Is It Ever OK To Discipline Some Else’s Child?

‘Parenting is the hardest job in the world and we get no training’

Is It Ever OK To Discipline Some Else’s Child?

by Daisy Hall |
Published on

Women with kids, we’ve all been there, right? You're out in public and your child starts to misbehave, in the embarrassment sets in as all the eyes around you bore in waiting to see how you handle it. It’s an incredibly awkward situation - and it's why a recent TikTok talking about such a situation has generated some serious debate. Because, dear reader, on this occasion another person actually threatened to step in to do the discipling for the parent... yes, seriously.

A couple were on a flight from Atlanta to Denver when the child in front of them starting misbehaving by blowing raspberries and essentially spitting at them. Despite the parent’s responding to their daughter’s misbehaviour and telling her off, she didn’t stop. Eventually the couple who were affected by the girl in front of them - who they believe was around three years old – responded by saying, ‘If you don’t get your kid under control, I’ll do it for you.’

Their decision to confront the parents, has had – to put it mildly - some mixed feedback. Some commenters firmly believe that that the couple – called Shayla and Andrew – were completely in the wrong writing, ‘Not a stranger’s job, parents’ job’ and ‘Kids be kids. Parents battle this. It’s life.’ Others shared, ‘Some kids react differently if a stranger actually firmly corrects them’.

It's a difficult topic to tackle. Obviously it’s frustrating for Shayla and Andrew that they were getting spit on them, but it appears that the parents were trying their best to handle the situation and stop their daughter from blowing raspberries.

For Elaine Halligan, director of The Parent Practice  and author of My Child’s Different, the situation is pretty clear cut.

‘In this scenario of a child-stranger situation with the parents present, it’s never ok to discipline some else’s child,’ she tells Grazia. ‘Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and we get no training.

‘It’s a complex messy tiring role, and it helps to assume most parents are doing their best with the resources they have. Judgement and disapproving looks are never helpful, and given all behaviour is a form of communication, that’s what needs to be addressed before correcting any behaviour. Connection before correction. Most misbehaviour starts off as a small low-level thing such as kicking feet against a chair, but how we react as adults and what we do and say in the moment impacts hugely what happens next.’

As evidenced by the amount of debate that this TikTok generated, parent shaming is a controversial topic. Time and time again influencers and celebrities - especially mums - have spoken out about the messages that they receive on social media commenting on their parenting abilities. For every action that they take as parents, there’s always someone there to criticise.

It's difficult to imagine how the parents from that flight would feel if they saw Shayla and Andrew’s TikTok sharing their story. According to Halligan, public shaming – especially when it comes to parenting – can have some serious long-term impacts.

Badly behaved kid on a flight

She says, ‘Public shaming is humiliating and never effective. Spending our life feeling inadequate and guilty isn’t just exhausting, but it stops us from fulfilling our true potential -both at home, at work and as parents.

‘Our lack of trust in ourselves stops us from putting ourselves forward, from trying new things or from expressing ourselves. And when we act on these feelings we model behaviour for our children that makes it likely those feelings will carry on down the generations.’

And as the summer holidays approach, Elaine has some words of wisdom for parents heading abroad with their little ones. 'Parenting on a flight is super hard and especially if you have a very high energy child. There are so many potential pitfalls from waiting in queues, delayed flights, confined spaces, so check out my blog post here for more travel tips.'

Daisy Hall is a News and Entertainment writer on Grazia, specialising in TV and film meaning that you can count on Daisy for the latest (and best) recommendations.

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