Fashion & Beauty

Playground Etiquette

By Michelle Howe

Do etiquette rules apply to the playground? Children need to be prepared with appropriate behavior guidelines before social events, and playgrounds or other "kid territories" provide ideal opportunities to teach kids how to deal with bullies, get along with others and learn valuable social skills.

1) Handling the bully

There often seems to be one child who insists on getting his own way, unconcerned about who gets hurts in the process. How does one tactfully handle a playground bully?

  • Be kind but firm. A polite "no" sometimes shocks a bully into submission, as he is not accustomed to anyone standing his ground against him.

  • Walk away. Teach your child that one person's bad manners do not have to ruin a good time. A bully will often get bored with no opposition. However, some bullies are bent into getting into a fight and may follow your youngster.

  • Teach your child to come to you if he's being trailed. Be pro-active by intervening and speaking directly to the bully, his parent, or both.

2) Playing and sharing with other children

Two youngsters are quietly playing together. A third child jumps in. Shrieks of frustration are heard as the newest member grabs everything in sight. What should you do?

  • Intervene. Step in and calmly encourage sharing of toys. Let the spoiler know you're close by and alert to what's happening. Kindly state your expectations regarding sharing.

  • Take a moment to listen. Kids cannot always articulate their feelings when someone has injured them, but they still feel the injustice. Even if you cannot "right" a situation, you can talk, sympathize and comfort your child privately so he knows his feelings have been recognized.

  • Show appreciation and admiration. Communicate to your child how much you appreciated his response. Or, gently instruct your child how to better respond the next time a similar situation arises. For example, you can explain that yelling and screaming when frustrated accomplishes nothing.

Play Etiquette Games

Make up coupons that list one practical way to "love" a sibling/friend. For example, kindness = picking up toys. Or, sharing = giving away a cookie. Have fun decorating and designing "love" coupons for the whole family.
Memorize simple verses that deal with specific problem areas your child may exhibit, such as selfishness, anger and impatience. Discuss these verses on the way to the park. On the way home, talk about how these verses helped your child respond in the right way.
Spend time playing one-on-one with your child. Using dolls or action figures, role-play positive ways to interact with others. Have your doll speak lovingly, share willingly, and show gratitude to others.

3) Including siblings in play time with other friends

Teach your children that playing with friends is a revocable privilege gained by exhibiting caring behavior in the home (and toward siblings).

  • Allow some playtime alone with friends. Then "schedule in" the last half hour for everyone (friends and family) to play together. Understand that even little ones enjoy some time alone with their special friends.

  • Encourage siblings to model the instructions about love provided in I Corinthians 13. Read this section of scripture before and after playtime. Discuss in practical terms what it means to love others in a biblical way. Make it simple and appeal to the heart. For example, emphasize the importance of saying please and thank you.

Michele Howe is a freelance writer living in LaSalle, Michigan with her husband and four children. She is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly, CBA Marketplace, and CCM Magazine. Howe has published over 700 articles and reviews and is the author of eight books including, "Prayers to Nourish a Woman's Heart" and "Prayers for Homeschool Moms" (publication date: spring, 2003). These books can be ordered online by clicking on the links above (via

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