I no longer have a toddler in my home. Both of my babies have grown and I now have a grade schooler and a middle schooler. But it only seems like yesterday that I was dealing with tantrums and potty training. I thoroughly enjoyed those days, but I do not miss them. Toddlers can be quite energetic and it is nice to get out and about with them. Taking your toddler to visit the homes of friends and family members can be a rewarding outing for both mom and babe. Or, as many moms know, it can be a nightmare. Unmatched expectations, broken rules and knickknacks, and hurt feelings can ruin the day. Sometimes the problem is out of your control as a mom, but most of the time you are the key to an enjoyable visit.
A successful outing requires some strategizing on your part. If you take your toddler to visit the homes of friends and family members and simply allow your child to behave like he or she does at your own home, you are setting yourself up for failure. Even a two-year can learn and understand that the rules are not the same at everyone’s homes.
8 Rules for Taking Your Toddler to Other People’s Homes
- Discuss expectations before you arrive. Let your toddler know where you are going and why. This can be kept pretty simple: “Today we are going to Aunt Carol’s house and you will play with Johnny while mommy talks to Auntie. We will have so much fun!” This helps them prepare and have something to look forward to. It also cuts down on disappointment if the child expects something else to happen instead, whether that be a different destination or different playmate.
- Explain any differences in rules. An important lesson for your child to learn is that not all homes have the same rules. You may allow food in the living room but maybe your best friend does not. Approach these difference in rules as you come to them and then make sure you enforce them so your friend or family member does not have the awkward job of correcting your child. For example, if your mom requires people to remove their shoes before entering the house, stop at the door and tell your child “At Grandma’s house our shoes stay outside.” Take your shoes off and help your child remove theirs. Also, remember to reinforce with your child that just because house rules vary, your expectations of her do not. You still do not allow throwing things, biting, hitting, or other unsavory behaviors, even if your friend does.
- Respect the boundaries of your friends and relatives. This rule is so important because if you make your friend or family member feel disrespected, many hard feelings often follow. This rule goes hand-in-hand with rule #2. Your kiddos need to know that every family has its own rules and traditions and that you expect your child to respect them. Do not make fun of the rules, even if you think they are silly. This teaches your child to disrespect the house rules of others (and maybe even yours as he gets older).
- Keep your eye on your child and stay one step ahead of him or her. Sometimes we take our toddlers to the homes of people who do not have any small children. This usually means that there are many “no-touch” items and risks that have not been child-proofed. It is your job to make sure your toddler stays clear of these areas. I am sure I am not the only mom who has had household items broken by a curious toddler whose mom was not paying attention. Accidents do happen, but it just works out better when you are paying attention.
- Redirect. Redirect. Redirect some more. Toddlers require a great deal of redirection. If I had a dollar for every time I had to redirect my children, I would be debt free. Redirection is easier if you have brought along some of your toddler’s own toys. A common redirection might be, “That book is not for Tommy’s hands but this one is. Would you like to read it to Mrs. Brown?” If you know toddlers, you know you might have to do this several times.
- Be willing to leave. Some toddler’s are more easy going than others. My son was pretty easy to take places, but my daughter could be quite a handful. I came to the conclusion that sometimes you just need to leave when things are going badly. This might mean returning home if you are visiting someone locally, or simply going for a walk if you are visiting long-term at a relative’s home.
- Have fun. Taking a toddler on a visit can be stressful but it can still be fun. Make sure your child understands that visiting friends and family is fun, especially if we follow the rules. They need to make the connection early on that life is easier when we do the right thing.
- Say thank you. Make sure you thank your host and have your child thank them as well. So many parents make the mistake of thinking that their children are too young for such gestures, but gratitude starts being formed in early childhood.
What other rules would you add to this list? Feel free to leave a comment. Share and let’s talk about it!