Another standing up for your toddler thread! Sorry if this is terribly long...
I would like to hear what other people do situations like the ones we've been in lately. This stuff tends to get to me and make me feel quite incompetent. I feel that it's hard for me to see the forest for the trees...
Ds is 1.5 years old. He loves other kids and is eager to play with them. He usually doesn't mind sharing (or having things snatched out of his hands). when it comes to snatching, if I see that he's holding on to the toy and the other kid insists (sometimes to the point of hurting his little fist, but I now intevene earlier!), I end up intervening and explaining that DS is playing with the thing and suggest another toy to the other kid. I do not let DS snatch things from others, though, but don't discipline the others unless it's a question of safety (so I will say things such as no pushing, please don't throw sand in Ds's eyes, etc. to other kids).
A few times lately DS was playing alone with big standing toys that can easily accomodate 2-3 kids (in playgrounds, playgroups, stores, etc.). On a few occasions, another kid came (ages 2 to 5) and would push my son's hands away from any part of the toy (without pushing him per se). DS would try to find another part of the toy to play with but at this point the other kid would mostly want to monopolize the toy and make sure that DS couldn't touch it at all). Looking at Ds's little hands being grabbed by older kids on these occasions really hurt my feelings... But most importantly, DS didn't mind, it was something new and he seemed to want to figure out what this new game was.
I am trying to sort out what is just my feelings, what is his, and what is it that he's learning. And how to react accordingly.
Until now, my strategy has been distraction. Today, though, it did not work at all. We were in a TRU, and a 4 or 5 year old came to play with the same toy. DS is fascinated by older kids, so he was very happy! When it became obvious to me that the other kid was playing the game of grabbing my son's hands and arms just to make sure DS doesn't get to play at all, I tried to distract DS or take him in my arms and go to another toy. DS was not happy at all, crying, etc. - for him, I was interrupting this new game with the older boy! I tried explaining to the boy that they can both play with this toy and please don't grab his hands like that so that he can play too... Twice, no reaction at all, maybe just an increased motivation to keep going...
At the TRU incident, the parents were actually looking and commenting to each other, and seemed fairly amused (they spoke a different language so they might have been laughing about different stuff and just looking at their son... who knows). I was pretty mad at this (and DS was throwing a fit when I tried to pull him away or distract him) so I ended up talking to them, explaining that my son was playing with this toy first, was willing to share, and that their son was mostly just grabbing his hands and arms and if they could please explain that it is not okay and maybe ask him to try sharing this with this little boy. They laughed. DS was amused by my "conversation" with them and I was able to move on without waiting for any other reaction from them. I am still mad, though, mostly at the parents obviously, and I figure I do need to distance myself from my own reactions...
Generally, I am pretty clueless about such stuff. I am discovering all those things as I go! I know my DS pretty well, but am prettly lost when it comes to dealing with other kids (mostly when they are older) and I often end up just... surprised (as another poster explained in another thread recently).
I would love to find some general ideas that could guide my reactions, and also possibly help me stop over-analyzing every such interaction... I feel that once I get a good idea of how I would like to approach things, I will be much more able to just go with the flow. Once I make sense of the trees, I will be able to navigate the forest!
Does any of you feel like sharing some ground rules and bottom lines that you use to approach your kid's interactions with others? When do you step in, and how? I would also love to read a good book, if there is one (with many, many examples...).
I am a teacher and quite used to telling other people's children what to do, so you may not feel as comfortable using this strategy.
I always speak directly to the child involved. I begin in my friendliest voice and in the situations you have described, would begin by bobbing down next to my child and saying "He is allowed to touch the toy." Then go on to a general conversation/monologue about how great the toy was and how lots of kids can play with it. That is usually enough. I also make a comment to my younger child about how kind the older one is and isn't he sharing well?
If it's rougher than that with hitting or the baby falling/being pushed over, I will be much firmer in my approach. Again I will bob down next to my little one, and say "Don't do that, you are hurting him, he is allowed to play here too" and continue on as above.
I find that where I stand back, the other child and the parents (if they are anywhere to be seen) get the message that I am approving of the behaviour. I find when I speak up and intervene, the situation is rapidly resolved.
DD is also 1.5 years old and I usually don't see her getting pushed around too much. I don't hang around or let my kid hang around kids exhibiting bad behaviors at the park and playground. It is usually pretty obvious who the aggressive or dominant unchecked kids are so we just smile and keep moving to a less confrontational area.
BUT I do know that kids don't see objects the same as adults and to some kids any interaction is worth losing possession of some fancy toy. Sometimes kids are attracted to popular toys for the kids, not the toys. I step in when feelings are hurt or another child has crossed a line in aggressive posturing, restraining, hitting or pushing. Some moves are defensive, but legal. But my step in is to get them out of the situation and talk about it (to my own child).
I don't recommend correcting other people's children. Or other parents for that matter. Most of the time you don't really want to tip off the parent of a mean kid because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. When kids exhibit anti-social behavior I just leave the social situation. If the parents and kids are observant enough they will see that people won't hang around them. If you must say something say it to your own child, possibly: "Ok honey let's go play on the slide because I don't want you to get hurt." Or if you are feeling really upset you could also say "Let's go find some kinder people that will share their toys" but be warned that this could pick a fight with the parents if it is overheard. And parents can be u-g-l-y if they think you are calling their kid mean.
But some things you can say if you feel the need:
"DS is playing with that right now, would you like to try this toy?"
"DS is little, please be very careful around him."
"He doesn't know how to do that, could you show him how it works?"
"DS is playing with that but he's happy to share as long as he can still touch it too."
If my kid is not upset, I generally wouldn't intervene in that situation. I feel like at this age (my son is also 1.5 yo) this sort of playground negotiation is mostly about the adults, not the kids! But as a rule of thumb, I'll always intervene if my kid is getting up in the face of a younger kid--generally he doesn't do this, but if there is a smaller/slower/less mobile child playing, I think it's my job to make sure my son doesn't steamroll them by accident. If the kids are the same age, I leave them alone unless one of them seems upset. If my kid is playing with a bigger kid, again, I let them alone unless my kid gets upset.
But your post made me think a bit about what my kid is learning when he's interacting with an older bigger stronger kid who might not always let him get his way. He's learning first that other people don't always want what he wants. He's learning that he can weather a little bit of disappointment. He's learning that if the disappointment gets to big to handle, it's okay--someone will come help him out.
His job is to learn how to interact with other kids. My job, I think, is to give him an environment of controlled risk-taking. He should be able to push himself just a little bit farther than last time, but if he goes a little too far, I'm there to catch him.