Tuesday, 25 October 2011

When to tell off other people's kids

This week my baby, who is ten months, and I were having fun at a soft play centre when a little girl aged about three walked up to her and hit her face. What did I do? I thumped her of course. 

Not really! Though I wanted to. My daughter seemed unbothered but I firmly told the girl that hitting wasn't allowed and is very naughty. I asked where her mummy or daddy was and she said her mummy was outside in the cafe area, which meant she had neither witnessed the hit or my telling off and that I didn't have to face having a conversation about her child's actions, or mine. 

But when to tell off other people's kids is a minefield. I have an agreement with some friends that whichever of us witnesses something naughty or dangerous happening should feel able to tell the child off. Not a take them away and dress them down kind of telling off, but a "don't do that" or a "stop being naughty" or a "shhhh" or a swift removal from whatever they are messing about with. 

I have in the past however made the mistake of assuming all adults could (should, even) do this for any child, but I've definitely been on the receiving end of irate looks from parents when I have occasionally done this. Now I try to discuss it with the parents of any children we see regularly before the issue comes up. Still, it's a minefield. 

Which is why I can't wait to see the BBC's eight parter The Slap, based on Christos Tsiolkas' book of the same name, about the repercussions amongst family and friends when one of them hits another one's child (BBC4, 27th October) I hope I wouldn't hit another person's child. I hope I won't hit my own. But I know sometimes there is the temptation to do so, though I can't see how an adult friendship could survive such a thing. 


  1. I can't understand how any parent could get cross at someone else appropriately telling off their child. Please do include me and H in your agreement and stop him from doing anything bad while my back is turned!

  2. I told off a child who was hitting my (at the time) 20 months old. All I said was 'no hitting' and I removed my child from the situation. It turned out the parents were just sitting watching, as proceeded to complain about me, not to my face just so that I could hear. The mother commented that if she wanted to tell her child off, she should be the one to do it. I agree, but she wasn't and had chosen to ignor the situation. I tell my own child not to hit others and would react immediately if I saw her doing it.