A typical play date or day at the playground with my 3-year-old usually transpires something like this:
My son finds a kid near his own age to play with. The two toddlers (being largely unaware of their physical prowess and equally stubbornness) end up getting into a tiff regarding whose turn it is to go on the slide or who gets to play with a toy. A quarrel breaks out in which myself and the other parent feels compelled to intervene.
Usually one of us is assuring the other parent that our kid needs to share while the other one is demanding it’s ok and that their kid shouldn’t have done X, Y, and Z.
To be totally forthcoming, the whole song-and-dance is really to
appease the other parents, not the toddlers. We want to make sure the other parent/s don’t think we’re bad influencers that let our kids run the show.
If it were up to me, I’d be sitting on the sidelines, watching the kids work it out on their own. Save for serious injury or blood, I wouldn’t intervene at all.
Because 99% of the time, kids work these things out on their own. As parents, we tend to want to protect our kids while also keeping them from being self-entitled ***holes.
But it is my opinion (although, admittedly not too familiar in parenting circles), that kids are far more likely to learn these things on their own – through negative and positive reinforcement of their peers.
Look, if my three-year-old son grabbed a stuffed animal out of YOUR child’s hands, I would hope that you kid womps mine. He deserved it. You can’t just grab stuff that isn’t yours and if you do, nothing is going to teach you to stop such adverse behavior better than a good punch to the stomach.
I could take my son away from the situation, force him to go to his room, then lecture him about why his actions have serious consequences and it wouldn’t be NEARLY as effective as another kid putting him in his place.
Yeah, I know, I know. Violence should always be a last-ditch effort toward training. But most kids aren’t exactly Mike Tyson. They may push, yell, protest, snatch back, kick, or run away, but most aren’t going to implement long-term damage to my kid or any other for that matter.
In the real world, we have to learn conflict resolution. We also need to learn how to stand up for ourselves.
If parents stopped trying to mitigate or intercept all interactions that happened at school or in the sandbox, I promise the results wouldn’t be as sinister or awful as we seem to make it sound.
By and large, kids will learn how to play well and share within their own, self-taught social interactions. Adding parents to that mix just convolutes the process and makes it more confusing – PARTICULARLY if one parent is telling you that little Debbie doesn’t have to share and YOU’RE telling little Debbie that, yes, in fact, she DOES have to share.
I say, unless blood is drawn or real danger is imminent, let your toddlers figure it out. They’ll learn how to deal with conflict through their own means and hopefully, this lesson will provide the blueprint for how they deal with it later ON in life.