Is it acceptable for parents to physically stop someone else's toddler from hitting/kicking another child and using stern tones to reprimand them? If not/if so how do you suggest such a situation be addressed/handled?
Yes definitely. I know it’s a situation that parents tend to be wary about disciplining someone else’s child however let me put it this way if a 8 year old was hitting another child and you were witnessing it, would you step in and reprimand? Yes you would.
Keep in mind to that a toddler has a lot to learn about the world and often they are hitting when frustrated or wanting to get their own way, it certainly becomes worse like all behaviour when they are tired.
Think about the situation, if you are at a playgroup with a handful of other parents, toddlers tend to play well for about an hour then they ‘expire’ things start to disintegrate and they are tired and cranky and behaviour certainly starts. So if you are approaching the hour or 1 ½ hr mark, then really it’s time to say your quick goodbyes and leave gracefully. The longer you wait the worse it will get. Toddlers at this point need lunch and sleep before they will be able to cope again.
The best way to act when you see another child hitting or kicking someone is to be confident and firm and set in and say clearly, “no hitting” if it is obvious why or what they wanted ie. toy ball you can follow this up with “Jack is using the ball. When he is finished you can have the ball” Follow this also with actions, take the ball and clearly give it too Jack, move Jack further away out of reach if possible. Depending on their age you can follow this one step further by saying to Jack, “Henry would like a turn, can you give the ball to Henry when you have finished Jack?” Jack is likely to be nodding and will surprise you by doing so.
Stay around, don’t depart immediately until you’re sure the situation is calm, if needed take the offending child to their parent and explain briefly that he was upset about not getting the ball and was hitting out at Jack. Most parents should have been in the vicinity and become aware at some point and offered to help, ideally this would mean the toddler being timed out at their parents feet just for a minute or two and then showed how to join in the play again. You can also move Jack and the ball to where you are sitting. The presence of adults helps. Depending on the situation too you can always pick Jack and the ball up and stand up out of reach.