It never fails. On a visit to one of favorite playgrounds and at some point our sweet, energetic son A.J. feels like someone wronged him on the playground. I’ve adopted a way to settle his playground disputes that hasn’t disappointed me yet. I hope it works for you too.
Anything can set off a playground dispute. It could be a game of tag gone wrong. It could be someone got shoved and fell down.
Back in the day, we’d settle these disputes on our own at the playground, right? Parents didn’t hover the way we do now. I remember riding my bike or going from friend’s house to friend’s house for hours as a child growing up on Long Island. As long as I got back home before the street lights came on, all was well in the world.
But back to A.J. – Just this week, he walked over to me during a playdate with allegations that another child wasn’t being nice to him. I listened to his side of the story. I’ll call the little girl, “Lynn,” who he felt had hurt his feelings. Thankfully, Lynn’s mom was there too and overheard the conversation. (Note: It’s ideal to handle disputes with someone else’s child – with the parent around.) Each child gave their side of the story. They were vastly different!
My key to settling playground disputes:
I always ask A.J. “What did you do to hurt someone’s feelings?” or “What did you do to them?”
You see, there are always three sides to a story: your side, their side and the truth.
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I’m not saying A.J. tells lies, per se. I just realize that he’s a pro at “revising facts.” He tends to leaves out his role in what went wrong and paints the other person as the sole wrongdoer. Fifty percent of the time he’s had a role in the dispute.
In this latest case, he mistook a Lynn’s comment about the size of his brain as an insult, when she meant it as a compliment.
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His response was to tell, “Shut up!” which is NOT acceptable. Of course, Lynn’s feelings were hurt by his words.
You probably can’t imagine my spectacle-wearing, dimple-faced co-host yelling, “Shut up!” But he did. And he admitted to it.
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My reminder for parents is to challenge your children on the facts they present during any dispute or disagreement. Chances are, they’re not 100% innocent in what’s going on.
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Talk back to me in the comments: Do you believe everything your child tells you about playground disputes or disagreements with friends? What’s your go-to way to settle arguments between your children?