Did “Out of Control Bots” Help Me Reframe “Hitting?”

I had an interesting experience earlier this week that has caused me to reflect on my responses in the past and how they’re changing over time. Let me explain. 

On Monday morning, we were out in the forest as we always are, and a child came up to my teaching partner, Paula, and I to express a concern. He mentioned that another child “hit him twice” as they were playing together. This child was part of a larger group of students out in the mini-forest. Paula said, “Let me come over with you and we can talk.” Since there were so many children over there, I wandered over with her. Paula initially spoke to the child that hit, but it was his response to the hitting that led to this bigger conversation with another child. You see, there was a reason for the hitting. They were playing, “Out of Control Bots.” Paula’s one question about what happened, led to this much longer conversation.

Even though he was fixing his watch at the time, he did agree to write the rules for the game. This rule writing, actually led to some dramatic play, as different children acted out the Out of Control Bot sequence. One child videotaped this to include as part of the instructions for the game.

Next came some photographs along with writing to share more about what this game looks like in action.

I share all of this here because my initial temptation was to stop the game … and stop it before I even had a chance to hear more about it. For years, I’ve replied to reports about hitting with comments to other students to, “Stop hitting. Choose another space to play. Stay away from each other.” And, if I’m completely honest, I usually make all of these comments without even attempting to find out what happened and if there could be more to the story. 

Paula has caused me to think differently though. She always asks students, calmly, about what happened. She hears students out, and she attempts to problem solve with children. She also keeps a very important lens: what is developmentally appropriate play? Some play is physical, and there can be value to this rough and tumble playIs this type of play always valuable at school? Maybe not. But if we just tell students to “stop,” is this really enough to change behaviour? 

On Monday, Paula caused students to reflect on their play. Out of Control Bots continues to be a forest game, but with no more reports of hitting. 

  • So is the touching gentler?
  • Are all of the students more aware of the rules?
  • Or did students just start to accept the physical nature of this game? 

Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. I think there’s something to be said for this though. When we watch students play and listen to children interact, we do this through an adult lens. I wonder if we have to see things more through the eyes of a child. How do we do this? How do we decide when to stop play, interrupt play, or just let play be? I know that Monday’s experience has caused me to react a little less abruptly when I hear about hitting. This doesn’t mean that I ignore the problem, but just hear everybody out. I think this is a change worth making. What about you?


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