Playground Wars – Is this really what we want to teach?

It’s official. I have a new playground pet peeve this summer, and it’s all about sharing. Sharing sucks, kids, I hear you. You have got to learn to do it, but I’m going to make the argument here that it needs to be done in the appropriate way, time and place.

Central Park Playground

The War Zone

Sharing is great. Sharing is important. If we could all just learn to share there’d probably be world peace and whatnot. Right? I mean, you can’t really argue with this fact: sharing is good.

Sharing for a small child is…interesting. The first five million times you explain the concept of sharing and demonstrate it? It’s going to wear you out. You’re going to hate sharing by the time your child is two. And let’s face it – it’s not like you, the grown-up, want to share your stuff either.

All day long it’s “That’s Mommy’s Kindle, please put it down!” “That’s my toothbrush, please bring it back here and use your own!” or you’re just flat-out hiding in the pantry eating a damn cookie because you, my friend, did not want to share that cookie with the kid. Face it. Sharing is hard.

Now several times this summer we’ve made it out to the playground with the boy’s favorite little dump truck in hand. Without fail another kid will try to take it. I’ve worked and worked and WORKED with Jack to keep his hands still and instead say, “Please can I have my truck back? Please?” Sometimes it’s clear that it is taking all he’s got to keep those hands down, but rules are rules. No grabbing on the playground. No hitting on the playground. Keep your hands to yourself, young man! Most of the time the other child will hand the truck back and we’ll move on. It’s the kid that won’t give the truck back though that I’m going to talk about.

If the truck (or ball, bucket, shovel, whatever) isn’t given back, I have to intervene. “Hi, I’m Jack’s mommy and that’s his truck, ok? Can we have it back?”.  My preferred occurence in TruckGate 2013 doesn’t even involve me. The other child’s mother/father/caregiver will see the situation and will walk over to talk her child through giving the toy back nicely. We’ll smile, shrug shoulders, and move on. I love those people.

The people I don’t love? They walk over and say, “Give the truck back. That little boy doesn’t want to share with you.”

I’m sorry, what? “Doesn’t want to share with you”? This implies that this situation is Jack’s fault. It’s not. Your kid grabbed, and mine got upset because um…IT’S HIS TRUCK.  Your statement also implies this was a sharing situation to begin with. It’s not. This isn’t a playdate in someone’s home where you must learn to be good little hosts and hostesses. This isn’t school or the library where all the toys belong to everyone. This is the playground. Everyone shows up with their own activity. If they want to share, cool. If not…that’s their right. I’m sorry, it just is.

We don’t just grab other’s people’s things because we think they’re cool. Bottom line is, it’s not yours. If you walk up to someone on the subway and just grab their cool, shiny iPod, that’s called A MUGGING. We don’t grab other people’s belongings. My kid’s truck is not your kid’s truck and we don’t even know you. So no, he does not have to share in this situation. Having someone rudely grab something out of your hands is well…rude. And then you expect my child to just shrug and say, “It’s cool. I can share!” Not going to happen. He’s two and a half. Not. Going. To. Happen.

You know what might be a better solution here? You could act normal and teach your child to not grab other people’s things. When Jack grabs another child’s toy, I pull him away and make him give it back. On occasion he’s gotten a time out because he’s been particularly obnoxious about it. He’s learning to just look at and admire the toy. Yesterday he just came and took my hand to drag me over to check out a cool toy. We complimented the boy on his nifty fire truck and they ended up playing nicely together. No one grabbed anything.

What’s driving me crazy is that this is far from an isolated incident. It’s been happening all summer long. “Oh that little boy doesn’t want to share with you…” Once in a shocking reversal I had the mother of a crying 18 month old that Jack had mugged for a dump truck say, “Oh it’s ok, he’s got to learn how to share!”.  I’m pretty sure I looked at her like she was insane. Because she was. No. Just no. It is not ok for my child to steal your child’s truck and bring him to tears. That truck belongs to your child. He brought it here to play with, not to share with some older kid who grabbed it from him. I’m actually quite certain your 18 month old wasn’t thinking, “hey cool, I’ll bring this to the playground to SHARE!”

Again, Jack should not be mugging babies for their trucks. We don’t mug people, sweetheart.

Look, I’m not a childhood expert by any means. I’m just a mom of one little kid who spends a lot of time on the playground. Today we had to deal with a five year old who kept trying to take Jack’s truck. Repeatedly. Jack kept telling him no and finally the boy came to me and stood there and said, “He’s not sharing!”. I looked him right in the eye and told him Jack didn’t have to share with him.

1. Who are you? I don’t even know your name. 2. You’re twice my kid’s age, get over it. 3. Grabbing things never works in life, kid. 4. Who are you again?

Why don’t we all start with, “We don’t grab other people’s things, sweetie”. Most of the time that’s what I hear on the playground. It makes sense. It’s a good rule to live by. This summer though, I’ve heard, “He doesn’t want to share with you.” way too many times to ignore. I’m officially annoyed. That’s not going to teach anyone any kind of good manners. 

It’s not that my kid doesn’t want to share with your kid. It’s really that my kid doesn’t want to be mugged by your kid.

Feel free to tell me if I’m overreacting. I’ll just come over to your house though and eat all your cookies-the good ones you hide on the top shelf the kids can’t reach…cause you don’t want to share.




Playground Wars – Is this really what we want to teach? — 19 Comments

  1. Ohhhh I remember those days. For us it was the My Little Pony wars. One mother actually turned to me and said, “only children have such a difficult time understanding sharing.” Yes, I did have an only child but anyone would be uncool with a perfect stranger grabbing their things and running away with them without so much as a hello! I’m with you. Sharing should be a victimless activity.

  2. I totally agree with this. I even do it with my kids at home – whoever has the toy gets to keep it. The person who wants it can have it when the other is done.
    On the playground though, I have to be on top of my kids and make sure they aren’t taking other kids toys. The parents always say it’s okay and to go ahead, even if their own child is screaming, but I want mine to learn exactly what you said.
    Mercy recently posted…The Little Boy and the Fire TruckMy Profile

  3. I LOVE you for not only thinking this, but blogging about it. Sometimes I do wonder how the parents justify saying what comes out of their mouths. Sure, we are all tired, crabby and would rather be having lunch (liquid or otherwise) with the ladies, than at the playground defending/helping the offspring defend their toys/personal space, and I try very hard to make a conscious effort to not be rude to the other harried parents that are there and not teaching my child that blaming others is okay, so why can’t they… *sigh*

    Anyway, keep up the good work! 😉

  4. I have shared this so many times already, to parents and non-parents alike! Things like this are totally getting filed away in the ‘when I’m a parent’ file of my brain. Thank you!

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