Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Last week, I had 2 separate incidents at 2 different playgrounds with children physically harming my children. One child drew blood from pinching both my boys on the face. The mother of this child did not punish her or have her apologize to my screaming, bleeding boys. I did not say anything because this is the first time I have experienced anything like this and I was a little bit shellshocked.

The second incident (3 days later) did not involve bloodshed, but a child of similar age and larger size attempted to strangle K because she was standing next to the slide he wanted to climb. K is very easily intimidated in stranger situations, so she started screaming and it scared the little boy into letting her go.

A couple of minutes later, he approached P and attempted to do the same thing. I was hovering like the overprotective-first-time-Mom that I am...and his guardian was no where to be found. So, I said in my stern Mommy voice, "No sir. Let go of him. We do not do that!" This prompted his grandmother to come huffing over to where we were, obviously upset. I supposed she was going to reprimand the boy as she said, "They just don't know how to play with other kids." (He had an older brother on the playground too.)
I was quietly pleased that she could admit that they were acting ugly until she continued, "MINE go to daycare..."
"Oh, ma'am, he was strangling them...he had his hands around their necks," I stammered, sure that she did not see the incident and would be mortified if she had.
"Like I said, MINE go to daycare. They know how to take care of themselves!" she said, with her hands on her hips.
I was dumbfounded. Seriously, I was standing right there and I KNOW my children did not provoke this...and yes, K started crying and I picked her up...but she was being STRANGLED , by a bigger boy!
So, as my mind raced...I lied! I replied, "Mine do too, they just know how to play nice."

The fact of the matter is my children play with each other all day, they are in the church nursery once or twice a week. We go to Kindermusik, we have other children over to play and they spent 2 weeks in Day Camp this month. AND, I was furious that this woman presumed to know anything about me and would imply that my children deserved to be physically harmed by her grandson.

On the ride home, as my blood was still boiling, I replayed the situation in my mind and felt a bit ashamed that I had been a smart alec back to the woman. I simultaneously felt pride that I had "stood up" for my children and wondered what do I teach my kids AT THIS YOUNG AGE about how to respond to bullies.

We have rules at home for this kind of thing (since it happens on a much smaller scale several times daily.) But in a public setting, I am a little stumped. I am thinking "Stop. That hurts." is something they can manage to say...but to all you Moms who have been there & done that, how do you handle the inevitable scuffling of toddlers when you are powerless to discipline one of the ones involved? (and in both these incidences do not even know them)


The Grubbs said...

Jen, I am horrified by your bully stories! We assume since we have triplets, ours will rule the playground, I never considered that anything else could happen. Maybe also post this on Tripet Connection and see what advice you get there. Good Luck!

Sarah's In the Midst of It said...

Oh, wow--my blood is boiling for you! I have this faulty gene, I think, that puts me into overprotective Mothering mode when I see a child being picked on. I sort of lose all sense of self!

When Caiden was about 1 1/2, I took him to an indoor play place (not at a fast food restaurant, it was a huge place just for little kids), and a 3 year old kid REALLY bullied him. His mother was nowhere in sight, so I explained to him in my firmest Mommy voice that he was being a mean boy and would not be allowed to treat my child that way. It didn't faze him, so then I threatened him with finding his mom. That worked, although if looks could kill, I'd be dead:)

But for the moms who don't control their children? That's so hard! On the one hand I'd be tempted to let her know her kid was being bratty, but five minutes later it would be MY child being the bratty one, and I'd be embarrassed and defensive, just like the granny probably was. It's sort of a no-win situation! I guess you could just take your sweet ones home, loudly declaring that "We don't play with mean children and their mean mommies." ;)

See? I told you this makes my blood boil! I tried to edit down my comment to something short of an epic but just couldn't! But just think--your little girl has two brothers; when they get bigger NOBODY will dare to mess with Kate!

Jen3 @ Amazing Trips said...

Ohhh ... this kills me. You know - my only advice is don't let them out of your sight until they are old enough where they can defend themselves against play ground bullies ... or at least - come tell you what's going on.

I'm sorry to say that there are too many people out there who are too darn lazy to control their kids - which is why they run amuck on playgrounds, creating havoc.

I'd have no problem laying down the law if one of those little brats was tormenting my kids. No problem at all. And if their "guardian" tried to give me lip about it ... they better duck & cover 'cuz I'd make that lip FAT! :)

Pray for me. I have NO patience with bullies or their lack of supervision!

Paulette said...

Let me at Granny, I would in no certain terms tell her she is to make sure her grandchildren do not touch your children again!!! It can be said nicely but I would definately make it clear. I would have said heck no my kids arent in Day care and thats why they are better behaved....

Tamatha said...

Can you imagine how these children are going to develop when their caregiver doesn't draw the line at strangulation?!

One thing that's worked for me and my children is to make a really, really big deal, in front of the other child, about how awful and scary it is to be pinched/hit/scratched/pushed/hit...whatever the infraction. 9 times out of 10 the bully will listen in, and hopefully learn a lesson as well, while my children keep getting the gist that their bodies are their own, and not to be messed with. I have a daughter, and I couldn't start teaching that to her early enough!

Midlife Moments said...

Thats a tough one. I usually confront the parent of the child/ren and ask them to watch their child/ren and explain the situation. Being a playgroup leader we have this issue raise its ugly head every once in a while, and it is always uncomfortable- but at the end of the day, you have to protect your children and their spirits (and bodies!). If the situations continue, I typically leave (after politely but directly speaking to the mother in question).

Alot of times moms are unaware it is happening, and mentioning it the first itme does the job- but then there are those other moms....

Hope you are having a better day :)

Laura- Swank Mom said...

I have been through that before. My daughter was bullied at a birthdy party. The mother of the bully was there the whole time watching and didn't do a thing.

It's hard. I just wrote about protecting our kids in my blog. It's such a tough thing.

I'm sorry that it happened to you!

Amy said...

I posted something similar on my blog and asked the same question! It's so hard, esp when parents don't take responsibility for the actions of their children. Your three little ones are so cute! Blessings Amy

Anonymous said...

To amy- but how much responsibility should we take for our children's actions? My 2 kids are often picked on by friends kids and it bugs me incessantly, but I wonder how much damage I have done by stepping in on all the fights they have at home, instead of letting them duke it out. Last week, our "friend" said we needed to work on our daughter being a tattle-tail because she came coming in the room to tell me that their son was hitting her. They would not believe her, even though their son is known for his violence! How do you handle that???

I wish someone had the parent manual for this one!!!

Perri said...

The kids looked like they loved having Daddy around.

As for this post, I look the bully right into their eyes and tell the kid if they touch my child again I'm going to break their arm.

I'll leave you to wonder if I'm kidding or not.

Tammy said...

Man...that is horrible. My oldest is now seven, and I have to say that I have never encountered anything like that. Usually, the moms rush to intervene and apologize profusely if their child does something minor, like pushing ahead of mine or something. I am SO distressed at that adult's response! With that kind of raising, I fear for the way those kids of hers will be growing up and the kind of character they'll develop.

And for the record, when our kids are small, I believe it is definately up to us to intervene when our kids are doing something very inappropriate or harming others. How in the world will they learn to treat others with respect?
Sure, we can tell our children to say something to another, like "Stop, I don't like that." But certainly in your case, you needed to intervene. But ideally, the child doing the bad action should have a parent intervening...not only is it good parenting but it's the right thing to do as a fellow parent!
OK...I'm all riled up now!

Sorry for these bad experiences...I sure hope your future playground times go better for you all!


Leslie said...

You did the right thing, and were polite about it. The grandmother sounds bitter to me...she may have been intimidated by a stay-at-home Mom with 3 sweet, well-behaved children and chose to lash out, when she knew better. Sometimes people do that when they are embarassed by their own shortcomings. (Which most certainly doesn't make it right!) I would hope someone would point out to me (whether I liked it or not)if my son were bullying. I taught elementary school until I became a SAHM and we had a very strict NO BULLYING policy. It was posted (in English and Spanish) in every classroom, hallway, lunchroom and restroom. This policy included bullying words and actions. I hope more schools adopt this policy in the future. As for now, I hope your future playground adventures are better than this one! These people are out there...and we are going to occasionally run into them. I believe you did the right thing!

I love your blog!


Alison said...

We had a situation in which my neighbor and I were at the school playground with all of our kids and the ones she babysits. As the kids were playing some upper junior high kids arrived and eventually started tossing rocks around. I gave them a few looks, and never imagined that WE would be bullied. As pebbles hit my head I whipped around and told them off. My kids were watching and I was terrified as these teens were HUGE!!! One retorted with a smart remark and then they left.

Needless to say the kids are no onger welcome to go to the playground alone which really is too bad at the age of ten. The others never were allowed on their own, but I'm not even sure that I want to go back myself. Bullies have to be stopped or things will escalate out of control. As far as how to stop it...I think we all need a Perri on our team!

Serenity Now! said...

My son attended day care from the age of 2.5 - 4.5. He started out NOT knowing how to play with kids, went through some rough stages where he did not know how to control his little temper, and has now gone to almost the opposite... where I'm more worried about him being bullied than bullying.

I don't think it has anything to do with if they went to day care or not... it has to do with the appropriate response from the adults watching them, whether it's a mom or a day care teacher. Only we can teach them how to deal with their anger, frustration and hands.

Kids are very primal beings... they don't know what to do when they are mad, they don't instinctively know how to use their words. We need to teach them. (I'm preaching to the choir here, I know...) My point is that you are completely in the right, both caregivers in both incidents should have stepped up and done or said something. During my son's angry phases I would have had my eye on him and intervened. I would have made him apologize. We would have left the playground if he a) didn't apologize or b) did it again.

To the "MINE are in day care" lady... I would have retorted "that's it... keep making excuses for them - you can tell that one to the judge in juvenile court."

Some kids will have bully tendancies no matter how wonderful their parents are. Some kids will have bullied tendancies no matter how wonderful their parents are.

And some kids will fall directly in between and THESE are the kids who need to be encouraged ... the ones who will intervene when another kid is being bullied.

I think that if you teach your kids to intervene when others are being bullied, it means that they will instinctively know when they are being intimidated and bullied - before it gets physical.

Teresa said...

I can not believe people! I mean I'm sitting here dumbfounded for you. I have NEVER witnessed such bad behavior on a playground, especially the drawing blood part. I'd say you handled yourself very well. I've had to correct kids before and I didn't care if their parents heard or not. It's just that mommy-instinct. I would want someone to say something to my kids if they were behaving badly.

MegLogan said...

UNBELIEVEABLE... I have never had that sort of thing happen. I guess we are blessed!

That is unreal! Nasty people!

Good grief what is this world coming to?

I prolly would have told that granny that the reason her kids behave like that is BECAUSE they go to day care, not inspite of it. Neither is it a good thing to be so aggressive, i wonder where that kid learned to strangle! sounds like someone learned something pretty scary somewhere!

I have no advice for you.

I tell my very passive son to say "Please stop." and to walk away. I definately do not encourage him to stick up for himself, neither do i expect him to just get trampled all the time. But so far no one has restrained him in such a way as he was unable to leave....

Godly answers are to bless those who harm us. but I dont know what to do exactly either!

Peace be with you and yours!

Mrs. Meg Logan