J 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.