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?