Pay attention

It has been beautiful weather here in the Pacific Northwest lately, and so playground season seems to be upon us already.  My husband was able to take A to the playground by himself the other day and he came home and relayed this story to me:

There was a perpetual line for the “big” slide, 7-8 children deep.  Everyone was waiting in line and taking their turn except for one boy who would go down the slide, run at top speed up the stairs, barrel and push his way through all of the children in line (physically shoving them out of his way) and go down the slide again.  This continued on until one parent reprimanded him loudly enough for his unattentive mother to hear.  
As my husband told me about this experience, I could tell that he thought this was a unique occurrence   HA!  As I have the pleasure of going to at least one playground everyday, sometimes two, between the months of May and September, I could tell him with certainty that this sort of thing happens all. the. time.  I’m not trying to advocate for more helicopter parenting.  I know that we all need to give our kids some space and see how they handle the world (or the playground).  But I happen to have a very, very petite and shy little girl.  She gets pushed around, both literally and figuratively, A LOT; I think aggressive children can sense her timidness.  One time a little girl slapped her across the face at an indoor playground and hit her so hard that she fell to the ground.  Then, as she was trying to stand, the girl pulled her arm back and was a millisecond away from slapping her in the face AGAIN when I screamed (I mean screamed) at her to stop.  (I was breastfeeding our younger daughter about 25 feet away at the time.)  She has been pushed, she’s had things thrown at her, and she always has toys ripped right out of her arms.  
And every time something horrible happens to her, I’m left wondering where the hell the parents of the other child are.  Usually they figure out that something has happened and they attempt to sort it out with me after the fact.  In my humble opinion, that is not enough.  If you have an aggressive child, you know you have an aggressive child.  This is not the first time s/he has hit or pushed another child.  You need to be responsible for their actions and be present.  I’m sorry, but if you’re the parent of the kid who pushes down 7-8 children to go down the slide, then you don’t get to come to the playground and read a magazine, or chat with your friend.  They are your responsibility and you should plan on paying attention to them, or keep them at home.
I’m so sick of my kid getting bullied, but I’m even more sick of the bullying happening without another adult noticing it.  It’s not okay,  and it’s not right.  Playgrounds are supposed to be public spaces for everyone to enjoy.  Pay attention to what your child is doing, especially if you know they’re aggressive.  Please and thank you.

3 thoughts on “Pay attention

  1. One thing I LOVE to see though is older kids standing up for the younger ones. At a carnival one time my daughter and a couple of her friends were waiting in line and a boy kept cutting in front of them (not aggressively). The boy behind them in line, who was probably 6, tapped the offender on the shoulder and said, “hey these girls were waiting. Go to the back of the line dude.” Love that!

  2. Hi M, this is SJ from your former babysitting co-op in Boston. I agree wholeheartedly with 98% of this post about unattentive parents. I think that we are on the same parenting wavelength and share the exact same goals for our children. The difference is, you have been given what you lovingly refer to as a timid girl, and I have been given what I would lovingly refer to as a spirited boy. (I say given because, after having a second child that is so dramatically different in temperament from the first, I believe that children arrive already wired with these traits.) I would urge you to please be careful about the labels you use to refer to children. ‘Bully’ is such a powerful word, and I really don’t think it should be used for a child under the age of five or even a bit older. Before that age, their brains are not even developed enough to comprehend such a concept. Can they be selfish? Yes. Aggressive? Yes. But a toddler-aged bully? What a mean label, even in light of the despicable behavior you describe. How would you feel if I referred to your daughter as an awkward stick-in-the-mud, or a wallflower? We need to remember these kids are three, and treat them as such, not as tiny tweens! As for the parents not being present enough to supervise on the playground, I am completely with you on that front.

  3. Thanks for your feedback. To clarify, the boy on the playground was older – between 8 and 10. He was, in my opinion, a bully. The girl who slapped her across the face was young. I can only imagine where she learned of such violence…I fear it’s from her home, and I did not intend to use the term “bully” to describe her. I totally get what you’re saying and appreciate you reading!

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