Playtime Politics: When Another Kid Picks On Yours

Warm weather is finally here and I could not be happier! For my family, it means abandoning all weekend plans and instead heading to one of many neighborhood parks, where we’ll almost always run into people we know (nothing like unplanned, unofficial play dates those are always the best kind).

There’s just one issue, though: what to do when other, more abrasive, kids pick on your child?

It’s a big problem for me. My 5-year-old son is an amazing kid: smart, kind, funny and highly sensitive. So when other kids play rough or simply don’t play by the rules I can see my own child getting anxious and stressed out. It breaks my heart, but I try not to intervene because, well, that’s just life. I know that I won’t always be there to protect him, so I’ve taught my son to stand up for himself when he doesn’t like someone’s behavior (like if he’s being lightly shoved, for instance, or being called names).

Where things get awkward is when an aggressive child’s parent is standing right there but does nothing to stop the aggressive behavior. This happened to me just the other day: my son was running around the playground when one of his “friends” started throwing stones at his legs (nothing that could truly hurt him, but he was certainly an active target). My kid yelled at the boy to stop, at which point he moved on to poking my child with a stick. Again, it was nothing truly dangerous, but it was annoying and just wrong.

Had this child’s parent not been there or had he been some random stranger I would have gotten involved and told the kid to stop. Instead, I was standing there socializing with this kid’s dad (a super nice guy), waiting for him to intervene. Which he never did. It was so awkward (on my part, anyway). I wanted to shake him: Can’t you see what your kid is doing?! Make him stop! Instead, I responded to my kid’s cries, “You two work it out,” all while staring at the father, willing him to get involved. Eventually he did he gave his child a time out and made him apologize to my son but I was frustrated by how long it took for him to make a move.

Is it just me? Does anyone else out there struggle with protecting your sensitive child while still teaching him independence? What’s the right balance?

(Photo: Digital Vision)


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