When Owl was around one year old, he began to enjoy slides.
The local mall has a slide that is nicely baby-sized, so we started him on that one. From the beginning we taught him basic slide safety/etiquette which is, of course, that you must always go around and go back up via the ladder, and not back up the slide itself.
This is basic etiquette, isn’t it?
I have begun to wonder, because we are apparently the only parents IN THE WORLD who enforce it.
I am probably exaggerating because my friend Pug Mama also enforces this basic requirement when we have visited slides with our children, and I assume that my other friends do as well with their children. But that’s because I have awesome taste in friends.
Everyone else in the world seems to think it is TOTALLY FINE for their kid to spend five minutes trying to climb the wrong way up the slide, while other children line up on top with feet pointed at the rogue child’s head.
Then, of course, Owl starts imitating the behaviour. PH or I immediately swoop in and correct him and Owl goes back to his law abiding ways. Sometimes the other parent would become aware that my one year old was better behaved than their three year old and would suddenly start enforcing the rule, which no doubt confused the kid completely.
Sometimes, that doesn’t even happen.
A few weeks ago Owl was at that same slide and had quite an altercation with two little bruisers with buzz cuts. One looked about Owl’s age and the other was three or so. They were both climbing up the slide while Owl sat on top of the slide poised to go down and said in an increasingly annoyed voice, “Excuse me. Excuse me! EXCUUUUUSE ME! NO!! GO ‘WAY!!!!!”
He began poking at their eyes, which I put a stop to instantly, but I felt bad, because after all, he was in the right. But if we poked out people’s eyes whenever they broke the rules, we’d have a lot of fun, but probably end up in prison.
The parent of the two kids, by the way, was watching with pleasant-faced bemusement throughout all this. I would have said something but I didn’t know she was the kids’ mother, since she was watching with pleasant-faced bemusement.
It was only when Owl and the up-sliders began to engage in a battle to the death on the top of the slide that she redirected her kids, who were back and going up the slide again within five minutes and the mother just shrugged at me like “Ehn, what else can I do?”
I was tempted to tell Owl to slide down anyway and kick those kids in the face.
It’s not only a problem at the mall.
The local indoor play gym has big signs up everywhere about NOT CLIMBING UP THE SLIDES, often in quick succession and merely phrased in different ways so as to try and penetrate people’s thick skulls. It doesn’t seem to make a difference. Parents stand around and smile indulgently while their kids struggle up the slide going the wrong way. Last time I tried to embarrass the parents into action. Owl pointed at the kids going up the slide and screeched “Mommy, YOOK!”
“Yeah, they’re breaking the rules. Never mind what they do. YOU go around,” I said to him loudly. The group of watching parents didn’t even blink.
I suppose I could be a douche and point out to the parents that their kids are getting in the way of everyone else’s kids AND endangering themselves in the process, but it’s none of my business and I’m not naturally confrontational.
So beyond the occasional passive aggressive comment, I just watch in bewilderment.
I just don’t get it.
It’s one thing if your kid is nine years old in a deserted playground, and able to understand the difference between sharing a busy piece of playground equipment and enjoying having the slide all to yourself.
But in a busy play park packed with self absorbed toddlers?
Even if you don’t believe in etiquette, even if you want your child to be a rebel and explore playground equipment in novel ways, even if you don’t think that your kids should have to learn turn-taking or follow posted rules…
…don’t you worry that a descending child will torpedo your kid in the face?
…Or am I the only one?
Erin B said:
Erm… I’m that mom that tells someone else’s kids to quit it, especially if there is a line at the top. Someone has to, otherwise the terrorists win.
Grace Goldragon said:
Me too! 🙂
I find the kids are so blown away by the fact that a stranger is giving them instruction, (plus, simply by the fact of me being a stranger I’m a wild card. In their minds, I could do ANYTHING to them. The fact that I can do exactly NOTHING to them in reality, well, they don’t need to know that) that resistance is almost never a problem.
Ha. That’s why dogs let me trim their nails or put meds in their ears when they won’t let their owners do it.
Yep, me too. I say, “it’s time to move now. People are waiting to come down the slide.” It is possible that I have even put my arm in front of a stubborn child or two to hinder their progress up while they process what I’ve said and decide to listen. Little stinkers. However, I do let my children climb up the slide…if there is nobody else on the equipment. The second there is another kid we go back to using the stairs. This has caused them no confusion at all.
Yes I have no problem with climbing up slides PER SE. But when they are obstructing the play of other it’s a douchey thing to do.
wombat central said:
I hear you! I’m always amazed that these little hellion’s parents are off texting somewhere or, worse still, nowhere to be found. I have no problem telling an errant kid about his or her evil ways when it’s messing with my kid’s ability to have fun. I’ll climb right up on that equipment. *ahem* I may be a little more helicoptery than I thought.
Ha. My problem is not that the parents are off texting. Then I can step in. My problem is when the parents are STANDING THERE SMILING. Those three kids in the photo? Their parents were all standing RIGHT NEXT TO ME when I took the picture, laughing and chatting while watching their kids act like anti-social jerks.
The thing is… If there are three of them doing it together, it’s not antisocial! 🙂
Lol but what about all the other kids who can’t come down?
you’re absolutely right.
When there are little (or shy) kids waiting at the top, I’ll get F to move out of the way if she doesn’t notice herself (she usually does). But… I generally have no problems with her playing however which way she likes… I like the attempts at climbing up slides because it teaches about:
Friction (she already understands that socked feet are useless.)
Balance/body mechanics (climbing that way is hard!)
Environment awareness (it can hurt when some kid knocks her off her feet when she’s not expecting it.)
Risk assessment (hugely important – kids who experiment and/or fail a lot have a huge advantage over kids who don’t… I’m especially aware of this because I want her to learn risk assessment in safe environments because she’ll likely end up like her crazy parents.)
Social niceties (I want her to learn behaviours that will make other kids want to play with her, without mom coming to the rescue every time, within reason.)
But if she is having a grand old time exploring friction etc while ten frustrated children pile up at the top of the slide waiting for her to finish her fun, that doesn’t bother you?
That doesn’t happen because she either listens to the kids coming down who ask her to get out of the way, or I ask her to if the other kids are being shy. Ideally, the other kids would just plow into her if she’s not paying attention! 🙂
Yeah, see, the kids I am complaining about GET IN THE WAY and stay there.
Jessica (@jessicaesquire) said:
So you may not like what I have to say because it would’ve bugged me had someone told me, but this is just one of those things. (I always hate it when someone with an older kid says something like that to me.)
When I had one kid and he was Owl’s age, I had the same annoyance. But it’s just the kind of thing that doesn’t make as much sense when you are the parent to an adorable toddler who is learning the ways of the world. Your job right now is to teach him and to hover and make sure he understands how things work. As your kid gets older, your job is not to stand over them and enforce. It’s to let them learn their way. When Graham’s on the playground, I tune out. It’s true. I don’t stop, but if he’s not hurting anyone, I let him go at it. It’s play. There will be bumps and there will be bruises and there will be people who cut in line. If your kid violates someone, hurts someone or does something seriously wrong you step in. Otherwise you have to let them have at it.
Ever since Graham’s started school I’ve been really aware of the fact that he goes to recess and the kids there run around without an adult standing there enforcing the rules of the slide. It’s just growing up. It made me crazy when Graham was a toddler. But now I get it. Mostly I just try to keep him away from toddlers if I see them. And with Tessa as she gets older I’m going to restrict her to tot lots, luckily there are a couple nearby.
This isn’t to say there aren’t parents who let their kids run amok. I have seen them. They suck. Their kids do hurt other kids and they don’t do anything about it. But for me, playground time is a time when I let Graham be himself. I don’t remember anyone enforcing the rules of the playground when I was a kid and I don’t want to hover too much.
For now it will make you crazy. But it’ll pass. Promise.
See, I don’t think this is something I will grow out of. The enforcing of the rule as a constant, whether or not there are other children there, that will end. He will get older and understand the difference between an empty slide and a busy play space.
There is also a difference between an outdoor space with no rules versus a paid indoor gym with formal rules that are posted clearly.
Nor am I a helicopter parent now. I let him explore and play his own way as long as he is not breaking rules or ruining anyone else’s fun.
But I don’t think I will ever be ok with allowing him to break posted rules (because when he’s a teenager I will expect him to obey speed limits) or butt in line (because when he’s an adult he will be expected to wait in line) or take his sweet ass time when there are other people waiting for the equipment (because when he is older he will be expected to respect others waiting in line behind him).
Turn taking, rule following, and respect for the play of others is important at all ages. I really can’t seem myself standing and smiling while my child hogs the slide and causes a back up of ten kids who want to come down and can’t. I don’t want him to learn that his needs are more important than others. I want him to learn pro social skills and understand that when he is on public equipment that he needs to play with respect for the others who are there.
If anything, I started young. It’s mostly the parents of toddlers who seem fine with rule breaking. They just say “Oh, he’s too little to understand” and smile beatifically.
It reminds me of my cousin, whose two year old once ruined my Uncle’s birthday cake. When my uncle said “look what your daughter just did!” my cousin said “aw, Dad, she doesn’t know any better,”
“No,” retorted my Uncle, “but I thought her mother did.”
That’s how I see this. When he is older, he will understand that there are rules he is expected to follow and because ai have taught him, he will generally respect them. But these parents aren’t teaching their kids anything and those toddlers are learning that signs with rules don’t matter, that the needs of others don’t matter, and that they don’t have to make way for others.
Yes, what Jessica said. “Rules” are tricky – I EXPECT my kids to break them within reason – rule-breaking can be amazing/positive/creative/innovative… That’s where risk-assessment comes in… and it starts at the playground.
Have you ever seen this photo of me *clearly* breaking rules?
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-3dtPD_XGo9M/S-I5FoBA2iI/AAAAAAAABAc/3-6nR-t8nzw/s512/_MG_2247.jpg Or this one? https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-bEPTftnNmPs/S-I5X8HGOmI/AAAAAAAABAk/BqQkBCpZ408/s512/_MG_2.jpg
I think some rules should not be broken (drinking & driving, etc.), but most of them are not so clearly black & white. Kids have to be aware of consequences (getting hurt, getting in trouble, other kids not wanting to play with them), but it really does become a measured choice.
I just think that in a situation where
A) the rules are for safe play for all children involved
B) the rule breakers are obstructing the play of other (rule obliging) children
The parents should regulate their children.
The old adage applies: do what thou wilt if thou harm none.
If your rule breaking hurts no one, then that is your choice but when your rule breaking ruins the game for twenty other people, you are being a berk.
Recently a skier in Vancouver went into areas that were clearly marked “off limits”. He got lost and it took search and rescue three days to find him. He was fined twenty thousand bucks, because he cost other people a lot of time and effort by his reckless behavior. I think that that is fair. He chose to I out of limits, he got in trouble, he got saved, and he was asked to pay for that.
That’s adult life and I think our children should learn that that is how life works.
You teach Frances to get out of the way f oncoming kids. That’s fine. These parents DON’T. They smile happily while their kids mess up the fun for all the other kids and I think those parents are not teaching their children proper pro social attitudes. We yield to those who have right of way. We make sure that our fun does not ruin the fun of others.
Because on the slides, they don’t learn from their aintisocial behavior. The fact that the other kids are pissed doesn’t affect them because they are three and not sensitive to the fact that other kids are pissed at them. It is our job to teach them how to take turns and make room for others.
I work with toddlers. My children are young adults. I used to be an elementary school teacher. My take?
Sure, I let the toddlers go up the slide — IF the playground is empty, or IF there is no one waiting to go down the slide. Because going up the slide is fun, and because there are all sorts of good physical lessons to learn doing it. However, I make the expectations 100% explicit. “You can play with the slide any way you like because no one else is here (wants to play with it). As soon as someone wants to slide, then we will all go DOWN the slide and UP the ladder, so everyone gets a turn.” Easy.
As the children age, the expectation that they be considerate of others does not change. I will wait longer, to see if they do the right thing on their own, but if they don’t, I will step in. A bunch of 9-year-olds will be rambunctious, there will be rough-housing and mayhem and yelling, and as long as it’s all in good fun, I let them at it. There will be bumps and bruises. That is the nature of 9-year-olds.
I see no reason to have toddlers and older children play separately, though, not when there are adults around. Older children can (and should!!) be taught to be duly considerate of, and protective toward, younger children. My own children, when they got to be 7 or 8 years old, would pretty reliably let toddlers take their turn, to help them when appropriate, and would be cautious around them, not to knock the little ones flying as they, the big kids, charged past. Sometimes it took a parental reminder, but because the expectation of consideration was 100% consistent (okay, maybe 95%, given occasions of parental distraction), I didn’t generally have to worry about them bulldozing the small ones.
I am not a hoverer. I let kids take risks. I let them slip and fall, figuring a bump and a bruise will be a good lesson in how to evaluate a risk. I will also stand back and let a squabble evolve without getting involved … unless it threatens to break out into physical violence. Kid justice can be a bit rough and ready, but if it is indeed justice, I am quite capable of turning a blind eye.
What happens in a school playground may indeed be more chaotic than what happens in the neighbourhood tot lot, but that is no reason we as parents should tolerate rude and inconsiderate when we are around to monitor. Speaking as a former teacher, I know that the desire of every teacher on yard duty is to maintain the basic principles of civilization (consideration, kindness, respect) … it’s just that there aren’t often enough teachers to do so. Where there are sufficient adults to do so, well, we should be teaching, encouraging, and enforcing those principles.
I have often thought that if I still had a blog, there’d be a post on there about slide behaviour. What I’ve observed is that slides provide an apt illustration of the shifting (sliding?) nature of rules. During recess, the rule at my kids’ school was very clear: down only. But as soon as school ended, the kids would head to the playground (now under the supervision of parents rather than teachers), and the children themselves quickly established a new paradigm: one slide was designated for a particular kind of group play that involved several kids making bridges while others slid between their arms and legs. One child would stop halfway down, creating a backlog, and then everyone would go down at once. I never saw anyone injured this way, and there were two other slides available for children who wanted to slide more traditionally. All the kids (down to the 3-year-old JK-ers) knew that this kind of play was against the rules during school hours but became the rule after school. In that context, I would argue that the child behaving inappropriately would be one that insisted that everybody else stop their game so he/she could slide from top to bottom unmolested; the rule of how to play with that particular slide is determined in part by majority rule.
At playgrounds, I’ve seen a similar kind of group dynamic, where one slide will often be appropriated by those going up, with other slides available for those wanting to go down. In that scenario, the socially considerate behaviour is to recognize how the slides have been designated by majority rule and modify one’s behaviour accordingly. In that sense, “down only” becomes too rigid and literal a rule, and the underlying rule – the one that matters – has to do with playing in such a way that others can have fun too.
Even with indoor playgrounds with posted rules, I tend not to be a legalist. If a rule is posted but never enforced and widely ignored, then the situation is more complex than the rule-list acknowledges. There are plenty of respectable, law-abiding people who occasionally exceed the speed limit (or even routinely exceed it by exactly 9 km/hour) because that’s how rules, and even laws work – their meaning is determined in part by how the social behaviour that occurs in response to them.
I think your points are good ones. I think the majority rule is a fairly good one. However, since my biggest complaint with these kids that I see is that they are obstructing the play of all the other children (and at a Vancouver indoor gym we are talking about dozens of kids) I think their parents should enforce the down rule since the majority of kids are trying to go down!
Hm. This discussion is developing a thread of “do we follow rules or not? and if not, how much?” I hadn’t framed it in those terms at all, and really, I think that’s a red herring. Go up the slide or go down it? It comes down to awareness of other people’s needs and desires, and consideration of those things. If there’s no one else at the playground, or no one else waiting to go down the slide, then sure, go up — even if there’s a sign somewhere saying not to.
But if there’s a backlog of kids at the top of the slide waiting for the one kid at the bottom to finish his exploration of gravity and friction … well, that’s selfish and inconsiderate, and a parent should be removing the child and explaining why, gently but firmly.
Exactly. I have no problem with people’s kids messing around in a empty playground, especially an outdoor one.
It’s when these kids are ruining play for the other kids, and the parents don’t seem to find anyhing wrong with that.
Rules come into it because rules dictate how the equipment should be shared. If the posted rule said “go UP the slide only” then the down-sliders would be the ones ruining the flow.
So the rules only really matter when the space is being shared. An empty playground is one thing. A paid indoor play space, with posted signs, is different – it’s ALWAYS crowded with people who paid for their kids to be there, so there will always be kids waiting at the top AND it’s a supervised, paid-for play space: it’s the difference between messing around in your own private pool and breaking rules at the public pool.
In my own pool I jumped in the shallow end, treated beach balls like rafts and so on. At the public pool you can’t do that. A backyard slide versus a paid play house is the same dichotomy. What you do on your own is your business. But when you are sharing a space with other people who also paid for the right to be there, everyone should be considerate of others and share the space and that includes following the rules, because otherwise the kids who do follow the rules get their fun ruined, and that’s not right.
And again, I marvel at the brazenness. If I tell Owl not to play there and some lid slides down anyway and beans him in the face, I can say: that’s your own fault. But f I tell my kid to sure, go ahead and play on the slide while kids wait, that’s fine, then I feel the paret has betrayed that child when some kid gets fed up and kicks him in the head.
And what do I do, As a parent, when my child spends ten minutes trapped t te top of a slide by an inconsiderate tot? Do I tell him he has to keep waiting so as to not hurt the one who is causing the problem? Or do I tell him that vigilante justice is fine and fair?
If some kid won’t get out of my kid’s way and my kid legally HAS right of way, do I move the kid myself or tell Owl to just kick the kid out of the way? Or do I tell him that he has to do what I do at intersections when some grown up up-slider has blasted though a red light… Honk and stay out of their way?
In that situation — my kid has been trapped at the top for ten minutes and can’t go down, and I’ve already asked the child/ren in the way to please move so other kids can slide, and/or remarked out loud that it would be nice if the kid had parents around to move him — I would THEN loudly say “Do I REALLY have to go get someone who works here to get the slide moving again??” And then I would do just that if still no help came from the offender’s parent.
I’m totally with you on enforcing the rules. My kid can explore going up slides in an empty playground, or on the slide in our backyard. If other kids are waiting to go down, he has to get off the slide and take turns.
I don’t like to interfere with other people’s parenting, but if parents aren’t stepping in and helping their children learn the rules, then I will step up and do it myself, much as others have said above.
Really, I think doing anything different is a huge part of the problem with entitlement and selfishness we keep seeing more and more in young people today. Sorry. Letting your kid be a bully (basically, that’s what you’re doing if you let him impede the play of others and don’t make him move and take turns) is a jerk thing to do. Not acceptable.
Lol nicely done!!
And yes, it IS bullying in a way. It’s saying “I am more important than you and your needs don’t matter” and really, that’s the root of most of society’s problems right there, from rich conservative big wig who won’t share the wealth to people who abuse social systems for their own gain.
There are those people, growing up in front of us while our kids politely say “excuse me…” and wait for them to care.
As bad as it may be, I fully plan on allowing and encouraging my daughter to slide right into rude, obnoxious kids trying to climb the slide. After I loudly tell the other kids to go around and wait their turn.
I guess that makes me a not so great mom.
Eh. I think I am ok with that.
I can’t blame you. If parents want their kids to learn things by natural exploration and consequences rather than bothering to police their kid, let the sliding BEGIN!