Boy-Chasing on the Playground
By Liza Asher
Q: I take my 6-year-old daughter to the playground a lot after school, and I've
noticed a weird phenomenon: The girls tend to get together in packs and single out a boy
to chase around. The boy's always laughing and seems to enjoy it, but I'm curious as to
why this happens at this age.
A: According to Stanley Greenspan, coauthor of The Challenging Child, children
at this age move from being family-oriented to being peer-oriented. One way they explore
their relationships with their friends and their position in the group is through play.
Playground chasing is about exploring friendship, says Sharon Gesse, a child-life
specialist at Children's Hospital of Michigan, and it's a primitive form of flirtation.
Once they get to school age, girls begin to gather in small cliquesand chasing boys
is an activity that solidifies their standing as part of the "in" crowd.
"This is a common way to be part of the group while satisfying their curiosity about
boys," says Marilyn Segal, dean emeritus at the Family and School Center at Nova
Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.
Donna Pylman, a mother of three in Irvington, New York, witnessed that behavior when
her daughter Marissa was in kindergarten and first grade. "She and her friend used to
chase one of the boys because the friend liked him," she says. Now that Marissa is
10, the dynamics of the playground have changed. The boys usually play soccer at recess
and the girls either join them or play amongst themselves.
School is the place where many children explore the sides of their personality that
they keep in check at home. They also tend to develop different kinds of relationships.
"Isabel plays with girlfriends outside of school," says her Mom, Susan Abraham
of Montclair, New Jersey. "At school, her aggressive side and tendency to push the
limits come out. Chasing boys is one expression of that."
If you're on the playground and see the game begin, you may want to keep an eye out to
make sure nothing inappropriate occurs. Unless the boy who is being pursued is upset or
uncomfortable by the attention, or the game becomes too physical and you are worried about
someone getting hurt, avoid interfering.
Liza Asher is a mother of four and writes on parenting
issues for national magazines. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
Copyright © 1999-2002 ClubMom, Inc. All rights reserved.