Be nice or leave! I thought I’d give this bit of our garden a whole blog post of it’s own!!
This sign is on our garden fence.
I bought this little metal sign from Amazon a couple of years ago and it was in our house on the wall of our hallway as a bit of a tongue in cheek statement but the children must’ve really taken it to their hearts because the other day Imogen asked if we could put it outside.
I’d had about 8-10 children in the garden from various families on the cul-de-sac and one of them had started to be mean to another, smaller child. I was sat beneath the open window having a few minutes peace when the trouble started and I peeped over the window-ledge to watch what happened: I think it was over whose turn it was on the swing. There was a lot of “if you don’t let me have a go I won’t be your friend” and “you won’t come to my party” which I found quite amusing. Imogen, the mediator, suggested they take turns and tried to solve it that way but said child then started a similar argument with someone else. It was then that Leon got involved and told her that “If you can’t be nice you have to leave!” and I had a little bit of a smile to myself and everything went quiet. I thought all had calmed down until the child in question smacked the little one on the swing. I heard the little cry and then I heard “That’s it! I told you! You have to go home now!” and when I looked, Leon was standing at the gate at the top of the stairs and the child was quite dejectedly leaving the top garden area!
(I did go out to the child and had a nice chat with her, explaining why she’d been asked to go and that she was welcome back when she had kind hands and was ready to be nice)
Shortly after that I was, at Imogen’s request, using my big staple gun to secure the sign to the gate.
It crossed my mind that if other parents saw the sign they might not like it (it is slightly abrupt!) but on the other hand I really like the fact that the children own their own space. Our home is their safe space, the garden has been created for them and allows them the space to play, explore, pretend, take age-appropriate risks. Their boundaries must be respected. I’ve created a space that is enriching and safe but I feel I must also offer them the opportunity to protect that space and to maintain their personal power. I feel that children should be encouraged to speak up for themselves (and others) and the fact that I put the sign up there for them shows them and any visitors that I approve of and validate their opinions.
I don’t know what you guys think, but I like that my kids feel empowered. It’s their garden and they only want people who know how to be nice to others in it!