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Ask Alex: How Do You Navigate The Grabby, Pushy Kid When He’s Not Yours?

Ask Alex ButtonJ asks: What are you supposed to do/say when another child is the grabby kid, taking a toy out of your better trained (or behaved?) child’s hand? What do you say to your kid about that? What – if anything – do you say to the grabby kid? And is what you say different if you know the child versus it being a stranger (an unknown kid at a park, the mall play area, story time, etc.)? Is what you say different if the kid’s parent is right there (sees it happen) versus the parent being oblivious (you know all about those not-paying-attention mommies. GRR.)?

And I guess on a larger scale, the question could be asked of when another child is pushy (pushing/nudging your kid out of the way, although not physically harmful) or worse.

I have had a lot of experience with this because my son in particular was a very laid-back kids with his toys. He never minded sharing his toys. My daughter is a little more OMG WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING MY STUFF and spends the first five minutes like a hockey goalie in front of the dress-up bin.

So I pretty much take no credit for my son’s good attitude around toys. I do, however, take responsibility for how I deal with kids who grab toys out of hands or push my kids. I try to assume the kid is having a bad day unless I see that evil glint (you know the one). My kids have pushed, hit and in general FREAKED OUT pretty much everywhere at one time or another so I don’t expect other kids to be perfectly mannered.

What I do is step in and parent both kids with a My son had that sweetie and if he doesn’t give it back, I pop that toy right out of the other kid’s hand. Most kids respond pretty well to an adult invention although some little buggers will run off with the random stick that EVERY KID WANTS NOW, and I’m not about to run. I just explain (loudly, if I’m really annoyed) how that kid was wrong but let’s go play over here and leave it alone and blahblahblah. At this point, most parents have noticed the commotion and help my kid out.

If I’m already internally stressed or if the kid is doing the creepy stealth-pushing-meanness that’s beyond random-parent parenting, I will steer my kid away without parenting the other child. I will also redirect my child if any kid’s parent has decided that the 30 minute conversation she is having on the phone is more important than finding out why all the children around her son are crying. I have enough on my hands parenting my own kids.

In the end, I pick my battles and don’t go to crowded playgrounds because it’s exhausting negotiating parenting styles, bad days and possibly-evil kids. This is also why I advocate for play areas to be segregated by parenting styles.

Perhaps, J and I need our own playground. Of course, my daughter will need a special guard for her THOSE-ARE-MY-TOYS toys in order to enjoy herself and I’ll be the friend she’s writing other friend’s about. Damn.

PS. I did address the “how to do it with a friend” to J in an personal email because I thought my friends who read it would think OMG SHE’S TALKING ABOUT ME when I wasn’t talking about you, but to be friends with me, you have to think at least once IT MUST BE ABOUT ME and I have a cold so I’m not up for reassuring anyone.

PPS. If you want to ask me a question, email me or fill this out.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

8 thoughts to “Ask Alex: How Do You Navigate The Grabby, Pushy Kid When He’s Not Yours?”

  1. I had an issue like this just last night, and I thought I was past all of this!
    I had to reprimand a neighborhood child about throwing things in our backyard (where the dog promptly picks them up and destroys them). The kicker- when he started throwing charcoal briquettes right at the patio door last night. Then I had no issue marching out there and telling him that he must stop, or I would have a conversation with his mother where I requested he come and clean up my backyard. I know she heard me (the windows were open and this was right at the front of their house), and no problems thus far. I don’t fault her- she has other small children requiring her attention. I don’t know her well, but I think she would have my back on this one. That makes all the difference for me.

  2. I wait two beats and if no one intervenes (giving the parent a chance to teach their own child) I step in. I will usually gently say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t take things from other people,” as I take it back for my child. Then to my child say, “Can you share your toy? Or give it to this little boy/girl when you’re finished?” And if someone hits my child I jump in immediately and say, “oh no, that’s not nice.” and by that time there is a parent there apologizing. If you don’t want me to parent your child then do it yourself and I really don’t care if I offend people now. As my son is getting older I try to wait and let him solve it asking for the toy back or whatever.

      1. It IS hard! And since I like to control things it’s so easy to do. I have to consciously let him do things (and fail sometimes) or I will have to go with him to college. I did come across rather bitchy in my above comment didn’t I?! Haha! So sorry. That is exactly what I do but I just get so frustrated with people!

  3. I usually let the kids handle it. I know! It makes me looks like an uninterested parent, but here’s why…

    When Joseph was three, he wanted to play on a structure at the playground. A sturdy little boy a year or so older, blocked his way and wouldn’t let him pass, even though Joseph said, “Exuse me” several time. The boy’s mom was no where in sight and I was pissed that this little boy was preventing my son from his slide time. As I stepped forward to say something, Joseph says, “Hi guy! Can I come on your ship?”

    The little boy replied, “Yeah! We’re sailing away!” Both kids played well for the next hour.

    I realized Joseph’s method for solving the problem was more graceful than whatever I could have come up with.

    That’s not to say there haven’t been instances where every kid wants the toy of the hour. I try to let them work it out, but if tears errupt or it looks like a brawl is starting, I intervene and play Solomon, usually by instituting some sort of “take turns” program. (Original child can continue to play with the toy and then passes it to the other child after ten minutes. The other child, by that point has usually moved on, so not a big deal.)

    Sharing is a hard one. On the one hand, I want to teach the kids to share. On the other, I wouldn’t want someone walking into my kitchen and start using my ice cream maker.

  4. At our old church in MD this would happen especially when my son was younger. We didn’t have a nursery so I would bring toys & sit in the back with him, kids of ALL ages would come over & bogart his toys. At first I’d look bewildered & look back & forth between the kids & the parent hoping that they’d see what had happened, but they never would. So I just started taking the toys back from the kids, a lot of these kids we’re 4plus & I figured they should know better.

    My husband was at the park one day with my son when this happened. The boy took the toy from my son & my son looked up at my husband like “So do I let him keep it or should I sock him?” my husband stepped in & got the two back. Instead of the mom getting on her son she went to my son & said “Next time use your words!”

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