I go weekly to the park with DD (3) and DS (baby). I meet with some fellow SAHMs, and we all sit within eye-shot (but not always earshot) of the playground.
One week, a little girl (about age 6) approached and informed me that DD had pushed her and punched her in the stomach. She said this all in a calm voice without any crying or signs of injury. I overreacted in this little girls favor and promptly removed DD from the playground equipment. She had to sit with the adults until she calmed down.
I overreacted because it later occurred to me that there are always two sides to every story, and DD is not old enough or verbally developed enough to articulate her side. In fact, if I ask, “Did you push her?” she just clams up and stares at me.
Fast forward to this week. A couple of boys—one about 5, and the other at least 8 (!) came to tattle that DD was “being mean”—pushing them, following them, throwing bark at them. I responded with, “Oh dear, how did that happen?” Well, kids being kids, I get a story that they were 100% innocent and she aggressed upon them out of the blue. I responded that they should do everything they could to stay away from her. Ten minutes later, I watched DD push one of the kids. I’m not sure what provoked it. Again, I yanked her out of the situation and scolded her. Twenty minutes later, I watched one the younger twerp sneak up behind her and then rub a bunch of bark into her hair.
So onto the questions. And remember, I’m a novice parent, so expect some ignorance and naivete.
1. I am determined not to become a helicopter parent and micromanage how my children play. Besides, with an active baby to look after, I have better things to do than stand in the playground and monitor a bunch of kid drama. So how do I handle the tattling?
In both of these cases, none of these kids’ parents were present, so it was as if the onus was on me to solve everybody’s problems. And unlike these kids, DD is THREE. YEARS. OLD. My gut tells me not to indulge tattling. This seems like a stupid trap to get stuck in, so what’s the best way out?
2. DD wasn’t guilty in every case, but she’s obviously been exerting some aggression. How do I handle that? Do I just pack up and leave at the first offense as a logical consequence? Or is that overdoing it? If you have or have had an aggressive three-year-old, what’s worked for you?
3. I hate forced apologies (they’re mostly for show, IMHO, and she doesn’t really get the concept) but value basic courtesy. So how, if at all, should ammends be made?
Oh, and FWIW, none of the moms I hang out with have reported any problems between my DD and their kids, and I like to think that they’re honest people.
TIA. I feel so foolish even posting this. There's soooo much I don't know about parenting.
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It also sounds unfair that such an older child would do that to a 3 year old You can be closer to the playground without being a helicopter it might make the other kids pick on your dd less if they sense that you'd witness it.
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Our PS teachers are way better at this than I am (and it's easier because they are not parents), but I would try something like this. To the big kids: She (your DD) is a lot littler than you. Why do you think she did XYZ? What do you think you might try to get her to stop? If they can't answer that question, say: Did you try asking her to stop? She is little, but she can understand: Please don't do that. Also ask the big kids if they tried going somewhere else to play.
It's very easy as a parent to be biased either for our against our own kids so it's been great for me to watch these teachers work through conflict resolution as neutral parties. For an older kid, the 8 year old, I might say something like: You are quite big. Do you really need a grown-up's help or do you think you might manage this nicely on your own?
After this conversation, I would probably either watch very closely or go with the kids to monitor the discussion. Try to have the big kids tell your DD in very concrete terms what she is doing that they don't like: I.e., please don't put bark on me. Then make sure your DD has understood: No bark on people. At that point, it wouldn't hurt to state it as a general rule: So, guys, no one at the playground should put bark on other people, ok? That makes it clear that the rule should hold for the big kids as well.
Now, if someone tattles on my 8-year-old, I don't do anything immediately except watch what's going on more closely to see if she's having trouble with behavior or if there's some bad play interaction going on or what. The thing is that sometimes other kids will try to bully one kid by claiming they're doing things, and getting the bullied child's parents involved on their side is really powerful in this. It's a really mean way to exclude someone - instead of telling them they can't play with you, having their parent come in and take them away (and maybe punish them.) I've seen it happen and I won't be sucked into it. So I don't respond to tattling, but I do watch to see if there's anything to it. Because no child is perfect and they all do have bad days, including mine.
I'm avidly opposed to hovering in general, but I will say that in this case, I would be closer to my daughter. She's obviously having some issue on the playground, and it's something you need to stick closer by to handle until you can at least find out what's going on.
Personally, I do 'forced' apologies but not in that situation. It would just turn into a power struggle. If my kid won't say sorry, I'll say sorry for him.
As for the tattling, ugh, I cringe everytime I hear the whiny "she did this, or he hit meeee" especially (and pretty much always) from an older child regarding a younger child.
My response is usually not very, um...., 'nice'. I usually hold up my hand, say, "stop, you're tattling, I don't want to hear it. If the little child is bothering you, just walk away, that's what your legs are for."
But ya, I'd definately sit closer, not only for safety, but also to show these other little stinkers that you have your DD's back, that she's not just a target thrown into the mix for their amusement.
And if your kid hits/pushes, you do have to hover or you'll be "that mom" in all the other playground threads!
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DS 2 8/18/12!!
The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it. We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.