It sparked an interesting conversation on whether or not it’s okay to correct other people’s children. It seems like people have really varied opinions on this. I remember having a conversation with a friend who was frustrated about an encounter at a local candy shop. Her kids had been picking candy out of the bins and sampling pieces. An employee approached the kids and told them it was not allowed. My friend was really frustrated that the employee approached the kids directly, instead of talking to her so that she could then correct the kids herself. She was offended that the person spoke directly to her kids while she was standing there. I was surprised, because while we parent very similarly, our views on this scenario were quite different.
I’m okay with other people kindly correcting my children. In fact, I welcome it from other parents. Sometimes hearing a correction from another adult has more impact, since my kids try to tune me out. When another adult corrects my child I usually raise an eyebrow and give a look to my child that says, “See? Not just me.”
I don’t get the offense. Our kids are not special snowflakes that can only handle input from mom or dad. They are going out into a world where they will have to deal with authority, from teachers to bosses. I want my kids to learn to accept feedback from other people. But more than anything, I want my kids to understand that their behaviors effect other people. If their running into an elevator almost knocked someone over, if their loud talking at a restaurant is annoying to others, if their coughing without putting a hand up to their mouth puts someone at risk of germs, I’m totally okay with my kids hearing that from the person they are bothering. In fact, I’m especially okay with them hearing from people they are bothering, so they can learn to have more empathy. Of course, I’m going to try to correct them myself, and view that as my responsibility. But there will always be moments that are missed, and if another adult steps in to offer a correction, I’m fine with it.
Similarly, I’m generally okay with correcting other children when a parent isn’t around. If I see a child throwing sand at the park and the mom is engaged in conversation, I’ll give the child a reminder that it’s not kind to throw sand. If I observe a child being insulting to another child, I’d most likely intervene with a short, “Have you thought about how you are making them feel?”
I really do think that it takes a village, and when we shelter our kids from feedback from other adults, I think it gives them a sense of entitlement. Sometimes it can be a hit to the pride when our kids need to be corrected by strangers, but I think if we can monitor our defensiveness, our kids will benefit from being in a community where other adults are helping to guide them as well.