What’s the Rush? (a rant of sorts…)

Our daily rhythm involves spending an hour at the park between morning and noon naps.  Before Zach was mobile, I would lay out a blanket on the grass and he would be content rolling, playing with toys, and watching the other children.  I would push him on the swing for a few minutes, which he loves, but for the most part we would just hang out on the grass and Zach would do his thing happily while I chatted with other care givers (i.e. nannies and grandparents).

Zach has recently started wanting to pull up to a standing position and crawl up steps, and the best place to do this (outside of his movement area at home) is the toddler play structure at our local park.  I put him down on the sand near the structure and get out of the way so he can crawl, explore, pull up, tumble (safely, of course) and yes, even cry when he’s frustrated.  His concentration and determination are a joy for me to witness, and his occasional tumbles and ensuing complaints are an opportunity for me to “sportscast” what happened, let him know that I’m standing by him as he works, and offer vocabulary so he can eventually identify his feelings.

Sadly, this fascinating experience has been marred by three other caretakers, who seem to not understand my hands-off approach.  There’s a nanny who tells me I should do what she did with her charge: “teach” him to climb up the structure by holding and guiding his body until he’s able to do so on his own.  Another nanny seems to think children do well with constant noise and chatter, so she screeches and blathers to all the babies on the playground, and in so doing messes up Zach’s concentration.  But the one who drives me nuts is the grandfather who can’t bear to hear Zach cry.  If my son cries out from frustration or in response to a harmless tumble in the sand, he’ll immediately run over and give him a toy to make him stop crying.  One time, he even half-jokingly asked if I was Zach’s step-mom instead of his real mom, because I didn’t go into panic mode every time my baby took a tumble in the sand.

I’m pretty sure most parents at one time or another have formed opinions on the way other parents educate their kids.  I do it in my head all the time, I must admit, but I don’t go around voicing my opinion (unless someone asks what I would do from a Montessori perspective).  I would love to give a piece of my mind to the mom who threatens to hit her two-year old or the nanny who keeps telling her charge that he’s going to fall and break a leg.  But I don’t…

I have a dear friend who has sworn off going to playgrounds because she couldn’t deal with other parents helicoptering over her well-behaved and independent little girls.  I’m not at that point – yet – but I am starting to feel her pain.   I try to point out to the caretakers that I believe in letting the child develop at his own pace and take ownership of his successes and failures.  I try to explain that when Zach cries, it’s not because he’s in pain but because he’s expressing his frustration, which he has every right to do.  I ask them: What’s the rush?  They never seem to have an answer to that one…

Dear readers, have you had similar experiences?  If so, how do you handle them?

5 thoughts on “What’s the Rush? (a rant of sorts…)”

  1. I feel your pain. Our old Montessori school (which existed from 1986 to 2005) was located next to the town park. I use the word “town” loosely because we live in a very rural area. Our directress had her extended day kids out at the small park one fine sunny day for about half and hour. A mom (not of one of our kid’s) struck up a conversation with the directress, asking her about the school, etc. There were no other people at the park other than this one mother’s child and the Children’s House kids. She later reported to a network of her friends that the school was quite remiss in letting the kids play on the “equipment” with no more supervision than this one directress. We’re talking about maybe 5-7 extended day kids–Montessori children with at least two years under their belts. They were not running in the street– they were not throwing sand at each other– they were jubilant and probably loud. I remain wary of this “type” of mom to this day.

    Out of the “ashes” of the old school arose the “phoenix” of our current school with one primary and one elementary class, each. We may be rural, but we’re growing and we’re accredited.

  2. I, too, am close to abandoning the playground for these exact reasons. Every 2 seconds some well-meaning other mother is intercepting to “help” my extremely capable 2-year-old daughter, or calling for me to come help her. At times I say “I appreciate your help, but she can do it herself,” which usually works for that incident. But then there’s another incident 2 seconds later. I know some mothers who don’t respond, because we cannot control others’ reactions to our kids and so our kids should learn to deal with those, too. But neither option feels exactly right…

  3. As a future mom (6 months pregnant), this was a helpful post for me to read to help mentally prepare for such interactions. It seems like the best respond is like what Cally said: “I appreciate your help, but she can do it herself,” and then show these parents the same patience we show our kids!

  4. I have to preface this comment by saying that I am a traditional first-grade teacher and have been interested in the Montessori method for several years. However, my current situation doesn’t lend itself to the luxury of taking any Montessori training.

    From observing my first grade students, I have noticed a few things. First of all, most children won’t do any extraordinary damage without the help of additional equipment, such as TREES or that found on playgrounds. (And we can’t get rid of trees.) The second thing I noticed is that children will tell you if they are hurt. They will even tell you if they’re not hurt in order to get attention. However, when you offer the child the options to sit down, go in to the nurse, or go back and play, most children CHOOSE to go back and play. (I have opinions on the attention seeking behavior, but not now.)

    As I said before, children can get hurt pretty badly on playground equipment, however it is very rarely that they do. In fact, an experienced daycare worker will tell you that if a child is falling, let them fall. You’ll do more damage to the child trying to catch them if you miss.

    At the end of the day, children will get hurt sometimes. It’s a part of life. As long as they’re not bleeding profusely, hemorrhaging, or experiencing broken bones and concussions, let them play. I have only had one child that I did not feel had the motor coordination to use playground equipment. And this child would fall when we were standing still. That having been said, he still never got hurt too badly running and playing in the grass.

    I feel very strongly about allowing children to explore their own mobility, their own gross motor development, their own experiences and imaginative play. Short of them needing to be rushed frequently to the hospital, the child will be ok! I explicitly remember running around barefoot in an urban area, kicking my friends, and jumping off porches over bushes and flower beds because I was a Power Ranger. (We decided to take off our shoes as a safety precaution.) I, currently, boast one childhood ER visit–I fell off a bench at lunch when I miss-stepped. (By the way, it took forever to heal–two whole weeks!)

    Ok. Climbing down from my soapbox.

    Let the kids play!

  5. I read an article that you might enjoy about a school in New Zealand that gave up on rules at recess. Here’s a quote from the article:

    “Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.

    Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. “You can’t teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn’t develop by watching TV, they have to get out there.”

    The research project morphed into something bigger when plans to upgrade playgrounds were stopped due to over-zealous safety regulations and costly play equipment.

    “There was so many ridiculous health and safety regulations and the kids thought the static structures of playgrounds were boring.”


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