Prime Directive

Sometimes being the only parent around puts you in a questionable position. If you notice kids misbehaving, when is it your job to intervene?

My husband and I were the only parents at the park sandbox this weekend when four little girls got into a fight. Three little girls were playing with an empty water bottle when a fourth walked up and started yelling that she wanted her water bottle back. The three little girls insisted that she should let them play with the water bottle because the fourth girl wasn’t playing with it when they found it. The fourth girl kept yelling that it was her empty water bottle and her property and she wanted it back, so they should give it back to her. Everyone was very upset and it seemed like things MIGHT get physical.

The fourth little girl was a mean bully in the way she talked to the other girls, but I agreed with her that if she did indeed own the water bottle, it should be returned to her when she wanted it back regardless of who was playing with it. Even though the water bottle was technically trash or recycling, in this case it was being used as a toy. If you find a toy at the park and it isn’t yours, you need to give it back to its owner when the owner comes back, no matter how ridiculous it may seem.

I never stepped up and neither did my husband. During the fight, I asked my husband if we should do something. He said we should let it go unless the fight became physical. It never did. The bully somehow got “her” (not sure if it WAS really hers) water bottle back. One of the little girls went off to cry. Then the bully felt bad and offered her some of her Oreos. It was weird. And kind of creepy.

This same bully had come up to my husband before the sandbox incident and asked if they could be friends. Then she used his cell phone to call her mom. She was about 8 years old and asking my 41-year-old husband to be friends. Really? If her mother had been around, I may have told her this because can you imagine the trouble she could get into asking strange men to be friends? Not good.

But her mother wasn’t there. This girl was just at the park bullying other kids and then trying to win back their friendship with Oreos.

The whole thing was creepy.

Anyway, afterward my husband and I had a debate about when you should intervene when other people’s children misbehave. I thought we should have stepped in to break up the fight, but I felt awkward about the whole thing. I would have given the bully back her water bottle and told the other (way nicer even though they were wrong) girls to go play with something else and STAY AWAY from the crazy kid.

My husband thinks that with other kids we should use the “Prime Directive” from “Star Trek”– we do not intervene with “aliens”. They are in their own worlds and we are in ours. We leave them to their own devices unless they might be physically harmed OR they bother OUR kids. In “Star Trek”, even the threat of physical harm theoretically wouldn’t result in an intervention, but like Captain Picard sometimes did, we’d feel the need to stop someone from getting hurt. Plus, you know, this is real life and we aren’t bound to Star Fleet’s rules and regulations.

I don’t know. I think kids should work things out, but I also think the grown up in the room should intervene to stop bullying. Then again, what authority figures are we at the park?

What would you do in that situation? Is it “Prime Directive”-worthy? When do you intervene when you see kids that aren’t yours yelling at other kids?

It’s a fine line. Sometimes I wish I was still a kid so I WASN’T the responsible party in a public place full of strangers.


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