Behaviour of friend's toddler at my house

(131 Posts)
lilyleelee Mon 11-Mar-13 10:51:29

This weekend an old friend and her husband came to stay at my house with her 2-month old baby (an angel) and 2 and a half-year old girl (not so much of an angel).
I don't have children, so I'm not sure when children start understanding 'rules' and 'right and wrong'.
From the moment they arrived, the toddler was touching everything -- taking fridge magnets off the fridge, dropping and breaking them; picking up my mobile phone and pushing all the buttons; picking up a doorstop and pulling buttons off of it. I didn't say anything, because I was waiting for my friends to do that, but they never said a word. My husband did take an item off the toddler on the last morning, telling her she couldn't have it, which resulted in tears and whingeing.
I didn't really speak up (though I wanted to) because I felt it would be rude/unkind to tell off their daughter. I also kind of feel it should be the parents' job, not mine, to supervise her behaviour. I didn't want to cause bad feeling between me and my old and dear friend, but equally I now feel annoyed and would be reluctant to have them in my house again.
I realise that toddlers are into everything, but what about when those things aren't theirs, and they damage them?

babanouche Mon 11-Mar-13 13:57:36

Totally normal behaviour. I think if you invite friends to stay you do have to think about their toddler and make the space appropriate. Obviously you were caught off guard here. If you're hosting people you want them to be able to relax. Should they follow their child who never sits still the whole time? You;d probably be on here saying it was a shame you didn't get a chance to chat with your friends because they were so on edge with their toddler! smile

forevergreek Mon 11-Mar-13 14:19:01

I suppose it's normal toddler behaviour but I would have to say something.

I have two toddlers, 20 months and 3. They are told what is allowed and what isn't. How will they learn otherwise? If they were to do something at someone else's house I would hope they would feel try could tell them no or not to do something.

Yes phones are interesting but even little one here knows he's not supposed to touch unless with one of us. We also have glass vases, breakable photo frames and a few breakable sculptures at toddler level. They haven't been near since tiny tiny when they were told not too. If someone else's 3 year old comes around and tries to play/ sit on something breakable I'm afraid I would ask them not to, but would also explain the reason why

prettybird Mon 11-Mar-13 14:31:35

So is the OP expected to make the whole house toddler friendly including her own bedroom (for example) ? I can totally understand why people are saying they should make the place toddler friendly, but it is reasonable to expect that a) only for rooms that the child is likely to go into and b) that as a childless couple, they should be given some guidance from their friends as to what needed to be done (even now, I wouldn't have thought to remove door stops - I'd have even thought that they were a useful safety measure to stop little hands being trapped).

If the toddler was allowed to go into rooms unsupervised, then the parents were not doing a good enough job.

I have friends who have toddler twins who are allowed to maraude explore everywhere and they wreak havoc wherever they go. The parents rarely supervise and often expect other people or older kids to watch on their behalf (without even asking) hmm. I know twins - especially really active ones - are difficult to watch but ultimately it is the parent that is responsible. It's not fair to assume that an 11 year old will watch them (especially if they are doing heir homework)

As a result, we can't have them to visit as we live in a house that is impossible to child proof - not so much ornaments but stairs without stair gates and children that aren't used to steps.

BuggerLumpsAnnoyed Mon 11-Mar-13 14:34:18

Sounds normal. Im sure they didnt realise she was going to break the things. To be honest its a lot of hard work going to a non-child friendly house with a toddler and if i was going to be harsh id say it doesn't sound like you did much to make it easier. And she did also have a very small baby so isnt quite herself yet.

Goldenbear Mon 11-Mar-13 14:46:30

If you are really good friends she may have thought that you'd both help out a bit in entertaining the toddler as they are maybe shattered with their new family set up. Did you go out with the toddler do that she could let off some steam? Personally, I think you have to change the environment a toddler is in if you find they are in pure destruction mode. You therefore reduce the amount of times you are saying 'no'.

CoffeeChocolateWine Mon 11-Mar-13 14:47:36

Yes, this is totally normal behaviour for a toddler...can often be a bit of a shock to people who don't have kids.

The thing is, right or wrong, parents do learn to pick their battles. Toddlers who are told no to everything don't really listen. So some parents tend to only say no when they really really mean it. Plus when they are around this behaviour all the time it's almost so normal they don't realise that it would be perceived as naughty to someone else. You'll probably find that if the toddler started jumping around on the sofa or started ripping leaves off house plants or banging a block against the TV, they'd have stepped in (you'd hope!) But pulling magnets off a fridge...ok annoying that it ended with them getting broken, but it's just normal toddler curiosity.

But if they come to stay again or another couple with toddlers, firstly, where possible, make sure anything you don't want touched you put out of reach or in a room that you keep closed while they're there. And don't hesitate to tell the child not to do something...anyone with their own children would. You have to be kind but firm. Or alternatively distract them...if they are doing something you don't feel comfortable with, sit them down with some paper and pens.

SheepNoisesOff Mon 11-Mar-13 14:58:54

I have to point out that a toddler having a meltdown when told "no" is also quite normal toddler behaviour. It's a stage we all have to go through to realise that we can't have anything we want.

As almost everyone else has said, the toddler's behaviour is totally normal. Almost all kids are like that at a certain stage. However, letting your child play with/break other people's belongings without saying anything is never acceptable. I have a toddler and a newborn and I get friends to come to my house if they don't have children - their houses are, entirely reasonably, not childproofed and we can't have a nice old chat if we're constantly watching that the toddler doesn't damage things, put sticky fingers all over their books or whatever, or worse still get his hands on something dangerous.

Your friends might be totally overwhelmed at the moment or they might simply be thoughtless people, it's a bit hard to say. The child was perfectly reasonable, the parents were not, and you got caught in the middle.

SheepNoisesOff Mon 11-Mar-13 14:59:34

Erm I mean "we can't have everything we want" ... hopefully we can occasionally have the odd thing that we want! grin

GreatUncleEddie Mon 11-Mar-13 15:03:54

Good god - she explored unsupervised? Never let a toddler out of sight in someone else's house! The parents sound a bit lax - if you invite them again I would suggest you put away anything precious/ breakable but also anything that could be dangerous for the toddler - bleach, knives.....

Normal behaviour but your house sounds like the sort of place we just wouldn't have gone when the kids were younger. Often if you take something off a toddler and say no they just pick up the next thing (then the next then the next). Yes I took stuff off them but it was constant. And if you're dangling a baby in the other arm gets a bit tiresome.

I tended to stay friend with people who didn't mind me moving stuff out of reach (some people do, so we just stopped visiting them). I still shut people's windows if visiting with ds1 (and apologise as I do so), but we lost the friendships of people who minded that sort of thing years ago.

huffpuff75 Mon 11-Mar-13 15:05:53

I had a similar experience before I had kids. My friend would allow her 2 DSs to damage things in our house, and when I did say something was told that I and my house would have to change when I had children. Since DS aged 2 arrived, our house looks pretty much the same as it did before. He understands what not to touch, and if we are at someone else's house I would tell him not to touch, or remove the item. This is not a pre v post children thing. I don't spend all my time telling DS 'no', in fact I try very hard to make sure I don't, but he is supervised and gently steered in the right direction and this seems to work well. We also have some family members who think it is funny to give DS a phone or similar to play with when at their house. I always give it back and explain that I don't want him to think this it is OK to play with something so expensive and easy to damage.

BertieBotts Mon 11-Mar-13 15:10:14

YY normal for toddler to scream/cry when told no. Very stressful, because, of course, you still have to say no. Takes another year or three until they learn to accept no without whining about it.

I'm more laid back than most of my friends but I would keep an eye on DS at friend's houses and while I've had a couple of moments where I've let him do something which isn't allowed at that person's house without thinking blush I usually try to clarify, and if anyone says "Oh I'd rather he didn't..." then I would ask him to stop immediately and apologise.

With a 2 month old baby too it's likely the older DD is playing up more than normal (usual on arrival of new sibling) and they're still figuring out adjusting their approach to compensate. A couple of friends have recently had #2 and are finding they have to adjust a lot and it takes time to figure out. Especially with the added stress of going to stay with friends who don't have children and aren't used to children! I think perhaps with all of this put together your expectations were probably a bit high (and perhaps they had higher expectations of their DD too which didn't materialise because of everything.) Just bad timing really.

It varies enormously from child to child. DS2 never fiddled with anything. Model child. I'll pull out two trains and he'd happily sit and play for ages chatting away nicely and smiley. DS3 would grab everything and complain loudly, noisily, tediously and for ever when removed (which it was every time - so in his case we needed friends who could tolerate the whinging rather than their stuff getting trashed). And Ds1 is severely autistic, hangs out of upstairs windows, helps himself to any apple he sees, runs himself a bath, climbs in people's beds and puts their washing on. If people had lockable rooms I advise them to lock pretty much every room going when he's around. Personal space and privacy isn't quite in his understanding yet.

maddening Mon 11-Mar-13 15:14:03

Typical toddler but the parents of a typical toddler would spend a lot of time saying"no, dtoddler these are Lily's pretty things we mustn't break them" again and again and again.

Ds is good once told no but will often chance his arm smile

MummytoMog Mon 11-Mar-13 15:15:04

Huffpuff - aren't you the lucky old thing then! My DD at 3 is pretty good at knowing what not to touch, but we still have a stairgate stopping her getting into the kitchen, and the crystal is still locked away. As are the DVDs, the CDs and the books. I tried telling her no for a year, then I removed the source of the screaming arguments and tension until such time as DD could be reasoned with. Also, two children is a bit of a step change from one, I didn't expect it to be, and it really was. So I guess the OP's friend is probably still a bit shell shocked.

jellybeans Mon 11-Mar-13 15:16:53

When mine were that age and went to people's houses, I was up and down like a yo-yo if they messed with or looked about to break anything. Would annoy me if someone just let their kid trash my things. Rude IMO.

lilyleelee Mon 11-Mar-13 15:17:24

Yes, we did take them out for a long walk, and I bought a sticker book for the toddler (it didn't really hold her attention for very long, unfortunately!), and CBeebies was on most of the weekend. I also put up a couple of stairgates as I have dogs, and they are not used to being around children and I didn't want to take any risks. The idea was dogs on one side, children on the other. Unfortunately I kept finding the toddler on the wrong side of the stairgate, which mum/dad had left open when they went to make a cup of tea or go to the loo. I think I would find it quite stressful to have them stay again, maybe in 10 years' time?!

For example a few years ago we bought a puppy. Breeder is a sensible sort of breeder who wanted to meet the whole family. I explained what ds1 was like and she said it was fine - and to give her credit she was very laid back by him rummaging through her cupboards and handing her a tin of beans and a pan (at that stage I decided it was time to go). Some people get a bit funny about that, but there isn't a huge amount I can do about it (unless they want to see a full on meltdown and rummaging through cupboards is usually the better alternative) so I do my best to warn in advance and give plenty of opportunity for them to back out and then don't feel bad if it goes pear shaped.

Some toddlers are a bit similar. Some are into everything AND stroppy (ds3). Others (like ds2) are absolutely angels - with very lucky parents.

I would have thought I was such a good parent if we'd just had ds2 grin

plantsitter Mon 11-Mar-13 15:23:09

Normal behaviour - maybe they were waiting for you to say something about the phone etc - after all you might not have minded.

However they shouldn't have left a 2.5yr old alone in rooms where kids don't live and of course not saying 'no' the whole weekend is ridiculous. Maybe they were trying to avoid screaming tantrums by giving in to everything just while at your house??

Also I know this is a little off topic - and pure nosiness - but what is your doorstop like? I'm having trouble picturing a doorstop with buttons!

plantsitter Mon 11-Mar-13 15:24:26

By the way, I would not have gone to a childless friend's house to stay when my kids were that age. No fun for anyone frankly!

LoopDeLoops Mon 11-Mar-13 15:30:38

"taking fridge magnets off the fridge, dropping and breaking them; picking up my mobile phone and pushing all the buttons; picking up a doorstop and pulling buttons off of it"

Well...

Fridge magnets - what do you expect?
Mobile - same
Doorstop - not sure I understand this one.

If these are your examples, the misdemeanors are entirely understandable and you sound a bit precious/clueless. Sorry.

maddening Mon 11-Mar-13 15:33:02

I'm afraid your friends were rude.

You shouldn't have been bothered by their dc's behaviour - they should have been the ones watching out and checking the gates.

I actually prefer people to come to me at the mo as it is more stressful taking ds to their houses - especially childless friends who won't have baby proofed - I spend the whole time watching ds like a hawk to ensure he doesn't break anything - and a new house to explore means he wants to check out everything!

maddening Mon 11-Mar-13 15:36:57

But loops - the parents should ensure their ds doesn't do these things.

If there is something particularly fragile I might ask my friends if they could move it out of reach to avoid temptation (have a friend who is an archaeologist so lots of precious trinkets for example) so I can avoid major issues but the rest of the time I keep one eye on ds so I can avoid damaging my friends house.

LoopDeLoops Mon 11-Mar-13 15:37:45

Do you stop your toddler from playing with everything though? Fridge magnets? Really?

lilyleelee Mon 11-Mar-13 15:44:32

I wouldn't mind at all if my friends asked me to move things out of temptation's way.
Maybe it would be easier to go to them in future. But then what do I say to my dear friend the next time she asks 'Can we all come down and stay for the weekend?'

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