‘I love your toddler but... ’
If you visit with your child, please avoid these pitfalls of parenting, pleads Tracey Hawthorne.

Sometimes you can’t get a babysitter and your friend says, ‘Oh, bring him.’ Or it’s a close-knit group and you know they won’t mind if you take along your toddler. But if you do, please bear the following in mind for childless friends or those whose kids are all grown up.

We don’t want to compete with kids’ TV

‘It’ll only be for an hour or so, and it’ll keep him quiet.’

If you use your TV at home as a babysitter, fine, but please don’t press our sets into the same employ. Our TVs are there to watch in the evenings, with a glass of wine, when our busy day is done. That’s why they’re in our living rooms – because we live there.

And if we’re socialising there with a couple of friends, the last thing we want is to have to talk very loudly to compete with a frenzied cartoon show just so your child will leave you alone for a while.

Bring toys, colouring-in books or a laptop with your kid’s favourite movies on it – which he can watch in the bedroom.

We hold our breath when you say ‘I’m counting to three…’

One of my fondest heh-heh memories is of my sister, losing her rag with her toddler at ‘one’. When she bodily removed him from the trike he was riding dementedly up and down their parquet-flooring passage despite her repeated requests not to, he said, indignantly, ‘You didn’t get to three!’

If the ‘counting to three’ strategy doesn’t work when you’re at home, it’s unlikely to work in our houses. Please don’t do it. It makes us anxious too.

We like our closets to stay closed

‘She’s got such an inquiring nature!’

And by all means, let her have it at your house. I used to have a ‘kids’ cupboard’ low down in my kitchen filled with discarded plasticware, pots, cups and other bits and pieces, because there’s little a toddler loves more than emptying a cupboard.

But it’s an invasion of privacy when a parent allows her toddler to dig around in our cupboards. It’s likely that the contents are breakable, precious or embarrassing.

We hate the option argument

Listening to a mommy offering her toddler a range of alternatives – orange, guava or grape juice? this cuddly monkey or this dear giraffe? this red top or this blue sweater? fish fingers, scrambled eggs or spaghetti bolognaise? – is enough to make any bystander’s hair crackle.

Yes, little people need to learn to make choices, but please suspend the lesson until you get home, because the resulting debate is often enough to make us scream, ‘Just give him the bloody orange juice, okay?!’

We don’t like the slam-the-door game

If you’ve never watched a toddler narrowly avoid having her fingers squashed by the door she’s slamming for the tenth time, you won’t get this. But if you’ve had little kids, you’ll know that this particular game always – always – ends in tears.

And if you’re in our house, we aren’t appreciating what the shock waves are doing to the door’s inset stained-glass window or the paintings hanging on either side of it.

Your weary kid is driving us crazy too

‘She’s just tired.’

So what’s she doing up then?

A whiny child writhing in her mother’s lap at a dinner party, fussing with the cutlery and knocking over the wine glasses, isn’t having any fun. And neither is anyone else. Ditto the fractious toddler after Sunday lunch who needs nothing more than a 30-minute nap to get her back to cheerful.

Take 20 minutes out to put your child down in a nearby bedroom. The time you spend away from the company will, we assure you, be more than worth it. For everyone.

What are your pet hates when people visit with their children?

Read more by Tracey Hawthorne

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