"I don't like you. I won't play with you" - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 04-17-2009, 04:31 PM - Thread Starter
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I"m not sure where this fits...GD, parenting, or childhood.

I need some help for a situation that's come up a few times for my 6 yr old DS. I am so clueless about handling playground conflicts. I really want to help him and model helpful responses but when a conflict arises I just draw a blank and don't know what to do or say. Compounding it is that I am usually the only one playing with my kids at the park- all the other parents and nannies just sit and talk on their cell phones and I'm alone to deal with what comes up between kids. I just HATE being alone to police other people's kids.

A girl my kids know, who is known to be bossy and commanding (she's about 4 but acts much older) kept yelling at my son, go away, I don't like you, we won't play with you. He wasn't being annoying or anything...they just had thier little clique and didn't want another kid. She was pushing him away from the slides, not letting him play anywhere near them. He was trying so hard to be nice and polite, saying excuse me, I'd like to use the slides, etc. She kept yelling at him, go away, etc. And he got more and more bewildered and kept saying "but I'm being so nice! I'm being kind to you! I just want to play here!" And this went on several times with no resolution. Finally he just burst into tears in frustration.

Of course I was there, empathizing with him, comforting him, affirming his feelings that he WAS being very nice and kind and the other kids were having a hard time including others today. Of course no one was there to talk to the little girl, she was with a babysitter who was no where to be found. I was alone trying to help my son against a gang of kids and I really don't know what else to say to them, b/c I can't MAKE them like him or want to play with him! If the mom had been there I probably would have asked her to come on over and help resolve it with her daughter.

He kept trying to play with them, they kept ignoring him, he got interested in other things, and they went home and we ended up having a fine time.

I only ask because this has happened other times and I suspect will happen again as a normal part of childhood. I want to have some good approaches and responses in mind when it does. And my son is kind of quirky and different, but there are way more times where kids and adults love to play with him so it's not that no one wants to be around him! Just certain groups of kids who are more aggressive/assertive and like to form cliques.

One idea that I'm not sure about, is talk to the girl's mom the next time I see her...we aren't good friends but acquaintances and will probably run into each other soon. Maybe ask her what approach works well for her when this happens- and it does happen a lot with this girl! but that seems like tattling to me.

But in lieu of that, I'm asking you guys What would you do, what else can I say, or did I do all I could?
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#2 of 8 Old 04-17-2009, 06:37 PM
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It sounds like you handled it perfectly.

We're starting to see the same issues in public places with DD (making me all the more convinced I want to homeschool).

Some things that might help:

Its a phase that starts about 5ish, and it can be very painful for the victim. But its also very common.

If its a small enough group, you (the parent) can sometimes get all the kids into an activity so they end up playing together. This really only works if there's just 1-3 other kids of similar age. You can try a game of tag with your child, and often it will seduce one or all of the kids away from their clique. You can spring out a bottle of bubbles and start blowing them, or bring a toy to the park that the other children will also want to play with.

If your child has been playing with another child, and your son or the other child suddenly announces "You're not my friend" that usually means that child is tired of playing or wants to do something else. You can give them the words they need: "I think you meant to say you need a break right now." To other child, "X is saying he needs a break right now. Let's do X and maybe you'll both want to play together in a little while."

Its hard for the solo child to be welcomed into an existing group, so bringing a friend along can work much better. Groups of children are more likely to merge with another group rather than the solo child with a group, and if they don't merge, at least your child will have someone to play with.

Lastly, if your child had a pretty negative experience at a particular place, it might be helpful to bring him and a friend back to that place as soon as possible so that he can have a positive experience there.
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#3 of 8 Old 04-18-2009, 09:07 PM
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If there are no parents or caregivers to be seen, I'd call the kid on it. The last time I did this, mind you, the kid ran and got her dad and we ended up in a shouting match. But I'd still do it again. My kid needs to know that I'll stick up for her AND I will speak out publicly about hurtful behaviour, and the other kid needs to know that she can't get away with hurting people just because she's a kid. I wouldn't be mean, at all - I would just tell her that she is hurting your kid's feelings, and that if she were in your kid's shoes, she'd be feeling really bad right now. Nothing harsh, or shaming - but enough to let her know that you don't approve, and enough to let all the other kids know that those kinds of behaviours don't fly. I think some kids will experiment with acceptable behaviours and go with what they can get away with - clique-forming is a power thing, after all, and even 4-year-olds relish power. If none of their chosen peers say anything, and no adults speak up, how will they know what the limits are?

That having been said, I don't think kids should be forced to play with kids they don't want to, for whatever reason - but a degree of civility in that isn't outside the bounds of reason for that age group and certainly sharing of playground *equipment* can be expected. I don't think it's right for an adult to let a 4-year-old become a de facto dictator of a playground - it doesn't send a great message to the other kids. I mean, if it's YOUR kid being the dictator, it's different - you have lots of time to work on it and foster empathy and look at the underlying reasons WHY he/she needs that much control over other people etc. etc.

I realize this is probably controversial, and there is a "let the kids work it out themselves" school of thought - but so many kids are so ill-equipped, either by temperament, development or language ability to deal with hostility and negativity from other children that I don't think it does the kids - on either side - any favours to handle it that way.

Postpartum doula & certified breastfeeding educator, mama to an amazing girl (11/05) and a wee little boy (3/13).

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#4 of 8 Old 04-19-2009, 12:09 AM
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I think it is fine for kids to not want to play with each other. (Although of course, I also think they should be polite about it. . . .) But I insist that playground equipment is for everyone and that children may not exclude each other from using the equipment. I strictly enforce that rule with my son and will not let him exclude others from equipment. When I have run into other children trying to exclude DS from the equipment and they don't respond appropriately to his requests to use something, I say (pretty firmly) the playground is for everyone and he is allowed to use the slide/swings/etc. That has usually resolved the situation.

If there is any further argument, I have been known to say, "where is your mother or father?" or "who are you here with?" That actually typically results in the kid running off, rather than risking me getting their caretaker involved.

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#5 of 8 Old 04-19-2009, 12:17 AM
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I know that what you describe isn't exactly bullying, it's just some nasty little kids, but it made me think of this article, which impressed me so much when I read it that I actually "stole" the whole issue from the pediatrician's office! It basically talks about how the important thing is not trying to make the bully nice, which realistically is unlikely, but how to make sure your kid can handle the bully in such a way that the bully won't target them anymore. As someone who was a pretty dorky kid, I thought the article is realistic, even if I'm not sure it's what most parents want to hear (I think we'd rather hear how to turn the nasty kid into a sweet little angel of life... but in life there will ALWAYS be some nasty person that you have to deal with).


Trying to live a simple life in a messy house in a complicated world with : DH, DD (b. 07/07), DS (b. 02/09), and DD (b. 10/10)
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#6 of 8 Old 04-20-2009, 11:50 PM
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That was a great article, thanks! I also doubt that anti-bullying programs at schools really work, because bullying is so amorphous and bullies don't always think of themselves as bullies. And bullying is subtle. It could be one kid making one little mean comment to me and the whole class laughing and the teacher might think that there isn't much there to punish but I go home feeling horrible about it because it's proof that no one respects me. I agree that bullies are totally on cloud nine. They're not deeply troubled as many of us would like to believe. Based upon the ideas of the article, it sounds like a good idea might be role playing insulting back and forth banter with a child to get him/her used to that sort of thing. It seems like it would be hard for most kids to respond to bullying in a cool way without a good deal of practice.

Mandy, mother to Alexandra (10/14/05) and William (12/21/07)
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#7 of 8 Old 04-23-2009, 12:33 PM - Thread Starter
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I want to thank you all for your responses. You have given me a lot of good things to think about. I have such a hard time figuring out the balance between standing up and defending my kids, allowing them space to work it out with other kids, and not being the mean mom who rushes in and is always thinking kids are being mean to my baby.

I try to stand back at first, and see if he can come up with the words or handle it, but stay nearby and listen. Sometimes it's hard for me to judge when kids are being inappropriately mean and it needs intervention. I wish I wasn't so socially inept and could figure these things out!

Lach- thanks for that article!

Spughy- this is exactly the situation we have, thanks for expressing it so well. My ds is developmentally probably not able to just walk up and defend himself, even against younger kids. And, like mother, like son, perhaps he has the same social difficulties that I have and needs more support! - "I realize this is probably controversial, and there is a "let the kids work it out themselves" school of thought - but so many kids are so ill-equipped, either by temperament, development or language ability to deal with hostility and negativity from other children that I don't think it does the kids - on either side - any favours to handle it that way."

And, just for the record, he made lots of random friends at the playground the other day and they all got along great
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#8 of 8 Old 04-23-2009, 05:44 PM
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I often try to let my ds work things out on his own, but he reaches a certain point now where he knows to come and get me to help mediate. I would have told that little girl that the playground equipment was for everyone. And I would have to ds (not infront of the little girl) that sometimes you just walk away and find someone else to play with. But firstly I would def say that the playground is for everyone. And if she still did it then I would ask her who she was there with.

Its not easy.

Mom to Ds1 (8 1/2) Ds2 (6) Dd (2 1/2)!!!!
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