Playground Lost - Dealing With Older, Rowdy Kids At The Park
Wild, Older Kids At The Playground
Find me a toddler parent that hasn't dealt with this!
Let me paint the scene. Your kid has learned enough skills to actually enjoy a playground on their own. You're free to scroll Instagram and unfollow all the momfluincers you binge-followed after the birth.
Heck, you may actually close your eyes and listen to the birds chirp for a few minutes. Well, almost.
Like most parents, you'll hover around your kid at a distance to holler commands not to lick the swing and to be at the ready to kiss a skinned knee.
For the most part, things are going well. Your toddler has climbed the playground steps on their own and is considering which slide to choose.
When suddenly, like a car disobeying the speed-limit in a sleepy neighborhood, in crashes some preteen/early-teen boys.
One is probably yelling dirty words as he chases another with reckless abandon. Another is humping the swing-set.
There is so much to be concerned about:
- Will my child get hurt by one of them? It would probably be unintentional, but that's little comfort with something so predictable.
- Will my child get scared away from the playground?
- Will my child be badly influenced by the new words and behaviors they're exposed to?
- Will my child grow more rowdy and defiant with these big kids as examples?
Some towns have even gone so far as to ban teens from playgrounds! Assuming you don't live in such a town, here's how you can take back control of the swings and slides.
How To Deal With Trouble-Makers At The Playground?
The comfortable but bad answer is to wait quietly, hoping for a responsible adult to reign things in or for some second-thought to dawn on the rascals miraculously.
Unfortunately, if these trouble-makers have been at it for a few minutes, there is either no adult with them at the park or that adult is strongly glued to their phone.
You'll need to take things into your own hands.
We've compiled actions for minimizing playground-trouble into four steps.
Of course it will be difficult to refer to this page in the heat of the moment, but giving this a run-through-read you'll be more prepared for the next time.
1. Remain Calm, Act Thoughtfully
Your emotions may be running high after these kids unleashed themselves on this quaint playground.
Try your utmost to act calmly and correctly.
One thing more troubling than rowdy preteens at a playground is if an adult gets into a shouting match with them or, Heaven forbid, a physical altercation.
I'm only half kidding. I've seen adults get quite unhinged.
Don't forget: you're a super-parent, and your super-power is the ability to find amiable, real-world solutions to every problem.
2. Confirm Everyone's Safety
If, in their rampage, these bigs kids ran over a child or two or hurt someone with a makeshift weapon, the victim is your first order of business.
Firstly, protect them from any further injury by finding a spot removed from the wild-childs.
Confirm there isn't any blood or lingering injury that would require some medical intervention.
Whether it's a Band-Aid or a call to an EMT, be there for them and make them feel cared for.
3. Find The Adult That's Supposed To Be Responsible
There may not be any adult accompanying these rowdy young-people, but if there is one, they're your easy solution.
Look to the periphery of the playground or surrounding lawn. They'll quite likely be looking at something on their phone or they'll be taking a call.
Don't holler at the slacking parent, even if it's what they deserve. You'll be more likely to elicit the response you want if you calmly explain to them the situation.
Most responsible parents or guardians, when informed of their children's wrongdoing, will tell them to knock it off.
If there are no guardians to be found, or in the unlikely event they're unwilling to help, continue to step 4.
If you find the parent and they are responsible enough to solve the crisis, you can move on to step 5.
4. How To Talk To Other People's Kids?
This step is by far the hardest. Disciplining other people's kids is both extremely hard to do correctly and extremely uncool.
In attempting this, most people either end up barking like a crusty old man with a musket or entering hysterics like the Karen of all the viral videos.
But you're the super-parent, so if anyone is cut out for this, it's you. Here are some tips to bear in mind:
- Remain Calm - The only way to stick stick to the playbook is if your emotions don't get the better of you.
- Be Firm - You, and the rest of the playground, need them to stop. Avoiding the topic will not help and may encourage them to continue. Speak clearly and to the point.
- Convey Understanding - You'll be more successful in affecting these older kids if they feel understood. Don't treat them like some wild animal with which no common ground could be found.
- Find Them Another Outlet - If they can be directed to a more empty space for their roughhousing or another activity altogether, both of you will have gotten what you sought.
- Divide And Conquer - Teenagers and preteens tend to be more obnoxious in larger groups. This is mostly due to peer-pressure and the desire to impress their friends. Taking one or two of them to the side can help them be more sensible.
- Call Non-Emegency Police Number - This should be your last resort. If these teenagers are indeed putting children at risk physically, emotionally or even educationally - and can't be reasoned with, you should not hesitate to call in the authorities.
5. Comfort And Guide Your Child
Once the dust has settled, and hopefully a happy conclusion was reached, now would be a good time to turn your attention to your own child.
This event may have introduced some new and scary concepts to the little one. So, it's important for them to understand it and derive some practical lessons from it.
- Validate Feelings - People, especially children, will react differently to adverse situations. It's important your child knows that the way they felt after this ordeal is valid. Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein explains how.
- Reassure Safety - To reassure your child of their safety, you can emphasize how the ordeal has passed or that you have set up additional protections. Say things like: "the big kids went to play soccer" or "I'm going to stand nearby and keep you safe."
- Provoke Thoughts - Helping your child find their thoughts on a particular problem will lead you closer to its solution. Ask questions like: "Did this bother you a lot?" or "Why do you think this bothered you?" or "Were the big kids being kind or rude when they did that?"
- Calm Feelings - Now that the scare is in the rear-view mirror, discussing it in a detached way will allow your child to understand it dispassionately. Start discussions with saying things like: "Why do you think they acted that way?" or "How would you try to stop this if it happened again?" or "Can you pretend to act like they acted, just in a silly way?" Discussions that are analytical, theoretical or humorous help calm emotions.
- Learn Lesson - Gleaning a moral is always a good idea when something noteworthy and memorable happens. Now, when your child is tempted to act insensitively they will have a vivid example in mind, and recall just how much they disliked being on the receiving end. Full education is a long journey, but this can be a step in the right direction.
Congratulations, you've successfully navigated this crisis!
Remember: pre-teens and young children have a lot in common. They're both new to their current phase and are trying to have some fun in this new space.
Wild teens are not bad, they just can use some occasional guiding.