Okay, so picture this… It’s a beautiful summer day. Lots of sun and a light breeze. You decide that you’re going to be a “good parent” and take your child to the local playground for a nice afternoon of bonding (that will hopefully lead to a tired child and a subsequent nap). You feel genuinely good when your child goes running towards the playground with excitement! You plant yourself on a nearby bench (or follow close to your child, depending on their age). Pure parental bliss. UNTIL…..”THAT” child appears!
You know the one. The child who bullies the other kids. The child who hits/bites/pinches. The child who is too big for the playground and pushes the little kids out of the way. The child who sits in the tunnels and blocks the other kids from passing. The child who teams up with the other kids and does their very best to make everyone else feel left out. The child who repeatedly runs to get to a piece of playground equipment as soon as they see another child going for it. You get the picture right?
I am confident that I know the cause of “THAT” child’s behavior. In this setting….I truly believe that it is the parents fault! I am usually VERY understanding of parenting differences and do not believe that a child’s behavior is always in direct correlation to a parents behavior (not in the short term anyway). But on a playground, I can’t stand bully kids and lazy parents! So I thought I’d jot down a couple of playground rules that I think we can all agree on.
FIRST…..SUPERVISE YOUR CHILD! Sounds easy, but I’ve been at way too many playgrounds where the parents are sitting as far from their child as they can, (once I saw a parent sitting across the street on a bench) on their phone, and not watching their child AT ALL! I have no problem with trying to get a bit of a breather while your child plays. But your break comes ONLY when your child is playing appropriately. How can you correct a behavior or teach your child how to interact with other children when you have no idea what is even happening. A playground is not just a place to have fun. It’s a GREAT way to teach kids how to interact with others! But you have to actually be watching!
SECOND….Assuming that you are actually watching your child…if your child gets physical with another child you need to address the behavior right away! I don’t care how big or little the action, it needs to be addressed. How the behavior is address depends on what exactly happened. Exactly how you should handle a blaintant misbehavior on a playground (or during a playground) will be addressed in a future post. But to keep it simple, the unwanted behavior needs to be identified (No hitting), the desired behavior needs to be taught (keep hands to yourself), an apology needs to be given and a consequence needs to happen (maybe sitting for 2 minutes or leaving the playground all together, depending on the offense).
THIRD…Please only allow appropriately sizes/aged kids on the playground. A tiny toddler playground is meant for….ummm…tiny toddlers. An 11 year old who’s feet touch the bottom of the slide while sitting on the top doesn’t belong there. One exception to this is if you have an older/bigger sibling or child who is the “care taking” type. If your 11 year old gently helps the little kids play, I give them a pass on this rule.
FOURTH…This is needed especially with older children (by older I mean 5 years and up). Don’t be fooled to think that just because your child is able to physically manage the playground that they don’t need supervision. They do! But in this case, it’s especially important to LISTEN to the conversation that are happening with the other children. This is the age when exclusion happens, inappropriate games are played, hateful words are spewed and gossip starts. If the kids know that a parents ears are close by, they are more likely to be polite and play games that are appropriate. And if a parent hears inappropriate behavior or conversation they can step in. I’m NOT suggesting that you stay within 6 inches of your child at all times, breathing down their neck, whispering in their ears what they need to say and totally embarrassing them in front of their friends. I do think that kids should have a little space to figure things out, and that you shouldn’t be on top of your child ALL the time, BUT it is your job to keep your child safe and to teach them how to act in this world. You can’t do that unless you at least know what’s going on. Maybe a situation (or conversation) will arise that you need to step in right away. Or maybe it’s something that you’ll just put in your “mommy vault” and bring up in the car on the way home as a teachable moment. Either way, you have to have the information.
It really is that simple!! Unfortunately, I’m likely preaching to the choir, but lets spread the word!:0)
Feel free to add any other ideas of playground experiences that you may have had with your child. Another thing to think about (that I will post about later)….if a parent ISN’T supervising their child, is it YOUR job to discipline that child? If it IS your job, what are appropriate ways to deal with another persons child?