As I was picking my son up from daycare the other day, another boy's "Nanny" (grandmother, I presume) was picking him up at the same time. The boy was playing, and grabbing on to other children's ankles. It wasn't ideal play, but no one was getting too upset about it, except Nanny, who immediately yelled at him to stop.

The boy didn't stop, so Nanny came over and smacked him on the hand.

This upset the boy, who lay there on the floor scowling, clutching his hand, and muttering at his Nanny.

Taking this as defiance, the Nanny told him to get up. When he didn't immediately comply, she said she was going to count to three, and if he wasn't up by then, she would spank him right there in front of everyone.

Sure enough, he wasn't up fast enough, so she hauled him off the floor, turned to me and said "sorry", and then spanked him right in front of my son.

I'm not completely against the idea of corporal punishment, but it is certainly something that my wife and I strive to avoid using, and my son has never been spanked, nor seen anyone spanked before.

He was visibly upset, and became more upset as the other boy began to cry.

For most of the rest of that evening, he kept repeating "Jaden's crying. Jaden got smacked on the butt!" and asking if other people get smacked on the butt.

The daycare provider (we use a private in-home daycare that we are very happy with) was visibly uncomfortable, but clearly felt that it wasn't her place to tell a child's guardian that she shouldn't discipline her child as she felt appropriate (and I can't say I blame her).

I'm not interested in trying to convince this person that she's handling the situation "wrong" (while I disagree with her methods, I don't feel its my place to tell other people how to parent, and I know I would absolutely resent similar advice from a stranger).

I am concerned about the impact on my son, however.

One of the biggest arguments against corporal punishment is the claim that it models violent behavior to children, and teaches them that hitting is an appropriate response in some situations (without necessarily providing guidance on which situations). This is my biggest concern.

It seems to me that merely witnessing a caregiver hitting a child could just as easily result in my son deciding that hitting is appropriate as if he had been on the receiving end.

I kept telling my son that its never okay to smack someone, on the butt or otherwise, but I was having a difficult time in explaining it without being critical of Nanny's actions. In the end, I decided that it was okay to be critical of her to my son, as I think it is a fair lesson that being an "adult" doesn't automatically make someone right, or even someone that can be trusted.

I'm not certain that this will be a lasting solution, particularly if there are repeat incidents. I know Nanny isn't the only one to pick up/drop off Jaden, but she seems to do it more often than the boy's father.

I've contemplated bringing up the issue and asking her to make sure she doesn't do this in front of my son again (if I see her), but I'm not certain of the best way to broach or present this.

How can this situation be best addressed, both from the perspective of responding to my son, and anticipating possible future incidents?

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    +1 for modeling for your son that adults aren't always right just because they're adults.
    – Valkyrie
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 14:13
  • 2
    This question and the responses below make me fear for what the world has become.
    – TryHarder
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 7:37
  • Honestly, I would ask your daycare provider to consider a disciplining policy. If they don't use corporal punishment, they should request all guardians do not do it on their premises.
    – Ida
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:46

4 Answers 4


I'd say you handled things with your son quite nicely all things considered.

It sounds as though your son was really wishing to stick up for his friend and worried about his friend. Since his emphasis was on the friend and not on figuring out when it is okay to hit, I'd say he is already past the stage when he will start imitating. Parents have a much greater impact than they give themselves credit for. A couple of instances seeing some one else get spanked is far and away different from regularly being spanked themselves in regard to future propensity to hit others.

As you probably know, we have issues with other family members who make different choices in regard to how to bring up their kids. I also strive not to be critical of those others, but I have found that stressing why we make different choices can be helpful because it puts the focus on us and our choices rather than on the choices of the other person. It is sometimes inevitable that it comes out as critical and there isn't much to be done about that. If the question, "then why did his nanny hit him" continues to arise a simple, "I really don't know" would be honest. You don't know the reasons behind her disciplinary choices - why she chooses corporal over other methods for sure.

With your child, focus on reassuring him that his friend will be okay.

As for the "Nanny," Based on the fact that she mouthed sorry to you, she knows what she did impacts the others around her grandson too. Perhaps you could use this as an "in" that won't come across as highly critical. Something along the lines of, "It really upset my son to see that the other day. It became an issue that came up repeatedly through the evening, I'd really appreciate it if there was a way for you to wait until you weren't in view of my son in the future. . ." It doesn't critique her choices (directly) and leaves it up to her to figure out a compromised solution. You are stating your concern for your son as it relates to your son and nothing more. She could spank the boy in the next room or in the parking lot (or, not at all) without it having to be traumatic for the rest of the kids that are forced to witness the situation.

I'm going to add that this answer also makes a great point about the role of the daycare provider and it should also not be overlooked. However, understand it can be awkward when your clients are bread and butter so obviously, you may want to go at the conversation more gently than presented in the answer given.


The fact your son is so distressed by it means he is unlikely to copy the behavior. Kids copy behavior that looks fun or that produces a desired result. Having himself and a friend reduced to tears is neither. I know parents who are reluctant even to do time outs, whose children hit each other all the time. I've also known children who had literally been beaten black and blue regularly, who never once hit their peers. Merely observing the behavior isn't enough to want to copy it, and merely sheltering them from behavior isn't enough to prevent it.

Being distressing to other children is a good reason to ask her to move it out of sight, but keep in mind there isn't a way to broach the subject without offending her. Parenting is a highly personal thing, and on such matters people are generally unlikely to be persuaded by an unsolicited request. She may even feel the witnesses are necessary because threats of private punishment have gone unheeded in the past.

  • 1
    The children who were beaten black and blue, did they receive medical and legal assistance?
    – kleineg
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 12:56
  • 1
    Yes, I'm referring to some of my former foster children. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 14:34
  • 1
    Thank you for helping to get them out of out of that situation.
    – kleineg
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 15:00

The daycare provider -- at her HOME -- didn't feel like she could tell the woman that it wasn't appropriate to hit, when it upsets her as well as her other business clients??!! She makes the rules IN HER HOME AND PLACE OF BUSINESS, does she not?

This seems like the right angle to pursue -- tell the daycare provider that it upset your son, and that you expect the daycare setting to be one where there is no violence.

You butting into another family's discipline policy is probably not welcome, but the daycare provider clearly explaining the rules about what is or is not allowed while on their premises may be better received.


Another way to start the conversation with the "Nanny" would be to express sympathy for how difficult it can be when kids are being defiant. Offer her tips about what works for you when your child is acting that way. Often parents will resort to spanking when they don't have other tools in their toolbox. Give her a few more tools to work with.

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