Playground sexism or typical toddlerism?

Question: What's the best way to deal with a toddler who gets physically rough with my year-old daughter?

I have two examples. First, a boy about 2 ran up behind her at a park and pushed her over. She was not even looking at him when it happened, so I don't think she could have instigated it. The second was more troubling. She was at a playground with our family, and a little boy about 3 or so ran up to her and grabbed her nose, rather hard, and scratched up her face in the process. Again, not instigated.

What should I have done? I told the kid that was not nice, and he ran away. My husband made me promise not to walk over to the kid's parent and complain. I was so angry. This never happened with her older brother. I feel like the deck is already stacked against her just because she is a girl.

Answer: Stacked against her for being a girl? What?

My main advice, in all urgent sincerity, is for you to spend more time around strong women and girls who love being female. You can't seriously be arguing that a need to counteract lingering injustices negates the entire experience of womanhood - so take care not to let that slip into the language you use with your kids. Single-handedly, you can empower or enervate.

Also, be careful about the conclusions you let your emotions draw. For one, you can't say that being female is the reason your daughter got pushed, just because that never happened to your son. You've witnessed anecdotes, not data.

Next, it appears you saw these as bad kids from bad parents, because you were "so angry" and wanted to complain. But toddlers push! And bite and kick and stick things up their noses. No instigation needed.

All of them do, and all of them need years of maturity and parental intervention to leave behind their antisocial ways. You have an older child, so you know this.

That is, unless you've succumbed to a bad case of bias, where you see your children's antics as uniformly cute and forgivably age-appropriate, and other children's antics as proof of dark hearts and bad parenting.

If so, that's an even heavier burden to saddle your children with than the notion of femininity as a handicap.

I think. Maybe it's a toss-up.

Leave both behind by adopting this worldview: You have two regular kids, just like the two who pushed your daughter. You and your husband are regular parents, just like the ones raising the kids who pushed your daughter.

Apply accordingly to your next playground incident by treating all the children and parents involved as regular children and parents. Say to the perp, "That's not nice," as you appropriately did before. Just make sure you say it as nicely as you would to your own child.

That can be the end of it, in fact - just a little compassionate coaching.

But if the push was angry or deliberate enough to require more than a gentle correction, approach the parents as a sympathetic fellow parent who knows toddlers do toddler things. Exactly as you'd want other parents to approach you.

tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Load comments
Continue Reading