Wonder is everywhere
Based on news reports, blog posts, Presidential speeches and Facebook campaigns—the anti-bullying movement is in this country is reaching a fever pitch. And rightfully so. Bullies have always perceived the act of belittling, humiliating, degrading, and shaming another person as a game. Yet this is a game that can and should be stopped.
Darell Hammond’s article, “Is Bullying Getting Worse?” he asked himself the question, what is going on? He writes:
One theory is that the effects of cyber-bullying on older kids are “trickling down” to the younger grades. Possibly, but I would make a different argument: The effects of the play deficit on younger kids are trickling up.
Hammond goes on to cite Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of The National Institute for Play, who wrote:
In authentic rough-and-tumble play, the participants squeal, smile, and laugh while hitting, diving, wrestling, chasing, and heckling, and they remain friends after the bout is over… If rough-and-tumble play is squelched because it is seen as chaotic, loud, out of control, its benefits will not be acquired. Kids need a certain amount of this play so that later stages of development will proceed more smoothly. On the other hand, bullying and exclusionary over-the-top behavior is forestalled if it is nipped in the bud in preschool situations.
Playing Together Outside Makes Us Better Friends Inside
As a regular volunteer in my son’s kindergarten, I witness the internal (and external) struggles of five year olds trying to “find it in your body to manage that emotion.” The boys, particularly, have a hard time sitting still, keeping their hands to themselves, and not flopping, wiggling, or otherwise allowing their kinetic energy get the best of them…and everyone else around them. The boys who are able to do this (for at least 1 minute at a time)—actually spent the last two years together in a preschool environment that focused on social development through play.
I would also point to a recent article in the Boston Globe which utilized research I referenced on our blog last summer about empathy development. By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you learn that the Golden Rule REALLY is golden (and omnipresent in human philosophy and religion). If a child begins to comprehend the Socratic notion of the Golden Rule, “Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others,” then she understands SHE has to be responsible for her actions…especially when it comes to the treatment of others.
Yet along with the development of a sense of personal responsibility, there must be an equal development of a child’s emotional intelligence. And that intelligence comes, in large part, through play:
Research shows that children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than nonplayers, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean. They are less aggressive and show more self-control and higher levels of thinking.
So check out Hammond’s four tips, take them to heart, and—more than
anything—allow your children time to play: outside, with their peers, without the reprimands and subtle shaming of, “Share that now!” and with the knowledge that they will come in refreshed, invigorated, and ready to tell you about their adventures…which, if you listen closely, is how they are defining themselves and the world around them.