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.