Friday, January 10, 2014

Creative Lies: How Children Avoid Power Play Penalties

I struggle with power play.  Specifically with gun play.

For years it was not a struggle what-so-ever.  It was simple. NO GUNS.  You may play guns at home, but when you are at Nita's, we don't play with guns.

There was an ebb and flow as to how easy this simple gun policy was to enforce.  There were periods of time that easily lasted months where I never, ever had to say "We don't play with guns here".  Then, there were times when I said "No guns" more then I said "Did you just eat that booger?!".

In short order, I learned that one of the repercussion of my "NO GUNS" policy was what I like to call "creative lying".  In order to escape certain timeout (recall, this was my program years ago), my crew at the time felt it was necessary to lie.  I never knew flashlights and telescopes and even a comb one time could make shooting sounds.  I had a bunch of James Bond wanna-bes in my presence!

After years of "NO GUNS" I finally, thanks to the people who have positively affected my journey from running a controlled, strictly scheduled program to one that is TRULY child-led AND play-based, I have embraced gun play and other power play for the positive thing that it is. (hmmm...that just MIGHT be the longest sentence ever)  Jeff A. Johnson (who I have had the honor of co-authoring three books with and recording episodes for the "Child Care Bar and Grill" podcast), Lisa Murphy (who I also have the honor of recording "Child Care Bar and Grill" episodes with), Heather Shumaker (who I haven't had the honor of meeting, but whose book "It's Okay Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids" I couldn't agree with more) and Dan Hodgins (who I have yet to meet, but it is on my bucket list... ha!!) are the names that stand out the most when I hand out credit for my program's transition.

So then....what is my struggle now that I have embraced such play?

Keeping the children who do not wish to participate in "power play" safe from the side-effects (aka: unintended injury or other interruption to their "calm" play) of such play that I am now, thoughtfully allowing .  When we are outdoors, this is really a non-issue as there is plenty of room for all kinds of play, but INDOORS  I struggle.

My solution to this struggle?  A designated area for power play, with clear boundaries in order to set up a positive experience for all.  The clearer the boundaries, the more I can hand the control over to my crew and empower them with the right to choose their play in the appropriate places.  Not only does this keep others safe, but it allows my littles the opportunity to practice self control and respect boundaries.

This solution was working grandly, until we rearranged the room this week.  We rearranged and forgot to discuss where the gun play area should be.

(side note:  I include my littles in all decisions that affect THEIR day and THEIR space.  I give them as much ownership as I reasonably can)

Recall my remarks about "creative lying"?  I have learned that the more I discourage something, the more I encourage lying -- no matter how creative it is, it is still lying.  However, what happened recently in my program was one of the most creative lies I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.  I think you will find this as amusing as I did:

We had just re-organized the room, and there was not a designated power-play space.  I turned and saw that three of my boys had built very LARGE weapons (I dare say they were "oozies" (I don't speak "gun", but I think that's what you call them) and were firing away at each other with all of their might....until they noticed me watching.  They quickly repositioned there guns.....(See pic)

Best "creative lie" in my 15 years of child care:  The guns turned into VACUUMS!!!
Several minutes later, this is what I saw:

Moments later I overheard:

"'re dead."
"'re dead!!"
"'re dead!!!"

So....what did Trillian do?  Did he succumb to peer pressure and die?  Nope.  He went to the bathroom instead...knowing full well that when he emerged they will have forgotten that he is suppose to be dead.  Well played, little buddy....well played.

Do you too struggle with power play?  If so, I highly recommend letting professionals in the field of early childhood development like Dan Hodgins, Jeff A. Johnson, Lisa Murphy and Heather Shumaker influence you as well.