How Do You Handle Other People’s Kids?

Every time I feel confident in my parenting, a new situation that I never anticipated pops up and rattles my game. Recently there was an incident at a pool party that left me questioning the etiquette behind handling other people’s kids.

What’s everyone’s go-to for when a friend’s kid roundhouse kicks your kid in the head, or pushes your kid into the pool? Personally, I’m a freezer. I do a deer in headlights before I respond. I don’t consider myself a natural parent, I’m more studied, so when situations arise, I have to draw upon what I’ve read vs instinctively knowing what to do. We were just at a pool party with a bunch of preschoolers when my nightmare occurred: a good-swimmer pulled my non-swimmer underwater …

I have a rule that if my kid is in the water, I’m in the water – for situations exactly like this. In this instance #TheHandful was using a pool noodle, so I let her drift further than arms reach away from me feeling safer knowing she had a flotation device. I’m about five strokes from my daughter. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her friend jump in the water and swim out to her. When Swimmer reaches #TheHandful, Swimmer goes underwater and pulls #TheHandful under water too, ripping her off her flotation device. Holy shit.

Of course I swim out to my kid, but as I do, I’m mentally scanning everything I know in my brain about how three year oldsprocess the world. I realized that this was not malice, this was a breakdown in communication. Of course a kid who can swim thinks being pulled under water is fun – while the kid who can’t swim is terrified at the thought of going underwater. The swimmer thinks this is fun, Swimmer likes going underwater and wants to include everyone in the fun. #TheHandful meanwhile is obviously terrified, and she’s angry at her friend too. I grab both kids and swim them over to the steps and then explain/translate the situation for them both.

I tell Swimmer: “Hey I know you’re trying to have fun together in the water, but #TheHandful can’t swim and for kids who can’t swim that’s not fun that’s scary and dangerous. I know you didn’t mean to scare her but can you see that she’s upset and scared?” Swimmer nods.

I turn to #TheHandful: “I know that was scary and you’re upset right now but I want you to know that Swimmer did not mean to scare you, to Swimmer swimming is fun and exciting and Swimmer was trying to play with you, not trying to scare you. Mommy will always swim out to save you, I’m always going to get you. ” My kid stops crying when she understands that Swimmer didn’t mean to scare her.

I pause. I look around. I then notice Swimmer’s mom and I panic. I’m getting nervous that Swimmer’s mom is going to disagree with how I handled the situation because I realize that while we’re friends I have no idea how discipline works for them in their house. Like, I know I’m an over-explainer but what if that doesn’t fly with them? What if she thinks I crossed the line and shouldn’t have spoken to her kid at all? Thankfully though, Swimmer’s mom was grateful that I took that one for the team because she said she was horrified and didn’t know what to do!

What about you guys? What do you do when your friend’s kids break a rule or hurt someone and you’re the adult on the scene?  Anyone ever yell at someone else’s kid? Do you go get the parent and have them handle it? Drop me a note, I’d really love personal experiences relating to this one!

How Do You Handle Other People’s Kids?