You hear a loud thud followed by an ear-piercing scream and your child appears before you with tear-stained cheeks and tells you that another child hit him. What do you do? The mother is busy chatting away to another parent and missed the whole thing.
How to do you handle playground altercations when your child is the victim that leaves everyone involved feeling content and supported?
6 steps to resolving playground altercations when your child is the victim
#1: Comfort your child and if necessary, attend to any first aid. Acknowledge your child’s feelings saying, “You are sad and hurt because you were hit.”
Wait until he is done crying. Keep comforting him until he is fully calm and able to listen to you. Ask him what had happened and what he would like to occur. Remember to stay calm yourself!
#2: Find the other child if she is still present. The first rule of conflict resolution is to speak to the person directly responsible for the negative feelings. That would be the other child, not the parent.
Go to the child and encourage your child to speak about how he feels over what happened and how he would like to resolve it. Maybe he wants his toy back, maybe he wants his turn, or maybe he wants an apology.
Focus on what your child wants, not what the other child did. If you child is too shy to speak, you can do it for him to teach him the words and the tone of what to say.
#3: Find the parent – only if the other child does not respond appropriately. Again, speak in terms of how your child feels or what he wants, not about the other child’s actions.
You could say, “My son was hit by your daughter when she took away his truck. Would it be possible for him to continue his turn with it?”
#4: Follow-up first by allowing the parent will take control of the situation. No matter how the child and parent react to you and your son’s requests, you have three choices:
Persist – Continue to verbally assert your needs, even higher up the chain of command, such as appealing to the teacher or administrative staff.
Flight – Leave the playground for the day. This is a viable option if you just don’t have the energy to deal with the other parent or if an altercation has happened more than once that day.
Redirect– Steer your child to another activity and ignore the other Mom and her child and enjoy your day. Say to yourself and your child, “Oh well, what else can we play with?”
#5: Debrief your child while playing or even on the ride home, asking him how he feels about the outcome and what he could do differently next time.
Debriefing gives him a chance to vent and also to feel in control of his actions, even if he can’t control the other child’s actions.
#6: Focus on your child instead of the other child. Many parents feel that they need to teach the other child a lesson, which is not advisable. Instead have one-on-one snuggle time because your child needs to feel comforted by his parent and shown that his feelings matter.
It gives him the message that even though there are challenging people out there, we feel better by immersing ourselves in people that are good and nurturing to ourselves.