Playground weirdness

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 19, 2010 06:00 AM

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Barbara,

I was at the playground yesterday with my 2-year-old son.  We were in an area which is all sand.  Three other little boys were there with their dad.  At one point, the boys weren't really near my son but they were throwing sand and I overheard the dad telling them to stop.  Then, the boys moved right next to my son and the dad stepped farther away as he talked on his cell phone.  The boys proceeded to throw sand again, right in the direction of my son.  I said to them something like, "Hey boys, could you stop throwing the sand?" The littlest of the three (he looked to be about 5) says to me, "You can't tell me what to do."   So I said, "I'm sure your mommy and daddy don't want you throwing sand."  His response:  "My daddy doesn't tell me no."  To which I replied, "I just heard your daddy telling you to stop throwing sand."  That was the end of it.  The boy walked away.  A few minutes later I noticed the boy crying in his father's arms!  I felt sort of bad.  I don't feel I did anything wrong but part of me wanted to go over and defend myself and tell the dad that I hadn't done anything too scary to his kid.  I was very matter of fact... not mean or harsh or anything.  Did I handle it OK?  Should I have approached the dad?  The whole scene just led me to realize that the playground is a place for a whole lot of potentially weird situations.  Thoughts?


From: Sarah, Belchertown


 


Hi Sarah,

Let's see what we have here:

1. Entitled kids who have no respect for adult authority, including their parents'
2. Entitled parents who think that physical presence substitutes for paying attention as in, if you're playing, why can't I be on my phone?
3. A caring mother who would never knowingly cause a child to cry.

So what else could you have done? (1) You might have caught the dad's attention and directed it at his sand-throwing charges, but I'm guessing it might not have felt comfortable to do that; our culture these days is full of blame. Instead of saying, "Oh, hey, thanks," the dad might have told you (in a not very nice way?) to mind your own business. (2)  You could have picked up your son and moved away from the boys or even left that part of the playground. (3) You could have disarmed the boys ("Hey, what are you guys playing?") and redirected the play.

Do I think you're a horrible person? Nope. Would most of us do something similar? You bet. Is this worth losing sleep over? No way.  And yet....

What upsets me about your story is thinking about the parenting that's going on in that home that enabled?/allowed?/encouraged? a child of 5 to tell an adult, clearly a non-threatening mother in a sandbox, "You can't tell me what to do!" I'm guessing that boy was dead-on when he said, "My dad doesn't tell me no." And I'm guessing that when that boy was crying to his dad, the dad said, "What a mean lady!" instead of comforting him and then asking, "Huh. What was happening that made that lady so unhappy?"

For me, the question is, how do we reach these parents? Because their children will be citizens of the world just like our children will be. 

What would everyone else have done?

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7 comments so far...
  1. I would have nicely *told* the child to stop throwing sand, not asked. If he pulled the 'you can't tell me what to do' garbage, I would have said that when he's putting other kids in danger, I can. I would have then gone and spoken (nicely, but firmly) to the dad, particularly since he had just been overheard telling the little brat to stop throwing sand. I have no tolerance for people whose kids put other kids in danger, whether it's throwing sand, wielding giant sticks, or whatever.

    Posted by akmom March 19, 10 09:15 AM
  1. You sound like a really nice person to have secondguessed yourself. I agree you handled it well. If the father was a respectable person, then I am sure that he reinforced what you told his kid. YOu sound like you may be tolerant of others because you don't know what this situation with the family is but there is a limit so you said something to the child. Good for you. I am tolerant but when it comes to safety of others I try to reinforce to my own kid to play nice and expect the same in return.

    Posted by jd March 19, 10 11:23 AM
  1. i think you handled it fine and no i wouldnt have bothered going to talk to the father.

    this happens all the time. i'm so tired of parents not watching their children. i have two little girls and when these sorts of things first started to happen i bit my tongue assuming that THEIR parents would stop the behavior and say something to their unruly child. but after watching my kids get shoved, pushed, hit, things thrown at them with nothing said to the kids - i now step in. i'm not afraid to speak up anymore. no parent has ever said something to me about it. i handle it similiar to how you did. either they say nothing OR after hearing me say something they act like they too are just noticing the behavior and will say something even though they knew what was going on and pretended not to notice or they were too busy on their cell phone.
    my girls are getting better at speaking up for themselves too now that they are getting a little older. but there are times where i do have to step in due to lack of supervision from the other parents.
    good luck!


    Posted by jj March 19, 10 12:12 PM
  1. You did a fine thing talking to the child in a kind way. No worries. The child could have been crying about something different.
    I do think Barbara made too many assumptions about the dad, though. Kids say all sorts of things that are not necessarily a reflection of what goes on with parenting. He could have heard that phrase anywhere. Also, the writer doesn't state that the dad saw the kid throwing the sand at the kid when he was talking on the phone. Sometimes as parents we get distracted and don't see everything and miss the misbehavior. That doesn't mean we are bad parents--just human. Most of us try to be good parents. And what an assumption to think that the dad told his kid, " what a mean lady." Are you a mind reader or think that just because the child is doing something naughty that he has a bad parent? Please. There are some bad parents out there, but really a lot of stuff at the playgrounds happen without bad intent or intentional bad parenting. Kids are there learning how to get along with all sorts of people--just relax.

    Posted by GBMom March 19, 10 06:15 PM
  1. I wonder if the boy was crying not because he was so upset at what you said to him, but in order to get his Dad's attention? You didn't say he started crying as soon as you spoke to him, so I wouldn't even necessarily blame yourself for his crying. But anyways, I think you did exactly the right thing. You were doing 3 positive things: (1) protecting your son; (2) showing those other boys that there are limits; and (3) modeling assertiveness for your son.
    In any case, I actually was in a very similar circumstance with my own 18-month-old (at the time) son about 6 months ago. I spoke (politely) to the children involved asking them not to throw sand and they were fresh to me. (I ended up having to remove my son from the sandbox because they didn't stop.) They then went and complained to their mother about me. I later spoke to the mother, saying "I hope you don't mind I spoke to your children." She sort of shrugged and told me that they have a sandbox at home and throw sand there all the time, so they're just used to doing it. Later, though, she did -- sort of -- back me up by telling her kids that they shouldn't throw sand NEAR MY SON, because I didn't like it.

    Posted by carriefranf March 19, 10 09:07 PM
  1. I speak up if I see another child doing something unsafe that could harm my child. It drives me crazy when I see kids unsupervised(some as young as 2 or 3!). The kids are at one end of the playground and the parents are goodness knows where. The worst is the indoor playgrounds. Parents just let their kid go wherever with no supervision. I swear sometimes I must have "I pay attention to my kid" written on my forehead because when I am out at the playground other kids seem to attach themselves to me(with their parents no where to be seen).
    I know we need to give our kids some independence and not be helicopter parents, but lets use common sense folks and watch your kids! The world is not like it was in the 70's when you could leave your house at 8am to go play with your friends and come back when your mom yelled for dinner. I miss those days....

    Posted by Heather March 20, 10 07:50 AM
  1. Your first responsibility is your child's safety. Gauge your actions using that lens and you'll see that you did the best you could in that situation. Not only did you protect your son from getting sand in his eyes, you showed him that you are protecting him and that aggressive behavior like the other kids' is a no-no on the playground. For children, life's lessons begin at a young age and your son has a great Mother.

    Posted by JBar March 22, 10 08:36 AM
 
7 comments so far...
  1. I would have nicely *told* the child to stop throwing sand, not asked. If he pulled the 'you can't tell me what to do' garbage, I would have said that when he's putting other kids in danger, I can. I would have then gone and spoken (nicely, but firmly) to the dad, particularly since he had just been overheard telling the little brat to stop throwing sand. I have no tolerance for people whose kids put other kids in danger, whether it's throwing sand, wielding giant sticks, or whatever.

    Posted by akmom March 19, 10 09:15 AM
  1. You sound like a really nice person to have secondguessed yourself. I agree you handled it well. If the father was a respectable person, then I am sure that he reinforced what you told his kid. YOu sound like you may be tolerant of others because you don't know what this situation with the family is but there is a limit so you said something to the child. Good for you. I am tolerant but when it comes to safety of others I try to reinforce to my own kid to play nice and expect the same in return.

    Posted by jd March 19, 10 11:23 AM
  1. i think you handled it fine and no i wouldnt have bothered going to talk to the father.

    this happens all the time. i'm so tired of parents not watching their children. i have two little girls and when these sorts of things first started to happen i bit my tongue assuming that THEIR parents would stop the behavior and say something to their unruly child. but after watching my kids get shoved, pushed, hit, things thrown at them with nothing said to the kids - i now step in. i'm not afraid to speak up anymore. no parent has ever said something to me about it. i handle it similiar to how you did. either they say nothing OR after hearing me say something they act like they too are just noticing the behavior and will say something even though they knew what was going on and pretended not to notice or they were too busy on their cell phone.
    my girls are getting better at speaking up for themselves too now that they are getting a little older. but there are times where i do have to step in due to lack of supervision from the other parents.
    good luck!


    Posted by jj March 19, 10 12:12 PM
  1. You did a fine thing talking to the child in a kind way. No worries. The child could have been crying about something different.
    I do think Barbara made too many assumptions about the dad, though. Kids say all sorts of things that are not necessarily a reflection of what goes on with parenting. He could have heard that phrase anywhere. Also, the writer doesn't state that the dad saw the kid throwing the sand at the kid when he was talking on the phone. Sometimes as parents we get distracted and don't see everything and miss the misbehavior. That doesn't mean we are bad parents--just human. Most of us try to be good parents. And what an assumption to think that the dad told his kid, " what a mean lady." Are you a mind reader or think that just because the child is doing something naughty that he has a bad parent? Please. There are some bad parents out there, but really a lot of stuff at the playgrounds happen without bad intent or intentional bad parenting. Kids are there learning how to get along with all sorts of people--just relax.

    Posted by GBMom March 19, 10 06:15 PM
  1. I wonder if the boy was crying not because he was so upset at what you said to him, but in order to get his Dad's attention? You didn't say he started crying as soon as you spoke to him, so I wouldn't even necessarily blame yourself for his crying. But anyways, I think you did exactly the right thing. You were doing 3 positive things: (1) protecting your son; (2) showing those other boys that there are limits; and (3) modeling assertiveness for your son.
    In any case, I actually was in a very similar circumstance with my own 18-month-old (at the time) son about 6 months ago. I spoke (politely) to the children involved asking them not to throw sand and they were fresh to me. (I ended up having to remove my son from the sandbox because they didn't stop.) They then went and complained to their mother about me. I later spoke to the mother, saying "I hope you don't mind I spoke to your children." She sort of shrugged and told me that they have a sandbox at home and throw sand there all the time, so they're just used to doing it. Later, though, she did -- sort of -- back me up by telling her kids that they shouldn't throw sand NEAR MY SON, because I didn't like it.

    Posted by carriefranf March 19, 10 09:07 PM
  1. I speak up if I see another child doing something unsafe that could harm my child. It drives me crazy when I see kids unsupervised(some as young as 2 or 3!). The kids are at one end of the playground and the parents are goodness knows where. The worst is the indoor playgrounds. Parents just let their kid go wherever with no supervision. I swear sometimes I must have "I pay attention to my kid" written on my forehead because when I am out at the playground other kids seem to attach themselves to me(with their parents no where to be seen).
    I know we need to give our kids some independence and not be helicopter parents, but lets use common sense folks and watch your kids! The world is not like it was in the 70's when you could leave your house at 8am to go play with your friends and come back when your mom yelled for dinner. I miss those days....

    Posted by Heather March 20, 10 07:50 AM
  1. Your first responsibility is your child's safety. Gauge your actions using that lens and you'll see that you did the best you could in that situation. Not only did you protect your son from getting sand in his eyes, you showed him that you are protecting him and that aggressive behavior like the other kids' is a no-no on the playground. For children, life's lessons begin at a young age and your son has a great Mother.

    Posted by JBar March 22, 10 08:36 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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