When I finally got around to reading this morning's paper I found an interesting column by Betsy Hart on the subject of disciplining other people's kids.
Hart's main point is that "though many of us grew up in neighborhoods where essentially the mom down the street could be just as threatening to us as our own, though we talk today about the notion that “it takes a village to raise a child,” we’re offended at having our own kids reprimanded by others and we’re really reticent to correct other’s kids."
I really saw myself in this one. Not so much with the "offended at my own kids reprimanded by others" but the part about being reluctant to correct other's kids.
My sister and I have always had this agreement: if one of our kids acts up/does something unsafe/smarts off, whichever grownup is present takes care of it. But I don't feel so free to deal with my brother's children, or my brother-in-law's. In fact, I feel more free to discipline the Kids Next Door than my brother or brother-in-law's kids. The Mom Next Door and I have the same agreement that my sister and I have. She knows that I have no qualms about telling her child, who strays off the sidewalk while awaiting the schoolbus, to "Get back on the pavement!" (And I'll never get used to calling a sidewalk "pavement" but that's what they do here. Must be a Philly thing.)
I will say that most of the time when I step in with someone else's child, it's a safety issue. It's running in the street. It's an untied shoe (I'm the Lunchroom Mommy with the "tie-your-shoes" obsession--I can't help it).
And when I do that kind of thing for someone else's child, I can't help but hope that some other day, some other mom would do the same for mine.