In the natural course of childhood, your child is likely going to be hit, smacked, pushed or bitten by another kid. Such is life, and such is the nature of childhood play. However, dependent on the age of the child, should you step in? Should you intervene? There seems to be much debate as to what a parent's role is in this regular part of childhood. A fine balance between equipping your child to deal with bullies, but then in some circumstances stepping in when the situation calls for it.
Picture: Prawny, Freedigitalphotos.net
From a personal perspective, I've tried to give my eldest son (pre schooler) some tips so that when this type of situation occurs he can try to deal with the situation himself. In the main I've discussed:
1. Using strong words to let another child know that they need to 'back off' or stop hitting them. Just using the word 'no' demonstrates that a behaviour is unwelcome.
2. Walk away from the situation if words haven't worked.
3. Letting an adult know if he can't get himself out of the situation.
In general, I'm of the view that when my kids get to school, they're going to have to fight a number of battles (hopefully not all physical ones) all on their lonesome, so I want to equip them to be able to do this when I am not there. So at his current preschool age, I've tried to observe and watch playground and park antics, and see how my son handles himself and the situation. I've tried to show him to stand up for himself, and I've tried to give him certain phrases to use. However, sometimes this just isn't enough, and I've had to intervene because I've come to realise that some kids will hit, and hit for no reason, and my son saying no, sometimes isn't sufficient. For instance in a local park he was approached by an older kid and pushed to the ground repeatedly. I'm not going to apologise for being a hovering parent when his actualy safety was in danger, and where the other kids parents were not in sight to discipline. I watched as my son told the other child, 'no' and to 'go away' and then I intervened and asked the child to leave him alone.
Another such example recently was at a play centre where I was running around with my two sons, playing with them and watching them generally enjoy themselves. There weren't many kids in the under 5's section but there was a little girl, around the age of 4 who kept going up to other children and smacking them. There seemed no rhyme or reason for this, and regrettably for much of these antics, no parent in site. It soon became my son's turn for a smack and in his defence he stood his ground and said a really loud, 'no' and took her hand off him. I didn't intervene as it had been dealt with. A few minutes passed and she came over again, to smack my son and he pushed her away. All this time, there was no parent figure for the little girl boxer to be seen. I didn't intervene as my son was perfectly safe, and he'd handled himself just fine. Finally, the little girl goes up to another little girl, smacks her on the arm, to then gets clouted by that girls bigger brother. The little girl starts screaming and then finally a parent appears, capuccino and iphone in hand, and looking very cross that her perfect little angel had been hit. As I was the only parent in the vicinity she asks me what happened and whilst not a fan of confrontation or fellow parent bashing, I did have to say to her that it was her child who had actually been going around hitting other children and that other children are going to hit back if they are constantly smacked by another child. From the wall of silence that followed, it's likely my comments weren't welcomed. The fact is all kids smack, my own little monsters included, but if I'd seen my kids behaving this way, I'd have been letting them know that this wasn't on. So whilst much of the parenting argument lingers on letting kids fight all of their own batttes, surely it's still part of our role as parents to role model the actions that show our children that bullying (in any form) is unwelcome? Even if this does mean intervening and speaking to another parent or the child who is bullying. I'm not suggesting all out mummy wars, but sometimes stepping in, isn't always overstepping.
So how do you find the balance between letting your child find their own way in the world, but also intervening where absolutely necessary? Or do you teach your child to hit back if a bully strikes?