Alex Manson-Smith navigates the murky waters of disciplining (and gathering gossip from) other people’s children.
‘Get on the naughty step!’
Is it OK to tell off other people’s children? Opinions are divided. Some more old-school types think that it’s perfectly OK and that if a child is behaving monstrously, they should be pulled up on it. The modern line is that disciplining other people’s kids is a definite no-no. There’s a third school of thought, which says that it’s hard enough keeping your own kids in line, so why get het up about another child’s behaviour?
‘I don’t care if you don’t eat fish pie at home – in this house you do.’
Picky eaters are always annoying, especially if they’re your own. But if you’re hosting a playdate, it’s your responsibility to provide their food – not to make sure they eat it. Give yourself a break and let them fill up on breadsticks if they want. Their nutritional intake is not your problem.
‘Really? Mummy and Daddy are arguing a lot, are they?’
Other people’s children, like other people’s nannies, are a fantastic source of gossip. But, tempting though it is, don’t grill them for the juice. They may be smart enough to see through you – or at least to tell their own parents, who will guess immediately what you’re up to.
‘Mummy says you shouldn’t have Coco Pops for breakfast? I think Mummy’s being a little neurotic, don’t you?’
Don’t undermine another parent’s rules, however stupid you think they are. Apart from anything else, they are handy sticks with which to beat your own children (‘I know for a fact that Johnny’s not allowed to watch any TV, ever. Would you like it if we had that rule?’)
‘What mark did you get in the maths test?’
It’s always interesting to know how well our children are doing academically compared to their peers. But if the child did better than yours, yours will feel humiliated. If they did worse, you’ll look like you’re gloating. You can’t win, basically. Best not to ask.
‘Oh, what a fabulous picture! I wish Iris could draw like that.’
Again, when other people’s kids come over, it’s so tempting to compare them. Inevitably you start wondering why your kid can’t write his name neatly/put on his own socks/play Air on a G String. But this is your problem, not theirs. Keep a lid on it.Alex Manson-Smith