Three weeks ago while visiting relatives, my seven year old nephew (who is generally terribly behaved) was particularly nasty to my two year old daughter.

Amongst the issues was him refusing to share his toys with her. After failing with gentle coercion, I told him that she wouldn't be sharing her bouncy castle (which he loves) when he next visits us. This also failed to persuade him, and we left with a teary daughter with me feeling frustrated that I'd lost the battle.

He's due to visit us in a few days, and I wondered whether I should enforce what I said to him that day?

My thoughts are:

  • Two wrongs don't make a right
  • I don't want my daughter seeing further tantrums or bad behaviour as a result of this situation

But on the contrary:

  • He should respect authority, and
  • Understand the consquences of his actions

I realise there's probably no concrete answer to this, but would appreciate any input where others have faced the same situation, and come out feeling that the siutation was resolved properly, for everyone's benefit, or at least the child saw the error of their ways.

  • 45
    This is not your house, he is not your son, those are not your toys, why do you think he has to share them with your daughter? Why don't you bring toys for your daughter with you if you know he is terribly behaved?
    – Cano64
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 16:42
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    I dont have time to write a full answer right now. But making the threat in the first place was probably a very poor idea (delayed punishment is less effective and threats are generally a bad tool to teach children, and in reality teaching sharing is actually not a very useful skill later). However now you have made it, you really should follow through as a threat that is empty is even more damaging, and utterly undermines your authority even further.
    – Vality
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 17:21
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    @Vality : "sharing is actually not a very useful skill later". Care to elaborate? Even I am trying to teach my daughter to learn to share. Would like to know your views.
    – NotAgain
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 4:25
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    @Vality - We may not share our houses or cars or kids with people, but more importantly, we share the schools and roadways and all public spaces with them. Imagine that all the people on the road or in a restaurant were entitled children at heart. Not good at all. The same principles apply. Sharing in our adult lives is ubiquitous; taxes, charitable contributions, animal rescue, heck, even parenting rely on it. Empathy demands sharing in another's pain. A life without sharing is a miserable existence. Commented May 12, 2017 at 11:12
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    When I think about when I was 7 and what toys I had (or more specifically I was playing with and interested during that time, as you always have a lot of stuff you don't play with), I would have gone mental having to share any of them with a 2 year old. Looking at one of my similarly aged daughters now, I would agree with my 7 year old self to not share the toys with here: she would destroy them in minutes.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 12:24

11 Answers 11


There are a lot of unanswered questions in my mind. Where were the parents during the visit? Do they agree with your desire to have authority over the child? Will they be there for this visit? Will there be fallout over your decision? And finally, was the scenario - a 7-year-old sharing toys with a 2-year-old - necessary? (I would think a lot of the 7-year-old's toys were not interesting or relevant to the 2-year-old.)

Without the answers to the above questions, I'll venture to answer your question.

I believe it is very important if you are in a position of authority to avoid making empty threats. Empty threats undermine authority greatly. My children knew that whatever consequence I warned them would result from continued bad behavior was going to happen 100% of the time. This made them consider their actions carefully.

It also, however, placed a heavy burden on me to be careful and considerate with my words, to look for alternative ways, if possible, to deal with their bad behaviors, and to make the punishment fit the crime (to be a natural consequence of the bad behavior, or to make it commensurate with the behavior.)

For this reason, I would leave the bouncy castle out of play for the entire visit, including to your own 2-year-old. Surely a 2-year-old can be distracted from a bouncy castle for a few days.

As to two wrongs not making a right, this is where wisdom comes in before you issue an ultimatum. What's done is done. If you really believe you were wrong and should not have issued that threat, then apologies are in order. If you don't believe you were wrong, then no bouncy castle.

Your daughter will not only witness his consequential bad behavior, but might also be old enough to understand that you did not fulfill a promise you made in defending her against his bad behavior. Depends where exactly she is in her third year of life.

This is your house and your daughter. You have to weigh the whole of the situation in your decision. One thing I will say, though, is that 7 years of age is not too early for a consequence three weeks (or more) into the future.

Edited to add: In response to a comment (why bother if the parents don't agree?), I would say that in your home, you set the (reasonable) rules, and the guests (reasonably) comply. That's how it works in healthy relationships. In dysfunctional relationships, there are usually issues with boundaries, namely that people don't understand them or don't respect them. It doesn't mean that the errant children will not learn something valuable.*

A reasonable boundary is "In my home, we share toys - where appropriate - even with 2-year-olds." A reasonable counter-boundary is "You do not have the authority to discipline our child in our presence." Those need to be worked out; if the parents don't enforce your wishes themselves, something uncomfortable needs to be done (e.g. you remove yourselves from the situation, or you have a confrontation).

*One year, my family and my brother-in-law's family decided to take a one-week vacation to Disneyworld together because we had children very close in age, and they got along very well. However, on the first day, my children were constantly being corrected for behavior that was not inappropriate (the in-laws kids were all quiet, submissive girls; I had rowdy, loudish children.) For example, they were told to be quiet in public places when they weren't being loud, etc. My kids were constantly being told what not to do, and my kids (and I) were frustrated. On the second day, they were peering at something through a fence. The brother-in-law yelled, "Get away from that fence!" There was absolutely no reason for them not to look through the fence; the fence was there to prevent people from entering a pond. I said to my BIL, "J---, please don't correct our children when we are right here. If you're concerned, please tell us, and we'll deal with it however we think best." His response was, "That's ridiculous! If I can't discipline your kids at all times, we can't go on vacation together!" My response was, "Your choice. Let us know what you decide." We parted ways to another part of the park. After about 36 hours apart, my BIL apologized and agreed to respect my boundary. The rest of the vacation was much more relaxing, and a really fun vacation that we all remember fondly, as were subsequent vacations together.

  • 2
    Very good, thank you. The parents were at the visit but not within earshot (they sit on their phones all day instead of interacting). They would strongly disagree with our authority over their child. They will be here for the next visit. There may well be fallout, but only from the child in question. The original sharing wasn't essential, but was a culmination of other bad behaviour that finished with that request. I think your advice about no castle is safest ("it's packed away today", or something)
    – EvilDr
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 13:18
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    @JaneDoe1337 - Not entirely true. If the OP has integrity, courage, and an understanding of good boundaries, the nephew will learn that, even if not modeled or respected by the parents. "No bouncy castle" does not turn into "Well, I'm going to put it up if you aren't!" At least never in my home would that happen. Commented May 11, 2017 at 14:15
  • 2
    If the parents don't agree, talk with them and let them know what their child did. If you feel they don't take appropriate action, you can always revoke the right for them to visit you. It is after all you that they're visiting....
    – Anoplexian
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 14:20
  • 2
    @JaneDoe1337 - "No candy" is not really an appropriate limitation for a parent to place on someone else's kids in the presence of their parent(s). It's fine to impose that on ones own children, or all children when the parents aren't present. But your kid, your rules is appropriate if it doesn't hurt anyone in my family. Commented May 11, 2017 at 14:46
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    @Snowlockk Is that really stooping? Seems more like a lesson in reciprocity; if you don't want to share, people wont want to share with you.
    – JMac
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 16:53

Side note: it's better to learn to protect private property than to learn about confiscation. Forced sharing isn't sharing, it's like asking to share a car to someone you don't like. I understand that this might've been one of the thing that happen on top of all the other mess.

I think this was a good opportunity to explain to your daughter that not everyone can be friendly and how to deal with it (for her age). The threat also might not have been a good one since there might've been a lot of emotions involved at that point.

Now that the kid is going to your house, he should respect your house rules and that's where he will understand that you are serious. I would be less strict about a small rule like cleaning up but more strict about a bigger rule like "don't take other people's toys away". This might be tricky since the parents are there and might cause trouble with your relationship. That's why you can see kids act better in daycare than in the house.

Personally, I don't try to do any disciplining of other people's kids. I use each opportunity to talk with my kids about the event that happened (sometimes we talk about this for a few days). That way they'll be able to deal with it and understand it when it happens to them again in the future (especially if I'm not there).

  • 2
    I agree about trying not to discipline someone other than my own child, but if the parents are not doing it, I will. In my home I take care of our belongings and everyone's safety. In another home -- safety is the main reason, but I would never stand for a lack of courtesy from anyone, child or adult. I can say anything and still be polite.
    – WRX
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:06
  • 1
    @Willow I think it's my more introvert nature that makes me like that. I've seen my wife talk to strangers kid "what are you doing?" while I wouldn't do it.
    – the_lotus
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:32
  • It isn't easy but teaching helps a shy person grow a thicker skin. Scene: On an escalator/subway/sign says: Stand Right/Walk left. Young men with tats, dog collars, mohawks, leather, blocking the path. I tap Lefty on the shoulder, point to the sign and say politely, "Excuse me." My best teacher voice. He moved and an escalator filled with busy commuters clap. At the top people are wondering how I 'dared'. Easy, Lefty recognised the voice of authority and moved before he thought. :wink:
    – WRX
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:38
  • 7
    @Willow Or he was just a regular person who didn't notice he was blocking the way...
    – JMac
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 16:55
  • 1
    @JMac probably, but the other people did not see it that way because they would not have asked in the first place. It was amusing!
    – WRX
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 17:10

I think forcing a kid to share their toys is quite wrong. Kids at that age should not be forced to play together, especially with somebody so much younger than them. I think his position not to share was legitimate and you abused of your authority by trying to force him to do so.

Kids should be left alone and not disturbed while engaging with some material and by the way, the child that disturbs another that is performing an activity is the one asked to stop, not the other way around, at my kid's school, and I fully support this concept. Consider reviewing your position on the subject.

  • 3
    Please know that on this site, we have a policy about disagreeing with the premise of a question. Your answer does not answer the OP's question, but merely rebukes him. If you can't answer the question because you think the OP is completely off base, then pass on it. Commented May 11, 2017 at 19:53
  • 3
    still a great answer nonetheless.
    – user428517
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 20:33
  • I'm not English so evidently I did not express myself correctly or I was confusing. What I meant can be rephrased in: Q) Do I enforce a punishment... [...]? A) No, do not enforce the it, because what the boy did that was not wrong (and I provided some reasons and example) and should not be the basis for a punishment. Commented May 12, 2017 at 2:11

This is a slippery slope.

I'd call the parents and remind them of your proposed punishment. Ask them if they feel it is still appropriate. If they think so -- there's your answer.

If they do not think it should be enforced (I personally think the time period is too long), then I'd ask them to remind Nephew, and to ask him to 1) be on his best behaviour during the visit, and 2) to apologise to the adults. (The 2 year-old likely doesn't remember.) All he needs to do is say something simple and you guarantee to the parents that you will accept the apology and move on without a grudge.

"I'm sorry for being mean to Cousin. I will be nice to her."

"Thank you, Nephew. We accept." Then offer the meal or the game or activity you usually provide on arrival. It's done. Smile and show him there are no hard feelings. You've made it as easy as possible to apologise.

This doesn't mean you accept further nastiness, but once this incident is behind you -- it is done, and Nephew doesn't get it thrown back at him later. In my experience it is better to treat every mistake as new, unless there's a pattern that requires addressing. He's young and has plenty of future mistakes to make!

I'd also build him up. Make him feel happy and welcome in your home. If he feels like you do not like or love him -- all bets are off. He would have no reason to please you.

On edit: Now that we know the parents are not easy to talk to and aren't going to discipline their son, you will have to follow through.

I'd simply not allow anyone to use the castle, even your daughter. That says you did not make an idle threat, but it also isn't in the child's face.

For the future -- you want every visit to start with a clean slate.

I would be very clear in your home. "This is our house and our rules." If the nephew or parents do not like it, they can vote by not coming/leaving.

You can do the same. If your child is not treated well at their house, quietly pack up and leave.

I get that this is someone's sibling -- but that doesn't make being nasty okay. The adult siblings can work it out in the time honoured fashion -- they'll fight it out. If the relationship is important enough, they will work it out.

Another edit: Being treated with respect and respecting others would be my goal in any interaction with any person, in my home, their home or in public. You and your family have the right to be treated with respect and to expect it and even insist upon it. So does any person.

Perhaps this pov would help in the conversation with family. Your expectations should not have to be tempered in order to accommodate them. This is basic courtesy -- not a special request for over-the-top-special-treatment!! When we do not start by insisting on a certain level of treatment for ourselves and our families -- it's a self-esteem issue. We are our most important asset and we should treat ourselves that way. It then behooves us to treat others that way, too.

You model self-respect for your child and that means that when she is standing up to peer pressure, she has enough information to stand up for herself because she has self-respect.

  • Telling his parents is the difficult part. They don't listen (well they would, but argue back), and discipline is non-existent in their house. We were hoping we could take control of the situation ourselves...
    – EvilDr
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 13:01
  • 1
    @EvilDr I think you should modify your question. It is almost impossible to discipline someone else's kids if they aren't on board. I will edit.
    – WRX
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 13:14
  • 1
    Hmm okay. I was hoping they might learn to respect me, regardless of the respect in their own home
    – EvilDr
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 13:21
  • Moot point - does the bouncy castle get set up, so it can be seen as a potential no-go area? At that point, 7yo will have thoughts. They could be capitalised upon...
    – Tim
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:43

This answer may sound harsh and partly ad hominem. It is not meant that way, that is just my direct way of communicating these kinds of issue.

Amongst the issues was him refusing to share his toys with her.

I hate that too, but that is the prerogative of that boy. They are "his" toys for a reason. And he is much too young to expect a grand show of empathy towards a 2yo.

After failing with gentle coersion, I told him that she wouldn't be sharing her bouncy castle (which he loves) when he next visits us.

All of that was wrong of you.

  • Don't coerce. Ask nicely, and accept the answer. It is his property.
    • And if you expect that he will make a scene, then don't ask, obviously.
  • Do not promise "consequences" 3 weeks up front, it is useless.
  • If your own daughter was older than 2, I'd also say it was not your place to talk about her castle (it's her property, not yours). As I said, at 2yo that's neither here or there (the other two bullet points are more important).

This also failed to persuade him,

Yes, of course, he is 7. At that age, children have no sense of "proper" sharing of toys, and no sense of time (3 weeks is another lifetime for them).

and we left with a teary daughter

What you should have done would be to bring your daughter out of harms way (i.e. so that the thing she wanted is not in front of her eyes), show her your empathy, distract her with something else (should be easy at that age) and (maybe not yet at 2yo) try to make her understand that ownership means that the other child has all rights to deny playing with the stuff.

with me feeling frustrated that I'd lost the battle.

You picked the wrong battle.

He's due to visit us in a few days, and I wondered whether I should enforce what I said to him that day?

Sounds pretty lame to me, really. These kind of consequences need to happen right now.

If you notice any kind of hesitation on the side of your daughter with regards to letting him play, then you can of course remind him that he did not let her play either, and make him explore his feelings about that, now that he feels them himself. But don't make a large "I told you so" issue out of it.

Two wrongs don't make a right

My thought: this is not about "wrong" or "right" but about children socializing. There are no court and no judge here.

He should respect authority, and

Problem is, you had no authority.

Understand the consquences of his actions

There are no consequences needed. He was in the right. It was his property, and unless it was shared property (in which case forget everything I wrote), he has the full right to decide who can and cannot play with it. That is a very important lesson to learn.

I realise there's probably no concrete answer to this,

But the concrete answer is very straightforward, as given above.

others have faced the same situation,

Over and over, yes.

and come out feeling that the siutation was resolved properly, for everyone's benefit, or at least the child saw the error of their ways.

Sometimes these things do not resolve because children are not always magnanimous. The core issue at hand is teaching children to "survive" if they see something that they cannot get. Especially in richer western countries that is one of the the hardest parts of education, these days, as far as I can tell from my experience.

Your 2yo daughter took no lasting harm from not being able to play with those toys. You were annoyed. And the real harm (to your children and yourself) will be done if you devalue their property - then you will end up having a real hard time exploring property concepts (like about your property) when they become adolescents/adults.


I'd let your 2 year old decide if she wants to share her toys. Also don't think you have any kind of authority on someone else's child unless explicitly given by their parents.

  • 1
    What, not even in your own home?
    – Tim
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 7:45
  • If you want to find solutions, you need an adult-adult conversation, from Transactional Analysis' point of view. If you can have that conversation with a 7yo child (it's possible), go for it. Commented May 12, 2017 at 8:31
  • I usually avoid going parent-child with childs I don't have the responsability of. The place doesn't matter. Well, these are some principles I have, but I don't follow them blindly. The practical application can differ a bit, depending on my personal feeling of the situation. Commented May 12, 2017 at 8:38

The best way to deal with it is to be gentle. Do not be harsh with him. Once he comes over, let him play with the bouncy castle but, remind him of the fact that he had not shared his toys. Tell him that despite him being rude, you are are being nice towards him. That will leave a good impression on him and being a kid, he will remember that for life. That should make him feel guilty of what he did. He will probably not do that again, then, i hope.

  • I'm not very confident with this option. Firstly not sharing his toys isn't what I really consider an offense here since a 2 year old handling 7 year old's toys would generally destroy them. So using the argument that he didn't share to guilt him is just not what you should do. You should ignore the fact he did not share his toys and more concentrate on his bad behaviour and use that as the argument. Another problem is he won't feel guilty, but rather think everything is fine if you act nice.
    – Bradman175
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 10:33

There are a couple of issues here. Firstly, if you don't enforce your threat, then future threats become meaningless. So if you want to keep your credibility then you need to follow through.

Second, drop the attitude. If they're actually his toys, then it's perfectly reasonable for him to not share them, just like it's perfectly reasonable for you to not share your car with me. But, at the same time, it's also reasonable for her not to share her toys with him. When the fact that they each have toys the other likes to play with and the fact that they can't manage to play with all of their toys at the same time run up against each other, that leaves some space for bargaining and learning to share, and it teaches a much better lesson about how the world works than "I don't care if it's yours, you have to share or else." (Unless you're living in a communist nation, in which case, my heartfelt apologies.) Learning to make deals about use of resources is important.

Of course, whatever bargains are struck also need to be enforced. That is also part of how the world works.


I wouldn't have mentioned/given the future punishment in the first place. I'd notifiy the 7yo's parents of his behavior, which may be your siblings or is your sibling in law, right? It's their responsibility to do something about it. If they're the type or parents who see something that their kid is doing and blow it off, then you take matters into your own hands more often and if it is an ongoing problem, I wouldn't associate with them as often. My siblings and I/my wife are pretty good at disciplining our own kids when they are shitty to their cousins so luckily this isn't an issue, and just about every get-together some kid does some thing to another, but a lot of parents either don't or get offended about the idea of their child having any flaws and I don't want my children to associate with children whose parents are like that (cousins included). I just read your reply stating his parents don't discipline him at all. Another thing to consider, there is a possibility that it will create a rift between you and the 7yo's parents if/when they see that you are excluding their kid. If there are ongoing problems and they rebuff any discussion about their kid's behavior, then don't hang out so much and when you have to, then watch their kid(s) interaction with yours. I think when it comes to family, I know if my kid was doing something to a cousin and we weren't around, we wouldn't mind their parents at least separating them or telling our kid to stop being an a-hole. It's important to fulfilling your own consequences so they're not idle, but not so much your responsibility to do that with other kids. You could also remind him about what you said and ask him what he thinks, what he thinks or if he has remorse about the previous incident (hard to tell though because his remorse may be about just saying what he has to say to play on the bounce house).

  • 2
    Please know that on this site, we have a policy about disagreeing with the premise of a question. Your answer does not answer the OP's question. If you can actually give him a helpful answer to his question instead of rebuking him, please edit your question to do so. Commented May 11, 2017 at 19:54

Yes but it is not a punishment rather it is natural result amongst others to not sharing. My one year and eight month can share public use toys- he holds several and the other child wants one and he lets go of one. Really it should be that you advise your daughter not to share her bouncy castle (really a two year has a big castle for her personally or do you mean something small) and you will back her up with a united front, if she chooses to share then its here choice. Any other misbehaviour issues should be taken up his parents- if they don't deal with those issues then I suggest you should ban him from the house.


All the above answers are too long. The short answer is Yes. Enforce your punishment. Tell the little shit that he was being a brat to your daughter and that he can't use the bouncy castle.

That being said if he starts behaving better and seems to have received your message while he's over at your place. Use your best judgement but I see no problem reinforcing that good behavior by eventually letting him use the bouncy castle during his visit.

  • 7
    Empathy is understandable, but is swearing necessary?
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 1:30
  • -1 for using profanity and not looking at the issue at great depth. It makes sense that a 7 year old does not want to share his toys with a 2 year old daughter because chances are the 2 year old daughter would destroy it as it's typical of children at that age. And it's the 7 year old's toy anyways so he has no obligation to share it unless dictated by the parents (but then it gets more complicated there). Now with the 7 year old being badly behaved, that's up to their parents to deal with.
    – Bradman175
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 10:30

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