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How to Deal With Parents Who Won't Discipline Their Child

by Tiffany Raiford

As long as parents are not harming their children or putting them in danger in any way, it is none of your business how they choose to raise them. This includes their lack of discipline; while it may bother you that your sister, best friend or neighbor does not discipline her children when they misbehave, there really isn’t anything you can do about it. While you may not be able to do anything about another parent's lack of discipline, you can subtly deal with misbehaving children and their parents in many situations.

Redirect a child who is misbehaving, advises the PBS website. Redirecting is the art of changing bad behavior into positive behavior. Say you and your friend are at the park with your kids, and she is notorious for not disciplining her 4-year-old son when he misbehaves. While at the park, her child begins dumping sand on your child’s head and your friend says nothing to her child, despite the fact that your child is upset and clearly does not like the sand being dumped on her head. Instead of telling someone the child to stop or removing yourself and your daughter from the situation because the other child’s parents do not discipline him, walk over to him and hand him a beach pail or bucket and tell him to dump the sand in there instead.

Enforce your own house rules at home and do not back down from those rules, advises Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Harvard University and author. Say that your sister brings your nephew over to play with your son and you and your sister walk into your son’s bedroom to find your nephew jumping on the bed and she says nothing to him. Do not hesitate to tell your nephew that your house rule is that there is no jumping on the bed. If he or your sister replies by telling you that it’s okay for him to jump on the bed, explain that you do not allow your children to jump on the bed and that it is not fair to bend the rules for other children in your own home. It’s your house and your guests should respect your rules.

Handle anger from other parents with grace, advises Dr. Kutner. Even if you are the most diplomatic parent there is, you may encounter a non-disciplinarian who becomes offended and angry that you corrected her child or redirected his behavior. If this happens, do not lose your cool. Instead, tell her that you understand her plight because your own child misbehaves the same way from time to time. For example, if someone else’s child takes a toy from your child and you politely ask him to give the toy back to your daughter, you might receive a negative reaction from his parent. Tell her that you understand because you’ve been in the same situation and you are never sure exactly how to handle it, and ask her how she typically handles this type of situation. Chances are good that this will defuse her anger and help her understand that her child needs discipline at the moment.

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