Saturday, September 21, 2013

playground woes

We have all experienced the heartache of exclusion.  I've always told myself,  I don't need them, I didn't want to be friends with them anyway.  Weak words that give me little comfort.  But when it happens to my son I honestly don't know what to tell him.  My son is outgoing and friendly, but he is 4 so his friendly invitation for others to join him to play are sometimes snubbed, ignored or rudely responded to.  I've seen other 3 and 4 year olds scream NO in his face, push him away, tell him he can't be where they are playing and one time he was punched in the eye just for saying Hi.  (That time I was actually hysterical and completely embarrassed myself, my sister, my son and the mother of the hitter.)  Most of the time I don't say anything and just redirect my son to another kid or another area.  Almost always the child he is speaking to is shy or distracted and doesn't even realize.  But my irrational fear is that he will lose his gentle, friendly happy spirit even though he always seems unfazed.

Two day ago we were at a playground and he tried to join a group of kids his age, first he asked if they would like to play his game 'Ninjas' and they ignored him.  He persisted and asked their names and told them his, he was still ignored.  He asked them what they were playing.  They all still ignored him.  As the group of four year olds stood there in silence for a few moments, one girl instructed the other two boys to "walk away slowly and act normal."   I am heartbroken again, I want to scream.  But she is only 4 and Cleary doesn't even seem to mind, so I keep my calm and play Ninjas with Cleary.  We went to the playground again the next day and he quickly made a friend as he was not phased in the least by rudeness from the day before, I'm not even sure he noticed.  He comes home from school and tells me sadly of the friends who won't play with him but excited about the fun he has had with the friends who want to play.  He is resilient, I have to keep telling myself this because I have no other answer.

I have been searching for over a year for peace on this subject, I know there has to be an answer.  I have asked all of my friends, what would you do?  What do you say to your child who is hurt because another kid won't play with him?  And then I remembered this...

"I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers." Kahlil Gibran

So, I hope to be kind and inclusive.  I strive to be more friendly and inviting.  I will encourage my children to be kind and friendly.  They will have plenty of opportunities to learn from the unkind.


  1. Wow! I have never had this happen with other 4 yr olds, but do see the older kids on the playground or elsewhere snub my 4 yr old. Like yours, mine is quite social so whenever I notice a child struggling to fit in, I encourage mine to say hi and ask that child to play. I frequently feel snubbed by other mom's but truly have never seen another 4 yr old treat my child poorly like the scenario you described. I'm not sure I'd handle it as well as you did. I'm overly emotional and so I think my natural instinct would have been to say something not-so-nice to the mother of that child and then regret the way I handled it later.

  2. From an older Mom.....looking back, I remember the pain of those days when I strove to teach tolerance and kindness to my own children. I wanted their world to be a happy and positive platform for their childhood experiences, realizing fully that those times were the lessons for how they would choose to live their adult lives. When kids are young like Cleary I believe you must firmly plant the seeds of kindness. They aren't able to relate to more than simple explanations and being little people with big hearts easily broken, that kindnesss offers them a confidence of self-worth. If ingrained, the natural response later in life will be to react with understanding and compassion rather than with anger or retaliation.
    That said......I now know that my mantra, "Be kind!", was only part of the equation. I may have under valued the need for coping skills when times get hard. Learning to stand tall in times of adversity is as important as learning tolerance and kindness.
    As they get older, it becomes our job as parents and good examples of the human race to also teach acceptable ways to set boundaries. Boundaries are necessary. They protect us from those who would willingly hurt us.....either emotionally, physically or later, financially. Boundaries steele us in many ways.....they cement our moral and ethical convictions and they give us the confidence of knowing that we choose to act within reason and navigate from a mental center that is based on protection of our own good will.
    At age 4, the world is big. People are big. Personalities, happiness and hurts are big. If tolerance, understanding, acceptance and knowledge about ourselves and others is taught, the cornerstones to peaceful living are set. Children are very resilient....and innately loving...for the most part. Give them tools to understand that they will encounter disappointments and tools to feel good about how they handle those moments and you will build an adult who can negotiate, navigate, compromise, appreciate and live within their moral and ethical boundaries. After all.....they may start out as vulnerable bundles of cheerful sweetness that mothers and dads will reflexively and lovingly defend and protect but our job is also to build strength in our children. Keep in mind as they are not raising children, you are raising adults. Peace, light and love. Good job, Nikki!

    1. thank you Ruthann! We all know you have done a wonderful job :) I love that "you are raising adults" you always know what to say.

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