Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is it ok to play guns with your kid?

Mehmed started Dinosaur School last night.

After a summer filled with small acts of violence - first in Turkey, hitting, kicking or spitting on what seemed like every kid he encountered, then at Day Camp, then punching two girls on the second day of school.... my days have been remarkably more peaceful since I haven't had any "complaints" since that phone call from the principal on the 2nd day of school. What a relief!

I am of course concerned that part of it is that some of his actions are either not getting caught since most things probably happen at recess with 150 other children in the playground and only one supervising teacher.... But I got to watch him for about 5 minutes from behind a 2-way mirror and he seemed peaceful and content in the Dinosaur School. Mind you he is well supervised and the environment is very calm, but he was happy.

Except for the high-strung emotional outbursts over silly things like still getting frustrated when he can't do up his jacket-zipper, or if I don't hear or understand something he said and he has to repeat himself, I'm starting to feel like I'm just dealing with typical 6 year old parenting stuff. He doesn't listen to me when I tell him it's time to get his pajamas on. Frustrating as hell but pretty typical 6 yr old stuff.

So while Mehmed is in Dinosaur school, the parents are simultaneously given a parenting course -this one is called "The Incredible Years". The number one thing we are advised to do is actually spend more time "playing" with our kids. We are told to play with them for a minimum of 15-20 minutes but on THEIR terms. We cannot take control over how the play is to be made. If the kid wants to park his car in a lake, we can't say "You can't park your car in a lake" - because at their age, it is not going to affect how they grow up or where they actually park their cars by the time they are able to drive. We're also supposed to stay away from competitive games since that is just setting yourself up for failure if the kid loses, and for any activity we cannot impose rules.... let THEIR rules be the rules of the game for that play time. It sounds simple enough but omg it actually is hard.

I used to think I was good at spending time with him but after being told to play with him this way, I realize that most of the time I spend with him is "parenting";
"Get up, get dressed, what do you want for breakfast, it's time to go to school now, don't forget to use your words with your friends if you have a problem, ask a teacher if you need help, hi did you have a good day at school, were you kind to your friends, yes you can play at the playground but only for 5 minutes, I have to make dinner now, wash your hands, come to dinner, eat all your vegetables I only put 3 on your plate, ok you can have dessert, wash your face & hands, go play alone in your room while I clean up from dinner, time for bath, time for pajamas, time for story, are you actually listening to me, go to bed now good night."

omg. NO WONDER he balks at doing stuff sometimes.

So last night, the first night of homework after the Parenting class and Dino school, I actually did play with him on his terms... and what did he want to play? Legos. Great, no problem. Except that he wanted to build the legos into Lego men with guns on their arms and and tank and they had to shoot each other. WHAAAT!!!???

ok, the counsellor didn't say anything about what we're supposed to do when the kids imaginary play is violent. Usually I frown upon gun play and don't allow it, but the counsellor was so specific that we have to give over COMPLETE control to the kid and NOT JUDGE AT ALL in fact we're supposed to complement them on their creativity. WHAAAAT am I supposed to complement when his lego man just killed mine????

So, not knowing the answer to that I actually went with the class instructions - I complemented him on his ability to build the lego men well and I complemented him when his lego man put my lego man in the hospital and healed him, but I pretty much "ignored" the rest, obediently shooting at the bad guy shouting out bullet noises.... wondering all the while am I a bad parent for actually allowing this? Arg. Years ago this wouldn't have been an issue. Every kid played cops & robbers. Hundreds of years ago it was sword fighting. And parents didn't even think twice about it. But in the wake of Columbine, what are we supposed to do? And in light of his apparent obsession, what's a mom to do?

Oh, God please don't let me child grow up violent! Please let him be empathetic and love peace and think of negotiating as the first course of action in all conflicts! Ameen.
Oh and PS please let him be a good Muslim.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sue, great playing last night and picking up on all the positive things he is doing. James loves to play cops and robbers too. Our new neighbour who is so sweet and quiet has a big gun made of out lego he's 10 it looked like a kit I thought do they make gun lego sets in China my god. James says... no mommy he made himself from his lego. i think many boys are interested in that kind of play as you said.

    i bet your finding more time then you realize to play or just listen to him. I believe I'm finding time some how for 4 amongst therapy and breast feeding. Sometimes it's our conversation on the walk home from school or 10 minutes in mommy bed with a book before bed in their room that makes the difference.