Was I right to tell off someone else’s child?

Family life
Was I right to tell off someone else's child?

My youngest child, Toddler Boy I, absolutely loves a certain climbing frame and slide in one of our local soft plays. The minute we walk through the door, he makes a beeline for it, yelping with excitement as he climbs up the steps, crawls across the platform at the top and whooshes down one of the two brightly coloured plastic slides.

He’s not quite two yet but he’ll go down head first, on his belly, backwards…. he has no fear! I’m always sat or stood close by, ready to help if he gets stuck or needs me, watching as closely as I can.

Occasionally, in his excitement, he’s tried to jump the queue or has barged past a smaller child. I’ll remind him to slow down, to be gentle, to wait his turn and to look out for other children.

On a recent visit to this soft play, my son got to the top of the climbing frame to find another child, who was no more than three and a half, sat on one of the slides. I ushered him to the empty slide – and the child leaned over and pushed him. Quite forcefully.

I was shocked because it was completely unprovoked, but as Toddler seemed fine, I ignored it.

Toddler ran back up the steps, excited to have another go. And the same thing happened. The child, who was still sitting at the top of the slide, deliberately leaned over and pushed my child.

Again, I was shocked. I asked Toddler if he was okay, but I ignored the child, thinking a parent or grandparent would soon be along to deal with the situation. I look around to see if I could locate the child’s parent. Maybe the child’s mum is sat in a corner breastfeeding a baby, I thought to myself, or playing with a sibling in another area of the soft play. It was a term-time morning, and it wasn’t very busy, so I’m sure the parent can see the situation, I thought to myself.

But then it happened a third time. And then it happened to two other children who had joined us on the slide. I caught the eye of another mum whose child also got shoved and she looked as horrified as I felt.

I kept thinking the child’s parent would be along to deal with the situation, as it had been going on a good few minutes and I was sure they must have clocked the situation by now. But no one came and, despite it not being very busy, I couldn’t work out who the child was with.

The next time the child did it, I told them off. I didn’t shout, or say anything horrible to them. I just said calmly but firmly, “Let’s be gentle towards each other on the slide as other children don’t like to be pushed.” The child looked at me like I was stupid… and shoved one of the kids behind them in the queue. “Be gentle,” I said again, a lot more firmly this time… and picked up Toddler and took him somewhere else to play.

It’s been on my mind ever since. Did I do the right thing in telling off someone else’s child? Would another parent be angry to think I’d had words with their child? If a child is deliberately and continually hurting other children, it needs addressing, right?

I tried to keep what I said as gentle and non-confrontational as I could – I would certainly have been way firmer with my own children.

But I didn’t know this child.

I didn’t know whether they had any medical conditions that could cause them to behave in this way. I didn’t know what kind of household they were growing up in. Whether there was violence in the home or any other issues that might impact their behaviour. I didn’t know if this was regular behaviour and the parent was at their wit’s end trying to deal with it, or whether it was a new and out of character thing from an otherwise peaceful child, which is why the parent wasn’t paying as close attention as they should have been. I didn’t know if perhaps the child’s parent just didn’t care.

I didn’t intervene straight away – because I was waiting for a parent or carer to come along and deal with it in their own way. We all have different parenting styles and I would never intervene unnecessarily. I tried to stay non-judgemental and give this child’s parent the benefit of the doubt. But no one came – despite this slide being very visible in the centre of the soft play area.

However, as it continued, it made me really angry and sad that my inaction was tantamount to condoning this behaviour. I also didn’t want my child to think that him being shoved and pushed was okay. Because by ignoring it, that’s exactly what I was suggesting.

And that’s why I had to say something. Because it wasn’t okay.

I have three children aged 6, 4.5 and almost 2. I’m not naïve – pushes and shoves are a daily part of life as children seek to assert their independence and authority, and express frustrations they can’t quite verbalise.

I deal with it the best I can.  I don’t always jump in straight away, because I like to see if the children can resolve the situation themselves, especially my oldest two. But I’ll always tell them if behaviour is inappropriate, encourage them to think how the other child would have felt and suggest they apologise. I remind them to be kind to each other and issue consequences where appropriate.

It’s mortifying when your child is the one doing the pushing or shoving of another child – especially if you’re on the other side of the room feeding your baby or whatever and can’t quite get there as quickly as you’d like to intervene.

But we all know it happens. Kids will be kids. It’s how it’s dealt with that is the real issue; whether or not children are told such behaviour is not acceptable. In most instances, if another child has hurt my child and the parent has addressed it, I always make a point of telling the parent that it’s okay, we’ve all been there, not to worry about it, it happens. Like I said, I know what it’s like to be on the other side.

If another adult jumped in and told off my child when I was standing there and before I’d had the chance to deal with it myself, I would be annoyed. But if my children are in the care of another adult – at school, pre-school or with family members or friends – I would expect the adult in charge in my absence to address misbehaviour in a fair and appropriate way. I want my children to respect authority and to understand the consequences of their behaviour.

I don’t blame this child for pushing my child. But what makes me sad is that no one was there to help the child realise they needed to change their behaviour.

And that’s why I stepped in, although I’ve been going round in circles ever since wondering if it was the right thing to do.

What do you think? What would you have done in this situation? Was I right to say something to a child that wasn’t mine? How do you feel about telling off other people’s children? Or how would you feel if someone told off your child? I’d love to know your thoughts either in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy

Read more of my parenting posts on the Family Life section of Cardiff Mummy Says


Was I right to tell off someone else's child?

12 Comments to Was I right to tell off someone else’s child?

  1. Aw I would try not to worry about it now, I completely understand where you are coming from. This happens so often at our local soft play and my son has been both the pusher and the one being pushed! Its defiantly how the parent approaches it that matters. I would have taken my son home if he was being naughty and if I was in your situation I would have told the child off too. x

  2. You were well within your rights to tell the other child off. I know I would’ve done exactly the same thing, except I’d have probably been as firm as I am with my own children and I’d have taken the parent on if they didn’t like me telling their child off. The sad reality of soft play is that some parents use it as a form of babysitting. Some parents don’t care what their kids are up to and will just go and get a coffee, sit there on their phone with their back turned or will be so engrossed in conversation with another mummy friend that they’re not likely to care what the child is doing. I’ve heard mums say “this is my time away from him, I just let him run riot for an hour or two” or “that’s what soft play is for isn’t it, just letting your kids go mad”. The thing is if it’s their child who ends up hurt they suddenly become very precious about them indeed! I’ve told other kids off for hurting kids that weren’t mine too. I know I’d be OK with someone telling my child off if they felt it was necessary but I’m always getting stuck in with the kids so it doesn’t matter! X

  3. moderatemum

    I think it was really thoughtful of you to consider the options for the childs behaviour, my son has needs and sometimes acts out – for example he might hit when he’s excited. I watch him like a hawk so as yet I’ve always been around if this has happened but the time will come when I’m not. I would have no problem with someone trying to explain in a calm manner that that is not how to play nicely, I think it takes a village and I have strong memories of being given a telling off by strangers because sadly sometimes it has more impact than parents!

  4. I would have done exactly as you did. The child needs guidance and soft play etc are not there just to pass the time whilst the parent stops parenting.

  5. I would have done exactly the same. You did the right thing, you waited, you checked, you were calm and after saying something you removed your child from the situation. It’s a really difficult one because, as you say, you know nothing about the child’s situation and it is sad that their parent/carer wasn’t paying attention. But, in a situation like that, saying nothing does no one any favours – and to be honest, calmly telling them to be gentle isn’t giving them a forceful telling off, it’s simply reinforcing appropriate behavior x

  6. I absolutely support you in this – to be totally honest I wouldn’t let it get to the stage you did, I would have said something on the first push – and by turn wouldn’t mind if someone did say something to my child. Not a telling off but I often say “oopsey, gently, we don’t want to hurt each other do we” with a big grin! If there was no parent and the child kept doing it then I would eventually say “heyyy, that’s not very kind, please don’t do that” – again, light tone and smile.
    I think if you have an issue with someone doing this then you need to really consider why, after all, we’re all parents and unless someone tells your child off in an unkind manner, correcting bad behaviour is what adults are there to do – in a gentle, kind and leading way.
    I love that you considered other options – my kids are 4, 3 and 1 so I can’t be with everyone at all times and if I’m feeding in a corner I might miss something so would really appreciate what I would view as the support and back up from the other adult. That being said, I would always feed near the kids so I could see them. H x

  7. I think you did the right thing and it doesn’t sound like you were overly forceful – just letting them know it wasn’t acceptable. I would have reacted in the same way as you. I just wonder where his parents or guardian was though? It makes me sad when children are left without any adult paying attention 🙁

  8. I actually read this the other day but didn’t have time to comment, glad I came across it again.

    You gave that kid so many chances. Bug bear of mine when parents let their kids ‘run wild’ in play centres. It’s all to common.

    I’ve got your back. And I hope you kid isn’t effected by the others kids actions now.

  9. i don’t think you were wrong at all its one thing to tell a child off but what you did was totally acceptable I have on occasion reminding children to play nicely or kind hands in that sort of situation I kind of say it out loud rather than directly x

  10. I’m regularly telling off other people’s children at our local soft play! Well, not telling off, but like you, asking them not to do someone on a calm way. You absolutely did the right thing and I would of done the same and probably sooner. I’m regards to whether they may have medical conditions, they still need to be taught right and wrong and not to hurt other children. You did good in my opinion xx

  11. We used to take Wilf to a gym tots and there was always a bunch of mums who would just let their kids run free, not take turns or push in front of Wilf, it used to break my heart as he was always so patient and would ask why they were taking his turn. I did end up saying quite loudly and pass ag ‘I’m not sure why they are not letting other children have their turns!’ but mainly I just felt annoyed with the parents rather than the kids. It’s such a tricky one isn’t it xx

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