Playground Rules

Playground problem: My 2-year-old daughter is constantly throwing sand at other children, no matter how many times I tell her not to and give her a time-out.

Solution: While situations like this may immediately seem like cause for admonishment and discipline, a lot of children simply don’t understand why throwing sand isn’t okay and what they should be doing differently. If your child is older and is intentionally trying to hurt someone, certainly remove her right away and talk to her about the situation, advises Kathleene Derrig-Palumbo, MFT, Ph.D., founder and CEO of mytherapynet. com. But if your child is simply being playful or careless, make sure she sees how her actions are affecting the other children.

“For instance, show her that the other child is crying,” Derrig- Palumbo says. “‘You see? Throwing sand hurts.’” Then, model how to apologize to the children and parents, have your child apologize and show her how to play with sand the right way. “Guide your child’s hand down to the sand and say, ‘Sand stays on the ground,’” suggests Lynne Reeves Griffi n, R.N., M.Ed., author of Negotiation Generation: Take Back Your Parental Authority Without Punishment (Penguin, 2007) and founder of the Proactive Parenting and Proactive Teaching workshops. “Or you might give your child a truck, or move your child away from the other child and to another area.” The key in all of this is taking the focus off the negative attention. After all, the more you’re told you can’t do something, the more you want to do it, Griffi n notes. To really reinforce the positive, offer lots of praise when your child apologizes and stops throwing, Derrig-Palumbo advises.

Playground problem: When I take my 21-month-old son to the playground, I’m so worried he’ll get hurt or hurt someone else that I stick to him like glue. But then I wonder if I should be giving him more freedom.

Solution: While it’s a good idea to step back and let your child start to handle situations on his own, you’re completely entitled to stay close so you can take over if and when he needs you. Consider your child’s age, communication abilities and disposition, and act accordingly, says Ann Douglas, author of several parenting books, including The Mother of All Toddler Books (Wiley, 2004). “If you have a really sensitive child and you know just one accidental bump is going to set him off, maybe you’re going to need to stay a little closer than a parent whose child is oblivious to getting stepped on because they’re just so happy to be there,” Douglas explains.

Meanwhile, experts say that staying close is far better than the alternative. “Parents and caregivers often see the playground as their break—a way for kids to keep busy while they catch up with other mothers or have some quiet time,” Leonard says. “Due to this, many adults just don’t pay attention and confl icts arise.” In other words, go ahead and shadow your child if you think he needs it; everyone will be better off.