Playground Etiquette: Is It Ever Ok To Scold Someone Else’s Child?



This weekend I met up with a friend and we took our kids to a play place for a few hours. Total chaos! Kids of all ages were there, and it was a pretty exhausting couple of hours. We had lots of fun, but one incident has stuck in my head over the last couple of days.

My son is two and a half. He went into one section of the play place where there were lots of soft blocks you could stack and throw around. Two boys, probably six or seven years old, built a fort and were guarding the front if it. There were yelling that no one was allowed inside. Somehow London slipped in behind them and sat inside the fort. The boys were so busy yelling at the other kids that they couldn’t go inside that they didn’t even notice my son was happily sitting inside for a few minutes. Suddenly one of the boys noticed and ran inside. I was watching very closely to make sure my son didn’t get hurt. The first boy started yelling in his face that he wasn’t allowed inside and told him to get out. He pushed my son – pretty gently to be honest – but I still poked my head inside and said “please don’t touch him, he’s much younger than you and he just wants to play”. The boy looked at me and stopped what he was doing. His father who was sitting on a couch sipping a coffee just behind the fort called out to his son and told him to “be nice to the other kids”. I have to mention this father really wasn’t paying too much attention to his kids – he wasn’t on his phone or anything, but was staring off at the other side of the play place, and even when he was calling out to his son he wasn’t even looking at him.

I stayed close to make sure my son would still be ok. The other boy decided to poke his head in and started yelling at my son to get out because this was their fort. The first boy all of a sudden started hitting my son in the chest over and over really hard. I immediately ripped open the fort and pulled my shocked son out and told him everything was ok, and we were going to play elsewhere. The father of the boys said nothing even though I was practically standing on top of him while this all took place.

After this happened, I was seeing red for a few reasons.

First of all, the crazy momma bear was coming out in me when I saw someone pushing my son. He’s a sweet kid, and he really had no idea he was bothering anyone. The second I saw him being pushed I could feel my blood boiling. Was a over-reacting by being so upset? Probably. I just couldn’t help get upset when I saw that kid pushing my son.

These older boys were playing in an area clearly labelled was for toddlers to play in, so my son wasn’t wrong for wanting to play in that area. Yes it true those boys didn’t want to play with him, but it was difficult for me to explain to my toddler. Normally I wouldn’t care if older kids were playing in the wrong area because it’s not like all children obey signs or understand what certain boundaries are, but these kids were bullying everyone else in the area.

I was also really mad because the father who was sitting right there during all of this was not present in the situation at all. He just wasn’t paying attention, and when things escalated he had to of noticed, but didn’t say a word to his kids even though they were yelling at other children, and pushing my son right in front of him.

I think the thing that made me the most upset was that I felt like I really wished I scolded those children for bullying my son. I basically removed my son from the situation so he wouldn’t get hurt, and tried to explain to him why I was doing it so he didn’t think it was his fault. What stopped me from scolding those boys was that I didn’t think that it was my place to do so.

I felt like no one was telling these kids that what they were doing was wrong, but was it really my place to explain that to them? I have great relationships with my friends and family where I trust them enough to tell my son when he is doing something wrong. Often there is a better chance he will listen to them rather than me! I think it’s important that when he does something wrong it’s explained to him that his behaviour is wrong, and he is asked to correct it.

Is this something I am allowed to do with a stranger’s children? I think the answer I came up with was no, unless the behaviour is severe enough. If my son was seriously being hurt it may have been another story.

Although I was really upset by what happened to my son, he wasn’t seriously harmed by these boys. He didn’t even understand that he was being bullied. I was upset because I was the one understood what was happening, and that it was wrong.

What happened next made me feel a bit better. We moved to the other side of that section of the play place, and a few of the little girls who were also told they couldn’t play in the fort the boys had built asked me if I could make a fort they could play in. I began building a fort for all of the other kids in that area. Eventually one of those little boys who had hit my son walked over and asked if he could play in the fort I was making too. I told him yes, EVERYONE was allowed in the fort I was making, but there was no hitting allowed and everyone had to play nicely.

This made me feel a bit better – like I had in a round-about way explained what he had done was wrong. The result? Well a couple minutes later he kicked the fort I made over and ended up hitting the little girls who were playing in it. By then his father had left, obviously busy doing something else that didn’t involve his kids.

In the end did I do the right thing? I’m really not sure. It sure didn’t feel right because I was pretty sure those kids didn’t know they did something wrong. But in the end I realized it wasn’t up to me to scold those children about what they were doing. Maybe I could have said more to them about why what they did was wrong, but a good old fashioned scolding just didn’t feel right coming from me.

Thoughts? Do you think it’s ok to scold other people’s children?



  1. November 11, 2014 / 2:32 pm

    Hi! Found your blog on Mom Bloggers Club. =) I have a three (almost 4) year old and a one year old, and I have been in your situation many times. I think you handled it really, really well. I’m always so tempted to discipline other kids when mine are disrespected (and I have a really quick temper) but I ultimately try to use it as a teaching opportunity for my own kids. Great job, mama!

    • Mandy
      November 11, 2014 / 2:45 pm

      Thanks for the support! It’s so hard to know what is right and wrong myself, let alone try to teach others. I would hate to offend anyone by scolding their child so I try to avoid it, but wow it’s tempting!

  2. November 14, 2014 / 8:57 pm

    Okay – so I am just going to submit my 2 cents worth, however start by saying that I don’t think that there is not a right or wrong way of dealing with situations likes this, maybe you can call it different. Every Mom or Dad handles situations like this differently.
    Shame on the father who was not watching over his kid(s), ideally we would have wanted them to step in and defuse the situation. Since he did not, his kids will continue to play in such manners into middle school and into high school. Although I probably would have done the same thing as you had done was to take away my toddler and go play somewhere else, the only thing that I would probably have done differently was when the boy came to play in your fort that you had made for the rest of the kids, I probably would have said told him that he was not welcome to play (nicely of course). And if anybody would have approached you with not being fair, you had every right to tell them that these boys treated all these kids badly and where not welcoming them into their play.
    I think that kids need to start realizing that their actions have consequences and they would have had a little wake up call when you had said ‘no’.
    Not sure — so hard to deal with these situations. I have a 14 yr old a 12yr old and a 8 year old. I watched my kids actions so closely with making sure that they include everyone in plan and not to be mean to other kids and to walk away in confrontational situations, only to leave them being the ones to be walked all over.
    Like I said, just my two cents worth.

  3. Lillian
    November 16, 2014 / 4:44 am

    Playground politics is sometimes difficult to navigate and I have certainly encountered some awkward moments. However, I do feel that by not addressing the inappropriate behaviour, we are sending the wrong message. I don’t think anyone should scold other children but allowing your child to be bullied and physically hurt by others is just plain wrong. I think it is imperative that parents advocate for their children, especially the very young who cannot stand up for themselves. While it is not your job to parent other peoples’ kids, you need to show your own children that you will speak up when someone is doing something wrong. In this case, the older kids were not supposed to be in the toddler area to begin with. I certainly would not criticize a parent for approaching them and saying ‘hey ,this area is for younger kids. They need a separate area to play because they are little and might get hurt’ It sounds like you were in an indoor play area that probably had some staff somewhere. If the offending children ignore your request or do not comply, I would get the staff involved. Why should the children who are playing nicely have to accommodate the bullies? What message are we sending our children? In the case of a public park or playground, I have had to step in a few times (my child is only 2 1/2) when other kids have tried to prevent her from going down the slide or through a tunnel, for example. I don’t scold the other child. I simply tell them move out of the way to allow her to get by/have a turn, whatever the case may be. I haven’t had any issues. More importantly, I am showing my daughter that a. I have her back and b. you need to stand up for yourself and others. I have not yet had to address the matter with the parent of a child who is being a bully, probably because the parents of these children are usually not involved in their chid’s activity and I certainly hope that when/if it does happen, I will advocate for my child. Being a bully is a learned behaviour. We have a social and moral responsibility to stand up to them.

  4. November 18, 2014 / 4:51 pm

    I think you did a great job in the situation. You did what felt right to you at the time. Although I also agree that we should not scold other peoples children for mild etiquette infractions, but outright physical bullying is another story. I believe in assertively letting those kids know what they are doing is unacceptable. it is really hard in the moment to know what to do. If the parent of the bully got offended, I would not care. We need to model assertive intervention in bullying situations. They teach the kids in school if you see someone being bullied to stand up for them, and that is exactly what you would be doing for your son. I would also have been seeing red. It is hard to watch someone be mean to your child, especially little ones who are just wanting to play. Have a wonderful day, and thank you for sharing your story!

  5. January 19, 2015 / 4:43 am

    In these situations you just do what you think is best at the moment. You just have to go with your gut and do what you think is the right thing and set a good example for your child at the same time. If someone gets miffed when they should be mortified, then hopefully they’ll realize their mistake later and become a better parent as well.

    With that being said, why did you let your child stay where the older boys were being territorial, and were very clear they didn’t want any company? You can certainly say, ‘No pushing, that’s not nice’ or ‘Don’t hit, that hurts people’ and I would be surprised if even the worst parent in the world would get in your face over that. As you took your child away you could have explained, so the boys would hear, how it’s much more fun to share and you were taking him to where kids play nice and this is where you vpuld get in some passive aggressive sxoldingHere’s another thought – tattling to the parent, OK, you might call it, very nicely talking to the parent and trying to enlist their help. Changes are the clueless parent either truly doesn’t care or justdoesntknow what to do, so they do nothing.

    • Roxymandy
      January 20, 2015 / 8:46 pm

      Thanks for your feedback!

      My son was actually playing in an area for children his age – the rest of the play place was for much older children so we really didn’t have anywhere else we could go to get away from these older boys. I really like your ideas on how to handle a situation like that – it’s some good advice!

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