Social Graces: You saw your friend discipline her child in a harsh way. Should you say something?

Q: A friend disciplines her child in front of you, but you don't agree with the discipline method, and you are uncomfortable. Should you say something?

A: Generally, no. But depending on the situation, there may be a possibility for you to help. Consider these three things:

1) How is your relationship with this person? If your relationship is generally positive, your input could have a positive effect. If you have a difficult relationship, keep your opinion to yourself.

2) Was there yelling, spanking or humiliating in the punishment? If the punishment was this extreme, any parent would want to say something. At this level, the parent is usually not receptive to outside influence. Look for ways to be helpful and alleviate stress. Say, "Can I hold the baby for you?" Or "Can I give you a break by ...?"

3) Do you have a practical suggestion? If you are just telling her what she shouldn't do (criticism) without offering her a concrete suggestion, then keep your opinion to yourself.

– Debbie Godfrey, CEO of and parenting educator

Barring any abuse, it's best to wait until after the situation to say something. If your friend is in the process of disciplining her child or the child is still around, don't have the conversation in front of the child because it undermines the parent's authority.

Recognize that this is a hot moment. If I'm upset because my child is doing something I repeatedly told him not to do, I'm not as levelheaded as I need to be and not as willing to talk about the situation.

Ask your friend if she's open to a conversation. If so, be empathetic and say, "I hear your frustration" or "That must be hard." Offer suggestions on how she can fix the situation by saying, "Here are some things I've tried" or "Have you considered this ...?"

If she has a "thanks, but no thanks" response, understand that you can't make her change her behavior. If it becomes drastic, choose not to be around your friend when she's with her kids, and have an adult-only relationship.

– Robin Elise Weiss, parenting expert