When I’m at the park with my kids I often hear this more times than I care to. Surely these parents aren’t trying to make me insane.
Be careful! Be careful! Don’t do that! Stay in the gravel area! Don’t go past that line! Be careful! Don’t run! Don’t slide like that! This is the rule! Be careful!
It’s even worst when threats are used along with the constant parental commentary.
Be careful or you’re going to have to sit on the bench here and not be with your friends! If you don’t listen to me than you’re not having ice cream for dessert tonight! Don’t do that or you’re going to sit in the car! If you don’t stop running we’re going home!
This kind of parenting must be a lot of work! How exhausting it must be to yell at your children about something all the time. Gosh, I’m tired just hearing them repeat these things over and over. Parents could save themselves a lot of worry and annoyance by just being quiet and letting their children play. Not to mention the energy that could be saved by holding their tongue. What parent can afford to expend all this energy so needlessly?
Left to their own devises, children are often better at knowing where their boundaries in ability and comfort are and they’re even usually better at handling issues with other kids. Constant meddling from parents leads kids to lack confidence in their ability to know when something is unsafe and takes away their responsibility to make good choices when dealing with others and themselves. Parental interference like this is so unfair to children.
Obviously parents must step in from time to time. If a parent is ever unsure about their child’s ability on playground equipment, they can wordlessly move closer in case help is needed. Why not give the child the chance to see if they can succeed on their own or realise they need help. Think of the trust gained if they realise they need help only to turn around and see you calmly already there willing and able.
If a child is truly doing something unsafe the parent can simply remove them from the situation. When they are younger that can be just picking them up and putting them somewhere else. When they are a little older, more explanation may be needed but the outcome is the same. They are removed from the danger. When children know from past experiences that they can trust their parents to look out for them and to work with them instead of doing to them out of spite, anger or “to teach a lesson”, they are more willing to accept the occasional protective use of force.
Parents may also have to step in if children aren’t able to work out a mutual problem on their own. Even then it shouldn’t be parents imposing their will on the children. This is a perfect time for children to learn how to deal with conflict. Ideally we’d like our children to learn compassion for others and to work through the problems without yelling or hurting others. We need to model this behaviour for them and sometimes even help but scripting a solution for the children. “Hey, do you think she’s upset because she wants to try that car too?” “Maybe you both can try the slide at the same time?” “I wonder if it could work if you play with this first and then he can have a try?” This can be incredibly effective and empowering for children to give them some control in helping to solve the problem.
Oh how delightful it would be to go to the park and have the only sound heard be children playing and enjoying themselves. How pleasant it could be for everyone to just relax and have a good time. Children are inherently “good” if you let them.