I am getting very frustrated with a situation which has arisen twice when I have taken my three year old son to soft play.
I am a mother who likes to keep an eye on her son and ensure that he is behaving properly and therefore will supervise my son at all times. My son is a very happy and outgoing boy, and he always positively engages with other children. He attends nursery full time, where I am told by the teachers he is very popular and enjoys interacting with everyone. What he seems to really enjoy is chasing and being chased by other children.
However, on two separate occasions, at two separate soft play centres, I have noticed that a lot of the children are unsupervised. And its these particular children who don't seem to take to my son. The first incident involved my son being teased by a group of boys who were older than him and they were goading him into chasing them, but my son was actually enjoying the chase! However, I finally stepped in when they all decided to try and corner him and physically pin him down. I was so angry, I shouted at the boys and then went to find their parents to notify them of the incident, their parents didn't seem too bothered about telling them off. The problem was that my son didn't seem to understand that there was anything wrong with this and continued trying to play with them, even though I had explained to him why he couldn't play with them.
The second incident involved older boys, again unsupervised, who were playing with plastic swords?? in the soft play and my son ran over to them and tried to get involved, he shouted "COME GET ME!" and these boys chased him and began to physically attack him with the swords, again I had to step in and shout at them, and again my son still wanted to play with them even though they obviously had no interest in playing with him apart from to hurt him.
I am worried that there is some sort of cognitive issue in my son where he doesn't register that he is in a dangerous or physical situation and I worry about when he starts school. Maybe I should step in sooner in these situations? But equally I feel that maybe we have been unlucky with these incidents where we are encountering unruly children who don't behave because they are not under the supervision of their parents, surely the parents should be there to ensure their children are behaving.
I'm guessing this is either your only child or your oldest child, right?
I'm the mom of two boys now age 8 and almost 7. I run a tight ship, I hang with my kids, I promote good, safe play skills.
But . . . my boys love to wrestle, act like they are having a sword fight, throw things, be monsters and make scary faces, etc. I think a lot of that is pretty normal boy stuff once your boy gets slightly older than your son is now.
I don't condone kids being violent to other kids and agree that many parents tend to use a play center like that as an opportunity to ignore their child. I don't really like that. My older son has a developmental delay called sensory integration disorder and is a sensory seeker . . . I was present most of the time whether any other moms were or not.
But when you say older, are you talking about 4 and 5 year olds? One thing I have always kept in mind is that most of them are not serial killers in the making but young children lacking good judgement and impulse control. And the truth of the matter is that boys do often play rough.
I discouraged so much of it and really realized that so many boys like to wrestle, fight swords, point their finger and pretend it is a gun and start shooting (I'm telling you, my son NEVER saw a program with a gun in it and lead a sheltered life and did this!! Like it is ingrained in them along with their testosterone). So, I just say this to kind of help you keep it in perspective. Don't panic when I say this----- but your boy is going to probably get more rough and tumble as well shortly. And he'll find a stick in the back yard and there you go, his first sword. And he'll want to play with a friend and have to be reminded to 'pretend sword fight' (our rule). You won't believe me now and I didn't believe anyone either when my kids were 3. But it is pretty normal.
Now again, I don't think those boys were right in what they did and think their parents stink for leaving them to figure it all out on their own. Such is life. A good thing to do is to step in when it looks like it is going bad and say TO the boys "I don't think that looks like a good game. Please do not X" whatever you don't like that they are doing. Then you can direct the group to play something else or if you have had it with 'that boy or that group' direct your son to play something else in another part of the facility. I found that approach fixed the problem. some kids I'd have sworm were satan spawn one minute turned into nice little boys that played well with my kid the next.
And then you can have little chats with your son about 'being nice to your friends.' He is not cognitively able to make a decision like who is an appropriate friend yet. Don't be discouraged that he goes back or wants to play. That is normal, really.
The problem in trying to police the other parents in the world is you have no authority. Learned that first hand. So, go to the source and just HELP (with that attitude) the untethered kids of the world be kinder, gentler boys (or girls). There parents won't notice, I promise!
I recently had an incident like this involving my two year old, and posted it here as a matter of fact. We too were at a parent supervised only play group (it was toddler gymnastics) when a much bigger child shoved mine on his butt and took his ball. This kids mother didn't say a word even when I told her I thought it was completely innapropriate behavior (if my son had done that, trust me, he would have returned that toy and apologized). I have had similar type incidents at other supervised play groups and areas. I don't think these are bad kids. Like Specialmom say's, I think they are just sort of doing what young kids do, and yes, I agree boys tend to play rougher. For me, the problem lies in the parents not correcting this behavior...frankly I find it horrifying that they don't. But, again like SM said, we can't really do much about how other parents choose to raise their children. My new attitude about this is that I will continue to teach my child proper behavior. I will also do my best to teach him appropriate methods of standing up for himself, and down the road, guide him in choosing to play with kids that are less aggressive. It's hard I know. And frustrating.
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