If you know me, I’m a pretty easy going person with most things. And that goes with looking after kids as well. I generally don’t mind most of the little accidents and messes and mischievous things the kids get up to. I’m pretty good at staying calm, dealing with the situation and just getting on with what needs to be done.
But there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s deliberate mean-ness and unkindness against another.
Whether it’s yelling, hitting, kicking, pushing, snatching toys away. It’s all the same to me. Because it’s the intention behind the act that matters. And I will respond very swiftly* to any acts of violence or unkindness I see.
I am thankful that all the kids under my care have great parents who practice great values at home. And it is evident in the behaviour of their children. So most days pass quite pleasantly and peacefully, with the occasional flare up that naturally happens from rubbing shoulders with one another other and learning how to interact and socialise with each other.
We could stay at home all day if we’d like as there is always plenty to do. But I also like to let the children get out and stretch their legs and have a change in scenery every now and then. So we sometimes like to head out to the neighbourhood playground near our house.
Often, we will see other children and families hanging out at the playground. I know my kids enjoy the vibe and energy of having other kids around and sometimes even end up having great interaction with some of the other kids we meet there.
Sadly, there are also times when our encounters with other children turn out to be less than pleasant.
I have to confess that I am a bit of a mama bear when it comes to all the kids under my care.
Like one morning last week for instance…
A little boy (about three or four years old) deliberately for some reason headed to the monkey bars where Grace was trying to climb, pushes past her and used his feet to kick backwards at her as he climbed up, causing her to fall down. My mama bear instinct was boiling hot mad when I saw what happened. It was all I could do to keep my instincts in check as I hurried over to rescue Grace from the situation.
I often see this particular boy at the playground with his grandparents. They are clearly migrants and do not speak a word of English. I give them a smile or nod whenever I see them, but can’t really communicate more to them beyond that. Every time this particular boy appears at the playground, he always creates havoc and is often even physical against other children. I can tell he is very spoilt and never pays heed to his grandparents’ nagging.
Although I do not understand exactly what his grandparents are saying, I can tell from the tone and body language that they are basically just nagging at him repeatedly to behave himself and not to do this or that. But not once have I ever seen them enforce any consequences on his behaviour. He just continues on playing even after he gets his way.
That morning, after the kicking episode against Grace, I managed to catch one of the phrases the grandmother said to the boy after he had kicked Grace, “blah, blah, blah…smack you!”. But I knew these were simply empty threats. I could tell she had no intention of carrying out her threat at all. The boy has likely never even been smacked or punished before in his life.
What also irks me, are the type of parents that hang back on the benches, chatting to each other or looking at their phone, and not even bothering to keep their kids in check.
Now, I personally also believe in independent play, and children should be allowed to play freely and even learn how to work out conflicts among themselves at times. And I don’t mind if a parent is hanging out on the benches while their kids are playing. I would happily do that too, and the only reason why I am hovering over the kids is because I have a couple of kids under two, still practising their gross motor skills. But what I don’t appreciate is if their child is clearly causing potential harm against other children, and not doing anything about it.
There was one incident when we were at the playground, and there were a few older children playing with each other. They were playing a silly game of throwing handfuls of sand at each other.
I personally believe throwing sand at people is unacceptable behaviour. Sand is great fun to play with. But throwing sand at a person could risk the sand getting into the other person’s eyes, resulting in potentially serious eye damage.
So I did what any good mama bear would do. I told the children to stop throwing sand, especially with little ones around as it could get into their eyes and hurt them. The children nodded at me sheepishly and went on to play another game. All except one boy. He continued grabbing handfuls of sand and throwing it at his friends, trying to egg them on to resume the sand-throwing game. I decided to shut one eye since he was avoiding the younger children and playing at the other end of the playground.
Nathan, the socialiser, was trying to get in the group and join in their game. They were a little dismissive towards him, but let him tag along with whatever they were doing. Then, in the next split second, I saw the sand throwing boy, grab a handful of sand and throw it right over Nathan’s face. Totally crossed the line, mister!
I led Nathan away from the scene, then walked over to the group of mums chatting to each other on the benches nearby and told them what happened.
“Oh! I’m sorry. His mum is not here. She’s just headed out to her car to get something”, one of the mums said to me nonchalantly.
“Well, what he did was totally uncalled for. Perhaps he should come and sit here for a while”, said I.
“Oh, sure. Alright.” said the mum.
She then asks one of the kids in the group to call the boy over. Then waited for me to leave. And after that they resumed their conversation amongst themselves.
I suspect that after I left, they would probably have a go at me as being one of those helicopter parents who are constantly hovering over their kids and making mountains out of molehills.
I know the world is a mean place. And kids will eventually have to face up to this unkind reality. But don’t you think the key pillars holding up our society is plain common decency. Basic principles like being civil and respecting others. If we don’t teach our children this, what kind of world are we creating for their future?
I believe one of the key ways to teach children such principles and values is to mean what you say. For example, if you tell your child not to do something, then let your ‘No’ mean ‘No’. If they choose to disregard your instructions, you should then enforce your ‘No’. Otherwise your ‘No’ means nothing.
Can’t play nicely with others? Then don’t play.
Can’t respect your toys by playing with them properly? Then don’t play with them at all.
Can’t follow the safety limits for participating in an activity? Then don’t participate.
Are you a mama bear like me? Do other parents see you are the fierce, scary one at the playground?
Do you think I’m being very harsh? Or do you agree with being firm. Like any good mama bear would.
(*IMPORTANT NOTE: My general response to situations of deliberate acts of unkindness or physical violence would be to give a warning first. Then if the action is repeated, I will either remove the offender from the scene and/or remove the toy or object they using as a ‘weapon’ against the other child. I will inform the offender the reason that I am removing them is because they are not playing in a way that is safe for the other children. I am very cautious about crossing the line to emotional abuse. But I believe that if one person is wilfully and knowingly being unkind to another, they need to know they have crossed the line and that there are consequences for their behaviour. I always take the time to explain their error and support them in the process to make amends or retribution for their actions. I do not isolate a child randomly without cause or for unreasonable amounts of time. And I always ensure the place of retreat for the offender is nearby and within my line of sight, so I can keep an eye on them until I have settled the situation with the other children and am able to go to the offender to chat to them about what they did.)