As a parent, one of the hardest things to navigate, I find, is toddler conflict. And it’s not so much how to handle the kids, but how to handle my own emotions when toddler conflict occurs, and the response, or lack thereof, of other parents.
As parents we’re all guilty of staring into our phones or getting engrossed in conversations while our toddlers run amuck on the playground. We might not see how a conflict started. And when one parent sees it, the other might not. And so on, and so on.
First and foremost, it’s important to check in with your child to make sure they’re okay. It’s good for the child to know that their parent has a mindful awareness that something might have happened. It builds a sense of safety, security and trust.
Sometimes you just have to ask the kids what happened, knowing the blame game might be their response. If that’s the case, sometimes simply stating, “If you can’t play nicely, then we’re not playing at all” helps throw it into perspective for the kids. At least temporarily.
A general approach some parents take is to let the kids work it out for themselves. This tends to work best when the parents are observing from a reasonable distance, almost like scientists. And referees. Just in case things get totally out of hand.
When it comes to blatant hitting or kicking, I find most parents on the playground are okay with another adult giving a fair, but firm tone if someone else’s kid is acting up and the parent didn’t witness it.
Personally, I always want to know if my kids are at fault. So, I additionally appreciate the other parent telling me what went down if I happen to miss the incident. Usually it’s all cordial and good. Taking the village that it does.
However, yes, sometimes you run into the parents who aren’t into the team or village mentality. And not surprisingly, their kids are most always innocent. It’s with these parents that any effort to work out conflict might be a waste of time. If they truly believe their kid didn’t shove your kid into the slide, even though you witnessed it with your own eyes, there’s usually no convincing them. Just accept them as, thankfully, the exception to the norm.
At the end of the day, yes, kids will be kids. They’ll test all sorts of boundaries. Therefore, addressing these playground antics in any universal way is challenging. Some actions are blatant. Some aren’t. The best thing you can do is find a balance of figuring out the conflict while keeping your cool and simply being fair and reasonable.
If your child is at fault, have them take ownership of the action and apologize. Every parent appreciates the effort that takes, regardless of the level of conflict.
If all else fails, do what I sometimes dream about doing: bring a whistle to your next trip to the playground and use it liberally on all foul plays. That will really keep everyone on their toes.