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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?

lilyleelee Mon 11-Mar-13 11:31:39

When my husband did put his foot down and say 'no', we had tears. So maybe it would have been even more stressful if I had said 'no' every time I wanted her to stop playing with something?

Rhubarbgarden Mon 11-Mar-13 11:34:33

Your friends were probably thinking "Our friend is so fab, she's so laid back and child-friendly" because you didn't say anything! They are probably run ragged - dealing with a newborn and a toddler is so exhausting they are probably functioning in a fug. They may also be going easy on the toddler while she adjusts to the new addition. Not saying this excuses it - they should have told her not to play with your stuff, but just trying to see things from their shoes. I have a baby and a toddler and I'm slowly losing my marbles quite frankly.

Lueji Mon 11-Mar-13 11:51:46

With such young children it's often best to leave precious or fragile items out of the way.
It's what I do with children's parties at home too.

lrichmondgabber Mon 11-Mar-13 11:52:44

toddlers will be toddlers

KellyElly Mon 11-Mar-13 11:56:32

I always take things to occupy DD or a film for her to watch as kids do get bored at this age and will try to touch everything - especially in a non child-proofed house grin. Much easier to visit my friends who have little ones as everything that can be grabbed is out of reach. I would move the fridge magnets next time though - they are irresistible to toddlers grin

AlanMoore Mon 11-Mar-13 12:06:53

I think your friends are way out of order. I have a baby and a toddler and my cousin is LP to twins, being tired isn't an excuse to let them wreck the joint.

I would actually have said before we came to hide your breakables etc, I do phone child free friends before we meet and warn them! I or DP would also be supervising our toddler for the sake of your stuff and her safety and there's no way shed have got her mitts on your phone for more than a fleeting second. Be firmer or don't have them back!

Goldenbear Mon 11-Mar-13 12:17:26

I have a 23 month old and she is into everything! I also have a 5 year old and he was the type of toddler to sit and play with puzzles, unlike DD he was not a climber, not a jumper, risk averse so IME toddler behaviour varies wildly. If she is more like my DD and they have a newborn they are probably just exhausted parents that felt relief that you and your DH were relaxed enough to accommodate her inquisitiveness.

You say that they didn't raise their voice to her but I think that's normal with a 2 year old. Equally, some parents make an active decision not to use the word 'No' in response to toddler behaviour because it is quite negative. My DD is younger but I try not to say 'no' too much, instead I will tell her to stop something with a very brief, simple explanation. E.g, 'stop drawing on the table, we draw on paper not tables.' However, not to say anything to destructive behaviour is very laid back.

KitCat26 Mon 11-Mar-13 12:22:09

That is normal toddler behaviour.

The parents may have assumed you'd moved anything precious out of reach of their child and therefore didn't mind! They also should have said no when she was breaking stuff, but you shouldn't be shy about saying it too. Your house, your rules.

I have to say when we visited people when the dds were at that inquisitive stage, I used to do a quick scout round and move anything precious out of the way for the duration of the visit. Saves a lot of hassle. It is much better now they are a bit older (2 and 3).

akaemmafrost Mon 11-Mar-13 12:22:38

"2 month old (an angel)" confused no just a tiny baby. Invite them back in a couple of years and she'll be just like her sibling.

This behaviour is normal. I think because you don't have any dc you don't realise. My dsis (childless) seemed to expect a lot more "discipline" from me towards my toddlers and like practising her "stern" voice on them hmm.

I imagine her behaviour wasn't nearly as bad as you think but you are clueless because you're childless wink.

LadyPessaryPam Mon 11-Mar-13 12:25:21

Were the parents doing that unconditional parenting thing?

Rosa Mon 11-Mar-13 12:27:15

Toddlers will be toddlers yes but parents should be parents.. sounds to me as these 2 were seriously lacking... They should have distracted the child removed things that were dangerous and not hers to play with and possibly warned you inadvance to remove items that could be dangerous/ broken. Many people deal with a small baby and a toddler and cope.

VinegarDrinker Mon 11-Mar-13 12:29:37

Without being mean, it is obvious you are not a parent. If you don't want toddlers touching your things then leave them out of reach! Or don't invite them round. A house with no toys and loads of accessible forbidden objects would be too much to ask of most toddlers.

I agree with saying no within reason, (eg for deliberate hitting/throwing/breaking) but it is really much easier just to move anything breakable. Touching/playing with things is not inherently naughty.

VinegarDrinker Mon 11-Mar-13 12:31:15

As the parent though, I would do the removing of objects myself if the host didn't.

valiumredhead Mon 11-Mar-13 12:31:58

Sounds completely normal behaviour but it is also usual when staying somewhere to run around after your toddler making sure they don't destroy the house!

prettybird Mon 11-Mar-13 12:34:28

If you don't have a child, then it will have been difficult for you, but in my case I have never had any qualms in telling any visiting child No or Be careful if they were doing something unacceptable. I might hesitate to give the parent(s) a chance to say it first - but only momentarily.

If I wouldn't let my ds do "whatever", then I won't let another child do it. My house, my rules.

In fact, I did the same even before I had my own child.

Fortunately, all my friends have supported us doing that. In particular, my best friends (and her dh), whose example I respected and followed, as she had kids long before me - was always comfortable with me maintaining boundaries with her kids - and likewise, them doing the same with ds when he came along.

ISeeRedPeople Mon 11-Mar-13 12:39:23

I have an 18mo who behaves exactly like this when she can get away with it. As her parent it gets a bit endless saying no all the time, but in someone else's house I'd certainly try to stop her interfering with stuff she shouldn't. I definitely wouldn't have a problem with you saying no to her (kindly, of course!) and probably offer her something else to avoid a massive meltdown.

Every time we visit MIL we call beforehand and ask her to move precious things out of toddler-reach, but lo and behold we will arrive and they're all on low tables and shelves, hearth, low windowsills etc. I have to gravitate them up onto high shelves throughout the course of our visit. Next time we go they will all be back where they were and we start all over again. It's like groundhog day! When I have the new baby to deal with as well I'm not sure if I'll be as bothered about her ornaments so I would be looking for someone else to keep that in check.

OxfordBags Mon 11-Mar-13 13:15:22

LadyPessary, people who practice unconditional parenting do not let their children run wild breaking the property of others without saying anything, that's a lazy and ill-informed stereotype about U.P. (well, the crap ones might, but then again, parents who don't practice would be equally likely to let them run wild too).

OP, most 2 months old will seem to be 'angels'. Whereas most 2.5 year olds won't, ha! It's not naughtiness, it's how they make sense of the world, learn and explore. It's up to the parents to help them understand and respect the boundaries and limits of all that, and to learn what's acceptable and appropriate when and where, etc. (and whilst we're on the subject, U.P. places great importance on that, actually).

MummytoMog Mon 11-Mar-13 13:17:37

I think you're being a teensy bit unreasonable. It drives me nuts when people invite us over and don't remove breakable things from their living room first. Like the friends who invited me and the DCs (2 and 3) over and left a floor level open display case of antique china out. The only safe place in the entire house was the garden. I didn't stay all that long.

I prefer to distract my two, rather than say no outright, because there is less screaming and wailing, but there is a time and a place for no, and that's generally when they are breaking things or each other

And yes, two month old babies are lovely. If only they could stay that way.

mungotracy Mon 11-Mar-13 13:19:49

"I didn't say anything" That would be the problem, they are in your house. Whilst it may not be appropriate to discipline the child directly it is appropriate to raise it with your friend immeadiately.

Pandemoniaa Mon 11-Mar-13 13:27:33

YANBU in expecting her parents to distract her from interfering with stuff. However, it is usually sensible to keep some things out of reach.

I have a 2.3 dgd and tbh, she's rapidly growing out of the need to tinker with everything. But for all that, there are some things that would be an irresistible temptation and they "disappear" when she visits.

I'm not a great believer in just saying "no" all the time either - I'd rather say "let's not touch that, let's do some colouring" but equally, I wouldn't expect floods of tears to result from a simple "no" either. Or at least if they did, I doubt I'd take them very seriously either.

It's more difficult if the parents of the child seem unbothered but equally, it's not U to divert the child into a more productive activity yourself. It doesn't hurt any child to learn that different rules apply in different houses.

TerraNotSoFirma Mon 11-Mar-13 13:33:06

Maybe I'm out of order, but I do discipline friends children in my house, I give my friend a chance to do it herself but she never does, so I do.
I won't have someone's child destroy toys, throw food, pull clothes out of wardrobes and let it go unchecked.
What would that be teaching my children?

That being said, im talking about an older child,if you have toddlers visiting, it makes sense to childproof a bit and the behaviour you mention really isn't all that bad given her age.
Her parents should have been more on the ball and I think that people should be able to tell parents that their child's behaviour is unacceptable.

Beamae Mon 11-Mar-13 13:36:16

I have just had a weekend at my PIL and they refused to move any of the breakable, precious things within reach of my toddler twins. It was such a stressful environment for me to have them in. Anything I moved to higher ground for safety was immediately moved back. I couldn't relax for a second. The children wanted to touch everything because it was all new and exciting.

My feeling is that if you invite a toddler to stay for the weekend you should remove anything breakable so that there is no temptation. You can't toddler proof your home completely but you can make it as safe as you can. Saves the parents having to go into active parenting overdrive on their weekend, during which I'm sure they would rather be chilling out.

ChairmanWow Mon 11-Mar-13 13:38:45

I would never expect my friends to toddler-proof their house. My child is my responsibility, especially when it comes to friends who don't have kids themselves because they won't necessarily understand what my 2 year old will be into. However saying that I really don't mind if someone asks my son to stop messing with their stuff, unless they shouted at him. I'd be horrified if he broke something at a friend's house. I'm usually pretty on it with him though.

One of my close friends has a child the same age who gets away with absolute murder. She is literally allowed to sit there and empty the fridge and cupboards and throw things around and her mum picks up after her without saying a word. When they're here i have no qualms in asking her to leave things alone, in a calm way of course. Unfortunately she is so unused to being challenged that this leads to the most unbelievable screaming fits. her mum knows I won't put up with things being chucked around and accepts this.

Curiosity is natural and to be encouraged but boundaries are absolutely vital.

lilyleelee Mon 11-Mar-13 13:47:27

ChairmanWow: I think this is part of the problem -- because her parents never say 'no', I feel I can't say it, and then when the DH does, there's a meltdown. You're right though I should have been more assertive, and I probably should have picked up more stuff and moved it before they arrived -- I just didn't realise she'd want to pick up everything! They stayed the weekend, so it's difficult to move everything from every room (which she explored unsupervised). :-)

ChairmanWow Mon 11-Mar-13 13:56:57

lilyleelee it's impossible to completely toddler-proof a house even when you have a toddler! Anyway I think it's good for them to learn that there are things they can play with and things which are for grown ups or how will they cope out in the real world?

I can see why you wouldn't want to challenge her given the screaming fits. I guess it's easier when you have a child and are used to it. At the end of the day they choose whether to visit you and I think parents have to accept this means keeping their child under control (not in a nasty way). It is harder when we go away with DS but that's the choice we make.

Sounds like a very stressful weekend all round! Maybe a little word beforehand would help next time. Hope you can de-stress smile

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