Your child might have been playing, but other moms might not see it that way.

Should Parents Be Held Accountable for Their Children's Actions?

by Kay Ireland

It's every mama's worst nightmare -- or at least something that can totally ruin a play date: Your toddler acts out, throws a tantrum or bites another kid. Whether you're the mom of the tiny terror or the mom of one of his victims, you might wonder who shoulders the blame. Of course, toddlers and preschoolers are notoriously headstrong. While parents can definitely work to discipline their kids and hope they behave properly, an outburst might be completely out of left field. Tread carefully before you start pointing fingers.

Child Behavior

Young kids aren't exactly known for always being courteous and polite. Even the perfect mom -- if she even existed -- would be at the mercy of her child's whims, moods, fatigue level, hunger and everything else that influences the way a small child acts. Before you get upset at another mom at the playground because of her kid's actions, take a step back. A minor infraction or first-time offense might mean her child is acting out of character. Holding a parent accountable for the actions of a small child doesn't always make sense.

Parental Involvement

There are a few ways to tell if a parent should step in and take the blame for their child's actions. If the behavior is constant -- like a little one who bites his sandbox companions -- it could be a disciplinary problem. Or, if a parent doesn't seem to watch her little one so that bad behavior goes unchecked, it can cause some friction among the other moms. This is when you may need to speak up or, if your little one is the offender, take the blame for his actions.

If You're the Offender

If it's your little one causing a ruckus, honesty is the best policy. Approach the people that your little one has bothered before they have to approach you. Apologize and explain the action. You could try "Aiden loves other kids, he just has trouble playing gently," suggests Meri Wallace, a licensed family therapist in a 2012 Psychology Today article. If the behavior continues, it's likely best to remove your child from the situation so he can calm down on his own and you can talk about better behavior.

If You're the Offended

If it's another child that is bullying yours or causing problems, it's OK to approach the mom and give her a head's up -- she may have genuinely missed the misbehavior. Don't start with an accusatory tone and try to be understanding. After all, as a mom, you've probably been in a similar situation. Try, "Hey, I don't know if you noticed, but Ava is throwing sand in the sandbox." Chances are, the other mom will be quick to act. Automatically blaming the parent and getting upset just puts the other mom on guard and can start a major conflict.

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.

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