Bullies at the Park

When the weather is nice, my kids and I spend a lot of time at the park. While my four year old is pretty self-sufficient and can play on his own, I spend most of my time trailing my almost two year old, keeping him from leaping off the high platform at the top of the slide, running into the moving swings, and darting into the parking lot traffic. To be honest, my older son plays on his own or with the other older kids most of the time. Recently, though, I happened to pass by the “big kid climber” area, chasing my non-stop toddler, when I overheard something.

You’re not allowed up here. Go!” an older boy said as my son tried to go down the slide. This kid was probably 7 or 8, and he was saying this to my 4 year old, whom he’d never seen before. “Leave!!” he shouted. I hung back and watched. I wanted my son to say “Yes I am allowed here! Move!” or something assertive, but he just looked sad, turned around and left.

I withheld the part of me that wanted to march up to that kid and say “Who do you think you are?! He’s in preschool! You should know better! And where the heck are your parents, anyway!?” but of course, I didn’t.

I also wanted to think my son would be comfortable saying “Cut it out!” when he’s being pushed around, but let’s face it…this kid was probably twice his age. He was intimidating. And perhaps most importantly, they didn’t know each other. I think it’s much easier for kids to stand up to kids they know, even if they also happen to be bigger, stronger, and older. This, however, was a stranger.

I am not worried that my son is afraid to speak his mind. He does so, constantly, to those of us with whom he is well acquainted. I did realize, though, that I need to help him learn how to do so with people he doesn’t know well. At four and a half, “real” school is on the horizon, and he won’t know everyone. He has to learn this skill.

We ended up talking about what had happened after we left and were driving home. I mentioned that I’d seen the bigger boy at the top of the slide, and that he seemed like he wasn’t being kind. “Yea!” my son said, “He was being really mean!” We practiced what he could have said, such as “I can go down the slide if I want to!” or “Move over!” or “You can’t tell me what to do!” I think it’s important for him to know to say something in situations like this because bullies can’t bully if no one listens to them. Kids need to know they can, and should, speak up.

I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my children being pushed around and picked on by other kids. It’s not something I want to have happen again, but it will. As an adult, there are still bullies. They are in our workplaces, schools, and yes, parks. We need to speak up for ourselves, and we need to make sure our children are empowered to do the same.

"I will not be a helicopter mom, I will not be a helicopter mom, I will not be a helicopter mom..."
“I will not be a helicopter mom, I will not be a helicopter mom, I will not be a helicopter mom…”

11 thoughts on “Bullies at the Park

  1. I get serious PTSD flashbacks when I read about those kinds of kids. GRRRR! I so want to spank them. But I won’t. I’ll just wish that a swarm of angry bees visits them very soon.

    I would have been the overbearing Mom Police but I REALLY liked the way you handled this. Your son got to process the experience without being saved from actually FEELING it, and then, because you waited, the two of you could have a thoughtful, planful discussion about what to do next time. You gave him tools he can use to protect and defend himself, when you’re not around. Very well done! Good lesson for those of us with those overwhelming Sikorsky tendencies….


    1. Thank you, Randi. I just hope HE sees it that way and doesn’t look back and say “Sheesh, Mom! I was four, for pete’s sake! And you made me defend myself against an 8 year old?!” And I definitely have those tendencies, too, big time…


    1. Oh I hear choruses of that in my SLEEP here from these two boys. AH!! Hahahaha. But it’s a good point! 🙂


  2. I’ll be a dissenting voice – in those situations I do speak up on behalf of my much younger children or when I see other children playing in an unsafe manner. A simple “everyone gets to play” or “No climbing up the slide when kids are trying to slide down it” is generally all it takes. Ideally every parent would monitor their child’s behavior on the playground and address this but it doesn’t happen. We talk about bad behavior on the playground afterwards and what my children can do about it, but I don’t expect my 5 year old to have the chutzpah to tell a 9 year old what to do..


    1. I know, and I agree on that, but at this age, he’s getting ready for “real” school…where there will be a mix of older kids with the little ones on the playground, bus, lunchroom…and I want him to know he CAN speak his mind then, too, even though they might be bigger. In the past, I have stepped in, but I’m worried about him always thinking an adult needs to “save him” in this situations. I don’t 100% know that this is the right attitude though, because I agree- 5 year olds shouldn’t have to stand up to big kids. Josh, on the other hand, would have shoved that kiddo down the slide and screamed “STOP IT!!!” haha.


  3. Good job mama in not telling that kid to put a sock in it! I might not have been able to hold my tongue. But you handled this 100% the right way and taught me how to approach this when it happens to us. What a good example you are setting for your boys!


    1. Thanks, I just hope they don’t grow up to say “Mom, why did you let everyone walk all over us?!” It’s such a hard call at this age- he’s not really a fully-fledged “school kid” yet, but certainly not a baby/toddler anymore…


  4. You did the right thing by hanging back and letting your child handle the situation on his own – even if he didn’t do anything this particular time. Children learn by being faced with situations that they need to handle on their own – if you interfered, he would look to you to interfere every single time. Good job, Mama, on resisting the urge and good job on talking about it after the fact!


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