Grumpy parents at the playground: Just let the kids play
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There is this one parent that I see at the playground all the time. She always has the most unpleasant look on her face and appears ready to explode. I don’t mean she’ll explode in a rage, but that her entire body seems about ready to spontaneously combust out of pent-up frustration, unhappiness, and resentment. As her kids run around, she’ll yell at them to behave or not do this or that. If one of them falls down, she quickly jumps up and runs to them, but instead of checking to see if they’re all right, she’s more upset that she had to get off her butt to check on them. After she does this, she returns to her seat and stares at them as though they are the burr that rests between her back and a saddle.

Here’s the kicker: she seems like a really nice person. I’ve talked with her several times; she is pleasant and I enjoyed our conversations. She’s not a bad mom and in other context she behaves differently to her kids.  But her attitude towards her kids is so unfriendly at the playground, mostly because she’s too uptight.  I don’t know why she even bothers coming to the park; she’s not having fun and neither are her kids.

I can’t help but feel sorry for her.

I’d love to tell this mom that she doesn’t have to be so uptight at the playground. That kids fall and get hurt and that it isn’t that big of a deal when they do. Kids also misbehave at the playground. That is part of growing up. They do something bad and then they pay the consequences from a social standpoint. Little interaction from the parents is needed. Kids work out their differences much better than adults do. We don’t need to jump and get involved over every little conflict.

This might sound crazy, but sometimes parents need to be uninvolved. Children need to experience freedom and independence in order to develop and know the boundaries of life. I love playing with my kids at the playground, but when there are other kids around, I always encourage my children to play with others. Then, I sit back and watch the wildness unfold. We parents know when our kids are hurt badly or when it is just a scrape, and both accidents do not require the same response. And most parents know when their kid is being the jerk of the playground and sometimes it must be addressed. Calling out your kid in front of all the other parents just so that your own playground social status doesn’t dwindle isn’t always the best way to handle a situation. And the same is true if your kid is the one being bullied. Sometimes they don’t need mom or dad to step in and can figure a way out themselves.

Most of the time parents need to be on top of the things. But when it comes to play, the kids are the professionals. Let them take the lead and the playground will be a much happier place for everyone.

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