Kids love playgrounds because it gives them the opportunity to master both physical and social skills. But even if it is a venue where many happy memories are made, not all kids are friendly and your child can easily be vulnerable to bullies or rude kids who want to be the king of the playground. If you see your child being bullied or put down by another kid, how do you think you’ll respond?
When my daughter took an interest for ballet at an early age, I jumped on the opportunity to expose her to other kids by enrolling her in classes. We were both excited for her first ballet class but her first day was ruined when another kid refused to befriend her. Since she was not yet exposed to varied social encounters, my daughter didn’t know how to deal with the rejection and she ended up following the other kid around trying to figure out why they can’t be friends. It only annoyed her ballet classmate more and she was told over and over again that she was not wanted. My heart broke to pieces because her love for ballet was clouded with the memory of that rejection.
I am certain that many other kids have gone through similar if not worse situations before. But if you want to prepare your kids in handling different social encounters, you need to know when and when not to step in.
Learn to let go.
As parents, one of our greatest fears includes those that can inflict harm or pain in our kids. But if your child is being bullied at a play area, you need to respond appropriately because it is through these encounters that kids learn how to fend for themselves. If you step in too soon, you will send the message that you are always there to pick up his fights for him and he will never learn how to handle difficult social situations.
Don’t intervene right away.
Use the wait and see approach when your child is being bullied or put down by another kid. Observe how he responds and if he exerts control and appropriately takes action, praise him for his behavior. If the other child or even your own seems too agitated, intervene right away to ensure that nobody gets hurt. Younger kids usually have impulse control and you need to be always on the lookout if the situation gets too heated up
Choose the right battles.
When a kid in a play place is too rude and is calling your child names, evaluate carefully if you need to set things straight and teach the kid a lesson. Many times we deal with this nagging notion of putting things in the right perspective because we want to show our kids what’s right. However, you need to carefully choose the battles that you need to ensue because it may only result to an adult squabble.
There are times when it’s best to just call your child aside and tell him that the other kid is behaving inappropriately rather than telling the kid or his parent of his misbehavior. This will only put any parent in the defensive and it may only make it harder for you to get your point across without offending the other party.
If the situation in the play area is out of hand, intervene without having to embarrass the child or the parent. If the child’s parent is nearby, you may say something like: “Your son has been repeatedly calling my child names.” I thought I should let you know”. If you need to describe what happened, you need to be as neutral as you can so that you won’t put the other parent in the defensive.
If the parent of the child is not around, you can speak to the child directly but do not embarrass him in front of your child or any other kid for that matter. You really don’t need to say a litany of words to teach the child a lesson because that is no longer your concern. So stick to the situation and try to be discreet.
Leave if you must.
There are limits as to how you can control the situation. If the parent of the child refuses to take any action or if the child is simply out of control, do not try to be the superhero and save the day because many times, it’s not worth it. Take your child out of the situation and leave. Talk to him about what was inappropriate so you can turn the unpleasant turn of events into a meaningful learning experience.
How do you handle bratty kids in the play area? When your child is the victim, how far have you gone in terms of trying to instill discipline to a misbehaving child in a public place?