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Monday, October 15, 2012

Playground Bully


“Here Em, come here, you can climb down the rocket.  Stay there, I’ll go around and show you how,”  Emma is about to turn three, and I’ve started to realize that there are a lot of things that she is capable of doing that I haven’t encouraged her to do.  I flipped her on her belly and positioned each foot and hand in the slots of a tube attached to a play structure, that Emma has named ‘the rocket.’  After she climbed down she ran over to another element on the play structure, a rope attached to some steep stairs.  I was just thinking about how to help her up it when a boy about six rounded the corner, he looked at Emma,
“BOO!” he yelled and then climbed up the rope cutting her off.  Emma cowered a bit and then put her hand on the rope, wanting to climb up after him.  I took her hand and moved her away, I was suspicious that this child was capable of violence.  I took her over to ‘the rocket,’
“Here Emma want to climb up the rocket?”
“No,” she cowered, put her hands to her mouth, and began to bend her knees together, the beginnings of a melt down.  The boy ran up next to us,
“That’s not a rocket,” he says.
“Yes, it is,” I said defending my daughter’s imagination.  Emma was now almost to the ground with her hands in her mouth.  The little bully, I mean boy, whipped in front of us and started climbing ‘the rocket.’
I grabbed Emma and put her on my hip and took her another structure.  The boy’s mom was several feet away talking to someone else.  I know it was her because we were the only moms on the playground.  The boy was right behind us and whipped up the stairs as I was trying to convince Emma to climb them.  The meltdown was in full tilt.  I didn’t want to leave yet, because we had a few more minutes until dinner time and I wanted her to play.
And I didn’t want to be driven off the playground by a six year old.  I kept thinking,
“Should I call out to the other mom and ask for help, what do I say, ‘Your rude son is chasing us around.’  Or, ‘Can I get a little help, please?’”
Emma didn’t want to climb those stairs, how about the slide?  We are wailing now.  I threw her back on my hip and marched to our stroller and plunked her down.  Handed her juice, took a breath, and looked up at the other mom. She was looking at me like I had done gone and lost my mind.  I grabbed the handle bars of the stroller, wheeled it around and left. 
I could hear the boy stomping on the structure behind me shouting,
“This is my playground!”  He had followed us again.
I could feel the hot bubbles pop in my blood.
I may have hissed something under my breath as I left. Might have.

My heels pounded the ground as I marched home.  Emma was calm now, pacified by juice.  Was I just chased off the playground by a kindergarten bully?  Should I have corrected him?  Should I have said something to that mom?
When we rounded the corner, I saw Scott’s bright green shirt coming toward us.  As I let the presence of my husband relax I could feel the shaking rise, the little gurgle of tears in the back of my throat, was I that angry?  I was. 
Scott told me that I did the best thing, that I took the path of peace.
What do you think?  What should I have done?  Did I do the right thing?  What are the playground rules about these situations?

3 comments:

Melissa Baker said...

Oh wow, I have had that happen a few times before. I was straight out with those who did it around my daughter. I would say, "Hold on buddy, she is just going to have a slide and then it's your turn" or "Have you seen the sandpit? I bet you couldn't build a sand castle as big as the one me and my brother made. Sometimes as adults we can say things to prevent our children from getting hurt, we have to! Little bullies are only going to keep on bullying until they find a reason not to. If your daughter was on it first do be scared to say so.. Teach others to share in the playground just as you would your own it's not your responsibility but he was only looking for attention because his mother clearly had other things on her mind.

Rachel N said...

I agree with Melissa that you have every right to very kindly speak truth and teach the little boy about turns. And also encourage your little one to stand up for herself in saying 'no' and asking him to leave her alone. My three year old boy has been in both positions (picked on and naughty towards others) and I see both as an opportunity to teach him important character skills.

Sarah Reynolds said...

I will admit it. I am bossy to other people's kids. I probably would have told the kid "that is not kind behavior, she is littler then you and you need to make sure you are a good example and let her play too. Ok?" Or something to that effect.

I was at the playground recently and a kid - probably about 6ish was standing on the top and throwing a ball down. Several times he almost hit some toddlers. Not on purpose, but also not paying attention. I told him: "No throwing a ball on the playground. If you want to throw the ball, please go and do it on the grass." He just kinda looked at me. A few minutes later he threw the ball again; again almost hitting another child. I grabbed the ball, said "Where is your mom?" He said he was there with his babysitter. Ok, "Where is your babysitter?" I will admit, I marched him over to his caregiver, told her politely that he had been warned that the ball needed to stay on the grass and had he had chosen instead to endanger younger kids with it. I told her that the ball needed to stay with her now unless he was willing to obey the rules. Shocked she took the ball and gave him some grumbled instructions.

Perhaps I was wrong and overstepped my boundaries. But I am a firm believer of "it takes a village." And if any of my kids were ever doing anything that was rude or dangerous to other kids and I missed it, I would HOPE another parent would come and let me know so that I could stop the behavior. Our kids watch us, and if they see that we are running away every time there is an unpleasant situation, they will too.

Of course all that to say, sometimes the right answer is to walk away and/or remove ourselves from the situation. And we should ALWAYS be polite and respectful in our responses, even to bullies. But sometimes the best lessons are learned by watching (and talking about) behavior we do not want repeated.