Playground Politics

24 Feb

Aaahh – the playground.  What should be a place of fun and laughs can so quickly turn to tears and tantrums.  And I’m not just talking about the kids either.  A friend of mine, Jo*, recently took her one year old son, Luke*, to the local playground.  He was happily playing in the sand pit when another older child came up and threw sand in his face.
  Luke is not a hysterical child.  He didn’t scream.  He spluttered the sand out of his mouth – and resumed playing position.  The older child grabbed another handful.  This time Jo stepped in.  She grabbed the child’s hand and said ‘No’.  From across the playground stormed an angry mother.  “Get your hands off my child”.  Jo was taken aback but nonetheless explained that the woman’s little ‘angel’ had thrown a fistful of sand into Luke’s face.  “Well, he doesn’t look very upset”, came the retort from the clearly defensive mother.  To add insult to injury, she patronisingly told Jo “You’re obviously new to this, aren’t you.”  Wow.   Talk about turning the tables.  Her child was clearly in the wrong, yet this woman made my friend feel the incident was her fault.

This story raises interesting questions about disciplining other people’s children.  In which situations is it OK?  How far can you take it?  Is touching a stranger’s child out of the question? In my view, Jo handled the situation in an acceptable way – she was preventing another child from harming her son.  But, people have different rules about this issue – like – it’s OK to discipline someone else’s children in your own home, but outside of your own home, you should always approach the child’s parent first.  It’s a complex issue – made all the more so because of the current tendancy to treat children with kid gloves. 

Anyway, I found an interesting article which looks at the issue in greater detail – click here to read it.  It’s tricky to have hard and fast rules because the circumstances vary in each situation.  It depends on your relationship to the child – I am quite comfortable with saying ‘no’ to my nieces and nephews, but less so with friend’s children.  I also think that on some occasions it’s appropriate to let children sort out spats between themselves.  I don’t want to turn into a ‘helicopter parent’ – hovering over my child’s every move.  I know that some parents refuse to take their children to playgrounds, simply to avoid potential confrontations.  But really the situtations can crop up anywhere – the shops, preschool, social occasions etc.  Avoiding the playground doesn’t avoid the problem.
*Names changed to protect the innocent

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One Response to “Playground Politics”

  1. Licia May 6, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    Maybe 'Jo' was a touch hormonal at the time? 😉

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