Recently, some of my friends were complaining about other people’s kids misbehaving on the playground. “It’s so frustrating when other parents don’t watch their kids!” said one. “I don’t know what to do when someone’s kid is bothering mine,” another added. “Sometimes I just have to leave the playground!”
I’m not one to get into parenting arguments, and I can relate to the frustration of misbehaving kids. But this is one problem I just can’t understand. Sure, kids act out. They climb up the slide and throw mulch and wave sticks around. But I don’t understand the frustration with this kind of thing. Because to me, the solution is pretty simple: Just say something.
Are there parents out there who might get mad if I reprimanded their kid for going up the slide? I’m sure they exist, but I’ve never met them. Maybe there are parents who are so controlling that they’d yell at me for daring to talk to their child, let alone imply their child is in the wrong. But if you’re that controlling, you really should stay close to your child 24/7 so you can make sure nobody talks to him in a tone you dislike. And if you’re not standing right next to him making sure he doesn’t throw that stick, I’m going to assume you don’t mind if I say something when he does.
Look, I’m not judging you for sitting on the bench instead of following your 7-year-old down the slide. I think it’s great that you trust your kid to play without you hovering. And if your 9-year-old is at the park without you, I won’t judge you for that either — she’s plenty old enough to be in public unsupervised. But just because you’re an awesome parent with a kid who is also awesome most of the time, that doesn’t mean he won’t make mistakes. He might be overcome with temptation to pretend that stick is a sword and wave it close to my toddler’s face. He might be so delighted with his climbing prowess that he just has to swing from the monkey bars and almost kick my first grader. That’s normal, he’s just being a kid. But if I see him doing something that could be dangerous to other kids, I’m going to call him on it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to yell at your kid or lecture him for hours. But I will tell him that what he’s doing isn’t safe. I’ll ask him to stop, and I’ll expect him to obey — not just because I’m an adult, but because my request is reasonable, and he’ll know it. I’m not trying to override your authority. It’s just that I’m standing right here, and you’re on the other side of the playground chasing your toddler.
Because here’s the thing. You’re not supposed to hover over your kid all the time. And he’s not supposed to be able to be perfect all the time when you’re not around. Other adults are supposed to be around to help him out when he needs a little extra direction or a reminder. That’s what it means to be a parenting village. That’s what we’re all here for.
So if I reprimand your kid, don’t get mad at me. I’m not judging you. I’m just helping you out. And I hope you’d do the same for me if my kid were out of line. Meanwhile, I’ll be on the other side of the playground, trying to stop my toddler from jumping off the monkey bars.