Care and Feeding

The Playground Meanies Bullied Me Into Silence in Front of My Kid

How do I deal with this next time?

A playground.
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Dear Care and Feeding,

I took my 18-month-old to the playground the other day, and she made a beeline for a play house where two older girls (6, maybe 7) were already playing. It’s big enough for several kids, but these girls had scattered toys around and had pretty much taken it over. When my toddler arrived, they started trying to chase and scare her away. Fortunately, she was pretty oblivious. I said something to one of the girls like, “Hey, there’s room for everybody here.” She looked straight back at me and said, “You’re not my mom.” I didn’t say anything back (because it would have been something like “Thank goodness for that”). I basically raised my eyebrows and dropped it—we went to play somewhere else. I don’t have a lot of practice dealing with older kids yet. Is there something else I could have done to advocate for my daughter and encourage good behavior?

— Talk Back to Back Talk

Dear Talk Back,

This all depends on your appetite for confrontation. You might have said something like “I’m sure your mother will agree. Where is she? Let’s talk to her.” But, of course, that runs the risk of (a) actually having to talk to her mother, who might be a terrible person and not share your opinion of play house shareability, or (b) her mother not being present and your retort falling flat. Personally, I would have done the same thing as you but then upped the eyebrow-raise with some intense dagger-stares from wherever I was seated across the playground.

Realistically, you probably don’t want your toddler playing with those kids anyway, so sharing the play house by taking turns might be the more reasonable approach. The playground should be fun and is also a place where kids will learn to deal with all sorts of jerks. It’s good that you were there to not be oblivious and good that you got your toddler out of a bully-ish situation, but you don’t also need to take on the burden of trying to make other kids behave well.

— Greg