are outside your space. That way you don’t need to worry about them breaking or touching something of yours.
I want to know from you, what are your feelings on disciplining other peoples children?