Why It’s So Hard Not to Over-react to Playground Drama

Photo Credit: Anita Peppers
Photo Credit: Anita Peppers

Have you ever had your kid come home and tell you that no one will play with them on the play ground…or that they don’t have any friends..or that they were picked on that day at school?  If you have, then you know as a parent that the news of your child’s troubles at school can invoke so many emotions in you…from anger for the hellions (kids) that are bothering your child, to helplessness because you really can’t control what goes on at school and on the play ground,  and to the overwhelming need to protect your child.

These are feelings that I am all too familiar with as a parent of four kids (with my oldest about to turn 20 years old.) I first experienced these feelings over 14 years ago when our oldest was in elementary school. I would ask him about his day…and most days he would give the proverbial one word answer, “good.” But there were some days that I was not convinced that “good” really meant good.  And those were the days that I probed a little more.

And while I had good intentions, I think sometimes I caused more harm than good in my reactions.  From the time that he told me of his troubles, I think that I became obsessed over them more than he did.  I would give him snappy things to say back to kids that picked on him.  “What..he said your ears were big…well you tell him………” And I even think it bothered me long after he had moved on and mended relationships with his friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that as a parent you are supposed to be an advocate for your child. But I had to learn: not to over-react to every playground spat, that not every playground spat was a result of bullying, and that a lot of times my child was not telling me the whole story.  And over time I learned that the best thing I could do for my child was to keep the lines of communication open.  And, to not settle for “good”  on any day..but to dig a little deeper to find out what happened at school, what he ate for lunch, who were his friends…etc.  So when he came to me about playground spats, I would know that he and Billy argue every other day and that they would be friends before he came home the next day.

Our oldest is an adult now and we have 3 more kids and the news of them having problems at school hasn’t gotten any easier for me.  During his freshman year of college, the guy that lived next door to him stole his Xbox out of his dorm room. This boy was arrested and this boy’s friends were going to my son’s dorm room to get him to drop the charges.  He might as well have been that 5 year old on the playground telling me that someone was picking on him.  But this time it was worse because my baby was over 7 hours away.  Mama bear sprung into action. I called around until I was able to contact the correct dean to talk to.  She took my phone call even though she had someone in her office at the time.  Because, it was my son that was in her office…. handling his business.

Lesson: You’ve got to let them learn how to take care of their themselves on the playground…so that eventually they’ll know how to take care of themselves in life.

Have you ever over-reacted to playground drama? What is the best way to handle it?


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