Is It Okay To Discipline Your Child’s Friends?

It is perfectly fine to respond to bad behavior from your child's friends, but each scenario should be treated differently depending on the severity.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Most parents dread this scenario: A child’s friend is over, and they’ve just been caught doing something the parent surely would never allow. But is it okay to react? The simple answer is that yes, parents often can and should respond with some form of discipline. 

But given that notion, many aspects of the situation should be taken into account before reacting. Severity, safety, and potential damage should be taken into consideration. Likewise, the initial discipline should be kept simple and quick. 

First and foremost, parents are the ultimate deciders in regulating how much discipline their own children should receive. In a school setting, schools obviously have their own policies for handling misbehavior, but it’s a whole different ball game at the home. For this reason, if some form of reprimanding is immediately required, it may be wise to simply tell the other child that what they have done is not allowed, and then alert their parents of what happened.

Everyone parents differently and with a plethora of parenting styles being used today, not every family reacts the same to bad behavior. For example, parents that live by the new and popular gentle parenting trend may steer clear of strict discipline, like taking away privileges and grounding children. On the opposite side, parents who follow helicopter parenting lifestyles may wish for their children to be rigidly reprimanded when they act out.

For certain events, immediate punishment is a given. Children’s safety should be every parent’s utmost concern. Let’s look at a child sleepover for an example of when discipline is typically accepted.

In this example, pretend a parent has just walked into the living room to find one of their daughter’s friends in an altercation with another kid at a sleepover. The two aren’t getting along, so one girl starts hitting and pulling the other’s hair. This is a perfect example of situations when it is fine to step in and intervene.

But even when stepping in and giving another parent’s child discipline, adults should make sure to stick to laying down the law. It is completely acceptable to make it clear what is and isn’t allowed in the house. Best practices mean that you can simply point out to the friend that if your child isn’t allowed to do something in the home, neither are they.

When it comes time for serving punishment, it is always best to check with the child’s parents first. In today’s world, there are a lot of varying views on how children should be raised. Just because you might discipline a certain behavior doesn’t mean the kid’s parents would react the same.

Above all, always make the parent aware that their child has done something you don’t approve of. However, try to keep it light, and assert that it is something that you don’t allow. But in the end, leave it up to the parent when it comes to deciding how much further they should be disciplined.


Everyone’s situation is different. There is no clear-cut answer to the question of whether or not adults can punish other people’s children. But above all, parents should trust their gut feeling and assess each situation before responding.