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When Tots Attack – Fending Off Playground Bullies

Which kid doesn’t love the playground and its varied range of slides, swings and climbing frames? Yet your little darling’s excitement can quickly turn to tears if another child pushes her out of the way or hits her, says Dr. Richard C. Woolfson. Teach your young one how to defend themselves!

You know you can’t ignore what happened. Some parents think the best way to defend their toddler is by reprimanding the little bully – and some prefer to speak with his folks as well. While the child’s parents could be sympathetic to your complaint or embarrassed by the bad behaviour, they could also be totally indifferent. So bear in mind that you could end up in an escalating battle of words (or worse) with them. That’s why you should think very carefully before embarking on such a course of action, however angry you may feel.  What’s more important is to comfort your tot who might be frightened by the bully. Wipe away her tears and reassure her that she is safe. Once she is calm, encourage her to return to the play equipment, but direct her to play in a different area of the park.  Tell her to keep well away from the bully and explain that you will stand beside her for the rest of this play session, so she has nothing to worry about. That will help restore her confidence. Then, once you are back home, teach her how to defend herself in a playground where unfamiliar kids play alongside her.

Here are some stay-safe strategies she can learn quickly and easily:


Suggest to your young child that she looks carefully at the play equipment before approaching it. If there are lots of other children on it already, she should choose something else in the meantime and go back to it later when it’s less crowded.


Explain that she should always be polite and kind towards others in the park. For example, she shouldn’t push anyone, force her way past the other kids in a queue or use bad language.


Point out to your tot that this playground is for use by every child, and that she should do her best to ignore minor incidents, for instance, if a kid accidentally bumps into her or teases her about her abilities.


Tell her that she should walk away from a playground activity if she feels at all unsettled by the behaviour of another child who is beside her or feels unsafe. 


Make it very clear that she should never hit another child, even if she gets bullied. Instead, she should tell you right away what happened. Make it clear that she should never hit another child, even if she gets bullied. Instead, she should tell you right away.


Remind your tot that you are there and you’ll always watch her when she is at play. While you don’t want her to stay by your side the whole time, she should know that she can go to you when she feels threatened in any way.


Don’t paint a gloomy picture – after all, the playground is a fun place, not a war zone! When teaching your little darling these defence strategies, reassure her that it’s usually a very safe and enjoyable hang-out.


By Issue Young Parents, March 2015

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