Empowering Kids with Freedom at the Park
By Vicki DeLuzio
SpouseLink Guest Blogger
Have you thought about how you are empowering kids?
The park is my kids’ “free area”… within limits, of course.
My kids have a lot of freedoms that their peers do not have — our schedule is usually pretty flexible and they have a lot of play time. Since we homeschool, we really like our kids to have a lot of outdoor play time and interaction with other children… which is why we often sit back and see how the situation progresses with other children.
I was recently at two different outdoor places, and both times, children ran up to their moms when there was an issue. And while I understand this, I really wish they had spoken with my children first. I know they are younger, but I feel like parents are becoming mediators for the most mundane of interactions.
I also know how it was to have only one child. I would follow my oldest around the park constantly, making sure he was okay; making sure he wasn’t picked on by older kids; making sure he wasn’t safe.
But, then he got to preschool and got bullied anyhow.
Now that my youngest is three and my oldest is seven, I do feel more relaxed at the parks. I try to rarely intervene unless my children’s actions or words are totally out of line and will hurt someone else. My kids definitely wrestle with each other all the time, so if they are doing that with each other, I really don’t stop it. Which made one mom pretty unhappy with me one day.
When my children are out in “adult spaces” like the store, a restaurant and even our house, I give them so much instruction, they tire from my voice. And I tire from saying the same things over and over.
The park is their space to run, tumble, throw a little sand, roll and sometimes scream! I know it bothers others sometimes, but I’m asking (and pleading) with other parents to empower yourselves or your children to ask my children to stop it if you don’t like it. The looks that you throw over your shoulder when my kid is doing something you don’t particularly like (but isn’t harmful) might not catch my attention. I’d rather have them hear directly from the person affected that something is bothering then hearing me say “I think you are bothering them.”
While I want to teach them sympathy and empathy, if the only messages they hear are coming from me, they will always only look to me to see what I think about a particular situation. They need to hear from others when something they are doing is bothersome.
I know it is not comfortable, but they are ways to interacted with other children, and encourage your child to problem solve with another child without getting other parents involved. Obviously, there are certain situations (physical or sexual touching, swearing or dirty talk) that need to be addressed with the parent:
- Can you tell the other child what is bothering you and why it is bothering you?
- Did you tell them to stop, please?
- Can you suggest another game to play that maybe they would like?
- Can you play with someone else?
- Can you walk away?
Let’s empower our children to problem solve with their peers in a respectful manner, while yet giving them the freedom in a child friendly environment like the park!
How are you empowering kids in your world? Let us know in the comments below, or share your story.