This is one of those: “How would you have handled this?” blog posts. It involves some rough play in a park, some bad language (which I shan’t repeat) and me, intervening to stop things getting out of hand.
Last week my kids were playing in a park after school. I was stood in the corner chatting to both the current PTA chair and his predecessor (yes, our PTA has a male chair. That must surely be worth a blog post in its own right).
Both my kids were playing tag with a friend and a couple of boys I didn’t recognise. One of the boys was closer Izzy’s age while the other kid must have been about nine. Roughly speaking he was Helen’s age but he was physically bigger.
They were all at the other end of the field, but I could clearly see what was going on. I could see things were getting a bit rough but in a friendly way.
The older boy then threw Helen to the floor and when she got up he started kicking her. I wasn’t standing for this and so I ran across the field and told them things were getting too rough.
The kids went their separate ways and we left the park soon afterwards. Once in the car, however, Helen told me this kid had called the three girls a rude word.
Publishing swear words on a blog does little to help its standing with the search engines so forgive me, I won’t repeat exactly what was said. Suffice it to say it transpires he had called them female dogs. Okay, sure, in the greater scheme of things this maybe wasn’t the coarsest language but I was quite shocked that he was using gendered swear words.
Where has he picked up such language and why does he, at such a tender age, know how to use it? Has it come from the parents? Older siblings? Has he been allowed to play unsuitable computer games? Has it come from the playground?
When I thought about it, I realised that, yes, at his age, I was aware of such language. I was a country boy and this is how we spoke about dogs. I don’t think I would have ever referred to a peer in such a way.
I was speaking to the dad of one of the other kids involved. His daughter had made exactly the same complaint about this boy’s language.
What have I done about it? Thankfully, it transpires this kid doesn’t go to the same school so they’re unlikely to cross paths too often.
I have told the kids that if they see him in the park again, they aren’t to play with him. After speaking to them, it transpires this wasn’t the first time they’d been a bit of grief between them.
I’m not naïve. I’m perfectly open to the idea that my kids may have done something to upset this boy and while his response may not have been justified, could at least be explained. I’ve spoken to my kids at length and not been able to identify anything they did wrong.
I also had a lengthy chat explaining that such language was unacceptable. Name calling is bad enough, but it makes me sad someone so young would be using such gendered, derogatory terms.
I don’t believe in wrapping my kids up in cotton wool. Such an approach would be wrong. Likewise, I just don’t think they should tolerate such name calling at any age.
As I said at the start, this is one of those: “What would you have done?” blog posts. I’m going to ask, how would you have handled this? Have you had to handle a situation like this yourself? If so, what did you do?
I’m under no illusions. This is probably the first of many such instances. Any advice or tips would be very gratefully received so I can do better next time.