The clear skies of Ohio in June summoned my family out to the local playground for some sunshine, fresh air and social skills development. The park was crawling with parents and children of all ages. I couldn’t count on my hands how many times my young boys were trampled, line jumped or rudely pushed out of the way. Even more appalling was the lack of parental interaction with their children. Parents had more face time with cell phones than their own children as tears flowed. Even parents doing the right thing appeared helpless and overwhelmed to the growing bullies on the block. The Marine dad switch turned on and I took it upon myself to change the situation to improve everyone’s playtime. Here’s how it worked:
Marines take care of their own
This is fundamental rule in my beloved Corps. It doesn’t matter what rank or position of authority we hold. It is every Marine’s responsibility to hold every one in check. Marines are ambassadors of the country and the same principle can be applied to the children and parents of a community. If a parent is not correcting their child’s behavior, take the initiative to do one of two things – address the issue professionally with the parent or provide equally professional verbal correction of the child. You may run into parents who don’t take kindly to this, but do not escalate a fight. Address the issue, explain your viewpoint, hear theirs and leave it at that. When you verbally (NEVER physically, even with your children) correct another child, remember it is not your child. Keep in mind the situation and background of each person is different so politely ask the child to change their behavior.
Lead from the Front
You can establish proactive measures by talking with parents who are playing with their children of similar age as your own. Become acquainted with them and build a positive relationship with their family. It is normal to be nervous about approaching people for the first time. Don’t worry, so are they. As you build good relationships with families that frequent at the spot, the more they will become comfortable with you, your values and your beliefs on child-rearing. This will establish familiar playmates and safe proximities for your child to play.