I have a 3 year old son. He's quite outgoing with kids around his age and with most adults. He goes to daycare a few days a week and interacts fine with the other kids. However he is sensitive and can get upset easily.

Here is a situation that is more hard for me to handle than him, as an example. My son and I were playing soccer on the beach. We were having fun kicking the ball around with each other. Two older boys (between 4 and 6) came running over and were wanting to kick our ball as well. There parents were no where to be seen. At first it was okay, they kicked it around with us but I could see my son getting upset because the older boys didn't want to kick it back to him. Eventually my son said to me, "Can we go home now daddy". He wasn't interested in playing anymore.

I tried a few times to be polite to the older boys, asking things like, "where are your parents" or saying, "I am just trying to teach him how to play soccer". The older boys obviously didn't get it.

How do I react in a situation like this? I feel like if I rouse on the older kids I'm being a jerk, but I would've liked them to leave us alone so we could play.

  • 12
    Might sound like a silly question, but did you try saying, "Now I'll just play with my child. Thanks for the game. Goodbye."
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 11:15
  • 1
    You can be direct without being rude. You're not obliged to entertain these other kids. Just tell them straight you want to just play with your son. Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 6:49
  • I would say it's a little more challenging if the situation is reversed. I.e. if your young son was trying to play we older children. 4 and 6 year olds though are old enough to understand. Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 6:51
  • @RoryAlsop - yes. Inasmuch as there is one answer - it is this.
    – dgo
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 15:36
  • I agree with @RoryAlsop you need to be direct. Maybe even: 'this is our ball, and we are playing with it. Sorry, my son is not old enough to share yet, please get your own ball'. A 4-6 year old is most likely not old enough to understand 'hints' and does not understand small children very well, especially if they don't have younger siblings.
    – Ida
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 23:29

2 Answers 2


I also have a 3 year old (girl though), and I never miss an opportunity for a good life lesson :-)

In that situation, most likely I would have first asked my child if she wanted to kick the ball (obviously the answer would be 'yes' then I would have told her to ask them to kick the ball to her. Its possible the big kids didn't mean anything malicious and simply forgot about your little one, in which case a simple reminder would do the trick.

The lesson here is to speak up for yourself. Now if the children ignored her then I'd step in, very direct ('Hey make sure you kick the ball') but I don't think 3 is too early of an age to start driving that message home, being around older kids is something that's not going to go away soon, and more often than not they're going to treat younger kids the same way, and of course we won't always be there to help them out.

Once we were at the park, and my little one wanted to get on the jungle gym, so I let her, and there were so many VERY big kids on there too! (9 year Olds and up, boys and girls lol) so I let her, and stayed close to make sure she didn't get trampled, most kids just went around her, there was one time I had to grab a kids foot because he almost stepped on her hand, but all in all it went well, after a while she pushed a bigger kid down the slide because she was taking too long, so perhaps it worked a little too well lol.

My 3 year old also has a younger sibling, so I get these little life lessons a lot.


It gets easier with time, first time I encountered a situation like this I was like you, what I learned from it was "fair active control & engagement". Subsequent times I've been in a similar situation, children (older or younger) who I don't know, want to participate in a game with my kids, is to take control of the game, engage all the kids (including my own) equally and to ensure everyone gets fairly treated. Basically be the referee/umpire like in football/cricket (american football/baseball).

It's difficult one because there is also a fine line being trodden as to being a responsible adult/parent. First question you should ask of the kids who join in is where are your parents/who's looking after you? If your not comfortable with the answer, just tell them to go and get permission to join in. That especially will help you understand the "tone" of how things will play out. Alternately, pack up and move somewhere else - it's better to manage yourself and move away rather then end up in a situation that you could become very uncomfortable with.

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