On the 'Yes' side

Clare Lawrence, 39, from England, has one son aged eight:

When my son was small, the issue of disciplining other people’s children rarely came up, as the mums and dads were almost always around. As my son has got older, the play date replaced the play group and drop-offs replaced ‘stay for a cuppa’. You can often find yourself in sole care of children, and even among the most well-behaved, there are going to be ‘moments’.

I would be highly unlikely to confront a child about their behaviour if his or her parent was on the case. I’d be the one insisting it’s OK and dismiss the incident as one of those things. However, it’s a different scenario altogether if the children are playing in my home. 
I have a few basic rules: no tormenting the cat and no throwing balls indoors. Once, a little boy pulled the cat’s tail despite my warnings and got a scratch in return. He went home crying, and his father insisted on seeing the cat’s full immunisation record. The boy was more attentive to my warnings after that but I can also see a need to protect myself, too. Luckily, his father was appeased by my cat’s paperwork.

My son is an only child and play dates provide his main chance to develop social skills outside school. It’s important he sees fairness in action. I’m not one of those mums who is soft on my own child and blames any misdemeanours on other children. I’d also like my son’s friends’ parents to correct him if he steps out of line and, of course, keep him safe. Discipline doesn’t always have to involve shouting or punishments. Any lapse in ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ prompts a firm reminder. I do the same for any friends my son plays with. They are still learning and it’s important. 

Find advice on how to discipline your toddler here

I often watch over my son and the neighbours’ children while they play in the shared pool. I remind them to walk around the pool instead of running, for example. The kids call me ‘Aunty’ and have been told by their families to listen to my instructions.

The one thing I can’t tolerate is bad language. It’s not OK for my son to use rude words and I can’t ignore it if his friends do. I would not hesitate to ask them to mind their language. If it’s something I wouldn’t want my own son to repeat in public, it has to stop. I’d expect anyone else to do the same if my son came out with something unsavoury.

It takes a village to raise a child. Our own steps to discipline children need reinforcing out there in the world if they are to be successful.

On the 'No' side

Rimpy Gupta, 33, from India, has a seven-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter:

I think it’s hard to give a straight yes or no answer to this question, as it depends so much on the circumstances; whether the person is a friend, family or stranger, the method of discipline they are using, etc. For me it would make a big difference on how close I was to the person – I would never be OK with a stranger yelling at my little one, for instance.

Personally, I would never think of disciplining another mum’s kids, as I feel that’s a parent’s duty – we are all doing our best to pass down our values to our children in our own way, and someone else swooping in and applying their own principles could undermine that. I also wouldn’t want to humiliate another parent by presuming to discipline their child either behind their back or in front of them.

Having said that though, sometimes it does seem that kids are so used to getting their own way with their parents that when it comes to an instance where obedience is important – if they are acting up in public, for example – they are not prepared to listen to Mum or Dad. In times like this I feel you may need to intervene, depending on the situation. This happened to me a while ago when I was on an extremely full flight.

There was a very unruly child sitting near me, and he was disturbing many passengers. His mother was trying her best but she wasn’t able to control him. Rather than presuming to discipline him, I just started talking to him and asked him to come and sit with me. His attention was diverted and from then onwards he sat quietly throughout the flight, talking sweetly to me.

Read '9 most common mistakes parents tend to make – and how to fix them' here

I have come across many self-righteous people who think that they know it all when it comes to raising a child and would jump at the chance to teach discipline or good behaviour to another person’s kids – they might even go so far as to lecture the parents as well. I would never approve of such behaviour myself – as the mother, I believe I know what’s best for my own child. Instilling discipline into a child is a long process, and every parent wants their kid to be well-behaved.

In my opinion, it’s OK to get involved in guiding someone else’s child to an extent, depending on the situation, as long as you are being supportive and helpful to the parent in charge. But I don’t think it’s ever OK to nominate yourself as the authority to lay down the law to a child who isn’t your own.