While it’s not ideal having to deal with your own child’s disrespectful behavior, it’s much easier to deal with your own child than someone else’s child. You, like so many other parents, might wonder what you are supposed to do when someone else’s child is disrespectful to your children, or to other children in your home. You don’t want to let it go and let your own children see you ignore another child’s disrespectful behavior, but you also can’t discipline or punish another person’s child. In this situation, you have to talk to the parent of the other child in a way that conveys calmness rather than confrontation.
Stay Calm and Keep It Simple
Talking to another parent about her child’s disrespectful behavior is a tricky situation. You don’t want to come across as confrontational or judgmental, but you also don’t want to come across as weak and unsure of yourself. According to Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross, a marriage and family therapist, a good way to handle this situation is simply to approach the other parent in a calm manner and tell her that her son is being disrespectful and you thought she’d like to know. For example, if you hear Johnny tell your daughter that she is a stupid idiot, tell his mother in a calm voice that you heard Johnny call Susie a stupid idiot and you figured she’d want to know that he is using inappropriate language.
When You’ve Intervened
It’s one thing to talk to another parent about her kid’s disrespectful behavior when you've merely observed it, but it’s another to talk to her when you’ve made the executive decision to intervene. According to Dr. Claire McCarthy, when you are the only adult present in a situation in which someone else’s child is harming another child, it’s fine to step in before talking to the parent. For example, if your child is playing at the park with other kids, and another child hits her, step in and tell the other child to stop. From that point, your duty is to find that child’s mother and inform her that her child was hitting another child and you told him to stop. Whether or not she is happy that you stepped in is irrelevant, seeing as how another child was in danger.
Highlight the Child’s Strengths
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one way to talk to parents about their child’s disrespectful behavior is to keep it minimal while building up their strengths. For example, tell the other parent you want to talk to her, and start off by telling her how sweet her daughter is, how well she plays with your daughter and how much you enjoy having her over. Then get to the point by telling the mom that your only concern is that you’ve noticed her daughter is using inappropriate language, which you do not permit in your house, and you wanted her to be aware of this. This lets the other mom know that you are not attacking her daughter, but that you are simply pointing out an issue you think she should be aware of.
One of the best things you can do when talking to another parent about her child’s behavior is to pay attention to how she responds, advises the Centers for Disease Control. For example, if you notice that the mother gets angry and defensive, it might be best to wrap it up by telling her you just want her to know what happened and that you don’t want her to think you are attacking or judging her. If she responds with concern about her child’s behavior, it might be easier for you to proceed with a conversation about what happened.