How do you handle the parenting dilemmas that arise at the playground? Do you let your child bring their favorite toy? Is it okay to bring toys to the playground at all? What do you do if another child is blocking your child from playing? What do you do if a kid hits another kid?
Being a parent at the playground is much trickier than being a kid. For the first few years of parenting, the playground was overwhelming for me. All the new parenting situations were bewildering. I used to be worried about saying something–afraid that another parent would show up and yell at me for disciplining their child, even in minor things that affected my kid. I tried glaring at parents and hoping they would see the situation and discipline their kid. It didn’t work. I tried avoiding other kids at the park and only going when there weren’t a lot of people there. My kids noticed and started seeking out other kids to join in their play. It has taken time for my confidence in parenting others’ kids to grow.
Here are my tips to help you have a better experience with other people at the playground.
- Leave the favorite toys at home or in the car. If your child will cry and scream and be unable to sleep without the object, it isn’t a good idea to bring it to the playground. Preferably only bring toys that are easily shared and if lost are easy to replace. Bringing toys can be a great opportunity to practice sharing but if sharing is going to lead to meltdowns, better to wait until they are older.
- Speak up if your child is being bullied, endangered or hit by another child. Family therapist Suzanne Lopez says “A lot of people make the distinction of ‘that’s not my kid,’ but the best way is to treat every child is as if they were your own. Address the child in a firm, loving and respectful manner, and remain connected to yourself as an authority figure, even when the child is not yours. If you’re really clear in a grounded way, children respond, believe me.” Do so with confidence. I was amazed at first to realize that kids would respond to me as an authority figure. But they did!
- If it seems possible, try becoming friendly acquaintances with parents of kids that your child is playing a lot with. A compliment about their child can be a great ice breaker. Connecting to other parents before a problem arises gives you an ally. It can also help tension melt away if you do have to stop something inappropriate. After one mother asked my kid to stop wrestling almost on top of her toddler and I reassured her that it was fine and appropriate when she saw me and tried to apologize, she said “We’re all on the same team”. I so agree!
- Avoid confrontation about parenting, and don’t become defensive if an adult does start yelling. State your position calmly and don’t argue. Walk away if necessary and keep your cool. Remember that your example of how to deal with conflict will be emulated by your child.
What are your tips for parenting at the park with confidence?