After a series of events and discussions I have had with other mums this week. It got me thinking. Is it ok to tell off someone else’s child?
I was at our weekly toddler group the other day where I was confronted with a situation that made me feel conflicted. My son was playing with one of his play mates whom he knows fairly well. I was sitting nearby when all of a sudden Gabriel started screaming. This was not a usual scream. I rushed over to see what had happened and found my child sobbing and holding his arm. He had been bitten.
I didn’t know what to do, I had never been confronted with this situation before. I’d dealt with the usual pushing and shoving from other kids ( and from Gabriel). But biting? My usual reaction would be to fob it off and comfort Gabriel until he had calmed down. However this was different. It was physical and I didn’t want Gabriel thinking that biting was an acceptable way to express himself. How do you teach your child that a certain behaviour is wrong without telling the other kid off? Or coming across as passive aggressive to the other parent?
There are times when I feel like a hypocrite when discipling Gabriel. He is often scolded for pushing or snatching from another child. However when another kid does it to him he often looks at me as if to say ‘ Why aren’t you scolding them too’? He is too young to understand the explanation.
So after a long conversation with my fellow mums. I have collected some tips on what is the most acceptable practises when faced with a playground dilemma.
Speak to the parent first
Most parents agree that they prefer you to come and speak to them first before speaking to their child. To be completely honest I get that. It is a natural reaction to stand up for your little ones. That said it should be within reason. There is often times when another kid will snatch a toy from Gabriel or visa versa. And I find myself asking the child if we can share the toys and not snatch. In the same way I would not be bothered at all if another parent said the same to Gabriel.
Know the circumstances
This is a big one. I think too many parents are quick to judge without knowing the circumstances. A prime example is from a friend of mine. Her child looks a lot older than he actually is. While playing at a playgroup amongst some older children he struggled with sharing and had a few temper tantrums. His behaviour was quickly judged by other parents. They had assumed he was a lot older than he was. Had the have known his age they would have realised that his behaviour was very normal for his actual age. Same goes for children who may have certain disabilities that cannot be seen, such as Autism or Aspergers. Know the facts before you jump in and find yourself in a difficult situation.
Remove your child from the situation
The easiest thing to do when a playground battle starts is to remove your child from the situation and explain or discipline them in private. This is my go to move and I find it effective and respectful to other parents and their children.
In the case of the biting incident, my only concern was that I didn’t want Gabriel to start biting other children because he was bitten. In no way was i angry or judgemental. I knew that the other child had learnt this behaviour because he had been bitten himself on numerous occasions. It is a learning process and I try to remember that kids will be kids. It is inevitable that there will be power struggles and upsets as they try to figure out their emotions and stance in this big world. Remember that we are all parents in the same boat.
Looking for more posts? Check out my post on what it is really like living with a 2 year old