Q&A: Playground “rules” from other parents

Molly writes:

"What's the right way to handle playground "rules" set by other people? Sometimes when we're at the playground some other parent will say to
their kid "no swinging on your stomach" or "no going down the slide
backwards" or "no shouting" or "no jumping in puddles" or some other
perplexing rule that I never thought of, and then their kids (no
dummies) say "But he's doing it!"–meaning mine.

I totally, totally get how this makes their life difficult but 1) I
don't get the rule itself, I never thought of it, and I don't see why
it matters and 2) I don't really want to mess with my kid's head by
saying, Oh OK, this random adult made a new rule, let's follow it.
 (I'm not letting him throw dirt or woodchips, I'm not letting him mow
down other kids, I'm not letting him hog all the pails & spades or
anything that would CLEARLY be rude/dangerous, at least to me. )

What's the social contract say on this?  I missed that chapter.  Can we
have separate playgrounds for the intense parents and us lazy parents?"

You know, I think one of the big challenges of parenting is establishing your own policies and sticking to them in the midst of social pressure from other parents (and society at large). Parents of older kids can probably confirm that this gets more and more difficult as the kids get older. Violent video games, violent movies, Bratz, hoochie clothes for tweener girls–it seems like there are a lot of things that we're going to have to work hard to maintain a stance against.

So think of this time of dealing with other people's rules on the playground as little baby steps of preparation for telling your child that, no, she can't go to Cancun alone with her friends for spring break because they're only 14.

The parents I know have always operated under the assumption that you can make whatever rules you want for your own kids, but you can't make rules for other people's kids (assuming the other kids aren't hurting yours), and that enforcing your rules is your own business. Add you can't resent other people for having their own rules.

So that means that you have a perfect right to bring grapes as a snack for your kids, but you can't get angry at another mom for bringing Oreos. You can let your kid run around with shoes off at the playground, and even if I think it's stupid of you, I can't resent you for doing it, even if it causes me extra trouble to keep my kids in their shoes*. I can casually mention the recent cases of kids who've had their feet burned by the asphalt on the playground, but only to help you out, not to tell you you have to parent the way I do.

And, the other responsibility is being able to explain to your kids that "they do things their way and we do things our way" without saying or implying the words "irresponsible," "lazy," "helicopter," "controlling," or "dumbass."

So, basically, you make the policies for your kids, and other people make the ones for theirs, and you don't have to go by theirs and they don't have to go by yours. The stuff you're dealing with now at the playground is small potatoes compared to the stuff that'll come up later, so use this time as practice for helping your kids separate your family from what "everyone else" is doing and making that process explicit. That way later on they'll be less tempted to jump off the bridge when their friends are.

* A tip for that is to get water shoes and call them the "special playground shoes" and hype them as a cool thing they get to wear instead of that they have to wear. This won't work forever, but it will buy you a summer or three.

0 thoughts on “Q&A: Playground “rules” from other parents”

  1. Everything Moxie said.Every family is different and has different rules. And since you are the more lax parent in this scenario, this will be easy for you. But, the time will come when your rule is more strict and you’ll be glad the kids have seen this in action before.

  2. Yeah this is totally an “If everyone else jumped off the Empire State Building…” situation. When my 5 yr old started calling me on stuff that other kids were allowed (or not allowed) to do, I reminded her that everyone has to listen to what their own mom or dad is telling them to do. “That’s ok for her and her mom, but it’s not ok for us,” whether it’s a more or less stringent rule in a given situation.On the other hand, I am a big stickler for following the posted rules. If the McDonald’s play place says “Socks Required,” then *socks are required*, and it kind of bugged me the last time I was at one of these that my kids were the only 2 with socks on. Even though it was posted in 3 different places with a note that socks were available at the counter for $1 a pair.
    I made a big deal to my kids that if there are rules posted, we are not at liberty to ignore them. It’s not my rule, though personally I think it’s a good idea to wear socks anyway, but if the rule is X, we do X. Regardless of what other parents and kids are doing. Same for rules that are mine.
    And I think kids are able to get that pretty young.
    (Am I making any sense? I’m operating on not much sleep.. got a 16 month old who needs to be held all night long for some reason and I’m 8.5 months pregnant and no position is comfortable anyway…)

  3. Interesting. I would have never thought of “enforcing” my own laxness.If my daughter is pointed out as being an example of breaking someone else’s rules, I’ll usually have her comply with the other family’s rules, because, really, what’s 10 minutes of less dirt/less sliding head first on your stomache, etc. And point out that she’s being “an example” to the other kid.
    However, she does need to follow *my* rules – which tend to be more safety oriented than dirt oriented. Watch out for the swings. Keep your shoes on (I don’t care if she took hers off, yours need to stay on. Ugh. Flip Flops at the playground are the worst – they seem dangerous to run around in AND taking them off is not good either. Crocs are only nominally better because they get all kinds of mulch in them and have some sort of semi-legitimate need to get dumped out every once in a while.)

  4. I think that kids get pretty good at understanding differing sets of rules. (At least I really really hope so!) In addition to the different rules for different kids/families in regards to public places like playgrounds, I think kids can pick up on different rules for different places (quiet in the library, while you can be loud on the playground).Also, we as parents also need to consider the different rules of someone’s private space as well as posted rules of places. So if my child is in someone else’s house and they don’t do X in their house, that must apply to my child and not just their children. I have a feeling this isn’t always going to be easy to teach… is it, wiser parents who have been through it?
    A final thought is also that different people have different rules for the same place. For example, if my mom babysitting and giving my child dinner, she does not like messes, so she will still spoon feed her. I don’t care if my child plays with her food and smears it in her face and hair. But when Nana is feeding her, Nana holds the spoon. And she doesn’t seem to fuss about it, whereas if I try to hold the spoon she freaks out.
    I have no idea how to teach these things at this point. I am hoping it comes naturally. (Let me have this one, okay? I’m running on very little sleep overall. What is with the 16-17 month sleep regression???)

  5. Interesting. Even with my 15 month old, I’ve felt some of this. I sometimes let her walk/run at the grocery store because I think she’s so good and having so much fun, but I can feel the dismay from other parents who have their kids sitting in their carts, behaving so well.

  6. This gets a little worse if the other family in question is actually related to you or such close friends that you are together at a beach house or camping. I find that one SIL takes our different rules as implied criticism of her, while the others are very live and let live about it.

  7. By the time my kid was three, I had repeated “different families have different rules about that” so many times that she could come up with it as an explanation on her own. That two-year-old has a pacifier at nursery school, and you can only have yours in bed? “I guess Bridget’s family has a different rule about pacis.” Sarah has her shoes off at the playground? “Her family doesn’t have that rule, but we do.”When my kid tries to enforce our family’s rules (or her own sense of propriety) on other kids, I remind her: “You don’t make rules for him – his mom does.” I have zero interest in getting other people’s kids to follow our rules for the sake of “fairness.” Although I will step in if a kid is doing something that endangers others.

  8. I will sometimes use the moment to praise the children who have stricter rules. “I let you and your brother go head first on the slide, but since this little boy’s mama told him he wasn’t allowed to do it, he’s following her directions. He might want to copy you, but he’s being a good listener instead.”This is a way to appease the possibly annoyed strict mom and explain the rules to your own.

  9. Can I say that I actually really resent it when people “casually” mention things just to help me out. I’m one of those people who hate being offered help unless I ask for it and the casual mentioning of things is one of those post-baby things I’ve been introduced to which happens all the time. I KNOW that people mean well. But the fact is that I’m actually very-well educated about parenting things, I’ve just chosen to take a laxer approach. My husband and I call it caveman parenting (if baby is fed and warm and no tigers have eaten him, we are doing just fine). The casual mention may feel like it’s helpful but it reads like either (a) we are stupid because we don’t know anything or (b) we are bad parents because we know the risks but we let junior do such-and-such anyways. On top of which, so much stuff which is casually mentioned is just plain wrong! Most people are not Moxie’s. Okay. Done with the vent.

  10. I agree and I get that rules can vary between families without anyone being a bad parent, but what do you do when someone else’s kid isn’t being abusive or mean, but just a general pain in the neck that is ruining everyone else’s fun? The kid who insists on climbing up the slide even though three kids are at the top waiting to come down, or the one who never waits his turn but just barges in front, or the big kid who delights in taking up all the space on the playset meant for little kids so that the little kids don’t feel safe or welcome there (and can’t use the one for big kids because it’s not safe for them…).This is the situation I most commonly run into at playgrounds, and I tell you, it drives me nuts. I make sure Frances follows the rules regardless (just because he cut you off doesn’t mean you can cut her off, but yes, it was rude), but at what point are you entitled to step in and get that other kid to bugger off?
    I’ll admit I normally end up saying something. “Excuse me, but my daughter would like to go down that slide, maybe you could give her a turn.” Normally they listen–while their parents sit on the bench, watching–and I end up feeling like a bitchy, interfering mother.

  11. I probably fall on the side of the more strict parent, and will take this opportunity to share my response to a man who was clearly annoyed by me not letting my child go head-first down a slide and who decided that it was a good idea to call me out: Once you’ve held your panicked, screaming, writhing child down so that the ER doctor can stitch up his eyelid, the fun of doing things headfirst is pretty effectively ruined.”Just because it’s okay for him/her doesn’t make it okay for you,” is an oft-repeated phrase, and I don’t expect to stop saying that any time soon.

  12. Really, it’s ok for a kid to climb up a slide, when other kids are trying to come down? I think parents who allow things like that let their kid disrupt every one else’s play. I think it’s alright to ask your child to sacrifice some of their fun for the sake of the group once in a while.

  13. @Andrea – I think asking the other kid politely is fine.There are times when there is a kid lying on a slide or climbing up it or otherwise not using playground equipment for it’s intended purpose. Stepping in and speaking up for your child – modeling how to ask for what she would like and most people would find to be reasonable is what you’re supposed to do.
    “Amelia would like to take a turn on the tire swing when you’re done” or “Jane would like to go down the slide. Can she take a turn?” is what you would have your child say when you want her to speak up for herself as she gets bigger. And, for the most part, the kids will comply if you give them a minute.
    I also think it’s OK that the parents are sitting on a bench (or chasing the younger sib) – the kids are usually elementary school aged and this is their chance to learn about the world and getting along with people too.

  14. It struck me that this isn’t really only about “behavior,” as such. There are other rules that will always be different. If your kid can’t have peanut butter. Or no ice cream before dinner. Or “we don’t eat shrimp.”When I think back on these rules in my own childhood, two things seemed to come out. First was the topic we’re discussing – that of “I want to do that and you wont let me.”
    The second is the one that layers on more heavily as we get older – that of “But I want to be like everyone else.”
    My family tried to raise me as “different and proud of it” and that didn’t really help a lot when I was 10, wishing for real keds and the freedom to go to the mall with friends. Maybe it would help mitigate that feeling of seperation to highlight those other children in the same boat? I haven’t tried it – but “You need to wear shoes – and look Jenny has shoes too. And Jack.”
    Maybe then, at 14, they’ll accept that they can go to the waterpark with the other kids, instead of cancun.

  15. I’m kind of the “uptight” parent at the playground… I definitely don’t expect your kids to adhere to the rules I have for my boys. I know they sometimes will look at kids that are a little less (having a hard time coming up with a good word here – best I can do is controlled) and their eyes get kind of wide and they just watch and watch the other kid(s) doing whatever they aren’t permitted to do. We’ve been fortunate that many times the other kids have been (or at least appeared because my boys run on the smaller side for their age) older so I think my boys see it as the older kids being able to do something they can’t.

  16. Like Lily, I think this is all part of a larger conversation with your kids about differences. Like, “Look at that fat guy, mommy!” and how I try to squash my urge to shush her and say instead, “People come in all shapes and sizes, isn’t that interesting?” which is sort of the equivalent of “They have different rules than we do.”Modeling that behavior wasn’t easy last time we saw a naked guy rollerblading down Castro Street in San Francisco ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Wait, people have rules for their kids on the playground? You mean not every playground is a hellish, Hobbesian, Lord-of-the-Flies-esque free-for-all where children snatch other kids’ toys and someone like my husband is frozen out by the mom clique for reprimanding a kid who (unchastised by his parent/grownup) threw sand at our then-six-month-old’s head?I have got to get out of the city more often. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Wow, we have some very deferential people here — I don’t ask if another child can have a turn, I tell, and it doesn’t have to be my kid who’s being pushed out of the way, either.Other stuff is just different-families-have-different-rules, but acting as though you have dibs on public property? Nuh-uh.

  19. IMHO, it is okay for a child to climb up the slide if they have asked for a turn to do so and the other children have assigned a slot in which to do so. And they seem to be okay with that as long as *their* place in line is respected, too. Rules of decorum and turn-taking respected allows a lot more leeway for ‘using the equipment in an unusual way’.Granted, most slide climbing my kids do is at home. Their sensory issues make sliding down uncomfortable sometimes, but climbing up just lights up their little brains like fireworks. We currently have the rope swing placed in such a way that they can hold onto it while sliding down (hand-over-hand, kinda), which makes the ‘world flying at you’ thing much more comfy for two of them.
    I’m with the ‘Our family, our rules, their family their rules’ and ‘our house, our rules, their house, their rules’.
    My kids often do things that aren’t in other people’s list of safe things, because I know they are already accomplished at them. And since we are prone to a lot of autonomous activity (Montessori-style), people may be alarmed by this at times, but mainly they’re just astonished and then get over it. Astonished can come out badly, though. As long as I am clear about respecting other people’s rules, that’s been fine.
    But one wrinkle in this is the issue of modeling with older/younger kids. A few months ago, our town was having weekly free concerts, and we’d all walk down and listen and race about on the grass and through the little wooded area to the side. My older two (followed by the younger two) would race off around the grounds, including a path behind some shrubs under the trees, near the fence that separates the grounds from a building under construction. Once they run off that way, the 2 – 4 year olds in the crowd would follow. I allow my kids to go back along the path, they’re tall enough I can see them over the bushes, etc. (and I know they are watching their sisters, though I’m not ‘counting’ on that.) I’m willing to watch my kids explore that area. What I’m not comfortable with is that the younger kids will model off that behavior, and follow suit, which creates problems for the other families, especially if their kids are small enough that their heads don’t show over the top of the bushes.
    The same with climbing trees – my kids will do it one one of the medium trees (or even very carefully up the midline of a smaller tree), and then 6 seconds later, one of the small trees will be engulfed by a bunch of preschoolers trying to copy the cool older kids (okay, so they’re nearly the ONLY older kids there, most days!). And then parents will be hauling their kids away from the poor trees being bent over, and… :wince:
    So, we have had discussions about social awareness, and the fact that if someone else saw you do it, they now have it in their head. Even if they don’t do it HERE, they may think it is okay to do somewhere else, and that is NOT necessarily okay. Social responsibility means being attuned to how our actions affect others, what choices we model as good, and to whom. Yes, the other parents can say ‘our rules don’t allow this’ – but we also do not live in a vacuum, but in a community.
    So, we ask them to restrain some of the risk-taking behaviors in group settings, but allow them in more solitary conditions, where the modeling issue isn’t present, or in limited situations where we can responsibly communicate with the other parties about risk and comfort level. We recognize that we are asking our kids to refrain from doing things they are able to do (physically), safely, but because of our need to respect others in the community, as well as apply ‘safe’ to the others in our community, and to be kind to the other families present, we refrain. It is a choice we make, even though pure unfettered freedom of the ‘our rules/their rules’ application would allow our kids do whatever they choose.
    Being honest about the reasons – I really do worry about the poor little trees with the preschoolers climbing all over them (they’re so small the kids wouldn’t get hurt, but the trees are likely to get damaged), and I worry about the other kids following a model 6 years older than themselves from memory somewhere else – provides the information my kids need about why I ask them to choose a different activity level. Being honest about the concern has also allowed us to talk out what exactly the range of ‘modeling risk’ should be – say, swinging belly down is something they think the other parents can handle with their kids, but understanding that running behind bushes tall enough that preschoolers can’t be seen (and yet older kids can be) is beyond the preschooler’s mental powers *and* is significanly problematic for the parents, safety, etc. Climbing trees under certain conditions might be fine, but under those I described it wasn’t really. Each situation has to be watched, and being the leader also means that one may need to attend to who’s following and whether that’s a good idea. Might not be your problem to solve, but awareness is important.
    So, a bit more complicated with the older kids.
    BTW, while it isn’t comfortable, I’m okay with a stranger asking my child to tone it down because their child is modeling off my child. I typically will not do this myself, but I understand that it is one social strategy of many, and variety is acceptable. So far, this has not really been much of a problem – especially since we’ve already addressed with them why another parent might be concerned, and I have seen G notice the repercussions and shift his behavior (maybe not as far as the other family might prefer, but it does tend to eliminate the disgruntlement reaction).
    Far more often, my kids will point out other kids to me and say, ‘that kid doesn’t understand how to treat the equipment respectfully’ or ‘that kid isn’t being safe’ – and we say pretty much what is said by Moxie – their parents set their rules, we set ours. Sometimes we’ll get push-back, from the kids – “BUT MOM, that’s not SAFE…” especially if there are posted rules, or when it is at a public garden or museum, because our kids have a deep love of these places. It’s a judgment call whether to do the little ‘there’s a rules list posted over there’ nudge, or quietly bring it to the attention of a staffperson. I don’t recall being in a situation where anyone needed to do more, unless it was my kid involved (the climing thing, OY, and seriously, THANK YOU to the parents who have sent up the flares when child X was being unsafe while I was distracted with child Y).
    Oy, long, and no more time to edit… sigh.

  20. Great advice, Moxie!The funniest part of the whole thing for me is how incredibly hard it is not to sound judgmental with all of these choices.
    I thought it was funny because it was so built right into Molly’s question. My toddler loves nothing as much as he loves to throw dirt and wood chips! And unless he’s being aggressive towards another child, I let him fling dirt to his heart’s content.
    Do I feel kind of badly if another child sees his joy and decides to join in the filthy fun? Yeah. But I figure that their parent can either tell them to stop, or let them continue.

  21. I’m with Cathy on the modeling how to respond, when it is appropriate – though mainly my kids already do that on their own – I can’t recall the last time I had to do that as a model, except with each other (they’ll push each other, but almost never get out of line with strangers).

  22. I’ll often model to my kids when they are discussing this issue with friends, “our family rule is that you can ride your bike in the parking lot if the gate is closed, but not when it its open”. So I’ll hear my kids saying to others , “Oh, our family rule is that you have to leave your shoes on at the playground”. And they are totally okay with that.But, that being said, I guess I’m going to go against what many of the commenters have said already to say that I really don’t believe in interfering with a child’s play unless there is something dangerous going on. I try to let them work it out for themselves, keeping an eye on them of course. I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with climbing up a slide. There’s no rule that says playground equipment can only be used in a certain way. In fact, the best playgrounds are those that allow the child to play in many ways and be creative. I teach my kids to be safe and courteous but I just can’t bring myself to stand there, forcing them to play in a certain way that I’ve decided is “correct”. Let me reiterate that I will intervene if they are not being safe or courteous. If they are waiting a turn, I’m not going to intervene myself, but I might say, “why don’t you ask that girl if you can go next?”.

  23. Oh no, the dread “the slide is only for going down” rule. I have gotten soooo much flak for this; before I had a child I would never have believed it.Who knew that a piece of plastic only works in one direction? Not me. Not going to enforce other people’s sense of direction. Sorry. They will have to work it out with their kids on their own.
    I can see some of Hedra’s examples and try to be aware of that but I cannot really try to run the world.
    By the same token they can have any rules they like for their own kids.
    Taking turns is different though – taking turns is about access to public stuff and I will gladly help in modelling how to do that. I like the “X would like a turn as soon as you are finished” phrase.

  24. What Jac said. Oh my, oh my how I hate it when people mention things casually to me. I really think the default should be to stay out of other people’s business especially when it comes to kids.If some other kid is being a real PITA, then I take my kid somewhere else. If the other parent wants to encourage sharing, cool, but not me.
    I agree that kids can understand that they have their own rules. I just explain things by saying casually/regally, “We [Lastnames] don’t do that.” It works okay.

  25. So much of what I say, if anything, and when, if ever, depends on the age of the children (and other factors). I pretty much expect school-age children to stand up for themselves; I think it’s cruel to let a toddler be pushed out of the way when s/he doesn’t have the skills to stand up for her/himself appropriately. I will also intervene if I think there’s a language barrier that is keeping a kid from saying, “Excuse me, but it’s my turn.”What I’m looking for is the greatest good for the greatest number. Intervening for kids who can’t stand up for themselves yet, teaching kids how to stand up for themselves, and letting kids handle things themselves seems to me to be the best way to do that.

  26. “Oh no, the dread “the slide is only for going down” rule. I have gotten soooo much flak for this; before I had a child I would never have believed it.Who knew that a piece of plastic only works in one direction? Not me. Not going to enforce other people’s sense of direction. Sorry. They will have to work it out with their kids on their own.”
    Oh no, the dreaded “We are free spirits being oppressed by you sticks-in-the-mud” people? Who knew that your child was allowed to monopolize a piece of equipment to prove his creativity and free-spiritedness while a group of children wait at the top for him to finish up so they can slide down?
    Like a slide, it works both ways. What’s going to get the greatest good for the greatest number?
    And FWIW, I don’t care what my kids do on playground equipment as long as it’s not dangerous and it’s not inconveniencing other people. (We do “safe, respectful, and fair.”)

  27. @Shandra, our responsibility ends where our effectiveness ends – cannot run the world. But are willing to make effective and prudent choices provided they are also true to ourselves.I think mainly my examples come in when the kids are well into school and the age range is mixed (both). If they’re all school age, they can handle it together, themselves. If there is a steady spread of range, also, kids tend to model more off the kids closer to their age, so the ‘step-up’ is within range of ability. It’s when there’s a big gap between ages that the social responsibility comes in. (Having thought that through more after writing it – what situations DOES this come up in? Mainly when it is 2, 3, 4 year olds trying to copy a 10 year old.) Maybe because so many people have just two kids relatively close together in age, we often end up at events that either have ONLY older kids (and our youngers are the only young ones) or ONLY younger kids (and our olders are the only older ones). Age gap in our kids also plays a role (7 years between first and last.)
    So maybe the advice I have is not going to be relevant for most people, really – because for most it is age-peers (their rules/our rules), or close steps up or down (modeling off closer ability levels).

  28. But Slim…a) the rule “the slide is only for going down” is not related to how many kids are on it. That would be “don’t hog the slide.”
    b) just because one child takes longer than the rest doesn’t mean his or her turn is somehow less legitimate. It’s not true for the swings or anything else; why slides?
    I don’t let my son stand on the slide for 4 minutes while a backlog of kids get at the top, but I’ve had parents inform me “the slide is for going down” after my son climbed it… while no one was around.

  29. My motto is “just because you *can* doesn’t mean you *should*”. I’ll have my boys do what are our rules, but beyond that all’s fair in war (they’re boys, it’s always war). Just because the other kid *can* do that, doesn’t mean my kid *should*.

  30. So many people have brought up good points. I like what Moxie said, and I think the idea of “every family is different” is something that is easier to enforce rules-wise if introduced from the get-go. For example, I remember when my first son (who was HUGE) was about 2 years old and we were having lunch at a restaurant with friends. Their little girl was a little peanut of a thing. Her booster was really tippy so the only safe, logistical way for her to eat in the booth was to stand. Now, mind you, she was REALLY good–not fidgety or anything, and even standing, was only then the perfect “ergonominal” height. My boy, on the other hand, wanted to stand, which was a big no-no for us (because right after standing, where the table comes up to his thighs) comes the temptation to put a knee on the table, followed by a foot, maybe some dancing…you get the picture. So for them, they weren’t breaking a rule–it was problem solving. I know it’s not the same thing, but it started the pattern that every family is different based on lots of different things.As for the playground, I agree with MorahLaura on the posted rules thing…this translates right into the discussion about speed limits and such. But as for the other rules, I tend to be a little more lax on the playground, but have worked my son into the “depends on who’s there” thing. If he’s the only one, then for sure I let him climb up the slide. (I know, call CPS.) When others are there, he knows not to (or I can remind him) that he can’t because others might want to actually use the slide for its intended purpose. He’s pretty good at the EQ thing, so he gets how to scale it back a little. Other moms bring juice boxes while I bring water? No biggie…it’s not any different from when I say apple dippers at McD instead of fries. I think it’s important not to cower in your own parenting. This applies mostly to public/shared space places. If you’re on someone’s property or at their house, I think laxness gets trumped by house rules. (If I know a friend doesn’t allow climbing up the slide, we don’t do it there–period.)
    I think what’s tricky is that we’re told in parenting that consistency is often the key to success. Yet, I know it sounds like what I’m saying here is that it’s OK to be all over the board. But really what I mean is, gauge your kids, communicate, and use common sense.
    @Jill in Atlanta–I love your idea of using other kids’ rule-following as an example of good behavior! I’m going to have to try that…

  31. I don’t have a child who is really playground ready yet (as she is only 7 months!), but I really appreciate this conversation. I love to come to this site to read about many things, but most especially the ways in which other parents craft their interactions with and around their children for the purpose of imparting important skills, lessons, ideas, etc.As much as I learn from these threads, however, I will say that there is a part of me that always feel like we, today’s parents of young children, make our lives a lot harder than we have to. That part of me is wringing her hands after reading this discussion – how can we possibly take things like the *playground* this deadly seriously? Fortuantely, I know that it’s not the playground politics that’s a serious issue, but the things we teach our kids when we choose the ways in which we interact with each other at the playground. So the rest of me really loves this discussion.
    A useless comment, I realize. ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. @Slim and Shandra, I think it has more to do with the negotiated turn – the kids on the steps have one set of expectations about whose turn is next, compared to the child climbing up. Most kids don’t care how long the turn is, provided they know whose turn it is, and understand when it will be over so the next one can go.I can remember when I was learning to climb the slide, and my sister would go up the ladder but announce that my turn was just before hers – it seemed a brilliant solution to my child mind – she could ‘hold the space’ for me while I climbed up, and then would slide down with me (I disliked going down alone), and everyone could kind of tell how long the turn for each would be. I can remember actually getting a lot of cheering on from the kids waiting because they knew what the pattern was – that girl climbs up, they both go down, the faster she climbs up, the sooner our turn comes! WOO! Climb! Climb! (I have a vague recollection of my mom spotting me for safety as I climbed, so I wonder if that whole scenario was orchestrated…)
    And yes, some kids were still a little grumpy, but only until I got fast at climbing the slide. They were also grumpy at the kids who held onto the sides to slow them down or who stopped at the bottom and didn’t get off right away, etc. I can also recall being swung off the slide if I was taking too long (again likely my mom), and starting again when my sister was at the top of the slide again.
    Many solutions, most likely.

  33. First, when I do recite rules to my kids at the playground, I always add a “because” at the end of the rule. That way it helps MY child to understand why I am making that rule and if there is another parent or another child around that cannot possibly understand the reason for my rule, then they can also hear my rationale.They, of course, do not need to enforce the same rule, but maybe there is a danger or issue they aren’t aware of and my explanation will make them more aware. Or if they think my rule is dumb, then at least they’ll have my dumb explanation for that rule!
    And….I’m with Slim on the slide issue. My son is free to climb the slide, as long as there isn’t a line of people waiting to go down. My daughter is welcome to sit at the bottom of the slide, as long as there aren’t people waiting to go down. If others are waiting, we take turns.

  34. Ug, not clear – my sister would announce the ‘turn space held for climbing sister’ as soon as her foot was on the ladder – not after she got to the top. SO the kids following knew what to expect.

  35. I’m sorry that my trying-to-be-funny tone came off kind of bratty, folks..I see it now and am a bit embarrassed…Just as my kid is learning a ton of new social rules at the playground…so am I.
    When another parent at the playground says “we don’t push the trucks down the stairs”, I’m not actually thinking that he/she is controlling or anything bad. I kind of feel like I’m in a foreign country and don’t know how to act.
    I am trying to be friendly and neighborly with the other parents. I don’t want to be shunned at the playground (I mean, I don’t think I am that permissive, or that my kid is a terror, but who ever does?) or unknowingly let the kid do something that is dangerous, so I appreciate the suggestions of things to do/say to smooth it over and acknowledge it.

  36. I have a different opinion that @Cathy.We have a pre-schooler, and I think it is really important for DH and I to NOT step in and speak for our daughter. When she has minor playground conflicts, I try hard to listen to her and then help her strategize how to resolve the problem herself.
    I do step in for major safety issues, which happen once in a while. And although I can’t remember this ever happening, I do imagine I would step in if I saw that DD was having a really hard time/looking very upset or traumatized.
    But I have a whole thing about trying to teach independance and confidence in girls (in particular, but a lot of this applies to boys too) and I can’t stand it when I see parents swooping in and doing every little thing FOR their kid to “protect” or “stand up for” their kids. I think it is a confidence drain.

  37. @molly – I wouldn’t worry about being shunned. Despite my heathen slide attitude I still get along ok at the playground. :)To me a lot of the “rules” people try to impose are a symptom of
    a) discomfort with physical play and the outdoors and risks of exploration. I’m perfectly ok with parents making those decisions for their own kids, but not for mine.
    and b) a symptom of what happens when (as is natural) our worlds shrink during early childhood… small things take on bigger significance, particularly since the playground is the parent equivalent of a stage – everyone can see what I’m doing, if my child is rude, etc. It’s tough that way.
    But darned if I’m going to insist the slide is for going down. It’s not. Many of our local ones have toe holds. And I have a playground engineer in the family who spends much time ensuring his slides work in both directions. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I can’t wait until my son’s old enough to go to the playground his own and work it out himself.

  38. Oh, Michelle. I would really rather not say it too.Once La says that she wants to go on (let’s say) the tire swing (that poor slide is getting a lot of flak), but there’s been a kid swinging away for quite a while on it with no signs of slowing down. We end up going down quite a path before I end up saying something, including waiting a few minutes to see if he (or she) will wrap it up anytime soon. Then telling La that she can let the swing-rider know that she would like a turn. We usually do some back and forth of, “you say it.” “No, you say it. You can do it.” And then I let the person know that there is a line for the swing or could La swing with him/her?
    I think that La does well enough with speaking up for herself while at school – but OTOH, the people at school are not strangers.
    Is there a way of encouraging kids to speak up (to kid strangers at the playground) without the consequence of “Well, then I guess you’re not going to be able to ride the tire swing until that kid’s done.”

  39. my take on a few things mentioned:we’ve got some ‘it depends’ rules: up the slide, or headfirst on your belly (on small ones) is OK *IF* there are no little kids around, while modeling something like that in front of babies/toddlers is just plain dangerous – even the 6 YO usually got that, (and sib was the toddler in question one whole summer, so it was only OK if he was in a baby swing at the time).
    turns up OR down the slide make sense, but no climbing up and disrupting the line to get down the steps, *slide* back down and be done.
    ‘house rules’ are the only way to go: MIL is local, and has the kids 2x/week. Her house, her rules, unless I’m there and think the kids are being dangerous; Mommy trumps for calling kids on misbehavior anyway (usually not within the rules, but sometimes I don’t care).
    Posted playspace signs are like that – socks, shoes, whatever; if someone owns the playspace, they can make rules. Which makes it easier with playdates at my house – kid visiting is informed of house rules and expected to comply. I once had to confiscate nail clippers from a 7 YO. ??? (His mom was horrified that I had needed to.)
    Then again, I confiscated a tennis ball from a kid at school who hit me – while I was holding an infant no less – because 6YOs often can’t aim (two of them were playing catch through me). ‘But it’s mine’ only got ‘so I’ll give it to the grownup taking you home’. All I said was here, and explained that I didn’t want to get hit again – neither kid had even thought to apologize.

  40. The playgrounds we frequent usually have very hands-off parents. They sit on the benches while their kids play. I see nothing wrong with that (although the parents on the cell phone while their toddler is dangling from space rankle me to no end).My DH and I generally play with our toddler on the playground, because he’s not entirely steady on everything (plus, it’s fun). I won’t generally speak to someone else’s child, unless he/she is hurting my kid or really being obnoxious. A group of older kids commandeered the play area and told my son he couldn’t play there. At that point I said, “Oh, yes, he can.” Their parents were nowhere around, and my little guy doesn’t have the skills yet to stand up to something like that.
    Climb up the slide, slide down on your belly, hang from stuff…you name it. It’s all fine with me. We spot him where we need to, and don’t allow him to hog stuff if others are waiting, but he’s been known to pile up woodchips on the slide when no one else is using it, let his cars go down the slide, etc.
    I’m there to make sure he’s safe, having fun, and not impinging on anyone else’s fun. I expect other parents to do the same, although that doesn’t always happen.

  41. @Cathy-Hmmm- I don’t know. It may sound harsh, but I’m not too worried about it if my kid doesn’t ultimately get the tire swing. I figure, sometimes you don’t get what you want…but it is still worthwhile to express what you want.
    It is true that sometimes (fairly regularly) kids will ignore my daughter when she tries to communicate. On my better days, I’ll say to her, “well- this is a public park and you can’t FORCE someone to get off the tire. If that kid doesn’t know how to share…you can try to ask a different way, but if it doesn’t work you will need to decide what else to play with. But it was still good to use your words instead of throwing a fit.” And then maybe I’ll offer to chase her around the goal posts.
    On my tired-and-far-from-ideal days I say “work it out. I am sitting here on the bench.”

  42. @Slim: You go, girl. I wish there were more parens like you.The peer pressure I find difficult to deal with is more the kind that expects kids to me more mature than they are, or do things they are not yet ready to do. Two examples:
    1. Sharing. My boy is 2. From what I have read/heard, that is too young to learn to properly share. He has lots of trouble keeping his hands to himself (read: not snatching what he wants, when he wants it) and so I am working with him on asking when he wants a toy another kid has. But my rule, for a 2yo, is that if the other kid says “no,” then we have to wait until they’re done. (Talking about trucks/pails/shovels here, not big playground equip.) Enter another parent, who doesn’t get that they are too young to share (and, it seems, most don’t). They insist to their child that they share the toy. So now I feel obliged to tell my child to share the toy, too, even though I think this is not appropriate and makes me involved in something that I think the kids should be handling themselves.
    2. Saying goodbye/hugging/kissing.
    Not necessarily playground etiquette, but similar concept. When a friend’s mom tells him to say goodbye, give us a hug/kiss, etc, I feel pressured to tell my boy to do the same, even though I do not like the concept. He sees us show our friends affetion the way we feel comfortable, and I want him to find his own comfortable too, not be forced to kiss his friend’s mommy.
    Does that make sense? The bottom line here is that I feel pressure to do something that I consider inappropriate, in the name of social niceness.

  43. People should keep their mouths shut as long as the kid isn’t doing anything obviously dangerous/rude etc to themselves or others.Even the side comment about shoes and asphalt would really piss me off. Because if the kid is running around s/he’s obviously not in pain. Actually I have a neighbor that does this- I have no issue letting my daughter run down the hall to the sitter in warm weather inside my building without shoes. Every single goddam time my neighbor sees her, she mentions something like “oh, no shoes again!” or “where are your shoes, your feet must be cold!” it’s &^*%^&#ing IRRITATING because there’s definite snippiness, judgement and self-righteousness behind it. My daugher is just fine thank you.
    (For the record I only let my daughter run around a playground once shoe-less because it was lightly raining and she was wearing flip flops. It was safer barefoot and I dare anyone to challenge that.)

  44. It is funny but this is actually not a problem for us at all. I have never thought twice about pointing out my personal boundaries to a child or an adult or helping my toddler/preschooler do the same when he has not been able to do it for himself. I have no problems asking someone to please stop throwing sand at me (one-year-old) or please take their full-contact football game to away from the small childrenโ€™s sandbox (10-12-year-olds) or please prevent their dog from defecating in the sandbox (60-year-old) โ€“ just to take some recent examples.I totally go to the playground for the socialization part and my son still needs lots of coaching in the sharing-turn taking-department. The โ€œrulesโ€ we have regarding the playground equipment depend on so many things, like weather, how many kids are there, how much time we have to spend there, how tired my son is (when he is tired his sense of balance goes out the window). Adding being respectful to other familiesโ€™ reasonable rules does not seem like a far stretch for me, but it has not actually come up. We go there partly so that we can interact and get to know other people and learn to get along with them (except for those early morning trips when we OWN the playground!). If we donโ€™t like the arrangement at some point we can always remove ourselves and come back another time.

  45. @Slim: You go, girl. I wish there were more parens like you.The peer pressure I find difficult to deal with is more the kind that expects kids to me more mature than they are, or do things they are not yet ready to do. Two examples:
    1. Sharing. My boy is 2. From what I have read/heard, that is too young to learn to properly share. He has lots of trouble keeping his hands to himself (read: not snatching what he wants, when he wants it) and so I am working with him on asking when he wants a toy another kid has. But my rule, for a 2yo, is that if the other kid says “no,” then we have to wait until they’re done. (Talking about trucks/pails/shovels here, not big playground equip.) Enter another parent, who doesn’t get that they are too young to share (and, it seems, most don’t). They insist to their child that they share the toy. So now I feel obliged to tell my child to share the toy, too, even though I think this is not appropriate and makes me involved in something that I think the kids should be handling themselves.
    2. Saying goodbye/hugging/kissing.
    Not necessarily playground etiquette, but similar concept. When a friend’s mom tells him to say goodbye, give us a hug/kiss, etc, I feel pressured to tell my boy to do the same, even though I do not like the concept. He sees us show our friends affetion the way we feel comfortable, and I want him to find his own comfortable too, not be forced to kiss his friend’s mommy.
    Does that make sense? The bottom line here is that I feel pressure to do something that I consider inappropriate, in the name of social niceness.

  46. Cate, I agree that kids that age can’t “Share.” When my daughter was a toddler, her daycare teachers never used the “S” word. Instead they taught the kids to take turns. They would say something like “Sammy is using that now. You can have the next turn. Sammy, let’s sing Row, Row, Row and then your turn will be done.”Obviously, it is harder to enforce that on someone else’s child when you aren’t the teacher, but it might work for times your child has a toy someone else wants, and the other parents might pick it up, too. It worked really well for us. By the end of the year, these 1 to 2 year olds could be heard defending toys from swipes by saying “Using that!” (as opposed to “Mine!”).

  47. @Cate, I too really have problems with forces intimacy between young children. I don’t understand it and I refuse to make my child hug or kiss someone he doesn’t want to, including grandparents. I think as adults we should respect a child’s boundaries just as we’d expect other adults to respect ours. In those situations, I watch my son. If he wants to accept the kiss or hug, then great. If not, if he turns away or retreats in anyway, I say to him, “it’s okay, you don’t have to hug or kiss if you don’t want to” and I’ve never had anyone else (parents, kids, grandparents) make an issue of it. I know that I don’t kiss or hug many of my friends good-bye, so why should my child?Anyway…back to the playground!

  48. @michelle, I have the same attitude with my daughter perhaps not getting a turn at something sometimes. She has a ton of time on the playground (on the computer, whatever) and if some other kid is hogging it even after being asked politely… well, there’s value in learning how to ask politely and in learning how to handle being refused. If it happened every time, or if this were, lifetime, the ONLY moment she was ever going to get on a tire swing, I’d probably react differently, but it ain’t. It’s just not that high-stakes.

  49. Ok, I am so thankful for all of these tips. My guy is only 14 months but at 34 pounds he is a bruiser on the playground. I am always trying to help him toddle around and feel like he is playing.I do have a question. I often hear “helicopter” parent, but what does it mean? I feel lilke I must helicopter my guy in fear he is going to use his forehead to stop a fall. Is that wrong?

  50. Oh I love the “taking turns idea. My little one is just shy of 2 and I am constantly saying to him to share with his friends- knowing that he doesn’t understand the concept but also aware that he needs to eventually learn it. Will start the “taking turns” idea.Also, I agree with JAC and others who hate the casual comment. I TOO HATE it. I think it comes under the same umbrella of your family your rules and our family our rules.
    Now on another note my husband accuses me that I jump in too quickly sometimes when my kid is running after the same toy that another kid is playing with. I usually try to get him away from the area of the toy before he goes and grabs it. He says that sometimes that is off-putting to parents b/c i am sending the message that i don’t think it is okay for my kid to be playing with them.. when I am usually just trying to avoid the conflict of toy sharing since he doesn’t know what that is.
    Now mind you I only do that with kids we don’t know.. with little kids he does know and play with i let the kids negotiate the toy sharing on their own and as long as no one is crying me and the other parents don’t intervene.
    The reasoning being that I have gotten enough rude remarks to already last me a lifetime and so for now I would much rather avoid the whole sharing toys conversation with new people. I figure in a year when he’s older and understands more we can tackle strangers then… Too much of a cop-out?

  51. I am also in the “talking about how everybody has their own rules” camp. (I, for example, let Mouse take off her shoes whenever she wants, though maybe that’s a bigger deal outside of extremely temperate San Francisco.) ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m also in the playground non-intervention camp, unless there’s an urgent safety issue or a big imbalance. I’ve kind of adapted my “when to intervene” aside from that from a rule I used to have as a manager:-you are allowed to fight up one level or down one level, but if the fight has a greater imbalance than that, you need to call me in. (I.e. if you’re a manager you can speak pretty freely and handle yourself with a director, but if a VP’s on your case, you need to call for help.)
    So on the playground, Mouse now being 4, it’s one year each way–with 3-5 year olds, unless something looks real egregious, I let her manage it herself. Maybe even a 6 since she’s friends with several and is fairly big and articulate. But if a kid who looks 7 or 8 is bugging her or if she’s doing 4-yo-appropriate things at/with a 2-yo, then I’m all over it.
    Oh, and I also believe in following the posted rules, though it is perfectly OK to grouse about them.

  52. @BabyBrady, “helicopter parent” does not apply to the amount of attention required to keep a very active new walker from needing stitches in his head. Might apply to spending the same amount of attention protecting a 4-year-old from a potential skinned knee or hurt feelings…definitely applies to micromanaging your kid’s homework load in college. ๐Ÿ™‚

  53. @BabyBrady- I’ve always heard helicopter parent for parents swooping (or “helicoptering”) in to try to fix problems for much older kids- like kids in college who get a failing grade. For what it is worth, I think it is perfectly appropriate to shadow your 14 month old on playground equipment. I still shadow my 16 month old. She doesn’t understand how dangerous it would be to fall from the heights she’ll climb to, and I don’t think this is a lesson she needs to learn the hard way.I’m finding the discussion today interesting, but don’t have much to add. The playground we go to the most is almost always empty and even when we go to a more crowded playground I’ve never run into the rules conflict the original poster mentioned. Or maybe I’m just bing clueless and missing it!

  54. This has been an interesting dialogue today. I was thinking more as I read through the rest of the comments… I thought of my weekend trip to the area train museum. There is a litte train table and kids can bring their own Brio type trains to play on it. Size is actually more fit for 1-3 kids but on weekends it gets really crowded. We visited for the first time on a weekend (typically go weekdays when less crowded) and were a bit blindsided by the crowd and how it all worked out. I have two 3 yr olds – they are pretty mild natured with others and started to drive their trains. There were kids of all ages, surprisingly it was one of the older girl children (maybe 8ish) who was the biggest bully and kind of pushing the kids around. One boy had his eye on one of my son’s trains and kept trying to take it from him. I was guiding him to say no, that’s mine. Boy kept coming at him… I kept wondering where the parents were. It wound up being a great exercise and me trying to stay out and not get into the middle of it all. I would just keep guiding my boys what to say and encourage them to go back into the chaos. Kids found a way to work with each other, even if it was just my guy continually trying to avoid the grabby boy and standing back some of the time. It was definitely stressful for me and out of my comfort zone but after we left I realized it was actually a learning experience for me to.

  55. @Mo, I was about to post about a similar situation…we frequent a bookstore with a train set on weekends. My 18 month old love it. When he is alone I let him play however he wants, but when there are other kids there I only let him have one train so that all of the kids can play. Usually that works well. A few weekends we were there and there were two 6-7 year olds. My son found a train that was not being played with and one of the other kids grabbed it from him. My son looked shocked then picked up another train. This time he was knocked over by the first kid and the second kid grabbed the train from him. Did I mention that there was an adult with the two kids watching them.So, I did what some of the other people have mentioned that they don’t like. I made a comment or two. I picked up my son and said that the kids there were too big and too rough and that he could have a turn later. I went on to tell him that if he ever knocks another child over and takes their train, we will leave immediately. The other adult rolled her eyes. I admit I felt like a b*tch, however, I also felt it was justified.
    The following week he grabbed a train out of a bigger kids hand. Guess what we did? I apologized asked my son to apologize, then whisked him away.
    6 year olds do not get to intentionally shove my 1.5 year old to the ground!

  56. Great advice Moxie!!Why did it never occur to me to just have the confidence in my parenting to say “this is how our family does it” and not feel bad when my kid is the only one with shoes on in the whole playground. I usually stick by my “made-up”(cough)rules but I couldn’t figure out a better response than “because I said so!”-so thx, very helpful. It’s so funny I was just talking about this with 2 other moms yesterday.I personally am on the more rule abiding side and for me it comes down to respecting others. If you let your kid climb up the slide, fine as long as he/she isn’t infringing on those wanting to use it the proper way (and I do think their IS a proper way-at least on public equipment). I’m all for child exploration and learning to problem solve on their own but I’m NOT all for parents who hide behind that when they’re really using the playground as a babysitter so they can make phone calls or gossip with other moms. My kid splashes in rain puddles, pets worms, digs giant wet and muddy holes, gets into it and makes up with other kids on her own but when she’s at the playground she follows the rules, especially no throwing sand/rocks/woodchips- I totally don’t understand parents that allow this. It’s not a made up rule- it’s a SAFTY issue.On the other hand I’ve found it helpful to hang out with laxer mamas to help me see that it’s ok to let the kid break a rule every once in while. My kids are only 3 and 8 mo-navigating the next few playground years are beginning to seem daunting :)!!

  57. I have to agree with Shandra about the slide being a down-only toy…..my son gets physical therapy for low muscle tone in his core and lower body, and one of the things he’s supposed to do is climb UP slides. Now I also agree with others that going up a slide when there are children playing on the slide is not okay. it was invented for kids to slide down…wheeee! But when no one is using it and my kid wants to climb up it? I say MYOFB to the stepford mom who informs me that slides are only for going down…….when her kids are playing on the jungle gym.I’m also kind of laughing that today’s post got over 50 responses and the past two days (with much more serious and heavier topics) got about 30……goes to show that a pp was right, we do take ourselves very seriously when it comes to playground manners and how other parents perceive us. Good manners are good manners, regardless of if we are at the playground or getting on an elevator or sitting at the table. We don’t hog, we take our turn, we let someone else go in front of us if they are smaller/older/weaker/there first. It’s just called “being nice”. And it goes both ways…being respectful of other people’s space, rules, and values. Again, stepford mom……step off. I’m talking to YOU.

  58. What is the thing about no shoes? Seems like at the parks we go to, at least 1/2 of the kids, if not all, are barefoot. Parents, too. Is this an LA thing? When we visit my in-laws in Germany, we get constant comments about our barefoot guy (and selves), including inside the house and in the summer.

  59. I try to have my daughter follow the posted rules at the playground. However, some local playgrounds (Ohio) state that running is not allowed.No running? Luckily at 2-1/2 years old, her running isn’t much faster than an adult walk, so we pretty much ignore that rule.
    No wonder children are getting obese.

  60. You know, I figure it’s a playground, and if my kids aren’t in danger (we always wear shoes and no climbing on the wrong side of the structures, that kind of thing) and aren’t interfering with anyone elses fun, then I let them go. That means that I allow my two year old to climb UP the slide. I have had more dirty looks and people telling her not to go up the slide than I care to think about. I always make her wait until NO ONE else is trying to slide, we are often at the park on really light days… but some mothers CANNOT STAND children going up the slide. Unfortunatley, for my little spitfire, going up the slide is the only way she’ll go down. So either we spend the day fighting or I let her go up the damn slide. So I let her.My two cents!

  61. Two thoughts came to me while reading through the post and comments.The first is, it’s possible that family has different rules from yours because they have to. Maybe the kid who isn’t allowed to go head-first down the slide has some depth perception issues and tends to not see the ground coming, or maybe the kid who isn’t allowed to twist belly-first on the swings has hit her head one too many times (or just once!) on the support posts. If I know my child is capable of doing those things without getting hurt, I’ll probably go ahead and let him do them (until/unless – God forbid – he does get hurt, at which point we would reevaluate). On the flip side, maybe we have a rule that that family doesn’t have for a similar reason. Maybe my son isn’t allowed to climb up the slide because he doesn’t have the physical climbing capacity not to slip and conk his head or mouth against the side (and believe me, I have the least monkey-like toddler I’ve ever heard of). In a year, maybe he’ll figure out how to do it, but for now, let the others do it, and he can go just one-way for now.
    In either case (me with the stricter rules or me with the more lax rules) the explanation that “Different families have different rules” seems a good lesson to learn early. Which brings me to my second thought…
    Even as adults, we see people speeding in the left lane, or turning right on red when there’s a “No turn on red” sign posted, or just plain being impolite, and getting away with it. Even as adults, we have to know that just because someone else did something that we think is wrong and didn’t “get in trouble” doesn’t mean that it’s okay for us to do it. Yes, the three people in front of me just turned at that red light, but I still shouldn’t, because it says I shouldn’t, even though there’s no cop around.
    It seems like the earlier the lesson of “Just because they did it doesn’t mean you should” is learned, the happier your child will be making the decision to follow their own moral code against peer pressure or the popular opinion later on in life.
    Of course, my kid is only 21 months, so this might be a case of “that’s easy for you to say now…”

  62. Like @Cate, I want to know why shoes must be worn at a playground. I often insist my 21m daughter takes OFF her shoes because I think she will be safer climbing some of the trickier bars and barefeet are WAY better for climbing UP the slide. I have never heard an adult insist that kids be in shoes at the playground, maybe because this is Hawaii. There are more barefeet, than covered at the playgrounds we frequent.Our daughter is a climber and goes up slides, but we work with her to accommodate the kids going down and sometimes have to let her know that since so many kids are going down, it’s not a good time to climb up – it’s not safe. She will usually fall into the group rhythm, but sometimes that is an up the slide beat. Also a Hawaii thing?
    However, I really do want to understand the safety issue of shoes on the playground. Am I missing something? Or is there something I should know about mainland playgrounds? Most playgrounds here have that synthetic turf.
    What drives ME crazy at the playground is when a kid shows up with a really snazzy bike, scooter, ball, whatever and refuses to share it, or worse, the parents refuse to share. Toys we take to the playground or beach are for everyone and anyone – just like the public place we are sharing. It’s about community and fun. I usually say “I am sorry honey, they don’t want to share. Let’s do something else.” I am not trying to make the other child or parent feel bad. I just really don’t know what else to say. Again, am I missing something? Is it a liability thing when the parent is obviously not letting other children use the coveted object?
    Yesterday, we had to share the playground with 6 young adults who were smoking, jumping high off the swings, throwing the swings over the frame, lounging on the play structure, and play fighting (but aggressively). They had 2 small children with them so it wasn’t like they didn’t belong there. One of the children had a stick gun that he was blasting at my daughter while she tried to swing peacefully. My daughter was totally captivated by this group. When the fighting started, we went for a walk and I casually told her that they are play fighting, but that we don’t do that as it is not safe, kind or respectful (a la Hedra). We returned, they were gone and my girl went happily barefoot up the slide.

  63. Shoes/ no shoes, throwing sand / not throwing sand, up the slide / one way slides. I was happy with all those things; I was smug in the satisfaction of “well none of that bothers me either way, aren’t I a cool and laid back mum” and then BAM, I read S. Maries comment about sharing toys at the playgournd and I found myself saying “What the ????” I’m not having a go at S. Marie here, but it sure cured me of my smugness!!!! @S. Marie, even though I’m not sure I agree with you, THANK YOU for giving me the kick up the clacker that I needed to pull me down a peg or two.I think that the reason this post has got so many responses is because we all know it is about more than just what we do at the playgournd. It’s where the rubber hits the road about living with difference and teaching our kids about our family values. What I find interesting is that mostly, eveyone has been able to articulate why their version of “just plain good manners / common sense” fits their philosophy or family values or what it says about what they want to teach their parents. Wow! It goes to show how far we have come from our parents / grandparents generation and the “Because this is the way we’ve always done it” style of parenting.
    Anyway, this comment just went way off topic. Sorry!

  64. RE: the shoes – having stepped on a bit of broken glass (as an adult, barefoot) and sliced through the tendon and nerve on the bottom of a toe, I’m a fan of shoes when you cannot control for what is in the dirt/sand/mulch. One never knows if teenagers were drinking beer there last night and thought it would be funny to throw empty bottles at the monkey bars to see the bottles explode in clouds of shards. Playground paranoia comes from experience, sometimes.Watershoes are good for playground play, IMHO – the ones made for beach wear that allow the sand to go out, especially. We don’t do barefoot on the playground, but I also don’t spend my time fretting about those who do – I don’t even know if kids around here are more shoes-on or shoes-off, it doesn’t occur to me to look.

  65. re: shoes offIn our neighbourhood, needles and condoms, as well as broken glass at parks are a sad reality. Luckily for us, my son almost always demands to wear socks (and therefore shoes). I’m trying to cure him of his sock obsession, as in our backyard I’d rather he just go barefoot, although I would never allow him to go barefoot at most of the parks we frequent.

  66. I wouldn’t make my kid follow someone else’s rule. I just say that each kid’s mom/dad/grandma gets to make their own rules for their own kids. I really don’t get some of these rules though — what exactly is the problem with stomach swinging? We really only have one common rule at our local playground, which is no throwing sand. Everyone seems to be pretty stern on that one (including me.) I also wouldn’t hesitate to tell another kid who was doing something that endangered/freaked out my kids to knock it off. Maybe we’re just lucky but at least with the elder I mostly just get to sit on the bench and chat while she plays. Still have to shadow the toddler a bit, but her day is coming too!I’ll tell you what’s worse, is having totally different standards than a family member. We’ve had one babysitting our little one for a while now and overprotective doesn’t even come close to describing her. I feel it’s actually stifling my child’s development. We’ve spoken to her about it many times mostly gently but sometimes more forcefully, but she can’t seem to change her ways. It has a triple whammy of causing a strain between us, not giving my daughter the opportunities she needs to develop her skills, and making me think that she figures I’m not mother of the year because I don’t constantly hover over the kid and practically chew her food for her. This arrangement is coming to an end, fortunately for a variety of reasons so there are no hard feelings. But it’s very hard to have to parent so closely with someone who has completely opposite ideas about what babies/toddlers should be doing. Since I’m considered pretty laid back I never thought I had a “parenting philosophy” but I think now maybe I do. Sorry for the tangeant!

  67. In my kids’ world (a world of my creation …. heheheh), “because he has a different Mommy than you do” is totally an answer to the “why does he get to” question.Different people have different rules. Different people have different values. If I get any argument, I use it as a jumping off point for the “different values aren’t necessarily bad” discussion. Maybe the possibility of the discussion is the deterrent? At any rate, it seems to work pretty well on my 4 year old, in spite of the fact that she knows EVERYTHING in the WHOLE entire WORLD.

  68. Although I don’t have kids (yet…) then I have to chime in here. I’m working at a summer camp for kids this summer, and I try my best to make sure my group is following the rules that both are set overall, and the ones I set with my group. But it drives me CRAZY when other instructors don’t do the same, it makes it so much more harder for me to enforce or justify the rules to my campers, especially when I can’t use the “different family” or “different age group” reason, as many of the groups are exactly the same.So that is my rant for the day!

  69. Please tell me that barefeet on the beach are not dangerous. Shores with sharp rocks or reefs of course require shoes, but is there a reason to think sand is not safe?Hedra, even if I think sand shoes are a silly concept I like the idea that they may be good climbing shoes. Thanks for the tip.
    I realized that since most kids here are leaving the house in slippers (aka thongs or flip flops that might explain the barefeet at the playground. Slippers are just not great for running or climbing and usually fall off anyway while swinging.

  70. @S. Marie, the whole drug use and glass bottles on the beach thing is also an issue many places. Stepping on a sharp shell now and then never seemed to bother me, stepping on glass is a whole other deal. And since you never know what will come in on the tide… sigh.

  71. This film is like no other. The scary thing is it has happened. You dont have to live a hiorrble life to wanna kill yourself. The virgin sucides just go to show that. You can be a blonde, pretty, well brought up girl with a loving family in the suburbs still be emotionally unstable. Back 5 years ago when I was a senoir in Hs. Our homecoming Queen hung herself before graduation. Everyone was shocked, But I wasn’t Cuz even though we only spoke a few times I could see she was not very happy.

  72. I just found your podcast at #30 so am wrkoing back through some older posts; loving them! Your defense of the NHS was brilliant. I am a Canadian and the US had a go at our system too. You put my exact thoughts into words right on.Keep up the great podcast!

  73. I’m 14, and I used to live in Grosse Pointe. To me, the song and the movie really hit a stnirg with me. they both capture the mystery and unattainability that youth and adolescence experience. The beauty is hidden under superficiality and is forgotten once we all turn adults. The movie portrays Grosse Pointe almost perfectly, and this song is like the background music for the city and its people. Anyway, to make a long story short Fantastic.

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