Peace at the Playground
A Discussion to Help Keep “Child’s Play” Safe and Appropriate in Your Community Parks
The community playground serves as a gathering place where children can be active and build their imagination through social interaction and physical activity. Play time is fundamental to stimulate their own growth and learning- but what happens when they get over-stimulated and start to clash between other kids or even adults?
Over the years, some have seen the sight of playgrounds and community parks as less of a place of joy, and more of a hub for drug and crime activity. This negative influence could play a factor in behavioral environments of children, because kids WILL reenact what they see and hear. Another case to consider is that of bullying, and because the children have had over a year without at least moderate interaction with multiple kids, their social structure and interpersonal communication has been heavily affected. Bullying (especially cyberbullying- which takes place online) contributes to the overall mental anxiety that many children are already struggling with every day.
The playground is meant to be a place to release that anxiety, and simply let them unleash that energy built up inside- turning tension into creativity and movement. However, some kids find that interaction to be a challenge. They begin to exhibit behaviors that are part of their normal mentality- impatience, frustration, anger, jealousy, etc. Those negative responses can have serious consequences whether it happens at the park, in school, or at other public facilities. By working together with the children and other parents in your community, you have the power to build more positive momentum to ensure safe and appropriate behavior.
Consider these facts:
- Every 7 minutes a child is bullied at the playground.
- The rate of an adult interaction during a bullying episode is 4%
- The rate of a peer getting involved during a situation is 11%
- No interaction or involvement at all stands at a solid 85%
The message here? We HAVE to be more proactive in getting involved and actively teaching our children essential positive behaviors. Especially from an early age, it is critical to emphasize to children the importance of manners, proper social identification, and responsible awareness of one’s property (toys, clothing, food, etc.)
So what can we do to help ensure safer playgrounds and safer behavior for our kids?
As Parents… Your primary responsibility as a parent is teaching your child right from wrong. Be a positive role model by engaging with your kids through role-playing scenarios and have open discussions about the other kids they are playing with. Be observant of not just your child’s behavior, but the other children as well. While at the playground, be quick to let your child know if they are acting inappropriately and offer solutions to correct their behavior and/or end the situation before others get seriously hurt.
As Teachers… At school, your role is critical to ensure the safety and well-being of all children. Being a teacher goes beyond the classroom, and that means stepping in when a child showcases troubling behaviors to themselves and others. Watch out for playground violence that can entice physical conflict such as pushing, kicking, hitting and misuse of equipment. That equipment is part of school property and you are obligated to step in and break up any involvement of violent behavior. If these behaviors are out of suspicion for abuse or mistreatment at home, you are obligated to speak with supportive staff at your school regarding any policies for reporting to the authorities or other designated personnel.
As Child Care Providers… Very similar to the teachers, you are a key piece in this puzzle of playground safety and behavioral management. While these children are in your care, your duty is to ensure their conduct is maintained and communicated to the parents (or legal guardians) when the problems continue to escalate. Be sure not to focus your attention on just one or two children- establish rules and expectations that apply to the entire group you are caring for.
As Neighbors or Good Samaritans… In either of these cases, you may find yourself in the great debate of “take action” or “watch and observe”. As humans, we tend to feel that we want to do the right thing, but too often neglect to take that next step. Your opportunity here is to show awareness that you see what’s going on and you want to help because you care. If you see children that appear to be fighting and making physical advances to each other or surrounding kids, it’s ok to jump in to break up the altercation. If necessary, call the police and explain the situation. If parents or caregivers are nearby and notice your interaction with the kids, use it as an opportunity to engage and emphasize how their behavior was concerning, and that you intervened only out of caution and good will. When we can educate other adults, as well as the children, it truly will make a positive and lasting impact.
What this all really boils down to is communication. How we communicate with the children, and how we communicate with other adults keeps everyone connected so that our kids can feel safe and secure wherever they want to play. More adult engagement benefits the children in so many ways, and if done right, it can have a lasting impact as they get older. When the playgrounds eventually turn into the workplace, they will be able to exhibit more respectful and positive behaviors around others- but that initial footprint begins when we step up to remind kids that how we value ourselves is just as important as the value of others.
Keep the conversation going by talking to children about their feelings, how others are treating them, what they can do to inspire more playful and engaging activities at the playground to help everyone feel inclusive. It may seem like small steps today, but they can easily turn into bigger leaps for tomorrow.
To learn more about how you can engage with your children for more positive, respectful, and age-appropriate behaviors, check out our Early Talk resources for free, exclusively from #stopdvsa.
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