Are you unintentionally a playground party-pooper?

Let’s say you’re a kid. You’re at the playground. Your grown-up brought you there to, presumably, have fun. There’s a structure for climbing. You climb on it. Your grown-up is standing down below you. And he or she is saying this:



Don’t put your foot there.

Come back around this way.

I don’t–

You’re not going to be able to get through there.

No, no.

That’s not how you do it.

Just go that way.

You’re going to fall.

Reach for that bar up there. Yeah, that one. Now push yourself up.

You did it!!!

What are the messages you just got from your grown-up? (You weren’t asking for help or confused or in distress.)

Did you hear:

You’re not capable. You can’t do this. You can’t do this without me. You’re messing up. You’re making me a nervous wreck. There’s one way to do it, and you’re doing it wrong. Bad decision there. You’re in danger.

Those messages were not what your grown-up intended, I’m sure. He or she was likely trying to convey: I’m here for you, watching out for your safety, helping you on your way.

But which ones did you hear? Either way, did the constant commentary make playing at the playground more fun or kind of a drag?

As parents, we want our kids to know: You’re capable. You can do it. You’re trying. You know how to have fun. If one way doesn’t work, you’ll figure it out. You got it! Are those the messages we’re sending? It’s worth considering.

Along with the fact that we can send such messages with a smile, a nod, a hand placed nearby for support if needed, and only the occasional encouraging comment.

No matter what we may be thinking!

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Copyright Betty Udesen / Pear Press
Written by

Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, a public speaker, and a creator of places to speak and be heard. Sign up for her newsletter here.

2 thoughts on “Are you unintentionally a playground party-pooper?

  1. Tracy, you are so right about this as the message parents want to send: “You’re capable. You can do it. You’re trying. You know how to have fun. If one way doesn’t work, you’ll figure it out. You got it!” Easiest way to do that is to say it out loud (Say What You See). 😉

    1. Absolutely. “You tried a different way.” “Look how far you’ve come.” “You pulled yourself up!”

      I also think there’s something to Vicki Hoefle’s concept of “duct-tape parenting” — meaning, just zip it and see what your kid can do. A running commentary is not necessary. Say What You See ( is a great way to implement because it requires just watching first.

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