Supervise from a distance

Parent Connection

July 7, 2011 

Summertime brings about plenty of opportunity for kids to play together. This is certainly a good thing, but what most moms and dads long for is that their children are playing well together. You know, without all of the fussing, arguing, name calling and posturing for the competitive edge. Now, that would be a great thing.

Though kids will be kids, playing together rather nicely doesn't have to be as rare as a half downed double chocolate milkshake abandoned by your average 10-year-old. What it takes is clear expectations from parents, some reasonable but not fanatical parental supervision, and most importantly -- the guts to step in with consequences if little Bradley or Susie becomes their playmates worst nightmare. Let's break it down.

You as a parent can expect kids to play well together -- and yes, this includes siblings. A major reason some children get labeled as having "poor interpersonal skills" is that playing nicely was never expected to begin with. Believe this, and communicate it to your kids -- especially now that children are out of school for the summer.

The next step is to examine how you supervise your kids' playtime. Whether they have friends over, it's your turn to take a group to the community pool, or you are helping at vacation Bible school -- you need to take note of your supervision skills. Of course, the kids' ages are going to determine how much supervision they need. Beyond this, I think that a key is to strike a balance of allowing kids to play independently without letting it get out of hand. Parents should not hover, nor should they simply look the other way.

Supervision should be "from a distance." Obviously, with a group of toddlers one can't supervise from another room. What I mean is that parents should allow kids to play as independently as possible, and use the skill of observation from a distance.

Parents can therefore supervise and intervene only when really necessary. The key is this. Kids will pick up quickly that they can't mistreat others and get away with it. The flip side is that kids can play and experience normal conflicts, yet be allowed to work through these issues themselves. Again, it's a balance.

With young children, don't hesitate to intervene on the spot. And get this. You are not limited to correcting just your own child if playgroup is at your house. So many parents feel that they can not correct another child. Nonsense. If little Bradley is a guest in your home and is mistreating your child or another, you can calmly but firmly deal with the situation. Be sure to let the other parent know when they come pick him up, but don't get all dramatic about it. Again, kids will be kids.

Stories of kids bullying other kids continue to draw headlines across the country. Unfortunately, with texting, social websites and email it's easier to bully now than ever. Parents with young children can do their part to provide supervision in a way that allows children to resolve what conflicts they can, yet hold repeat offenders accountable for their mistreatment of others.

Bryan Greeson is a nationally certified School Psychologist and serves as the Director of Special Services in York School District One.

Bryan Greeson is a nationally certified School Psychologist and serves as the Director of Special Services in York School District One.

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