Playground wars.

by mssinglemama on July 1, 2008

The playground can be a scary, scary place.

Last week on our nightly playground stop Benjamin and I met a mom, her 6-year-old son and her 3-year-old daughter. She had a very thick Russian accent and I spent 15 minutes answering her hard to decipher questions about the area. I wrote down useful websites, drew maps and told her about all of the free music festivals. I was on my best “mommy at the playground” behavior and even thought I might make a new friend.

As we were chatting away the kids were playing happily and then the unthinkable happened. Benjamin walked up behind her daughter and shoved her. He didn’t just shove her into the ground, no, my adorable little 2.3-year-old had just pushed a little girl off of a three feet high landing.

She went crashing down onto the mulch and then complete mayhem broke loose.

Her mother bolted forward howling in terror. She scooped up her screaming daughter and ran off to check for broken bones. In the meantime, I’ve got Benjamin in a locked grip telling him that he can not push. My voice was quivering. He’s never pushed anyone before – not like that – not in the back. And then he flashes me a sly smile. A smile!

Before checking his hairline for a 666 mark, I ran up to the mom and started apologizing profusely. Then she scowled at me, marched off, plopped her daughter in the stroller and stormed away. Just like that. From friend to foe in a matter of minutes. I know she had every reason to be absolutely furious, I would have been too … but I still expected her to say something – anything.

The next day I told Benjamin’s day care about the incident. There I was describing him as if he were a dangerous object that could actually kill someone. “Just watch him on the landings, please, watch him closely.” They didn’t seem phased.

“Oh, he probably did it because there’s a new little guy here who’s been pushing everyone,” and then she added, “It’s (insert fake name), he’s Russian.”

A Russian is pushing my kid around at daycare so he pushes the first Russian he meets. It did make me feel a bit better about Benjamin (at least I know he’s not the Devil’s child) but now I’m wondering if there’s a mini Cold War going on at every playground in America. No seriously, the Russian thing aside…

Have you ever had any playground wars? What would you have done in that situation? I’m new to this mommy thing so playground etiquette is definitely not my forte. Did I screw something up?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

singleworkingmommy July 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Oh, MSM, I SO feel for you. Son has a biting thing–something he actually picked up from his old daycare (the one he got kicked out of for biting).

I have a few things to say.

Start NOW on telling Benjamin that we don’t push, pushing hurts our friends, we love our friends, etc. When Son started biting at daycare (he’s never bitten around me), they just told me “It’s normal, all kids do it, it’s probably because he has been bitten so much, etc.” UNTIL they kicked me out. Then it was this horrible, horrible thing. I think if I would’ve worked together with daycare in the beginning to make sure he didn’t continue to bite after it FIRST started, we might’ve averted some heartache. But instead, I was poo-pooed away (he’s biting b/c he got bitten, etc., kind of what I’m seeing with the Russian thing), and Son and I have gone through some horrible times the last few months because of it.

Now, I’m not saying Benjamin is going to come some crazy pusher-of-kids, but I think that continuing to talk about this (and hitting, kicking, etc.), even when he’s not acting out, couldn’t hurt.

Also, Son would also smile when I told him not to bite, that biting hurts. As horrible as it seems, it is kinda “normal” for toddlers to act like that sometimes.

I have no advice for the playground thing. At least you were around to discipline Benjamin, and that’s awesome. I’ve had other parents virtually ignore me, Son, and their child as their kid pushes, hits, kicks mine. That’s some pure awesomeness right there.

Sorry this got so long.


mssinglemama July 1, 2008 at 9:53 pm

This is SO helpful. Tonight when we went to the playground I did just what you said actually saying, “Play nice with the other kids – that means no biting, no hitting, no pushing.” He nodded, he seems to get it. And he got in BIG trouble when we got home. He knew he had really messed up.

Funny about the biting because Benjamin’s bitting has suddently re-surfaced … he bit me so hard this weekend that my shoulder has a gigantic welt on it – just in time for my trip to San Francisco.

Thanks for the advice SWM. I really, really appreciate it. Did you find him another day care?


twofish4 July 1, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Hello. Great blogification! I’ll will have to add to my favorites…


singleworkingmommy July 1, 2008 at 10:03 pm

I think they “get” it more when they get older. I’ve finally gotten Son to say “No” instead of “Yeah” when I ask him “Are we going to bite our friends today?” That was a victory in and of itself.

Keep working with him… they do start to understand more. I used to get really upset if I told Son “No!” about something and he started to cry, but now I realize it’s OK. He has to learn his boundaries.

You’re doing great! Keep up the good work. And I would ask your daycare to keep you abreast of stuff like the Russian kid pushing other kids. You should know that!

And I did find a new daycare. And I like it SO much more. I thought I liked my other place–but the one blows it out of the water. The ratios are lower and it’s CHEAPER! Plus, they have really been working with me on the whole biting thing. It hasn’t completely disappeared, it rears its ugly head from time to time, but I haven’t had an incident report in a week. Woot!


Cathouse Teri July 2, 2008 at 7:30 am

You did fine, babe. But I do hope you took Benjamin home immediately. One very useful disicplinary tool is to let them know that they’ve just ended their fun time.

And you even have to be careful of that, because if they are somewhere and they want to leave, they might just push a kid to get you going!

Crafty little buggers. 🙂


Mommy of Mayhem July 2, 2008 at 8:51 am

You’re doing okay. Our kids are wicked. When my spawn tried to kill other little breathers, I would time out them, watching everyone else play for a couple of minutes, AFTER a short explanation of their shit behavior. If nastiness continued, I removed them from situation (playing) though it was usually more difficult for me and my day… it turned out okay, since they’ve made it to 3 and 5. I’ll keep you posted. By the way, other mom was clueless because she has a girl. Girls are weird. I have one of each. Boys are totally different beasts.


littlemansmom July 2, 2008 at 10:40 am

First of all… are doing just fine! Children are just that…children. They see things happen all around them and whether they know it’s right or wrong, sometimes they just have to try it out and see what will happen. It’s just pushing the limits, testing the waters. There will be other things that happen that will going to cause you dismay, but there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. They just happen. That’s how they learn.

You did the right thing by explaining that pushing is not something to be done (I’m assuming that you also decided it was a good time to go home). If there is a next time (not that there will be, but just incase) be prepared with a timeout or other course of consequence to make it clear that it is REALLY not okay. He’ll get the picture. Don’t worry about the smile. My littleman used to smile all the time when he was repremanded for something that should not be done…it INFURIATED me) , but I also knew he was listening because he rarely if ever repeated the faux-pas. He knew…. Don’t worry about the other mother…some parents blow thing a little out of proportion and forget thet the kids are KIDS who are learning whats right and wrong and not mini-adults that know better already.

Stay consistant, be firm about it, as he gets older be clear that being a bully will not be tolerated, and give him lots of love. You are a great mom, and that will be seen through your little honey.


debra July 2, 2008 at 11:06 am

‘They see things happen all around them and whether they know it’s right or wrong, sometimes they just have to try it out and see what will happen’

You can probably bet your lunch money that this was his motivation. One tactic that I have found extremely useful is to tell my son to look at the expression on the child’s face who he has wronged. I don’t know if my son is just particularly empathetic, but once he realized that he was causing etiher hurt feelings, or physical hurt, because he was seeing in on the other kid’s face, any pushing immediately stopped. Even now, at 6, if he and his friends take their play a little too hard, we remind them to watch to see if their friend looks happy with the play, or if they are getting angry, sad or frustrated.


chris July 2, 2008 at 12:51 pm

you did fine. i would’ve done exactly the same thing. i haven’t experienced playground wars, but last week my 21 month old decided that she wants to be in the UFC and decided to practice on her classmates. she went into extreme attack mode – hitting, pushing, biting. this is not normal for her. turned out she wasn’t feeling well and was out of school the rest of the week.


mssinglemama July 2, 2008 at 12:57 pm

I did take him home immediately after the other Mom left … and he had just gotten home from a stay at his dad’s that night. So he was hungry and tired.

You guys are awesome, thanks for the nice comments!


Adrienne February 4, 2015 at 5:42 am

Так же:carry around во многих боевиках be creaful with this guy, he always carries a gun around . Типа, осторожно с этим парнем он всегда с собой ствол носит.pass around например когда пьют компанией из бутылки или передают по кругу фотки или ещё чего-нибудь. don’t stall, pass it around не задерживай, передавай!run around обычно или дети, которые постоянно носятся, или при выполнении большого объёма работы от начальника I had to run around like a limping horse столько работы надавали, что я носился как хромая кобыла


pisceshanna July 2, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I totally understand the “smile”. LB has this look on her face when she asks me “why’ now, like “how much of a reaction can I get out of this question”. She’s totally testing me. Its scary.


osolomama July 2, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Hey, you know what happened at DD’s birthday party on June 21? The glass coffee table came apart in the party room and the edge came crashing down on as kid’s toe! I spent the rest of the party worrying about 1. the resulting lawsuit, which didn’t materialize; 2. asking said child to wiggle her toes for me every five minutes alternating with plopping them on ice.

I thought if this when you mentioned how the mom rebuffed you when you approached her out of concern. . .you know, you did everything right but it happens. (the mom at my party was so reasonable when she showed up and heard the story)

Certainly kids do learn that “pushing” is effective in its own crude little way (!). . .hmm, some adults still do it. . .and ya know, he probably just had to try it!


AlLaf July 2, 2008 at 2:38 pm

You didn’t screw anything up…he’s a little kid. That mom clearly overreacted, though one can understand her emotions. They’re just kids after all.

When I was a kid, I threw a rock in a kid’s face who was annoying me on my playground. I fought my brothers a trillion times, I dissected insects and played with fire…basically, did things boys do. I’m a normal citizen today.

Moms tend to forget that boys are well, boys. I try to explain that to my gf who gasps in horror everytime she hears about her son pushing another kid in school or whenever he plays soldier with his buddies and scream about massacre and whatnot like mad men.

You can ground him, you wouldn’t want an agressive bully for a kid. But remember he’s a boy and it will get worse as he grows up.

In my personal experience, guys wihtout father figures tend to be even more agitated when it comes to stuff like that.

So better get used to it. Just do your best and he’ll come out all right 🙂


mssinglemama July 2, 2008 at 8:10 pm

You guys are right … boys will be boys. Thanks for the awesome advice. It’s so funny because every time I have a parenting issue I just post my concern on here and the answers all appear!


Haggard Mommy Face July 3, 2008 at 7:15 am

The park I take my son to has a skateboard park next to it. Somehow I always end up being “OVER-PROTECTIVE MOM”, da, da, da DAH, to the rescue. 15 year old skateboarders swear and curse, smoke cigarettes, etc., next to the play structure my 4 year old plays on. I end up getting to a boiling point and shouting, “COULD YOU PLEASE WATCH THE SWEARING AROUND THE PRESCHOOLERS???” Once, a little kid pushed my son when they were on the structure, and I stood up, mid conversation with a friend and screamed (or more like ranted), “HEY! THERE IS NOOOOOOOOO PUSHING!!!” A grandma RUSHED up and said, “Oh I am SO sorry. That is my grandson, he’s autistic.” Oops. Once at a school picnic (where I’m a teacher), a student pushed my son off of a slide. Where was his mother? No where. So I took that as immediate okay for me to be his interim mom. After “freaking out”, I told the boy, “You are ALL done on the slide for tonight. You do not push 3 year old’s off a slide. And climbing UP the slide is NOT the right way, especially when there are so many kids around.” (Must be the teacher/mom combo…lethal.) It’s almost an out-of-body experience. I don’t realize I’ve just overreacted until after the fact. It’s nice to know that crazy, unforgiving moms cross cultures. Sorry you were at the butt end of a scary-overprotective like me. I don’t think we can help ourselves. Sorry, on behalf of the Russian.


spatulahandle July 7, 2008 at 3:25 am

I worked at a daycare for 6 years. When I started there my youngest son was 13 months old and he wasn’t walking yet because of an injury to his big toe(which is a whole other freaky story). I worked in the nursery so I was really excited that I was able to have my little one with me during the day. At the end of his first day one of the older toddlers, who was a biter, knocked my little guy down and bit him on the stomach and then bit him under the eye. I was so furious! I picked the biter up and gave him to the other teacher in the room and took my son to the office to show the director the bites. The biters parents were very apologetic and bought my little one a Barney stuffed toy. Even after this incident the little boy continued biting and pretty soon a lot of the kids in the nursery were biting…even though I did my best to control it kids still got bit. It was a very difficult thing to deal with but we eventually got it under control. It is normal for little ones to bite, but they need to be taught that it hurts. It’s not normal when they do it to get what they want or because they didn’t get their way. My son started biting when he was about 18 months and it was because he was getting bit…and then the staff that was taking care of him didn’t know he was getting bit or who was biting him…at the time I was working in another room. It kept happening until I threatened to bite the teachers and the mother of the child who was biting my son. The cure they found that worked well for these biters was to put a little hot sauce in the mouth of the biter after he\she had bitten. We (the daycare staff) did it with the parents suggestion and permission.

I also witnessed my son get kicked in the nose by another child his age ( at the time I think he was 4) on the playground at the daycare. The kickee had boots on and because my son was in his way he kicked him. After the incident I talked to the little boy who kicked and asked him if he would like it if someone kicked him in the nose. He shook his head no and from that day forward when he would see me, he would say ” I didn’t kick anybody today.”

I think you handled the situation the best you knew how.


Sis July 7, 2008 at 2:43 pm

My 21 month old is now pushing too. She does a full two handed push on her 1 year old cousin. I would have her look me in the eye and I would say no push. I made her repeat it. She went right back to doing it. I will have to try some of the tricks above, telling her to look at her cousin and see that he’s not happy. I know she understands more than she lets on.


jonb July 7, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Oh man, I know I shouldn’t have but I just laughed when I read this. Interaction with other kids is so interesting. The fact that Ben is on a Russian rampage because of an incident at day care is quite intriguing. Has he identified the accent and immediately goes to DEFCON 3 when he heres it, preemptively striking? LOL. I know you aren;t laughing, but I am..a little…on the inside. 🙂


mssinglemama July 10, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Jon b. Oh, I’m definitely laughing at your comment. HILARIOUS. That’s what I’m saying – like a little Cold War on the playground and at the daycare.

Haggard – thanks for apologizing for her, I accept. : )

And Spatula and Sis – so far no more pushing. Crossing my fingers that it won’t happen again.


Jodi Cohen March 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I'm actually working on a book on this topic and other conflicts between parents. i would love to hear more stories or talk to you futher. You can contact me at thanks!


Hilario February 3, 2015 at 3:50 am

I just bought Emma the same flotay things we are trying them out today!!! YAY. I still haven’t picked up the carseat cover, but might have to too. Emma is complaining about her seat being hot Thanks for the shout out. Hope to get some outdoor family pictures done again in the fall. TTYS


Alena January 29, 2015 at 2:31 am

You know what, I’m very much ininelcd to agree.


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