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Gunplay at School-What’s a Teacher to Do?

Gunplay at Home

is one thing. If you’ve recognized your boy’s need to play with weapons/tools in an active, adventurous way, you’ve likely already begun to ‘manage’ that behavior with firm rules. If you’re still trying to figure it out – read Guidelines for Gunplay here.

He’s Hard-Wired For It

In Wired to Move, the hard-wired differences of boys are explained: boys tend “to be less calm, less communicative, and more prone to fight aggressively over territory and bond with a smaller network of people. They are very competitive, often striving to be at the very top of the hierarchy. Preschool boys are six times more likely to use domestic items such as spatulas as swords or weapons than as kitchen utensils. Studies show boys spend 65% of their time in competitive games compared to 35% of girls’ time.”

Gunplay at School is a completely different “beast.”

Parents have a broad spectrum of views on gun play – parents of boys may ‘get it,’ parents of girls may not.

There are sensitive boys that are bothered by energetic boys and every combination in between.

Teachers may have different levels of comfort with gun play, too. So, dear teacher, you have a decision to make.

We know that children learn by doing. The adventurous play that usually involves guns allows boys to emulate superheroes, play out their conflicts, build confidence, and confront fears and anxieties. Children are a “miraculous orchestration and integration of the entire body,” when they play, according to Heaven on Earth author Sharifa Oppenheimer. As a mom of boys and a preschool teacher for many years, she purposefully dealt with gun play differently at home and at school.

She states that at school she “found gunplay in any form counterproductive to the well-being of the whole group.” So she simply said, “No weapons.” If they use fingers or sticks as weapons, she says, “No pointing.”

Then – and this is key – she offered alternatives that include all the adventure and excitement they seek in their gun play. A few suggestions will usually spark their own daring adventures.
Sharifa includes:
• Arctic explorers, caught in a blizzard
• Amazon paddlers, with pythons slithering by
• Firefighters, saving dozens of people

Class Agreements

Another ‘seasoned’ teacher, Teacher Tom, offers this advice: “We have classroom agreements. We put guidelines around the play. The main one is not pointing and shooting at other people. The other part is the grown-ups being flexible and redirecting play only when it starts to feel unsafe and unkind.”

Children are remarkably wise when we listen first and then guide them. Read how Teacher Tom’s class of 5-year olds negotiated good guy/bad guy play in their school setting here.

Superheroes are Your Friend
3

Boys want and need heroes to emulate.

In Wired to Move, author Ruth Hanford Morhard explains, “Well-orchestrated superhero play stimulates boys’ imaginations and creativity, develops empathy, builds confidence, helps confront fears and anxieties, and builds an understanding of boys’ roles in society. With the right guidance, it can even help boys overcome natural tendencies such as impulsiveness, aggression, and lagging verbal skills. For boys from unstable environments, superhero play can help them feel more in control. And it expends some of that seemingly limitless ‘boy energy.’”

It is okay that your son experiences different rules at school and home.

He will adjust to each environment and learn increased adaptability and flexibility.
And isn’t THAT a huge life lesson?


Have you read the other gun play-focused posts?
Voices on Gunplay – Parents have asked about and shared their personal experiences with their sons who make everything into a gun.
Guidelines for Gunplay – They’re going to play, what boundaries will you keep?
Aggression. Violence. What’s the Difference? – Reassurance that just because he likes gunplay, he won’t be led to violent behavior.
My Family Hunts – Incorporating a ‘hunting ethic’ into your son’s play.


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