Parent’s Guide – Toddler: Help Me, My Child Is Being Bullied on the Playground! – knowledge

Even with the classic – the spat over the bucket – parents don’t always have to step in right away. Photo: zabavna – stock.adobe.com/Larisa Kapustkina


A mother asks if she should stand by her son (4) in the argument on the playground. Sabine Koenig, who accompanies parents in their practice of child-rearing issues, provides advice.

Four year olds give up. The older girl does not let him play on the playground, so he finds another place to play. But that doesn’t get along well with the others either. She follows her, wants to turn the child away and then drops the sentence: “If you don’t go away, I’ll puncture you with a stick.” The child’s mother is terrified and pushes the girl away. Then you wonder, was her reaction right? Would it have been better if her son had defended himself? Sabine Koenig of the Educational and Relationship Issues Clinic explains when parents should not get involved in such a situation.

Mrs. Koenig, how did you react in such a situation?

Sabine Koenig So much about this behavior bothers me. First of all, that the girl has such a strong image in her head. She must have had an idea about this: piercing with a stick – that’s not good. But this is an elementary school kid. That would be my first reaction. “How did you come up with this idea?” So I will try to contact her in a completely different way. This would take the situation in a completely different direction. The second point would be – however I’m also protecting my child – saying: “But that’s a stupid idea. What makes you think that? Where did you get that from anyway?”

The other thing is: the younger has left the field of activity of the oldest. What is the reason for chasing her after that again. You can ask a question like: “You are playing there, right? Tell me, what do you want here?” Until then I am standing in front of my child again. But what bothers me the most is that the little one says it in the presence of an adult. This is a topic we encounter frequently today. Children no longer differentiate between who is listening.

Should one wait to see if the younger child would resist?



This largely depends on the situation and on whether the two are on the same level: I mean spatially: one child is sitting and the other is standing. But it’s also about development, age, personality, temperament, or personality. Another point would be: Do the children know each other? Do children have a relationship with each other? Do you know each other from nursery school? Are they siblings? If they know each other, they know how to value each other, and they have a negotiating hierarchy.

What role does this hierarchy play?

It is indeed the state in which children think and act among themselves hierarchically. Then it goes in the direction: “You can play” or “You have a special role in the game” or “I’ll tell you where to go.” We adults shouldn’t get too involved in that. Because our children also behave in rooms devoid of adults and they have to develop tools to deal with each other there. Peers make up the group in which our children learn the most: social behavior, impulse control, and frustration tolerance.

Should I stay out of it now?

If, as a mother or father, I protect or support my child in case of problems, that is perfectly fine at first. However, at the same time, I take the opportunity for him to grow up and come up with his own ideas for a solution, put up with something, and be the loser. There is a huge scope out there. If I always wrap my baby in cotton wool, I risk not preparing him enough for life.

But it’s hard to gauge this in the heat of the moment, isn’t it?

As an adult, it is important to have a sense of when to intervene. If the kids were the same size, I could easily watch the “knockout” once in a while. But I must be able to recognize that it stops when the child shouts “no” or becomes inferior. If it doesn’t stop, I’m ready to point out the kid who’s acting up. “Now it’s fine, he said ‘no,’ and he said ‘stop.’ You don’t want anymore. That’s too much.” I could also say that to a strange kid. In fact, children are often more inclined to seek advice from strangers than their parents.

But it can be difficult, especially with very young children, to lean back and relax when the rags are “rolling out.”

The basic idea would be to accompany the conflict. So let’s see: Do they bake it? You see this more often in young children under the age of two. They sit next to each other in the sandpit and hit each other on the head with a shovel. But the person who gets the bulldozer just looks. Or if the other takes his mold, he says to himself, “Ouch, where did that go now?” And take another template. Children are busy acting side by side and focus on objects and materials. And we often act too quickly. Too quick to reprimand, too quick to make judgments, too quick to: “Now you have to apologize!”

And if the children ask for clarification – that is, they shout: “He took this from me?”

Then it all comes down to the questions: “Did you actually tell him that this bothers you? How am I supposed to support you?” We have to pick up the assignment from the kid. Otherwise we get into our state of being used as a tool, taking the verb out of the child’s hands. It is better the opposite. What does the child want? Well, he’s crying. “Then come to me” “Tell me” “What happened?” “Oh, that’s really mean” “Didn’t he even ask?” “What do we do now?” Have you tried it yourself? “What should the mother/father do now? “Okay, well, we’ll go there. “And then of course it could happen that the other child would say, ‘No! And don’t give up the shovel. This is of course a checkmate situation.

and then?

If you go now and cut the bucket from the other kid’s hand, the kids learn: “Oh, look, the strongest wins.” This means that my arbitration behavior should always be solution-oriented. Simply taking the toy away from Child A is not a solution. Instead, it is about compromise. How to arouse a child’s interest in other solutions. This costs time and nerves.

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If that doesn’t work, there’s an alternative: not authoritarian, but authoritarian. I say: “Now good. Father/mother will now take the shovel and put it away.” And this has the advantage that children now have a common front, ie adults. He’s stupid now because he took the object of our desire away from us and then the kids started looking for alternatives.

Let’s take a stand, one child throws sand and the other screams. Every mum and dad wince and want to step in right away.

So if a child is crying, it makes sense to get that child out of the sand throw direction and make the other child aware of what to do. The moment I say to a young child under the age of three, “Don’t throw sand,” the mind remains, “Throw sand.” Because the child does not understand negation. This means that I have to say to the child: “The sand is in the mold and on the ground,” I have to give instructions, not block it.

Another case: a child pushes others on the stairs in front of the slide because he wants to pass.

I have to differentiate here, too: There is this physical examination. This is a form of communication. This is often a common way of communication between boys. We may have to let the steam out a bit. Otherwise, if there is really a “little grit” bumping into it and going up the stairs and possibly endangering young children, it will be moved off the slide. But this can cause problems with other parents.

Isn’t it better to talk to other parents right away?

If danger is imminent, you cannot speak to either parent. But if you stand right next to him and say, “Be careful! The other kids are falling off the ladder!” You can take them down and say, “Line up like everyone else.”

Did the parents do something wrong if the children did not stand up for themselves?

No. This is mostly due to the development and personality of the child. There is a note that babies only begin to take things away or push them when they are about a year and a quarter old. Then of course there are also core characters who aren’t necessarily physically active. When the parents say, “You have to stand up for yourself,” it is difficult for the child because it does not fit his personality at all.

Do boys and girls fight differently?

We can observe a tendency that when girls argue, they attack more verbally. “She’s not my girlfriend anymore.” “I don’t invite you to my birthday” “You have a stupid shirt” and so forth. As a result, they get really angry with each other and don’t play with each other for a while. For the most part, boys get more physical, often get along more quickly afterwards and also seem to get back to playing together more quickly.

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But nowadays, boys are discouraged from fighting. Does this cause problems?

We create problems for our children. On the other hand, because physical confrontation is often accompanied by inhibition, but alternative courses of action are not shown. Second, because the dynamic that children want to live in is viewed negatively and boys in particular are given a negative image of themselves. But the biggest problem is that boys don’t get a code of conduct, so how are you allowed to argue. Then there are questionable subsequent attacks because no one had previously accompanied the “fair fight” among them. Fighting with each other, this physical confrontation must be learned. This respected, what is acceptable, what is not acceptable. Boys (and girls too) need opportunities to not nip this physical activity in the bud.

Do you also have a question or issue you’d like to discuss with one of our parenting guide experts? Then write to elternratgeber@stzn.de

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Sabine Koenig Photo: Lichtgut / Julian Rettig

Sabine König, 62, has been a consistent parenting and counseling business in Stuttgart for several decades. In the 1990s, the social worker and systemic therapist were among the first to offer mother-and-child Pekip groups and established a children’s counseling service. Today, through her practice in Stuttgart, she advises moms and dads on issues of relationships and child-rearing and can be booked for lectures. For many years, she has also been on the road on behalf of the Youth Welfare Office, working with single parents and foster families. Sabine Koenig is the mother of two adult sons.

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