Let the Kids Work it Out

Robots hugging

As a parent of young children, I spend quite a bit of time at parks and playgrounds. There are often other children there who interact with my kids with varying degrees of civility. Some are indifferent, some say “hi,” others push or crowd or even punch.

When the latter happens, often the young offender’s parents swoop in. “Sorry,” they mouth over their shoulder as they airlift their youngster to another part of the playground. Problem solved. Parentes ex machina.

A simple request to other parents: Can we let the kids work it out?

We are not doing our kids any favors by intervening immediately in every small dispute. The rescued kids don’t learn how to face conflict or fight their own fights. Kids who get spirited away never get hit back and don’t learn to respect other people. Worst of all, for both parties, will kids who grow up with constant intervention learn to handle their problems without appealing to higher authority? Or will they just appeal to higher and higher and higher levels of authority to resolve - parents, principals, and ultimately police?

I understand the urge to intervene. Decent parents don’t want to let their kids tyrannize others and nobody knows how other parents will react - don’t cross Mama Karen. Sometimes we just don’t want our kids taking lumps for their own bad behavior.

Sometimes, desires aside, intervention IS required. When there is a significant difference in size, when the kids turn toys into dangerous clubs, or there is some other risk of real, long-term injury, by all means, jump in! I’m not advocating for Lord of the Flies here.

But when the only risk is a bit of embarrassment or a bruise, can we let the kids work it out? Let them practice civility, conflict resolution, and standing up for themselves. Let them push back, set boundaries, enforce rules, and make up when it's over. We can scold, comfort, and guide afterward. Our kids will be better for it.

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