Playground etiquette – Should you interfere?

I am relatively new to playground visits, as I went back to work when Little F was 13 months. He was indifferent to swings and in general did not care for playground contraptions, so we went for walks and played in mud instead. Now that he is 19 months (and I stopped my 9-5 job to be a full time mum and blogger) we go to the playground most days. Hence another post about it.


playground etiquette should you interfere

Our local park has two playgrounds and we usually go to the closer one. On one occasion though we went to the further playground, as we approached the park from a different direction, coming back from running some errands. It is a bigger and more mixed playground. There are swings for babies (with protective barriers) and monkey bars for older children. Just outside the playground fence there is also an outdoor workout area, for all the local runners and fitness fanatics.


When we arrived Little F started to wander around. It’s the first time he was there, so he needed to work out what will be the funnest thing to do! Soon after our arrival a mum came in with (at a guess) a 7 year old boy. He headed straight for the baby swings. She quite aggressively and very loudly called after him ‘What do you think you are doing?!’ and went on to call him a baby and that he is embarrassing himself. It really felt like she was embarrassed by his actions, but she decided to put these bad emotions on her son.


With this the atmosphere on the playground changed and I think we all waited for what will happen next.


The boy obediently went to ‘big boy’ swings. The mum kept on commenting, loudly, that he does not know how to swing. And she even went on to show him how it’s done. All the time keeping a running commentary of her son’s failings.


At this point I started to wonder ‘Should I interfere?’. I am not very confrontational though, and being with Little F I did not want to get into a discussion. Images flashed through my head, as I imagined how she would react to me interfering, given how she speaks to her young son.


The duo moved on to the monkey bars, where the poor little boy was called a chicken and coaxed into crossing-over holding onto rings with his feet dangling. It was as if his mother was teasing him, wanting to make him angry and react, fight back. At some point she did say ‘use your anger to give you power’. She repeatedly refused his request for help saying ‘you need to learn to be independent’. All this in an overconfident loud tone.


Poor child.


His mother seemed to use him as a puppet. Just like children are encouraged to do on therapy sessions. When a child is not able to express his feelings it is sometimes easier to say Teddy is not well, or Teddy is feeling sad, and move those feelings onto an external object. It felt like this mum was pouring all her negative energy onto her poor boy. It’s either this, or she simply used him as a mental punch bag.


I wish I had the guts to approach her and tell her she is knocking the confidence out of her son, rather than knocking it into him. Or at least give her son some confidence by saying something nice or encouraging to him.


What would you have done?

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