Playground Drama -- Update - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-13-2010, 09:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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!

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:31 PM
 
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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...

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Old 07-13-2010, 10:10 PM
 
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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.
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:10 PM
 
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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.
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:27 PM
 
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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!
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:53 PM
 
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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!

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Old 07-13-2010, 10:58 PM
 
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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...

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Old 07-14-2010, 02:02 AM
 
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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.
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Old 07-14-2010, 04:05 AM
 
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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.

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Old 07-14-2010, 09:26 AM
 
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^ 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."
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Old 07-14-2010, 09:54 AM
 
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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.

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Old 07-14-2010, 10:16 AM
 
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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.
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Old 07-14-2010, 02:47 PM
 
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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.
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Old 07-14-2010, 03:42 PM
 
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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.
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Old 07-14-2010, 04:09 PM
 
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Best way to handle teenagers is this line...

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

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Old 07-14-2010, 06:10 PM
 
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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
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Old 07-14-2010, 10:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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."

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Old 07-15-2010, 12:15 AM
 
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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.

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Old 07-15-2010, 02:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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[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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Old 07-15-2010, 06:28 AM
 
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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?
Yes, excellent point, probably worth it's own thread. Where can our teens go on nice summer evenings instead of lounging in family rooms with t.v., video games and facebook or hanging out at the mall?

There was a thread a while back, about the beauty and benefits of multi-age socialization. Nice in theory, but in practice we keep chasing teens out of public spaces. It minimizes the opportunities for positive interaction and reinforces a social disconnect with an entire group. I'd go on, but I guess it's wandering a little OT.
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Old 07-15-2010, 07:11 AM
 
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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'm not surprised to find out that "the teen" is younger than you assumed. Parents of small children often misjudge ages of older children. It's also very easy to stereotype teens as potential troublemakers. I'm also not surprised to find out she is there because she is caretaking for younger siblings. You haven't noticed some of what's happening with your children in the park, I wouldn't expect that you would notice what's happening with others either. I'm glad it's worked out.


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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.
What was the girl yelling as you left? Was she trying to apologize at the end?

When I was a kid, I didn't like being pushed to go higher or faster if I didn't want to do it. I don't like being tickled either. So I sympathize with your dd. It sounds like it wasn't a good night for her .

Playground dynamics tend to shift a fair amount from day to day. It's very likely the other kids will focus on someone else next time.

I'd be careful, though, that your dd doesn't place herself into the position of favourite target of the other kids. It's good to keep reinforcing with her that she's entitled to say no to any physical touching. If she runs though, it's likely that the other kids will chase her. That's what kids on a playground do. If she can't get her message across by standing and confronting them, and she can't manage another way to end things, e.g. by distracting them with another game, then she should return straight to you.

You are right about staying aware and being ready to intervene as necessary.
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Old 07-15-2010, 08:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm realizing that some of what's at play here is that all of the different people involved in playground situations have different beliefs and values. Without some attempt to understand people with opposite viewpoints, conflicts can ensue that can make for an unpleasant time.

Whereas I think it's perfectly okay for a child of any age to swing with her eyes shut, and it's up to parents of small children to help their children walk safely around the swing area, some parents prefer not to accompany their small children to the park, which places a heavy burden on older siblings.

In neighborhoods where it's the norm to delegate care of younger children to older children, a norm also tends to develop wherein older children are expected to be less carefree, and to be ever-watching in case a small child wanders into the path of their swing.

Since I live in a neighborhood where there's a lot of delegating of child care to older siblings, but I still want my chilren to be able to enjoy the sensation of flying while swinging if they so choose, if I want to get along at the park I'll probably just need to quit taking my book and start watching the swing area when dd's swinging, so I can prevent small children from wandering in front of her swing.

It's so interesting that some here seem critical that I wasn't totally aware of every interaction of my children at the park. For so long, I was the mom who stayed within arms reach, ever vigilant about my toddlers' safety and their courteous interactions with other children ... first with my oldest, then with my youngest. While other parents sat off to the side chatting or reading their books, I didn't have that luxury, especially with my very high-need younger child, whose "toddler" stage lasted until about age 4.

But now I'm getting labeled as the uninvolved parent, who went so far as to misjudge the age of a 12yo, and didn't even realize that said 12yo was supervising a 3yo sibling, since she had previously seemed to just mainly be sitting and talking with other kids her age.

At any rate, it is worth it to me to have our neighborhood park be an enjoyable place for us now and for many years to come. I'll just need to accept that when children are placed in charge of other children, and blamed for whatever happens, the natural tendency is for them to want to pass on the blame. So maybe I need to go the extra mile and help keep things safer for everyone.

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Old 07-15-2010, 09:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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What was the girl yelling as you left? Was she trying to apologize at the end?
No, I didn't hear any apologies. She just kept yelling dd's name over and over. I got the impression that she was belatedly feeling upset that dd was upset with her, and was really not wanting dd to leave while still mad at her, but she wasn't sure how to make it right. She seemed genuinely puzzled that chasing dd around the playground and continuing to try to tickle her after dd and I had both said "Stop!" hadn't made everything okay.

I think dd had just reached her limit in knowing how to deal with the situation, and sort of switched off. After all, she HAD tried to communicate with her friend earlier and those communications had been completely disregarded

I told dd as we went home that I really thought her friend wanted to make things right, but didn't know how. I said I thought maybe she wasn't used to having her own space respected, maybe she was used to people continuing to touch or tickle her after she said stop, and when this happens to kids, sometimes they grow up thinking that's the normal way to treat people.

Dd then surmised that the other girl was abused by her parents, and I said I really didn't know for sure how she was treated at home. Having had one of my own children go through an aggressive phase as a toddler, I know how it feels to have people look at your child's behavior and assume that you "taught" her to be aggressive.

So even though it felt really weird and disturbing to hear this girl say, "So, animals aren't important," when her brother threatened to tell on her for the killing she'd done, I still don't want to assume she comes from some wonky, sick home situation.

It's a fine line to walk, not wanting to assume out loud about someone's homelife, but at the same time trying to help dd understand that maybe this girl really does still want to be a friend, but just needs a little help learning to respect people when they say "no" and "stop."

This seems really connected to what I just said in my other post about different values and world views intersecting. We don't want to isolate ourselves, we want to be part of our community, and this means I'll need to stay involved. I'm so happy that my dd feels no shame about saying, "I'm scared. I don't want to do that." It puzzles her when other kids tease her about admitting her fear, and act like being honest is something shameful.

I'm so happy that she feels such freedom to be real and to be herself -- but it does make her stand out at times. Again, advice is welcome. I'll try not to react too strongly if more people want to comment about my previous unawareness of what was happening at the time that it was happening. Fire away!

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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Old 07-15-2010, 10:35 AM
 
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I think the playground is like any other social situation -- it works best when everyone is aware of those around them & reacts accordingly, & all speak the same "language"...

I do think it is the responsibility of older kids to avoid hurting younger kids who are less aware of their surroundings (i.e. walking in front of swings, standing at the bottom of the slide). I don't think that means your DD can't swing with her eyes closed, but I would suggest that if there are young children around, she ask you to "stand guard" while she swings.

I think that your DD & her new friends don't seem to speak the same language -- i.e. usually around here, "stop tickling me" means tickle more, & running on the playground means "chase me" -- I would encourage you to talk to your daughter about ways of conveying her boundaries that others will understand, since (sadly) what I just mentioned is the norm as far as I'm aware, so she will likely often be the odd one out. Maybe she can give her friends a 'safe word' and when she uses that word (could be a really silly word), that means, "stop, for real, I'm serious." Or she could turn around & chase them & tickle them. I don't think anyone is criticizing you or your DD, but I do think she sounds like a particularly sensitive 10yo & she may need to learn some extra skills to stand up for herself & communicate among others who don't really understand her "language."

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Old 07-15-2010, 11:00 AM
 
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It is so hard to balance between being a helicopter mom (which I am!) and giving my kids space.

I hate the playground, but like your kids, my kids love it! I struggle with the non-existent parents who just assume their kids have the social skills to manage the setting. I have had a run in with one parent who's son kept asking my son to "lie down" in one of the tunnels with him! I almost lost it as neither my son or I knew this kid and he was very adamant about it. I told my ds to play somewhere else after I attempted to interact with the older child and asked why he wanted my ds to do that. He did not respond to me. The kid then would not leave the park because "I was mean to him" and his father FINALLY came over to check on him and was really angry with me.

As far as the teens, I think you did an excellent job with this girl. Teens are sullen in general, but once you find a way to engage them you really can have a positive impact on them. As I was reading the posts, my suggestion was to talk with her because that has worked for me in the past. We were a huge playground and at least 30% of it was covered with bored teens and they were smoking (*That makes me made because lil' ones can pick up the butts!). But they were pretty nice kids once I started to interact with them and my son, who was initially afraid of them went to that part of the playground and said "excuse I would like to walk/play here" and they made room. I stayed close and both my kids had a lot of fun.

Playgrounds are a great setting for kids to practice and explore and I believe they need guidance from an adult when things are confusing. We all raise our children differently which can lead to conflict which then can either lead to learning or misunderstanding. I believe being a supportive adult to any child or youth is a opportunity to both us and the potential child. We can not only teach our children tolerance and understanding, but also remind ourselves and maybe even positively impact another child.
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Old 07-15-2010, 11:19 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post

It's so interesting that some here seem critical that I wasn't totally aware of every interaction of my children at the park. For so long, I was the mom who stayed within arms reach, ever vigilant about my toddlers' safety and their courteous interactions with other children ... first with my oldest, then with my youngest. While other parents sat off to the side chatting or reading their books, I didn't have that luxury, especially with my very high-need younger child, whose "toddler" stage lasted until about age 4.

But now I'm getting labeled as the uninvolved parent, who went so far as to misjudge the age of a 12yo, and didn't even realize that said 12yo was supervising a 3yo sibling, since she had previously seemed to just mainly be sitting and talking with other kids her age.

At any rate, it is worth it to me to have our neighborhood park be an enjoyable place for us now and for many years to come. I'll just need to accept that when children are placed in charge of other children, and blamed for whatever happens, the natural tendency is for them to want to pass on the blame. So maybe I need to go the extra mile and help keep things safer for everyone.
Earlier, I started to write something about free-range children, balancing between being aware and intervening when necessary, and the hypervigilantism of helicopter parenting. I deleted it though, since the post was getting long and becoming a side-track.

I haven't meant to be critical, just stating the fact it's easy to misjudge when you don't have all the information, and that being aware and ready to intervene is a good tactic for dealing with playground problems.

Generally, I think it's fine to let children play and negotiate social situations on their own. Inevitably, problems will arise though, since children have different social maturity and capabilities. When you recognize problems occurring, if children can't or won't manage conflict independently, parents will need to know what's happened so that they can help resolve the situation. Often, a child only has a limited perspective, so hearing one side of the story won't give you the full picture. And it's very easy to make false judgements based on stereotypes (bored teens) or on stray scraps of information.

So I don't think you need to "go the extra mile for everyone" if that means becoming the park police. If problems occur or you observe a pattern of behaviour that is going to lead to problems, by all means intervene. I'd start with coaching my own children on dealing with playground conflict. It sounds like you are doing that already.

As for children supervising other children and passing the blame - well, the fact is your 5 y.o. hit someone and your 10 y.o. wasn't watching and she kicked someone. It's good to remember that ultimately, we can't control what other people think, say or do, we can only control our own behaviour.

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It's a fine line to walk, not wanting to assume out loud about someone's homelife, but at the same time trying to help dd understand that maybe this girl really does still want to be a friend, but just needs a little help learning to respect people when they say "no" and "stop."
I think this is wise.
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Old 07-15-2010, 12:42 PM
 
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Nice in theory, but in practice we keep chasing teens out of public spaces.
Yes. I've been thinking about this a good bit in our area lately. Even our library isn't a particularly teen-friendly place, and it seems adults in a large setting chatting & drinking coffee is a social gathering. Teens on the other side of the street chatting and drinking soft drinks is somehow...dangerous.

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I'm realizing that some of what's at play here is that all of the different people involved in playground situations have different beliefs and values.
Sure, but that has never been an issue for us. Some people think differently. Okay, but we're here to swing, and we practice basic courtesy. If someone doesn't, then my children don't play with them. It's really not been an issue - and certainly it's not one about beliefs anyway. It's more about personalities.

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Whereas I think it's perfectly okay for a child of any age to swing with her eyes shut, and it's up to parents of small children to help their children walk safely around the swing area, some parents prefer not to accompany their small children to the park, which places a heavy burden on older siblings.

Since I live in a neighborhood where there's a lot of delegating of child care to older siblings, but I still want my chilren to be able to enjoy the sensation of flying while swinging if they so choose, if I want to get along at the park I'll probably just need to quit taking my book and start watching the swing area when dd's swinging, so I can prevent small children from wandering in front of her swing.
In general, I believe in the old idea that your right to privacy ends where someone else's nose begins. In this case, sure you can swing with your eyes closed, but doing so when there are small children near you isn't a good idea. It's not an either/or proposition. The little girl should've been farther away, and your daughter should've been paying more attention.

I think that by blaming the other playground goers only and making a dramatic declaration - I'll quit taking my book altogether - you're not putting any of the onus on your daughter, which isn't serving her well.


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But now I'm getting labeled as the uninvolved parent, who went so far as to misjudge the age of a 12yo, and didn't even realize that said 12yo was supervising a 3yo sibling, since she had previously seemed to just mainly be sitting and talking with other kids her age.

I would suggest that perhaps having let your child negotiate on her own when she was younger would have prevented some of these issues (or at least taught her the skills to deal with them). Nevertheless, you made a lot of assumptions about this other girl because you were uninformed. That's not fair. You didn't know what was going on. You said your daughter called to you multiple times, but you were too engrossed in your book. What if she were hurt? I don't think you're the bad guy for not knowing who was at the park together, though that's something I do typically notice, but I think it's problematic not to pay attention and then blame everyone else for your children's issues there.

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the natural tendency is for them to want to pass on the blame. So maybe I need to go the extra mile and help keep things safer for everyone.
No, you just need to worry about your own children.

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I got the impression that she was belatedly feeling upset that dd was upset with her, and was really not wanting dd to leave while still mad at her, but she wasn't sure how to make it right.
This makes me sad for the little girl. She probably had no idea what to do or how to handle it.

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Dd then surmised that the other girl was abused by her parents, and I said I really didn't know for sure how she was treated at home. Having had one of my own children go through an aggressive phase as a toddler, I know how it feels to have people look at your child's behavior and assume that you "taught" her to be aggressive.

So even though it felt really weird and disturbing to hear this girl say, "So, animals aren't important," when her brother threatened to tell on her for the killing she'd done, I still don't want to assume she comes from some wonky, sick home situation.
Wow. You guys are pretty judgmental. One child continuing to tickle after being told no turned into her being abused. Really? That's where your dd went? Perhaps it's because I actually have experience with abuse, but that's just ott. Even the animal comment doesn't suggest anything to me. Perhaps she just said that about animals because it was her brother. Perhaps you didn't hear the whole conversation. Perhaps she's a poser. Who knows? To debate whether she comes from "some wonky, sick" home is a bit harsh for what's amounted to a couple of hours at a park.

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-- i.e. usually around here, "stop tickling me" means tickle more, & running on the playground means "chase me" -- I would encourage you to talk to your daughter about ways of conveying her boundaries that others will understand, since (sadly) what I just mentioned is the norm as far as I'm aware, so she will likely often be the odd one out.
It is here, too. It has been pretty much everywhere I've ever been around children.


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As far as the teens, I think you did an excellent job with this girl. Teens are sullen in general, but once you find a way to engage them you really can have a positive impact on them.
This girl wasn't a sullen, bored teen. She's a 12YO who was defending her 3YO from a 10YO who kicked her while on the swing. I think it's important to note that the OP's 5YO punched someone and 10YO kicked someone while on the swing. I'm not suggesting they're awful kids or anything, but they're certainly not innocent by-standers either.

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Old 07-15-2010, 02:21 PM
 
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I think you are doing just fine. Sure, probably need to keep a little bit closer eye/ear at least until your kids settle in more, but really, I think you are fine and I'm glad to hear that you bonded some with the teen in your first post.

Per your post about your 10yo getting harassed by her friend, it may not be the friend's intention to harass, she may think tickling when someone says no is totally fine. I personally don't think it is fine, but it is very common in some households, so she may just need more explanation to get it. It might also be a respect issue too, but its worth trying to explain more to her, especially since you said she looked clueless when you mentioned personal space.

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Old 07-15-2010, 02:38 PM
 
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In life, there are always going to be mean people that you have to "deal" with.

The best thing you can do for your daughter it to teach her how to handle these older girls. Honestly, "Mean girls" will get worse before it gets better.

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