One of my really close girlfriends has a three-year-old son and she is always talking about how cute he is. Even worse, she’ll often put it as a question, like: Isn’t he soooooo cuuuuuuute??? This seriously happens every time we hang out, and I find it awkward and pretty annoying. Is there a way to get her to give it a rest without making a big deal of it, or am I being weird? Is publically obsessing about how adorable your own child is part of the new parenting handbook?

So wait, I’m confused—is the kid cute? Or is this more of a face only a mother could love situation?

Ha! I’m kidding. Obviously. But don’t you kind of wish that I wasn’t? Like, just for a second, imagine the look on your friend’s face if your response went something like, “I’ve seen a lot cuter.” Or, “I think you’re a bit biased?” Or, “Well since you asked, Beyoncé— she looks a lot like her father.”

I have a lot of friends who engage in this type of behaviour (maybe it is part of the new handbook?), and while I’m not going to call Children’s Aid or anything, I’m totally with you on the awkward and (dare I say) super frigging annoying front.

As far as I’m concerned, going around asking people to tell you how cute your kid is not terribly different than walking into a room and saying, “Doesn’t this dress look amazing on me?” Or having friends over for dinner and asking, “Isn’t my wall paper so incredibly stylish?” Don’t get me wrong—most of us love to hear these things. It’s jut that they’re the kind of comments that other people should offer…of their own free will…and without prompting.  

It’s not the exact same thing, but I have a friend who is always telling his young daughter how “pretty” she is and it drives me crazy. Like, take away the smug, self-congratulatory part and let’s talk about what kind of message are you sending when you praise your impressionable young females for her looks?

It’s true that praising a young girl for being pretty is a bit different than praising a boy for being cute (the former being more egregious in my mind because of the gender role issues at play). It’s also true that I am, technically speaking, not a parenting expert. Still, it stands to reason that if you call your toddler “cute” all the time, they are going to learn that being “cute” is a priority, rather than smart or kind or brave or well behaved.

So that’s my assessment: At best, obnoxious. At worst, possibly damaging. Without question, annoying. But how do you handle it?

I’d say that has a lot to do with your relationship with the parent or parents. How close are you? Do you have a loose and easy rapport?  For example when my sister calls my nephew (her son) cute one too many times, I will very happily tell her to can it. Sometimes I’ll take it one step further and let her know that what isn’t cute is her parental gushing.

With relatively close friends, I think there is some room to be a bit playful. So friend says, “Isn’t he sooooo cute?” and you say, “Um, I’m pretty sure we’ve already covered this topic.” Or you could address the kid directly and say something along the lines of, “I think your mom needs to give it a rest with the c-word.” This could be just the hint your friend needs. Or, it may make absolutely zero difference.

That friend who calls his daughter pretty all the time has continued to do so despite my best attempts to explain why this is problematic. The truth is that when friends become parents they tend to adopt a whole host of new behaviours and some of them are going to be annoying. A little slack combined with a healthy dose of grin-and-bare it will go a long way.

Because one thing that is definitely not cute is an adult friend who lets a little difference get in the way of a larger friendship.