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Kids’ fight club



A dad weighs in on rough playground playing

A dad weighs in on rough playground playing


Fighting among children is, of course, inevitable as skinned knees and bug bites. One of the many challenges of parenting is dealing with these physical fights – both real tussles, with punches, hair pulls, biting, crying, and “play fights.” My grandmother once called this “horseplay.” If you witness a situation unfolding amongst your child or children, when and how do you intervene, if, in fact, you intervene at all?

Writing for Direct Advice for Dads, Chris Ryan offers his insights my - and entertaining – tips by way of describing how he handled his toddler son’s various scrapes and altercations from ages two to four. He notes how fellow playground parents run the gamut from being helicopter parents to being completely focused on their phones while all manner of chaos transpires.  

Right off the bat, Ryan notes how most of the time, he does not interfere: “Usually, I let the action play out. It wasn’t like I would be hovering around, refereeing my son’s bouts – he had to learn to negotiate these conflicts himself.”


It reminds me of my older brother sitting back and watching my nephew tussle with my two nieces – all of them not yet teenagers. From my vantage point – the parent of an only child – I wondered why he didn’t do something for God’s sake. But, like Ryan, it was his policy to let them work it out. And a decade on, I think he was right. They are now thick as thieves, my nephew and nieces.

Ryan draws the line when his son has a size advantage over another child. He doesn’t want to raise a bully.  He also advises his son to walk away from a fight he knows he can’t win, something he does not quite believe is good advice in his heart.

Ultimately, we want our kids to be able to defend themselves, of course. And once you’ve spent your kid’s earliest years protecting them, it can be hard to switch gears and let them get hurt, while also letting them know you’ve got their back. But it can be done, and according to Ryan, you can laugh along the way.



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