Handling Playground Bullies

I am nothing if not strong-willed. Bullies don’t make me fearful; they make me indignant. Example: When I was three years old, I was out shopping with my mother. My brother had just been born, and I was climbing up a store display, trying to reach a teething ring for him. An older woman came by and told me (very directly, I might add) to, “Hold [my] horses.” Hold my horses, indeed. I marched right up to her and clarified that: 1) She was neither my mother; nor 2) Was I the owner of a single horse, much less a group of horses.

As direct as I have been with bullies in my own life, I am not entirely sure how to handle them when it comes to my son. I never want him to feel picked on, but I know that my intervening might cause more harm than good in the long run. I want him to be confident to stand up for himself (knowing, of course, that I have his back). So, when I observed his first instance of playground bullying last week, I was at a loss for what to do.

School had just let out and he wanted to play on the playground for a bit before we headed home. Ever the patient child, he waited in front of the swings for 15 minutes until one opened up, even losing out on a few open swings to more aggressive children. Finally, a boy smaller than my son (but a year or two older) relinquished his swing. Happily, Gavin ran over and climbed up. As it so happened, the older boy did not feel his turn was over and, a minute or so later, he returned, demanding Gavin get off the swing. Gavin started to protest. So the older boy hit him and then shoved him off the swing. Appalled, I watched Gavin run and hide under the playground bridge. But the worst part? The boy’s mother was standing right there, watching the entire thing. She didn’t so much as bat an eyelash.

Not entirely sure how to act, I went to console my child who was crying hysterically and horrified at the other boy’s behavior. Meanwhile, I was horrified at the other mother’s behavior, behavior which, at this point, consisted of avoiding my angry glare.

I managed to calm Gavin down and we went over to the bully on the swing. “Excuse me,” I said, my face in his. “You need to apologize to this little boy.” I pointed to Gavin, who was standing half behind me. The bully started to protest that his turn wasn’t over and therefore, he was in the right. “It doesn’t matter,” I said, more firmly this time. “You don’t hit or shove other kids. And you need to apologize to him.” Realizing he wasn’t going to win, the bully muttered something and hopped off the swing. Gavin, still sobbing, but regaining his confidence, hopped up in his place.

I watched the boy and his mother leave the playground. All the while, she avoided my stare. Not once did she scold her son. In fact, she didn’t even talk about it. Which was really befuddling. As a mother myself, I couldn’t imagine watching my child hurt someone and not reprimanding him for it. I couldn’t imagine ignoring what had happened, because that would be doing a disservice to him as a person. And, it got me wondering: how much of a role do we as parents play in the types of people our children become?

SittingAround: The Complete Guide to Starting Your Own Babysitting Coop

I’m excited to announce that SittingAround has just published a brand new guide book on how to start your own babysitting coop. The book contains tons of valuable information on how to build the best coop possible and is available for download in the Amazon Kindle store.

It’s a great read, especially if your coop is just starting out. Topics covered include: coop benefits, structuring point rules, admitting new members, resolving disputes… and much more.

After you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear what you think!

The Worst Kids’ Shows

It had come to my attention that there is a LOT of hate out there in the Mom-osphere for Caillou and, well, it just seems sort of excessive. No, I am not going to defend Caillou. His inexplicably bald head is perplexing. His sing-song voice is maddening. But, as the mother of a five year old, I have seen a lot of kids television. And, let me just say, there is a whole lot of crap out there worse than that eternally irritating optimist.

What could be worse than Caillou, you ask?

  • Max and Ruby. “This show makes me want to call cartoon CPS,” says Shannon Schmid. “Who is watching these bunnies?? Where are their parents? Does the grandma bunny that occasionally shows up have custody?” This is a question that has baffled me for years, as well. Also, what is Ruby’s problem? Girl is on a serious power trip. Yes, Max is basically mute, but if I had a sister like Ruby, I doubt I’d talk much either.
  • Wow, Wow, Wubbzy. I think what’s “wow wow” is that no one has had a seizure watching this show. Flashing colors, horrible animation, annoying songs. Someone tell me anything that is redeeming about this show. Because now, the theme song — which may actually be the very worst part — is stuck in my head, head, head.
  • Spongebob Squarepants. “Spongebob has officially been banned in our house due to all the potty humor and fighting,” says Megan, mom of two. Interesting. My son watched Spongebob for the first time this fall, right around the time this happened. I’m not blaming Spongebob for the proliferation of “butts and wienies” per se. Actually, you know what? I totally am.
  • Oobi. For those lucky ducks who haven’t seen it, Oobi is a talking hand with eyes.


    I have never been unsettled by a show the way I have by Nickelodeon’s Oobi. Take a look at the picture to the right and tell me that isn’t disturbing. I mean, WTF is going on there?! Thankfully, Oobi is on really late at night, so I am not subjected to it very often. (My colleague claims that’s because it’s not so much intended for children as it is for imbibing twenty-somethings.)

  • Yo Gabba Gabba. I know, this is a polarizing one. There are a lot of people who really love Yo Gabba Gabba. Unfortunately, I happen to HATE Yo Gabba Gabba. I mean, I give DJ Lance credit for being man enough to sport a neon orange spandex jumper day in and day out. But, there’s an, um, “elephant” in the room. Says Megan, “That big orange bumpy phallic guy with one eye is just creepy. And the songs are about equal to listening to constant whining.” Do you mean to tell me there’s NOT a party in your tummy?

What do you think? Are these shows worse than Caillou? Or, as Eileen Wolter suggests, is tolerating Caillou after all these years really just a form of Stockholm Syndrome?

Real-World Skills for Kids

Yesterday, I had the incredible honor of being a guest at TEDx New England’s inaugural event. TED (which stands for “technology, entertainment, and design”) is a series of short speeches on “ideas worth spreading.” Yesterday’s event was hosted by WGBH — in studio, no less — and MC’d by New York Times columnist David Pogue (who, by the way, happens to pretty damn funny).

The talks were nothing short of inspiring. We heard from: MIT Ph.Ds developing sustainable, safe nuclear power, an artist who builds living sculptures for urban areas, the corporate responsibility-focused Dean of Harvard Business School, to name a few. But, I’m partial to anything that helps empower children. That’s why Katie Smith Milway and John Hunter made the biggest impression on me.

Milway is a children’s author who doesn’t write about talking animals or the first day of school. Milway writes about issues like microfinance. Her book, One Hen, about a boy from rural Ghana who started his own chicken farm, teaches children about  entrepreneurship. The book grew into a nonprofit called One Hen, Inc., which “offers teacher manuals and workbooks that use stories, interactive media and hands on activities to teach social entrepreneurship in classrooms across the country and around the world.” The One Hen website even has a series of games that allow children to earn beads and then give those beads to a small business owner. (When the children donate their virtual beads, One Hen makes a real loan to someone in the developing world.)

John Hunter has been a fourth grade teacher for over 30 years. While he was an undergraduate, he traveled throughout Asia and became fascinated by the principles on non-violence. Hunter wanted to find a way to teach his students how to embrace non-violence in an often-violent world. Out of this desire grew the World Peace Game — a multi-month, hands-on simulation where students are divided into four countries. Some countries are rich, some are poor. Some are powerful, some are weak. They face external economic, social, and environmental crises, along with the imminent threat of war. These nine and ten year old students work together to resolve conflicts, avoid war, and leave each of the four countries more prosperous than when it started. Hunter’s game (and the principles that underlie it) teach children real-world issues along with self-awareness and leave them better prepared to become citizens of the world.

I can’t wait to see all the great things to come from TEDx New England and look forward to participating in more inspiring events! If you’re interested in TEDx, checkout their website to see when the next talk near you will be.