Don’t praise your child for playing with mine

You need to bear with me on this one. You may completely disagree with me in the beginning and you may think I’m being disrespectful or ungrateful. But honestly, stick with me and I think you’ll understand what I am trying to say.

Don’t praise your typical child for playing with mine.

This is something that’s been on my mind a bit, I’ve been trying to work out what I actually feel about it. I mainly think about it when I picture River in school, when I see him socializing and playing with his friends. You see, River will go to main stream school and have ‘typical’ friends. In Africa it will be very hard for him to have friends with Down syndrome as we just don’t know of anyone, although I know Rivers character and I don’t doubt for a second that he will have a friendship circle.

Would you praise a child for playing with a typical child?

What worries me isn’t how children accept him; I just know they will. It’s how adults look upon those friendships. Children learn from us, they are influenced by our views and our perceptions and if we see inclusion as a big deal then so will they. And it’s not even that adults may not accept these friendships that bothers me, I don’t think anyone would necessarily see it as a negative thing if their child was friends with River. The thing that plays on my mind is, would they think there child was worthy of praise for playing with my child with Down syndrome? That an adult may think a child was special or exceptional for accepting and playing with the disabled child.

Do you understand what I am trying to say yet? For example, would you praise a child for playing with a typical child?


I give praise for kindness

My son Skyler is 5 and believe me when I say I praise him a lot and always will do. I would praise him for playing with a child who felt lonely and I would praise him for making someone smile when they were feeling sad. I would praise him for being kind and thoughtful, and I would praise him for thinking of others.

What I wouldn’t do is praise him for going to play with a happy child who happened to have Down syndrome. I wouldn’t praise him for sitting and chatting to a child who happened to be missing a limb, or looked different to him or may be blind.

That’s just friendship right? It’s a child playing with another child. The instant we tell a child that he is great because he plays with people who are ‘different’, then we reinforce those differences.

Please don’t misunderstand me

I am more grateful than you will ever know to the parents out there who teach their children to accept and embrace differences. I know exactly what it is you are trying to do, and I know that in your eyes it’s a beautiful thing to see your child being so accepting.

Those of you who encourage their children to see beyond what people look like, and teach them that everyone is a person regardless of their physical or mental abilities, is a wonderful parent in my eyes. I am so thankful to the parents who accept River for who he is and whose children will follow in their footsteps.

I am so thankful to those of you who answer your children’s questions, who don’t feel embarrassed when they ask about my son and who just treat him like he is a little boy. But please try and see it from my eyes. Keep teaching your children to be good human beings, to be kind, accepting and thoughtful.  Just don’t make them feel that interacting with a disabled person is unique or special, because actually, it’s just the way it should be.

Two children playing together, one with Down syndrome and one without should not be seen as a novelty. Think of it like this. If the typical child gets seen as a wonderful child for playing with a child who happens to have a disability, where does that leave the child who is disabled? If the typical child is the ‘helper’, what does that make the disabled child? Does he/she need to be grateful? Could it not be the fact that he/she happens to just be an awesome child that’s the reason other children want to play with them?


I really hope you understand what it is I’m trying to say. I just want my son to be seen as a valued friend, not as someone to be pitied and felt sorry for. I want to him to be an equal in a friendship and I want people to realize that he has something to offer to. I certainly don’t want him to feel grateful that children play with him as surely that’s the right of any child.

Let’s teach our children to not only accept differences, but to embrace them and love them.

I urge all of you who don’t have a child with a disability, to put your child in situations where they interact with other children who do. In fact, let’s not just limit it to different abilities, but to children who are of different color, culture or religion to. Any difference you can think of! Let’s teach our children to not only accept differences, but to embrace them and love them. That is what the world needs more of and it’s only through the younger generations that we can achieve this. Because let’s be honest, if the world carries on the way it’s going, we’re all pretty much screwed.

I’m not just saying this for my benefit, it’s not only River who will benefit from being friends with your child. I promise you that if your child is lucky enough to be friends with mine, then it’s equally beneficial for both of them.

Mummy Times Two

17 thoughts on “Don’t praise your child for playing with mine

  1. Laura Dove says:

    I love this and I totally agree. I would never praise my child for playing with yours, I would praise them for playing together nicely, or for sharing or being kind, but I wouldn’t praise them for playing with an individual child, be that your child or any other! #postsfromtheheart

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hayley - I am River says:

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment. And that’s exactly what I think. There can never be enough praise for children in regards to doing nice things, I praise my boys all the time! But playing with someone who just happens to be different to them just isn’t a big deal and shouldn’t be made into one. Thank Laura x x


  2. Mummy Times Two says:

    Utterly brilliant post! I could not agree with what you have written more. We all want our children to be loved and accepted for who they are. Children I always feel are far better at inclusion than adults. #PostsFromTheHeart

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hayley - I am River says:

      Thanks so much! This one was a bit worrying for me, I just didn’t want people to take it the wrong way. I am so thankful to parents who raise their children to accepting of others, it makes life so much more enjoyable for my son. But I hate the thought that it may be seen as a ‘kindness’ to play with him because he has Downs. He’s actually a whole load of fun! You’re right children are way better at inclusion, us adults could learn a lot from them! x x x


  3. Daydreamer mum says:

    This is such a great post. I agree we should embrace differences but being praised for playing with your son would then make it seem out of the ordinary,which it really shouldn’t be!! Thank you for writing this it’s really made me think #postsfromtheheart

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mamagrace says:

    I completely agree. This is important to clarify and really the damage that is causes. I don’t know how to stop it though. When I taught SEN young people, even within different disabilities, the young people would sometimes need encouragement to include others. To try and maintain that behaviour to the next day or next week, until they became accepting of others. I would give specific praise on what they did, whether it be kindly inviting them to play football or being patient. You’ve got me thinking now, on whether I it reinforced that people with different disabilities were in need of special treatment, I hope not. I do need to explain that some of the young people had defiance disorder, ADHD, autism, serious behavioural disorders or a cocktail of others and could be really abusive and including others had to be built upon. This is a great article. #PostsFromTheHeart

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hayley - I am River says:

      Thanks for such a great comment! It’s such a tough one, because we want all of our children to be accepting of others who are different to them, but at the same time it shouldn’t be seen as such a big deal to do so. Children always eed encouragement to include others, disability or not. I think even if a child is shy or a bit frightened, they may stand on the outside and need to be invited in by adults. Guidance is totally fine. The same as explaining to other children why a child may act differently. For example, I would have no problem at all with a teacher explaining that River has Ds, in fact I would prefer that. It’s more the ‘well done for playing with that boy who has ds’ that I find so hard. You sound like you do a fantastic job. Thank you x x x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So Happy In Town (@SoHappyInTown) says:

    This post is absolutely spot on. If we praise a child for playing with a disabled child, then we are marking out those differences which children just do not see. My little boy is special needs as he has a language delay but the children don’t even notice it. They interpret for the teacher if she can’t understand him, but not because they want praise or think he’s special, it’s just him and they accept him for the fun loving boy he is. You are so right in that children play with children because they want to play with them, and sounds like River will have lots of children wanting to play with him because he is a fun little boy. #PostsFromTheHeart


    • Hayley - I am River says:

      Thank you. Honestly, children really do just do inclusion better than adults. It’s so sad that it gets lost somewhere along the line. My oldest son also had a language delay and like you say, he never struggled with friendships at all. He started playgroup at 3 and hardly said a word, and it was until he was 4 until he started to try and form sentences. It was a slow progress. He had friends who would be talking perfectly and they’d get on like a house on fire. No judgement at all. I’m sure we’ll face many things with River in the future, but one of my biggest hopes for him is that he makes real friends. Thanks so much for the comment x x x


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