Playground Politics

One of the things that is inevitable when any child starts school is the fact that, at some point, they will have an altercation with another child and have to deal with playground politics. Grace has on a number of occasions and they still continue to this day. She has experienced the ‘I’m not your friend’, the taunting of ‘I’m going to so-and-so’s house but you’re not’ and the ‘You’re not coming to my party’. All kids do it and I know for a fact that Grace has done it back at some point.

Bad Parenting?

I really don’t think that it is bad parenting that causes the children to act like this. To me, it is just children testing boundaries and seeing how far they can assert their authority. I know that if Grace was acting up then I would want someone to have a quiet word with me – not to blame me, but to inform me. Most parents don’t know what their children are up to at school and, once they are equipped with this knowledge, it is up to them how they handle it. 

I have experienced a number of parents who ‘blame’ the parents of the other child. To me, this isn’t constructive in the slightest. Going in, all guns blazing is immediately going to put their heckles up and the other parent is either going to defend their child or argue back. To me, the best thing to do is inform and discuss. There are always two sides to every story in my opinion. Plus, we all know that children can be very mean to each other! 

Dealing with the child causing the issue

I have always tried to fact-find with Grace. I would want to know why she was doing something. Then, I would explain why it might be wrong and how she might be making the other person feel.

I can recall a couple of examples of this.

The first was when she was in nursery and it didn’t involved her being mean to another child – but she was misbehaving. She and another child went into the bathroom and removed all the pictures off the wall to collect the blu-tac (to this day, she still has an obsession with the stuff and it has become a joke Christmas present!). She got reprimanded for this by the nursery staff.  

When I went to pick her up, the staff informed both me and the mother of the other child of what had happened. The other mother gave the nursery staff a piece of her mind – something I didn’t agree with in the slightest. To me, if a child is doing wrong at school or nursery, then it is up to the staff to deal with it. My job, after this was not to tell Grace off again – this had already been done – but to explain to her why it might be wrong and help her see how her actions might affect things.

The second example was in her first year at school. One morning, as we were going into the school playground, she told me that she had been put in the naughty corner the previous day. I asked her why but she didn’t want to tell me. When I went to take her into class, I discovered from the teacher that Grace had bit a boy in her class. I was really shocked as this was totally out of character.

That evening, when she got home, Ross disappeared off to the kitchen and I sat her down. We calmly had a discussion about the incident. This is how I handled it:

  • fact-finding – I asked her why she had bitten him. She explained that he was really, really annoying her
  • explaining why it was wrong – I told that just because he had annoyed her, it doesn’t mean that she had the right to do anything back to him. The best way is to walk away or, if he was continuing to annoy her, to inform a teacher.
  • explaining how the other child might have felt – it was important for her to understand the other child’s feelings in all of this. I told her that even though he was doing something wrong, she shouldn’t do it back and I asked her how she might have felt if she had been bitten.
  • Dealing with the consequences – at that point we had a star chart for Grace. Up until then, I had only ever removed 1 star at a time for misbehaviour. Because of this, I took away 7. She was so upset, she put her hands over her eyes as she couldn’t watch me take them! 
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Act like the adult

On one particular occasion in her first school, Grace kept coming home to tell me that her best friend was going off with another child and, together they were ‘bullying’ her (I do think that this word can be bandied around a bit too much these days!). I approached the mother of the child who was Grace’s best friend as I knew her pretty well and, together, we went to see their teacher to discuss this.

It actually turned out that Grace was inflating the issue by adding bits onto the story. She had even accused the other child of hurting her when she hadn’t. We realised that Grace was doing this because she was jealous of the other two playing together without her. Thankfully, she came clean to us about this – mainly because I have made sure that she can approach me with anything – and I made her ring both the mother and her daughter to apologise. I also explained to her that she couldn’t make others do what she wanted and that she should find other friends to play with. 

How to handle a child on the receiving end

Even now, Grace regularly comes home from school with stories of her friends not talking to her or being mean to her.

A couple of weeks ago, one of her friends made her cry in class – something which is totally out of character for her. She had repeatedly had issues with this friend so, at the end of the school day (it was a Friday) her form teacher told her that she would deal with it on Monday. Come Monday, the teacher forgot, so Grace dealt with the situation herself. She told the friend that, whilst she wanted to remain friends with her, they couldn’t be best friends anymore because they just didn’t get on. Ross and I felt that this was a really mature and sensible way to handle it.

These are just some examples in a series of many more which Grace has experienced. As time has passed, she has repeatedly managed to handle situations without our intervention and I firmly believe that the reason she has managed to deal with them in this manner is because, along the way, both Ross and I have given her the tools to handle circumstances which are either making her unhappy or uncomfortable. 

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24 Comments

  1. May 8, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    You’re quite right, I think this issue starts with us as parents accepting it’s as likely to be our kids on one side as the other!

  2. May 7, 2017 / 10:53 pm

    Your nursery story reminded me of when I was in nursery. A friend of mine and I used sneak out to the bathroom just to unroll all the toilet paper rolls. There is something so satisfying about reaching the end of the roll. Glad that I managed to get over that habit. It would cost me a fortune if I was still at it today. #SharingtheBlogLove

  3. May 7, 2017 / 9:35 am

    It does sound like Grace is handling these situations very well. You have obviously set an excellent example.
    Reading this, it strikes me that I have never heard a single example of this from any of my kids! That’s in 12 years! It makes me wonder if there are things they’re not telling me. But on the plus side I’ve never been approached by a teacher or another parent, so there can’t have been any particularly bad incidents!
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted..Silent Sunday 7.5.17My Profile

  4. May 5, 2017 / 10:59 pm

    She sounds like she’s managing issues really well. And it is important to let them try at least.

    I’m trying to encourage N to sort out similar issues, but he’s a little young and timid to do it Last year, he’d had problems with friends not playing with him and others playing on their own, so we dd a bit of a practice of things he could say to lonely children to try and make friends and invite them to place. This year, he’s got a wellygate issue. There’s a girl with serious developmental issues who he says keeps using his wellies instead of her own. She has a TA with her at all times so I can’t understand how they just let boots be shared out. With any other child I’d advise N to speak to the child, but this girl hits and pokes people and doesn’t really speak. So I suggested e speak to the TA or teacher and ask if he should speak to the girl or if they could. So far he’s not said anything, but it’s one of those things that’s playing on his mind. School is a hard lesson to learn sometimes but it does give them good skills with people.

    By the way, if you want to add your post to my #schoolldays linky, feel free to linky up – it opens on Suadays #sharingthebloglove
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  5. May 5, 2017 / 10:58 am

    It is such a tough one isn’t it? I find it’s hard to know the full story! I think it’s good to let them deal with it at times, but sometimes you have to step in. Never a right way. She’s fab though x

  6. May 5, 2017 / 9:01 am

    Playground politics is such a tricky one. It sounds like you have handled things brilliantly with Grace and I think it’s important to discuss facts and feelings rather than telling off when it comes to things like this too. We’ve had an issue with jessica and one of her classmates which I’ve yet to really get to the bottom of although I’ve had a chat with her teacher about it and they’ve kept an eye on the situation. I think it was a little incident that’s now become a big thing in her mind but it’s always difficult to get Jessica to open up about things. Instead we just have lots of cuddles, chats about feelings and I encourage her to draw. I don’t agree with blaming other parents – it doesn’t help the situation. Thank you for giving me some food for thought about how best to deal with these things as Jessica gets bigger. #sharingthebloglove
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  7. May 4, 2017 / 9:21 pm

    We’ve had issues with Squidge and it’s been tough trying to balance what you need to do as a parent and what they need to do to learn how to handle conflict. In the end, I think we got the right balance but it’s not easy but the more they can deal with themselves the better- with the teacher being aware that there is an issue and monitoring the situation to make sure it’s to getting out of hand. Luckily we had a great teacher who believed kids need to learn how to handle these things themselves- although he did call in the parents when he could see the other kid was still being a shit. We got cupcakes, flowers, and an apology. The mum was horrified.

  8. May 4, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    It’s so hard to get to the bottom of these sorts of issues because you only have your child to ask and they’re often not very good at seeing things from another’s perspective – they only see how the other person upset them, rather than how their actions may have been part of the problem. I totally agree with you that it’s important to talk it through with you child and help them to see the other points of view. I don’t really speak to the parents, though, as I think it’s important for kids to learn to resolve these social constructs (although obviously I would definitely alert the teacher if I believed she was actually being bullied).

    My daughter’s “best friend” for the last year seems to have become a bit dominating of my daughter recently. So much so that she was anxious about returning to school after the Easter holidays. We had a long chat about things, and she’s now found some other friends. This was completely her decision, but I’m pleased because she now plays with lots of different children rather than being tied to one individual. #sharingthebloglove
    Lucy At Home recently posted..Blogcrush Week 12 – 5th May 2017My Profile

  9. May 4, 2017 / 11:07 am

    It can be so tricky to handle these sorts of situations. My daughter is in reception. She had attended nursery and preschool but I think being 4/5/6 tears old is such a big development point where they are learning how to socialise. My daughter too has come home saying certain other children have said they won’t play her and they don’t like her. Whilst I think there is an element of truth to it I know she does play with other children very well. I try my best to encourage her to be open and honest about her feelings x
    #SharingTheBlogLove
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  10. May 4, 2017 / 10:59 am

    It’s so hard to know what to do for the best. We try to listen to what the Tubblet says, speak to the school to get some additional context and find out how they’re dealing with it. That helps us know what to do – a telling off, a conversation or a word with the school. Sounds like you’re doing a great job 🙂

  11. May 2, 2017 / 9:05 pm

    Alice started school last year and I’m not looking forward to her first upset. We are now in her last term of her first and thankfully nothing yet. But I would handle it like you, not to automatically assume my daughter was telling the truth. I think you have handled these situations perfectly and it shows that Grace has respected this and is now doing a good job herself. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  12. May 2, 2017 / 1:49 pm

    It’s a tricky path to navigate isn’t it! I hear a lot of “so and so said I’m not invited to their party” or “so and so isn’t my friend anymore” when they were best friends yesterday. I tell S (age 5) that if someone says that to you just go and find someone else to play with and also that, as she knows how sad it makes her feel when others say it, not to be the one to say those things. #SharingTheBlogLove

  13. April 30, 2017 / 2:29 pm

    You handle things in exactly the way I’d like to think I would too. I’m dreading the playground falling outs already, and I know it’s likely to bring a lot of things from my own childhood back, but I know that it’s all a part of growing up. You’re right, I think it’s about giving them the emotional tools to handle difficult situations, to recognise their own feelings and acknowledge how their actions affect others. It sounds like Grace is doing wonderfully (and you too!) Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  14. April 27, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    It is such a tough one isn’t it with these situations you never know the full story and i know with my eldest i have had to learn to give her the right tools to deal with situations – or try, than to actually fix it #sharingthebloglove
    Laura | Little Ladies Big World recently posted..A Pulled Elbow & HypermobilityMy Profile

  15. April 26, 2017 / 6:17 pm

    Sounds like you’re really listening to her and giving her space to explain herself. She’s lucky.
    Mama Grace recently posted..Octopus ArmsMy Profile

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