In our house the start of summer and school vacation invites a flexible schedule quickly filled with hours of playground time. The boys know which playground to request for "digging toys," twisty slides, and where they might be able to sneak in a trip to see some farm animals. We enjoy our outings to the playground and opportunity to bring picnics and create adventures enhanced by gorgeous summer temperatures.
For the most part, excursions to the playground are a welcomed change of scenery and an easy way for the boys to burn energy; however, there are times where parenting challenges arise inviting the opportunity for reflection on how best to navigate rules of the playground. We are not talking about sharing, taking turns, etc., but rules for navigating other parents at the playground. For better or worse, issues such as "should you address behavior issues of another child?" and "how do you react when another child acts unkind to your child?" are bound to come up at some point during your parenting career.
For example, your younger toddler is playing adventurously, climbing and doing everything within his/her power to keep up with an older sibling. In the meantime, older children (not of your own) grow impatient and seemingly create an unsafe situation for your child as they try to run past and navigate the same equipment. In this situation it can be tough to identify the best approach for keeping your child safe. Should I talk to the other children and encourage them to slow down? And, why isn't their parent addressing the behavior himself/herself? If you are inclined to speak with the older children keep the focus on your child.
"I see your excited to run around the playground. Thanks for noticing that he is younger
than you and needs to go more slowly on the playground."
"Wow, you are really strong and can run around the playground fast! Thank you for being so
careful around the children that are smaller and younger than you."
Here you are calling attention to the situation without speaking about the negative behavior or making it seem as though you are discipling someone else's child. In most cases this will be enough to invite the older child to change his/her behavior and make a better choice.
What if the behavior continues? Ultimately, we should be comfortable speaking to another parent about play. Most parents are trying to raise their children to be good citizens and we must remember that we are working together in the same village to support out children's overall social development. Depending on the situation and your comfort level, you can approach the parent discussion much the same as you would with the child. Keep the focus on your child and appeal to the other parent for help keeping your child safe on the playground.
There is no magic for navigating the rules of the playground and we must appreciate the different levels of play. Remember that your little one will someday be the big kid on the playground. Consider how you might want another parent to speak with them or how you would like to be approach in such a situation.
Do you have a playground story? What strategies have you found helpful when approaching another child or parent?
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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