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Playground Drama -- Update

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 
My 10yo, 5yo, and I have lately been loving going to play at our local neighborhood park from around 7pm til dark most evenings. This playground is surrounded by many homes with children, so it's so nice, especially for my 10yo, because she's forming a little circle of friends who are out there about every day.

Many of the children come over without parents, since the playground is in plain view through the windows of their homes. This generally works out great, except that for the past couple of days, there has been this teen girl coming over with one or two other teen girls (at least one is her sister), and she seems to be trying to create some sort of drama by starting confrontations at the playground.

She seems to have singled out my girls. Two nights ago, dh and I were chatting on the park bench, when this girl suddenly loudly and angrily yelled to us, "HEY! Your daughter just tried to put her hand in my mouth!" Our 5yo ran over to us, and we sat there for a while talking with her, trying to figure out what on earth had happened.

Our 5yo had been very aggressive as a toddler, so much so that I used to avoid taking her into situations with groups of other children as much as possible, because it was like the other children were little toys to her. But over the last couple of years, she has really matured and developed empathy, and generally gets along wonderfully with other children.

So I was very surprised and could not believe that she had just walked up to some huge teenager and tried to stick her hand in her mouth. Dd told me that she had tried to sit with the big girls, and the really big one had told her, in a very mean voice, to "Get out of here!" And she got mad and tried to stick her hand in her mouth.

I just told her I was sorry the girl was so mean, but it wasn't okay to stick her hand in people's mouths, and she needed to just stay away from this girl. Of course, this would be easier if these girls didn't position themselves on the playground equipment where children are trying to play, but oh well.

Last night, my 5yo did a really great job of ignoring this meanly behaving teen and playing with her little friends and having fun. But I learned, after the fact, that this girl had singled out my 10yo for some mean treatment. My 10yo later told me that this girl had questioned her about whether she was dusty, and asked her if she'd taken a shower.

Dd just basically said, "Yes, I probably am dirty since I'm playing on a playground, and I'll probably take a shower when I get home." Then, later on, this girl demanded an apology from my dd because she said she had kicked her sister in the face while she was swinging.

Dd did apologize, but she didn't think she could have kicked the girl very hard since she never felt anything (she likes swinging with her eyes closed because it gives her the sensation of flying). Dd said the sister hadn't wanted an apology, and actually told dd that she wasn't upset with her and she was all right. It sounds like she was kind of embarrassed by her sister's behavior.

Dd said the older girl seemed to be trying to start a feud, and that the way she had worded her demand for an apology when she had sent her message through dd's friend was that, "All she needs to do is apologize, and it will be over." Huh?

All this time I'd been blithely visiting with dh on the bench, but dd's friend came over to tell me all about it, and she said this girl was still complaining about my dd even though she'd apologized. I went over and asked the girl what seemed to be her problem with my dd.

She said there was no problem, since my dd had apologized for kicking her sister. And I said I was sure that dd hadn't meant to kick her sister, and since it had apparently happened while she was swinging, her sister must have walked right in front of her swing.

And the girl said, well, yes, she had, but dd hadn't started swinging yet, and she had suddenly started swinging at the very moment that her sister had walked past. Whatever. I just said, "Well she's sorry" and walked away. We left soon after that. Dh was feeling really angry and didn't want to say anything he might regret.

So, I'd love everyone's advice about how to keep this playplace pleasant for our girls and all the other children. Am I overreacting? I'm just finding myself almost dreading going over tonight, wondering what new drama might transpire, but I don't want to be a pessimist. Thanks for any advice!
post #2 of 51
Is there a sign at the park? Like our local tot park has a sign saying "this playground is designed for children ages 2-5" -- is there anything like that? And are the teens actually playing or are they just hanging around causing trouble? If it's the latter, I'd let the teens know that they need to leave the playground or you'll call the police (report them for loitering or causing trouble with the kids or something)... But I would probably give it a few more nights first because maybe they'll get bored & leave. Also talk to the other parents first too to see if they've had any problems with the teens...
post #3 of 51
My kids are younger, 7yrs and 2 yrs, so I don't know if this would work. But in the past I have positioned myself within earshot of troublemakers and my kids. If someone gave wrong information, such as you are not allowed here, I would say in a nice voice, yes he is allowed to play here. I would stay there and watch too. But I don't know if a 10 year old would appreciate this.
post #4 of 51

Bored Teens

The teens will probably get bored and disappear after a few nights...it's only fun to harass little kids for so long. The teen girl who is causing the problems is probably trying to assert authority in the only way she knows how; she may have controlling parents who aren't really letting her grow up. It's difficult being a teenager too; of course, her behavior isn't acceptable.
post #5 of 51
Thread Starter 
Hi crunchy_mommy,

No, I've never noticed any sign about age-limits, and I honestly wouldn't want one, because I think we'll be enjoying this place as a hangout for many, many years.

Plus many teens are capable of visiting there AND being kind and pleasant to the younger children, so it would be unfair to them if teens were no longer allowed. Some of them are also there supervising younger siblings, though this doesn't seem to be the case with the meanly-behaving girl.

I think I probably did overreact the other night, and I hope I didn't exacerbate the sitation by talking with the girl myself. Since there haven't been any laws broken, there's been no physical violence or anything, I don't see what the police could do.

If there is more rudeness such as telling little ones to "Get out of here," I think I will gently point out that the middle of a playground is not the best place for a child-free teen-only gab session. I'm sure they can find better spots if they don't want any little children around them, you know?

"They" isn't really accurate, though, I think it's just the one girl though the others seem to be sort of going along with it.
post #6 of 51
I don't know if it would work, but you could introduce yourself and engage her. Something along the lines of, "Hi, I'm so-and-so, and these are my kids, whosit and whatsit. I notice you're here as often as we are. You take very good care of your sister. Etc etc." Going on the premise that it's harder to bully people when you know them, even a little bit, and they've been nice to you.

Or you could just give them some pot to smoke. Mellow them out a little. Isn't that what teenagers are supposed to do in parks, anyway? Kidding, kidding, kidding!
post #7 of 51
I think I misunderstood the whole picture, you're right, it probably doesn't make sense to call the police... hopefully the teens will get bored & move on!
post #8 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie Mac View Post
Or you could just give them some pot to smoke. Mellow them out a little. Isn't that what teenagers are supposed to do in parks, anyway? Kidding, kidding, kidding!


I like both of Annie Mac's ideas. Teens these days really need to chill out... lol

Seriously though, maybe see if engaging in conversation & if there is a right/good moment, introducing etc. I would think that would make it hard for her to be a pia to your gals after that...
post #9 of 51
Quote:
I think I probably did overreact the other night, and I hope I didn't exacerbate the sitation by talking with the girl myself.
I don't think what you did was overreacting. I would have done the same thing. It sounds like this girl backpeddled a bit, if your dd had just started swinging then she would have barely touched her sister & the sister would have been walking way too close to a swing that had someone on it. If there are any other issues with this girl I'd conviently sit closer so you can overhear &/or tell the girl if she had problems with your kids to come to you instead.
post #10 of 51
you were much nicer than I would have been.

I would have gone up to her and asked her what her problem seemed to be ( like you did) and then I would have told her that she needed to back off from my kid. I really don't take lightly to my daughter being treated that way and I kinda have a big mouth. Sometimes kids do things like that because they can get away with it. Don't let them get away with it.
post #11 of 51
^ Yeah, that would have been me, as well. I would probably tell her what I would tell my own kids behaving inappropriately..."If you cannot be nice to everyone and get along with the people you are around, then it's time for you to go home."
post #12 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by TulsiLeaf View Post
you were much nicer than I would have been.

I would have gone up to her and asked her what her problem seemed to be ( like you did) and then I would have told her that she needed to back off from my kid. I really don't take lightly to my daughter being treated that way and I kinda have a big mouth. Sometimes kids do things like that because they can get away with it. Don't let them get away with it.
Uh yeah. A teen like this needs THE Mom voice if you know what I mean. I wouldn't get into a debate over who walked close to the swing etc. that is feeding into her silliness. Just put a stop to it and tell her to let the younger kids deal with their own stuff (which wasn't even an issue anyway until she made it one!).

Seriously, one more incident and I'd tell her to knock it off.
post #13 of 51
There seems to be a general consensus that these are bored, trouble-making teens who are hanging around the park because they have nothing better to do.

Is it possible that this girl is caretaking for her little sister and she's near the equipment because she's expected to stay close and supervise?

Looking at it from her perspective, a 5 y.o. has hit her in the mouth and her little sister has been kicked by a 10 y.o. The mom of these two girls didn't see either incident, which suggests that she hasn't been paying close attention to her kids and doesn't really know what happened.

Teens are often still working on their social skills. She may not know how to intervene and correct younger children in a calm, pleasant yet firm manner. Heck, there are a lot of adults who can't manage it. And, if she doesn't really want to be babysitting, she may not be in the best mood to begin with, so she may be venting a little when she has to respond to a problem.

I'd cut her some slack, since she wasn't the original instigator in either incident, and pay MUCH closer attention to my children while they are playing.
post #14 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post
Is it possible that this girl is caretaking for her little sister and she's near the equipment because she's expected to stay close and supervise?
Well, maybe, except that the sister is a teen as well, according to the OP and the teen in question doesn't appear to be supervising a small child (other teens are, yes, but not this one). It really does sound more like she is enjoying bullying little kids and getting a reaction. She seems to have singled out the OPs children because she does, indeed, get a reaction that she can exploit.

OP, I think you probably need to stay closer to your children for a couple of evenings. Within earshot so you can truly understand the situation and intervene if necessary or coaching your children on how to interact/respond to what the teen is doing. If things continue, I think it is perfectly OK to suggest that the teens might be happier sitting somewhere else since they aren't actually using the play equipment and other children would like to.
post #15 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post
Well, maybe, except that the sister is a teen as well, according to the OP
Ah, okay, I missed that part of the OP, that the sister is one of the teens. The picture I envisioned was of a young child, probably because most older children, nevermind teens and adults, would know they shouldn't walk in front of swings.

Nevertheless, it is possible that the teens are there because of babysitting duties, and aren't just hanging about. One teen may be babysitting and the others are keeping company.

My advice is still the same. You can't make someone be pleasant and act kindly if they don't want to. That applies to whether the person is 5, 15 or 50 yrs. old.

I would stay near my children and pay close attention. The teen isn't likely to create trouble if she sees that parents are observing, engaged and willing to intervene. I'd encourage my children to avoid this girl as much as possible, but stand up for themselves if the situation warrants it.

Hopefully, from the teen's point of view, the interfamily squabbling that started when the 5 y.o. hit her in the mouth and continued when the 10 y.o. kicked her sister is now all over.
post #16 of 51
Best way to handle teenagers is this line...

"you look familiar - I think I know your Mom". Usually sends them running for the hills.
post #17 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpottedFoxx View Post
Best way to handle teenagers is this line...

"you look familiar - I think I know your Mom". Usually sends them running for the hills.

Love that

My first thoughts are to be the advocate, but upon further reflection, teens need a safe place too. And if they are not in the park, where else will they go? In some boyfriends car?

I think there are some gentle diplomatic ideas in this thread to curve the situation. In that way, you will add to the community, and the teens will learn from you.

When I was on maternity leave with my now 4 year old, I was in the park when a bunch of bored teenage boys began jumping and running, stirring up dust, in the playground during the summer, with a bunch of newly walking toddlers. I looked around and saw angry looks on other parents faces. It think one of them said something to the group, and then they simply lied like tired lions, on one play structure. I felt sorry for them, thinking, mine will be that age before I know it, and I would not want them treated that way.

Good luck and please update
post #18 of 51
Thread Starter 
Hi all. Thanks for all the really good advice. That situation is much better now. Last night, this girl came on her own with her youngest sister, who is three. Maybe she was actually supervising this tiny girl before, but I'd only noticed her interacting with the other girls who looked to be about her age.

She actually came and sat on the other end of the bench where I was sitting, and we chatted a bit. It turns out she is only 12, not 14 or 15 as I'd originally assumed based on her size and physical development. She was also surprised to learn that my oldest is only 10; dd is very tall and is already developing, so I suppose maybe this girl was shocked to see her running around being so active and unconcerned about her "dusty" state, LOL.

I think we're friends now. But last night I did learn that I will need to be more in-tune with how the kids are playing. This time I just brought my 10yo, because my 5yo wanted to stay home with her daddy. And dd was happily playing with friends so I just kind of immersed myself in my book and chilled out.

Then, shortly before time to go, dd runs to me and says that she'd been calling and calling "Mom! Mom!" I felt really bad that I hadn't been aware or picked her voice out of all the other noise. She and her friends had been on the other side of the playground, taking turns twisting one another up in the swings, and when it was dd's turn, the boy who twisted her up wouldn't stop when dd said stop.

He twisted her so high, she was scared to spin down, so she grabbed hold of the tops of the chains, to keep the swing from spinning down, while she tried to get my attention so I could help her down. But then one of the girls, who dd had previously thought was her good friend, started tickling her under her armpits, forcing dd to let go and spin down. The kids were teasing dd and saying "You're scared," and dd didn't really see their point since she was obviously telling them she was scared and to stop.

When dd ran over to me, her friend followed her over, laughing and continuing to try to tickle her. I told this girl to stop, and that dd was feeling like she couldn't trust her because she wasn't respecting her physical space.

This girl looked at me like I was speaking another language, and backed off for a moment, but then a moment later was chasing dd around the playground and trying to tickle her. I told her to stop again, and the other girl who I'd originally thought had it in for my dd was also yelling at her to leave dd alone.

By this point it was getting dark, and I told dd let's go. We got into the car, and this girl (the one who'd kept trying to tickle dd) and her siblings all gathered round and ran right up against the car as we drove off, and I was a little scared that someone's feet might get run over; the girl was yelling for dd and trying to get her attention, and dd naturally just ignored her.

Dd is saying she wants to keep going back to play, but we are taking a break this evening. I see now that I will definitely have to stay engaged in what is happening with the kids; at one point I heard the brother of the girl who was trying to tickle dd tell her to stop, or he'd tell dad about how she'd killed an animal, and she said, "So. Animals aren't important."

Dd and this girl had originally seemed to have so much in common, and to have so much fun together, so I guess we'll just have to see if she can learn to respect boundaries and remain dd's friend or not.

I guess this fits in with "playground drama," too. Advice is very welcome. Dd had really liked this girl, but now she just doesn't feel she can trust her at all. And I realize that I'll need to be doing all dd's "spinning up," since it's too dangerous to trust other kids who don't respect somebody's "no."
post #19 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
the girl was yelling for dd and trying to get her attention, and dd naturally just ignored her.
...
Dd had really liked this girl, but now she just doesn't feel she can trust her at all.
A lot of what you said stood out to me, but these two sentences in particular were odd. I suppose I don't understand why you would say "naturally" your dd ignored the girl trying to get attention. I mean, when they gathered around, were they leering and holding rocks or just unsure how to get the attention of a girl who was ignoring them?

I don't consider one run-in with someone a reason to end what really is just a playground friendship. In a lot of circles (even families), tickling against protest is an acceptable behavior.

I also think it's important to note that you were considering the previous girl a big, older bully when really she is only 2 years older than your dd. Plus your dd did kick her sister, whether intentional or not, and come to find out this child is only 3 years old, still young enough to walk in front of a swing accidentally or misjudge where to walk.

Overall I think the playground situation suggests that as you've said, you need to watch your child more. I also think it suggests that perhaps your daughter needs more help navigating the playground than I would think is typical of a 10YO.
post #20 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by VisionaryMom View Post
A lot of what you said stood out to me, but these two sentences in particular were odd. I suppose I don't understand why you would say "naturally" your dd ignored the girl trying to get attention.
Dd's behavior seemed natural to me, because she had already attempted to get the other girl to listen to her and respect what she had to say. This girl was totally ignoring my dd's requests for her to stop tickling her, and just chasing her around and laughing about it.

Since I don't believe in violence, this is actually how I respond to people who don't respond to respectful communication. Dd was still trying to process the fact that her supposed friend had no respect for her, and didn't care that she was scared on the swings and actually forced her to spin down. It seems natural to me to ignore someone and just walk away when no other attempts at communication are working.

Quote:
I don't consider one run-in with someone a reason to end what really is just a playground friendship.
I am honestly hoping that the girls can remain friends. I realize that childhood is a time of trying out different behaviors, and depending on how children have been treated, they may not understand about respecting that someone's no means know. I hope we can work this out. That's why I'm posting here, for advice.

Quote:
In a lot of circles (even families), tickling against protest is an acceptable behavior.
Well, we teach our girls that each person's body is his or her own domain. Sometimes one has tickled the other against protect, and we've always intervened and talked about how the child who was doing the tickling likes to be respected when she says no, so she needs to respect her sister, too.

Quote:
I also think it's important to note that you were considering the previous girl a big, older bully when really she is only 2 years older than your dd. Plus your dd did kick her sister, whether intentional or not, and come to find out this child is only 3 years old, still young enough to walk in front of a swing accidentally or misjudge where to walk.
When my own children were at the ages where they were liable to walk in front of a swing without thinking, I saw it as my responsibility to be right there to protect them and guide them in giving swings a wide berth. Sure, sometimes accidents happened even in spite of my vigilance -- but if one of my toddlers had ever been kicked by a child on a swing, it would honestly never occur to me to blame the swinging child or to demand an apology.

Of course, in this case the 3yo was not being supervised by a parent (by the way, the other day I had not realized that it was a 3yo who had been kicked, because I hadn't made the connection that this older girl was supervising any small child). In this case, the 12yo was in charge, and it looks like she is placed in charge a lot.

From her perspective, it probably seems unfair that my 10yo is able to run around so carefree, even to the point of swinging with her eyes shut. I imagine that a 12yo who is often held responsible for three younger siblings hasn't had much opportunity to totally lose herself, close her eyes while swinging, and enjoy the sensation of flying.

From her vantage point, I suppose she feels older children should always be looking out for smaller children, and should never be totally carefree. This is similar to the attitude of a boy who got upset with my 10yo last week, because he said she ran over his tiny dog while she was riding her bike around the track.

The tiny dog had been chasing dd's bike, running right up against her wheels, so it seemed totally ridiculous to me that he would blame dd if his dog got his paw run over. I mean, duh, watch your tiny dog and don't let him run under people's bicycle wheels if you don't want him hurt, it seems like such a no-brainer to me!

I think it is time for me to learn some compassion for this victim mentality that just sends small children or animals out into dangerous situations and then blames "the village" for not looking out for their safety.

It's really just little kids having responsibility dumped on them that they're not ready for, so they're feeling like everyone else should help them pick up the slack that they're picking up for their parents. Poor kids.

Quote:
[Overall I think the playground situation suggests that as you've said, you need to watch your child more. I also think it suggests that perhaps your daughter needs more help navigating the playground than I would think is typical of a 10YO.
Hmmm. It kind of sounds here like you're criticizing my dd for not being able to handle that whole incident herself -- or maybe cricizing me because my child needs so much help? Are you saying you wouldn't get involved if some other person were touching your 10yo in ways that she didn't want to be touched?
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