Parenting in Public – At the Park

As a parent of two boys less than two years apart, both under the age of 5, I often find myself putting out fires in public, scrambling to get home before either has another meltdown. Having tried and tested the textbook techniques on my little ones, I thought I would begin a series of blog posts on techniques that actually work and those that don’t. So here is the first part of the series, “Parenting in Public.”

At the Park – Part 1 (Playing with friends):

There is definitely some truth to the effects of birth order on personality types. In his almost five years, my older son is yet to push anyone out of the way let alone hit someone. My younger one, on the other hand, has no qualms about pushing children twice his size. Of course this often leads to “why hasn’t this child been taught any better” type of looks from other parents!

In such circumstances, I find it easiest to apologize to the parent on behalf of my child, let my child come down the slide or climb the ladder even if it wasn’t his turn, then pick him up and take him away from that area. I quickly explain to him that that was “not okay” because someone could get hurt and if he does it again he will not be able to play in that area any longer for the remainder of our time in the playground. Some parents might disagree with letting him have a turn first but if I were to not allow him to do so it would be impossible to get him to understand what he had done through all the tears and the whining.

I find it useful to give him a warning specific to the particular offense rather than a generalized threat to leave the playground immediately because it gives him an opportunity to correct his mistake. If however, he doesn’t take turns and pushes someone again in a different part of the playground, then I tell him we have to leave because he has repeated the same offense twice. I point out both instances and leave despite all the wailing. I try to bring him back the following day so he remembers his behavior and the consequences from the day before – all the while hoping that he doesn’t do it again.  Because even if you are a child therapist, parenting is never easy!

Sara Zaidi, is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at and visit to learn more about her work. 

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Sara Zaidi

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