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Is it OK to discipline someone's child?

Published:Sunday | March 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMRandy Bowman, Jody-Anne Lawrence

It is often said, 'it takes a village to raise a child' and more often than not, one does not understand or appreciate this concept until he/she becomes a parent.

Raising children to become a positive contributor to society is hard, and if that's not enough, what happens when you come across a child who is not yours and is in need of some guidance, disciplinary to be exact?

Take for instance a child in the seat behind you, kicking your chair and messing up your clothes. Or, you're hosting a play date and the guest child grabs your child's favourite toy. The grabber's mom is engrossed in a cell phone conversation. Do you reprimand the child or ask the parent who happens to be sitting next to him/her without saying a word to do so?

Knowing when and if to discipline other people's children is a complicated issue. When you are the only parent present, it might be easier, but when the other child's parent is on the scene, it gets tricky, no matter your background or expertise. Every family has its own value system and ideas about how to raise their children, in addition to different tolerance levels for certain behaviours. As such, your uninvited intervention may offend, embarrass, or seemingly be passing on negative judgement.

According to Gemma Gibbon, freelance child psychologist, dealing with other people's children should not change the way you promote good behaviour and prevent bad behaviour. "The only difference is that you do not always know the 'history' or environment of the children. There really is no such thing as a 'bad' child being 'bad' for the sake of being bad. Most badly behaved children are a product of an unhappy environment, and these children are hurting inside because of what adults have done or they have an undiagnosed disorder."

With the contentious subject of physical punishment, Gibbon mentioned: "I can tell you now that, in all the hundreds of studies and research done through the years across the globe, there is not one study that finds that physical punishment has any positive or successful outcome for children. A number of meta-analysis collating these studies come up with the same results every time which is, most parents beat out of anger and regret the force they used afterwards."

Thus, before any act of discipline, please consider the following points:

First, the safety of everyone. This is self-explanatory. It would not be wise to sit and allow a child to risk the life of those around him/her, thus a dangerous situation would require immediate action. Second, your child. Always remember your child is your priority and it is your responsibility to teach him right from wrong.

That simply means stopping or redirecting another child's undesirable behaviour.

Third, the other parents' disciplinary method. If the parent does not hit, do not hit. If they put them in the naughty corner for two minutes, do the same, not five nor even three minutes. And in the event that you can ask, find out how they reprimand their child and act accordingly.

And finally, Gibbon ended: "Never beat children (or adults for that matter). Show some understanding, some compassion, but most of all teach and model the right way. If you don't want an argumentative, violent child, stop beating and shouting at them.

At the end of the day, keep in mind the old saying, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. It should make a world of difference.