Do you fight your kids' school yard battles for them?

The school playground…. Or is it a minefield? Home to scoffing a meat pie from the canteen, kicking the ball with your best mates or perfecting the best dance routine ever with your BFFs, the school yard is also a learning space for children to figure out how to be social, deal with different personalities and how to resolve conflicts.

Learning life skills inside and outside the classroom.

Our kids go to the same primary school that I did. Nothing much has really changed (it's a public school!). Everything smells familiar - books, classrooms, toilets and the cracks in the school yard concrete that I constantly tripped over are all still there hiding my DNA deep within.

It brings back a lot of memories of my schoolyard shenanigans. I remember kids were cruel. Boys would peg tennis balls at my legs and call me “Mongalloyd” which, looking back, is a really creative spin on my last name Lloyd. I’m sure the child who came up with that is probably a millionaire now.

The girls, my god, how they could be cruel. Trying to navigate around the different groups with their different ‘leaders’. The quick and hurtful changeovers of best friend statuses and being an outcast because I didn’t have the right pencil sharpener.

But I remember not once did my mother get involved. She would just say dismissively,  “Well darling, I know it hurts, but there will always be someone who is difficult… Just be friendly with everyone then you will always have someone to play with.” Or, “Well, she might be upset about something at home so she’s taking it out on you; just don’t play with her right now.” And, “You need to tell those boys to stop throwing balls at you or you will tell the teacher.”

That was it.

Now with our own children, they come home with a heart broken, an ego shattered, bruised and scraped and scratched with red pinch marks on their arms. You notice they are grumpy and attacking their siblings - more then usual. You question him or her, and they either shut down avoiding all eye contact or overspill with a detailed forensic account of the incident like they were cloned from Detective Stabler.

You feel enraged.

“How dare some little shit of a kid hurt my perfect little angel!” Of course, you want to give that smart-mouthed little twat a good talking to because clearly the parents aren’t doing their job. Of course you want to ring the mother, with saliva foaming at your mouth, and get her to tell her kid to back off your little sweetie pie. But both of these are big mistakes for four reasons:

Girls at school: BFFs one day, bullies the next.
  1. If you step in and “take care” of all their grievances what are you teaching them? Are you going to go into their office one day and let loose at one of their work colleagues for being an assclown at the Christmas party? No. It is so important for kids to learn how to appropriately handle difficult personalities and situations by teaching them simple conflict resolution tools and you know what? Do it from kindy, so by the time they are at high school where it will be a million times worse, they have plenty of resilience and confidence.
  2. You are only getting one side of the story. Even though your little pumpkin could do no wrong, they could have. I know their story is so damn believable and their face is so squishy cute, but always have doubt. For every action there is always a reaction.
  3. It happened in school time and on school grounds. It really is the school's responsibility to follow up and keep an eye on the problem.
  4. Involving the parents can be problematic as both parents will have their child’s best interests at heart. Unless you know the parents well (say, you have a few drinks with them regularly), you are taking a punt on how agreeable they might react upon hearing your accusations. Also, by confronting parents, you could get into a ‘he said/she said’ scenario and there are never any resolutions to them. Then, your going to have to pop into the army uniform shop and pick up a pair of camouflage uniforms for school pick-ups.
Our kids are school buddies; we are wine buddies. Cheers to that!

I have found it best to butt out of my kids’ battles. I either give them appropriate advice on how to handle the situation or I speak to the classroom teacher and make them aware of any incidences or difficulties. The teacher can then keep an eye on it and take necessary action.

For me, this has eliminated any parental awkwardness and I get to keep my very important Friday arvo ‘wine time’ buddies. More importantly, I feel it is my job as a parent for our children to be well equipped and confident enough for a lifetime to take control independently when they find themselves in an unfavourable situation.

Do you step in and try to solve your kids' problems?