Monday, July 12, 2010

Mean Girls

I consider myself a normal parent - my kid is the cutest, smartest, most wonderful child (most of the time). But back in reality, Cate is a handful: wilful, determined, curious and head strong. She is still really cute ALL the time - even when she's pouting.

But today I felt sorry for her. We were at a park where there is a large sand pit. There were about 5 six year old girls building a castle (basically a giant mound of sand). Cate tried to play with them but they were not interested in her help, or her artistic flair when she shouted, 'Flag!' and put a stick at the top, or when she tried to scoop sand onto the mound with them. They complained to her, throwing her sticks away and I kept asking her to leave it alone. My friend tried to distract her by telling her to build her own castle. But Cate wanted to play with the big girls. They were mean - ignoring her little attempts to chip in, telling her to leave and to stop it because she wasn't doing it right, etc. Cate can be a troublemaker but this time she was just wanting to join in. She kept trying and was visibly taken aback by their meanness.

There were no parents in sight and I didn't feel right telling the older girls to place nicely - I just said, 'She's only three, she just wants to play.' Then they were rude!

Poor Cate - she didn't have a clue. So I asked her if she wanted to go and get ice cream. She seemed keen on it. When she climbed out of the sand pit the other girls cheered stating, 'Yay,' 'She's leaving,' 'Thank God' (Thank GOD - from a 6 year old? The mouths on them. OY!).

Now, I know they are only six or so but I wanted to smack them all (except my friends daughter who is a sweetie pie)! How dare they be mean to my little angel? She only wanted to be included. But as the 'adult' I ignored their glee and wheeled my two chickadees out of the park. We had ice cream and Cate was completely unscathed.

It makes me wonder what was the right way to handle the children who are not mine. Earlier today we were at a toddler's playgroup and Cate snatched a hula hoop out of another child's hands - as three year olds are wont to do. Her mother snatched it from Cate and yelled, 'We do not grab!' I said to her, 'Then practice what you preach.' She's pregnant so I let it go - plus it would be right ugly if two mommies started a brawl in the middle of Toddler's World! But don't be yelling at my kid!

Both situations irritated me (plus I'm tired with only four hours sleep last night). Surely there is a good way to diffuse these situations - anyone have any tips, thoughts or ideas? Quick - before my mug shot ends up on the cover of the Daily Mail with the headline: Smackdown in Sand Pit


  1. I'm not sure there is a right way. Perhaps the only way is to turn the other cheek. I know once four older lads (that were too old to be in a play area - they were about 10) grabbed my little girl (who at the time was about 3) just as she was about to come down the slide. I was looking from below but I was up that slide like a rat up a drain pipe. That was a physical reaction and I still don't know if it was the right thing to do but I was really worried they were going to hurt my baby! It may not have been the right thing to do but I think I'd do it again!

  2. Trust me even though you think no parents are around as soon as you start to say something a whole gaggle of Walmart Mommas wil descend upon you yelling "You want a piece of me?!". Well maybe that's just here in middle America. But you can't win with other peoples kids. Other than as Spencer did you are acting to prevent harm, going for ice cream is the best way to handle it. And for the love of Mike who could be mean to that little Angel? She is cute to the tenth power.

  3. Although the 6 year olds were behaving like brats, kids that age really aren't interested in a three year old playing with them and it might be expecting too much of them to include her. I would have had no trouble telling them exactly how rude I thought they were being though.

  4. Unfortunately most kids get their anti-social behaviour from their parents' what can you do? I would say it's more-or-less impossible to reprimand or correct someone else's child in the UK these days...mores the pity. Here in Turkey we don't have that problem. It's like the UK was 50 years ago...if a child misbehaves or is rude..anyone's child...then any adult will deal with it..and it's perfectly acceptable. Because unlike the UK, Turkish kids DO still have respect for adults.

  5. Spencer, I agree that most of my reaction was physical. I just wanted to protect her.

    James: Thank you! Don't be fooled by that sweet photo. There's trouble in them thar curls.

    Ex Pat Mum: I completely understand them not wanting a 'baby' playing with their masterpiece. They were just a little too aggressive and forceful for my liking.

    Ayak: I didn't want to discipline the other kids - I was hoping their parents would jump in. Hope springs eternal. One of the girls was a little too pushy and if she had laid a finger on my Cate she would have rued the day - and if her mum came after me I'd have had a little left over for her too!

  6. Don't worry, your mug shot will be right next to mine!

  7. You did good. I had the self same experience when the 7yo was little.

    Much as I couldn't cure those little girls or their mothers, (who ignore seem to their brats behaviour, preferring to chat with similarly selectively blind mothers,) I have made a rule; my children must not behave like that. I reward them when they say they have rescued someone from the frienship bench at school. (The bench where children sit if they feel they haven't anyone to play with.)

    My kids arn't perfect but they know what is and isn't permitted and unkindness to others isn't tolerated. I'm fixing the world from my side of the fence as it's all I feel I can do.

  8. I've had some similar experiences on playgrounds here in London. Since the parent has very rarely been paying attention to a thing their child was doing, I've stepped in and reprimanded the child (I do agree that the parent you encountered at Toddler Time went a bit too far by grabbing the toy back, I could understand her saying something to Cate, but she went too far IMO). I've noticed that parents at playgrounds here in London are a lot less hands on than the parents at the playgrounds that we frequented in the U.S. I'm not sure if that's a U.S. vs. U.K. thing or a city playground vs. a suburban playground thing though.

  9. Mother Hen - I think I may just send you into battle for me!!

    Lou - that is excellent advice. I'm trying to do the same with my two.

    Joyce - you know the playground I'm talking about. It's the same way in NY, so I'm guessing it's a city thing.


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