Can You Handle Another Playground Drama Thread? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 07-14-2010, 11:49 PM - Thread Starter
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This forum is plagued with this type of thread lately---‘tis the season! But I'm learning so much from the responses that I can't help but post my own dilemma.

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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#2 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 12:38 AM
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I think if she isn't old enough to state what is going on to you verbally or stand up for herself and say 'no' before pushing, then you need to be closer to her playing so you get a clearer sense of what is going on. If you can hear what is happening, then you can make the choice of stepping in or not.
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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#3 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 12:45 AM
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ETA: I didnt realize we were talking about a 3 year old...I have to think on that one...

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#4 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 02:46 AM
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I am no good at playground stuff either--but I tend to agree that you can stay closer without being a helicopter mom. With bigger/older kids there I personally wouldn't feel very comfortable leaving my 3 y.o. far enough away that I can't witness what she is doing or what might be being done to her the entire time. Even if you don't sit closer maybe just up the watching for the next few weeks so you can "catch" whatever is going on? From what you posted I guess I feel a little uncertain about exactly what is happening. I would want to observe what DD is doing or what is being done to her -- if DD were the aggressor I would not necessarily leave right away but would just pull her away gently and say you can't hit/push/etc and ask her to say sorry--but if the sorry doesn't happen quickly I would probably apologize on her behalf to the other child. If she keeps being aggressive I would probably progressively seat her with me for a few minutes, then if it happens again I would probably leave the park. If the other kids are provoking her then I would step in because it's not fair for a 3 y.o. to have to defend herself against a 5 or 8 y.o.

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#5 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 07:12 AM
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It's probably a good idea to sit where you can see more of what is going on. That being said, I can tell you how the teachers at our PS handle this sort of thing. The playground at the PS is shared by all the kids, so from babies to 5 year olds. The goal is always to empower the kids to handle conflict by themselves. They don't know how to do this, so adults have to help.

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.

Good luck!
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#6 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 09:07 AM
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I think with a three year old you probably have to monitor a bit more. I'm a free range kind of parent, but three year olds need more involvement than older kids. They need to be protected from older children, and they also aren't as able to control their feelings of aggression as well and can lash out more. Once they are about 4.5 or so, they seem to be more self sufficient as far as that goes, but at 3 they're just starting to get used to negotiating play with other kids.

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.
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#7 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 09:17 AM
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I lean toward thinking that if all that is going on and you are not seeing it, you are too far away. Supervising is not micromanaging.

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#8 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 11:14 AM
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I lean against the idea of ignoring tattling. There are times when it needs to be calmed down. We've had to discuss with DS times when he should just let things go rather than tell an adult. OTOH, if these children don't tell on your daughter for punching them, then what are they going to do? I'd bet chances are they'll hit or push her back because they clearly didn't know how to handle the situation. The best option is to help everyone through the conflict, rather than "taking sides." IME with two small children at home, taking sides is messy and doesn't solve anything.

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.

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#9 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by lucky_mia View Post
I lean toward thinking that if all that is going on and you are not seeing it, you are too far away. Supervising is not micromanaging.
Being close enough to hear and see what's going on with a three year old is not hovering. I think a three year old needs to be supervised at the park but that doesn't mean you have to hover and jump in at the slightest thing, there is a happy medium.

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#10 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 01:52 PM
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I agree that you probably need to watch closer, although not necessarily 'hovering'. If another child comes to you with a complaint, but isn't obviously hurt of upset I would just calmly say 'OK, I'll watch closely for a while'. That's what I do when supervising schoolchildren on the playground. That way the other child feels heard and taken seriously but you're not jumping in to punish your child without knowing the full story. If the other child is just trying to create drama you're giving them a pretty boring response. I also wouldn't take her home straight away. Give her a warning. Even if you don't see the interaction you can just say 'you know that pushing isn't allowed. If you push, we go home'. Then watch like a hawk.

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.
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#11 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 02:15 PM
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This is one of those situations where you may need to be more of a helicopter mom. Three is pretty young to be let loose on a playground with older kids. Just my two cents.
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#12 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 02:33 PM
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I'd just sit closer so you can monitor things a bit easier.

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.
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#13 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 02:37 PM
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I think that the older kids acted rather responsibly. You say that their parents aren't around, although someone might be saying the same thing about your dd (where's the parent!?) Their parents probably taught them if a kid hits you (even/especially a younger kid) go find their parent.

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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#14 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 03:11 PM
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Instead of forced apologies, our preschool has the child who committed the offense "check on" the other kid. The child is prompted to make sure the other child is okay, and they are encouraged to talk about what happened. With strangers I would enforce the checking upon, and then have a conversation in private about what happened, i guess.
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#15 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 03:17 PM
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as a pre school teacher, we encourage kids to work out their issues. At three, that looks like saying "STOP! Don't touch my body!" for the older kids, I would ask them if they asked her to stop, and what they can do to use their personal power to change the situation.

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#16 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 06:45 PM
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It is not being a helicopter mom to stay with your very small child and actively teach them social skills. She is not going to magically learn them on her own and clearly there is friction between her and the older kids. She needs some help. So sit closer and focus in on her. really watch and see where the problem is. This is not going to be fun time or a break for you. Not for a while anyway but I am guessing it kinda sucks as things stand. A little teaching will go a long way. At three you really need to be keeping a close enough eye on your child so that older kids don't have to tattle. You can do that without hovering. If you see a problem come up you can address it with a little instruction before irritation turns into frustration and frustration turns into agression.

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#17 of 17 Old 07-15-2010, 07:00 PM
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i agree with the rest on this. if the older kids' parents aren't there what are they to do? they can either push/hit your dd back or come tell you. in this case, the latter seems to be the lesser evil. cuz you can bet if the older ones hit your dd, she's gonna come to you crying and then it'll be even more difficult for you to see the older ones' perspective. see what's going on for yourself and then decide how you want to go forward.
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