Here’s a typical Saturday morning scene at the neighborhood park: Your kid is enjoying the playground equipment when some unfamiliar child tells her to get off the swings, throws sand and generally acts unruly. Your child is now frustrated and wants to leave.
Do you flee, let your child handle the situation herself or intervene? It’s a dilemma faced by many families who encounter obnoxious kids at the playground. In some cases, no parent is present, or Mom or Dad is at the playground but not paying attention.
This is when common playground etiquette and supervision come in. The National Program for Playground Safety cites supervision as a critical component to the safety of children. So it’s OK to step in and supervise another child, but do so in a gentle voice. Speak kindly to the offending child, or if you feel too angry to do that, take your child and sit out your steam on a bench for a few minutes. It’s never a good idea to yell at someone else’s child, but it’s difficult for another parent to argue with you if you’re acting in a kind and logical manner. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it gives you better parental footing.
Of course, parents should first enforce good behavior with their own children, advises First5LA, a leading parenting and child-advocacy organization for kids 5 and younger, funded by California’s Proposition 10.
First5LA cites some basic playground etiquette for kids:
• Don’t walk up the slide when other kids are trying to slide down.
• Ask to share a toy.
• Wait your turn.
• No aggressive physical contact.
Clearly define rules
Lisa Scott, a third-grade teacher at Newport Coast Elementary School, is intimately familiar with playground etiquette, as are most elementary teachers who supervise children during recess. Her district – the Newport-Mesa Unified School District – uses a behavior program called Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports to help guide proper playground behavior and other school rules.
In a nutshell, behavior expectations for school, including at recess, are clearly defined. Students are told how to act and what to do – not what they shouldn’t do. Students also have to complete a “reflection sheet” when they misbehave, and they have to make things right and restore trust, which helps them learn empathy, Scott says.
Parents at home can follow a similar plan by discussing behavior expectations with their children before they go to the park, Scott says. Remind them of basic things like, “Keep your hands to yourself or only on the object you are playing with.”
Whether parents should intervene in playground tiffs among kids depends on the situation, Scott says, adding, “Safety is a priority.” If a child physically or emotionally hurts another child at the playground, the offending child’s parents should try to make their kid understand the viewpoint of the child they hurt, and try to “restore” things, by apologizing and making things right,…