Parent and Toddler group etiquette

Last week I went to a local parent and toddler group with my friend and her seven month old twins. The group is held in a big gym in the leisure centre near both our houses, and they have a session in the afternoon (most groups seem to be in the morning when our babies have their naps) so it’s perfect. Up until now I’ve often gone to each other’s houses but now Toby is mobile and just wants to explore this gives him an hour or so of unfettered crawling time (or occasionally sitting still for two minutes to play with a toy), and it gives us chance to have a chat while keeping an eye on the babies.

parent and toddler group

Now, I know this is a parent and ‘toddler’ group but there are quite a few babies there. As well as our three there was another little boy the same age as Toby, a girl about the same age as the twins and then a tiny baby and her older brother, and two girls who are about two and a half. The bigger kids were doing lots of running around which of course was absolutely fine – that’s why they are there, and mostly they kept out of the babies’ way.

However, there was one of the little girls who, like I said, must have been about two and a half. Whenever one of the babies, Toby included crawled over to where she was playing she would shout ‘no!’ at them and literally push them away. After a couple of times I picked Toby up and pointed him in the opposite direction whenever I noticed him heading her way. Her mum was sat with us at this point and didn’t say anything to her daughter. About half way through the group the kids all get a snack (if they want one) and the mums can have a cup of tea and a biscuit. While the others were having their snack my friend and I stayed playing with our babies as they weren’t having one. When the little girl had finished with her snack her she came over to where we were while her mum staying chatting on the other side of the room. The little girl then proceeded to grab any toy that the babies were playing with. When Toby went to touch something she pushed him out of the way shouting ‘no’ again, even though this time it wasn’t even something she was playing with herself. She even grabbed a couple of plastic toys and threw them on top of one of the twins as she was trying to keep them away from Toby.

Now, we both told her to be careful and tried to explain that she had to share things with the babies because they were too little to know any better, not that she took much notice! At no point during any of this did her mum intervene or even seem to have noticed what her daughter was up to. I don’t know if I’m just being naive, or maybe over-protective of Toby, but if it had been the other way around I would definitely have spoken to my child, and apologised to the other parents. I know when we’re at Baby Sensory and Toby is the biggest baby there I’m always watching him to make sure he isn’t going to hurt any of the smaller babies, even accidentally. To be honest I was quite shocked at this little girl’s behaviour and even more shocked that her mum did nothing about it!

What is the etiquette in these situations though? Should we have said something to the mum? Although we did speak to the girl I felt awkward essentially telling off someone else’s child – I know I do it all the time as a teacher but that’s when it’s my job, this was an entirely different situation. Has something like this ever happened to you? I’d be really interested to know what you did…

14 thoughts on “Parent and Toddler group etiquette

  1. I always find that this happens. You can’t tell the child off as they’re not your child and yet they’re stealing your child’s toys, barging in front of them or pushing them down the slide.
    Even now when we go to soft play and things it’s the same – Some parents see that kind of situation as a place to just stick their kid somewhere safe and have an hour of peace without having to watch, entertain or even interact with their child so sure as hell won’t tell them off! x

  2. Those sorts of children are everywhere…. maybe the Mum was having a bad day, maybe the child has ADHD, maybe it wasn’t her Mum and it was her Aunt who didn’t know what to do… maybe, maybe, maybe. I’d take the easy route and just ignore it, moving my child elsewhere 🙂

  3. Sounds just plain rude! Some people just take their kids to places like this for a break (which is fine), but they should try and bear in mind how they’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot. x

  4. I’m probably the evil mum that gets bitched about afterwards as I do not hesitate to stop a child from behaving like that! I don’t allow my children to do it so won’t let others to either!

    1. This was really my first experience of anything like this, but I’m sure it won’t be the last! I’m inclined to agree though, if their own parents won’t tell them it’s not appropriate behaviour then I will!

  5. Tough one as like Cate says, you don’t always know the circumstances. I do think people should supervise their children though. We don’t have this problem at our toddler group although once a child kicked mine in the face (climbing up the slide steps, wrong place at the wrong time) and his mum wasn’t looking, normally she is pretty on the ball. I just put my hand up and said ‘hey, be careful, we don’t kick’. I was more concerned with comforting my son though. He has a habit of hanging around in the baby corner (he’s two) just because he likes them and the toys there. I keep a VERY close eye on him there, he would never do anything to be mean (or at least doesn’t at the moment) but he has big clumsy feet and sometimes moves big toys over their heads and I’m terrified he’ll hurt them!

    Soft play is the worst for unsupervised children though, I know you are in the same neck of the woods as me, avoid Play Planet in Dalgety Bay!

  6. If it’s persistent bad behaviour that is ignored by the parent I would, and have in the past, reprimand the child myself. Just a quiet but firm “Don’t do that, it isn’t very nice”. If it carried on after that, I’d ask the parent to come and take control of their offspring. People are far too precious about anyone exerting authority over their children & it carries on into school whenever a teacher has to discipline a child. If my child was misbehaving & I hadn’t noticed for whatever reason, I’d have no issue at all with someone else telling them off. In fact, I’d be grateful for their help! Children learn from the adults around them. ALL the adults. If you ignore it, the toddler will not learn that they are doing anything wrong. Isn’t there a saying along the lines of “it takes a village to raise a child”?

    1. You’re quite right. If children don’t get the same message from ALL adults then how can we expect them to learn appropriate behaviour? As a teacher I’ve had parents side with the child when I have reprimanded the child’s behaviour – how is that sending a good message?

  7. I do tell kids off, usually in my teacher voice which might be a bit over the top for a toddler but I also feel that, if as a society, we all took responsibility for each other’s children, then my job as a teacher of teenagers would be easier. Urgh, that sounds like I’m really mean, but 3 year olds answering back to a stranger explains a lot when they get to 15!

    1. I feel the same. I see such bad behaviour from some teenagers at school and I really think for some of them it’s because they’ve never had any real discipline before. Collective responsibility sounds like a good idea to me!

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