For parents of young children, it’s the play date, for tweens and teens, the sleepover. For parents of teenagers, it could be a party, or just some kids at the house to study and hang out.

Regardless of the type of social activity, parents have to deal with someone else’s children. And like our own, kids will sometimes misbehave.

Recently, a Georgia man was convicted of child cruelty after slapping a toddler in a store. Repeatedly hitting another person’s child is assault, not discipline. But the incident, which happened last year, launched numerous comments around the web about whether or not a person has a right to intervene when someone else’s child misbehaves.

Most of the controversy, of course, lies with what people qualify as “misbehavior” and “discipline.” Linda Fears, editor-in-chief of Family Circle magazine, and Jeff Gardere, a psychologist, offered a few pieces of good advice during an interview on The Today Show last year.

"Speak to the parent if they’re present." That way, it’s an adult dealing with another adult.

"Don’t make it a personal attack." Watch tone of voice, and don’t be judgmental. If possible, phrase your concern as a question. “Would you mind asking your child to…?” A parent will probably be less defensive if they don’t feel they’re under attack for their child’s behavior.

The issue of disciplining a child in one’s own home has less to do with enforcing responsibility on them, than with the rules parents have in their own house. Children understand clearly-stated expectations from a very young age. So if it’s your house, and you’re unsure about the expectations other moms or dads have of their kids, make sure basic rules are clear before the playing begins. Gather everyone (including the parents), and take a moment to go over the no-shoving-no-yelling-and-by-the-way-take-turns-and-share-the-toys rules.

Remember that discipline doesn’t have to be anything more than taking a toy that’s being fought over, using a time out from the activity, or a firm statement of expectation. Don’t put your hands on other children, and don’t yell at them.

Someone Else’s Home: Your Child

Young children shouldn’t be left with anyone the parent doesn’t trust and doesn’t’ know well. For teenagers, if your child is going to be spending time in someone else’s house, take time to go in and get to know the family. If you have certain expectations for your child, make sure that parent understands that they can call you if there’s a problem. Make sure your child knows it, too. If you’re uncomfortable with the situation, take your child and leave.

If a child’s behavior could cause injury, it’s necessary to intervene. If the behavior is taking place in a store, tell an employee or a manager. If it’s a public place, such as a park, and the bullying continues, call the police.

More resources for parents:

What do you think? What should you do when children misbehave in your presence?