I have a two year old daughter and I took her to a local playground today. Upon entering the park, a three/four year old little boy got nose to nose with my daughter and began screaming at her and pushing. It scared her and I said loudly to the little boy that that wasn't nice and not to scream in her face. His grandfather finally arrived and said that he would discipline the child (which he didn't) and said that he was just a boy. Not one minute later, the same boy got in my face and tried to take my hat. I'm sure I gave a dirty look, but I said nothing. The grandfather said I obviously had a problem. We continued to play...I should have left as 20 minutes later another little boy saw my daughter, gave her a dirty look, grunted, screamed, and then threw woodchips at her. I previously saw him do this to his little playmate and take a little girls tricycle. I threw up my hands, picked up my daughter, and left. I was yelled at and told I had an attitude problem. I'm sure I didn't handle the situation well as I never have dealt with ANYTHING like this before, but I'm very upset. What do I do when I don't want my child bullied? It seems that saying anything is a problem, but so is doing nothing.
This is a very touchy subject. I hate playground 'bullies' but there is almost always at least one there so you have to get used to them. I just always make sure my child isn't the 'bully' (and if they are getting anywhere near that line I give one warning, have them apologize and if it happens again we go home. We've never had to leave the park.)
As for other people's children...ugh...first you have to learn whether the things happening are really something worth being upset about. I know how much you love your daughter, but are you being overprotective? If you are unsure talk to a mother you know with more than 1 child/older child. If it is behavior that is a big deal I talk to my child LOUDLY about why what that child did is wrong and dismiss the dirty looks from any mother who doesn't want to deal with their child. I've taught them to stay away from the child they notice behaving badly and to not retaliate when others wrong them.
I was so proud of my daughter the other day when a child tried to steal our wagon. (He was literally walking away with it with all our stuff inside with his mother watching after I had already asked him to return our soccerball that he pulled out of our wagon) she went up to him and told him it was our wagon and began to pull it the other direction and the child hit her right in the face. His mother said NOTHING. I walked up to her and told her loudly that I was proud of her for not hitting him back. My only hope is that mother will talk to her son, but you can't do much more than that.
I agree with Zack_Jenn. The first thing to do is take a step back from the situation and decide if there really is a problem or if you're being overprotective. Some kids are bullies but some kids just haven't learned how to socialize appropriately yet. A crowded playground is usually the place where kids begin to learn about leadership and social hierarchies. Parents are usually standing outside of the play area looking in, so a dominant kid may attempt to establish him/herself as the playground authority. This can easily look like bullying, when really it's just a kid who's trying to be an adult and doesn't know how. When I encounter a situation like this, I simply move into the play area and stay close enough to my two-year-old that the older kids know I'm there (because it's usually the older kids). I talk to him while he's playing and occasionally make eye contact with the dominant kids. I've found that this almost immediately gets them to leave my son alone. With a parent close by, he's no longer subject to "playground law."
Of course, some kids are just bullies. Unless the bully is physically harming your child, it's almost never a good idea to say something to them. Bullies pick on other kids to get attention, so by addressing them directly you're acknowledging their behavior and giving them the attention that they're looking for. It's also unlikely that they'll even listen to you or acknowledge you as an authority figure. Saying something to the parent usually doesn't help things either. A parent who doesn't believe that their child has done something wrong is going to take the confrontation as a critique of their parenting abilities and of their child. They'll get defensive and, as you've found out, blame the problem on you and your child.
I've found that the best thing to do in this situation is deprive the bully of the attention that he/she is so desperately seeking and give it all to your child. Don't even look at him. Praise your daughter for showing restraint, maybe give her a special treat, and above all, let her keep playing. When you leave, you're teaching the bully that the playground is his, undermining your authority as an adult, and showing him that his inappropriate behavior gets him what he wants.
Thank you Zach_Jenn and ewoods for your thoughtful and wise responses. Looking back I think my shock at the inappropriate behavior of the adults was the biggest cause of my alarm. If parents can't learn to help their child show restraint or don't care that their child is picking on others, I wonder what will happen to that child and my hope is that their behavior doesn't intensify. In addition to that shock, I certainly didn't want her to get pushed down the stairs or have wood chips in her eyes... but she was fine and will need to learn how to deal with children that aren't behaving.
While I get the don't be overprotective, I have had to step in when bullies have attempted to push my child over the railings at the top of the slide or thrown dirt/sand in her eyes. That can cause permanent scarring if the child then rubs their eyes frantically (as mine would).
I get a child who shoves in front of you, you have to learn to deal with pushies. I train mine not to be and now she'll loudly call the kid on it herself. But if they are attempting to cause her bodily harm, someone has to step in. "Boys will be boys" is not an adequate defense for a spinal injury or blindness!