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Playfighting

(11 Posts)
debs40 Tue 09-Sep-08 10:43:06

Hi all,

I hope you don’t mind me asking for help. You ladies always give such good, practical advice.

My son is 5 and started school last year. He has just started Year 1. Before he went to school, he always seemed a quiet, gentle lad. He is small for his age and mixed well. My son enjoys school but he has had problems whilst playing with others and I’m worried about how to manage it.

The boys at school are always playing ‘battle’ games – star wars/pirates/knights etc. This has meant that they are always play fighting at break time. It is not something I like and I do try and re-direct his play so at least he doesn’t want to act out fights but I can’t control what happens in the playground and this is frustrating as it has caused problems.

Last year, he got time out on a few occasions for play fights. Nothing major and never in the classroom; always games in the playground that went too far. He wasn’t the only one, but of course I was not happy. It is not what you want to hear about your precious son!

I have tried to encourage him to play other games. I’ve explained about real and imaginary games/stories. I’ve warned him that even if he is hit, he should not hit back. Other boys are quick to dish it out but also quick to complain. I spoke to his reception teacher last year who wasn’t very helpful as he was always stressed and wasn’t bothered as long as it was happening outside his classroom.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my ds is a bit immature (I know boys often are and continue to be so!) and that he finds managing his response to playfights difficult. For example, I’ve seen his best friend kick him (he thinks he’s a power ranger!) which I stop although my son never responds or complains. However,when asked later my ds will say he doesn’t like it, but that he doesn’t want to stop the game. He then hits back when he’s had enough.

For the start of this year, I’ve adopted the strategy of telling him that he is not to be involved in hitting games and that I don’t care who started what, he is just not to get involved. He has a new teacher and new class.

However, this has continued. He and his friend come out of class each day, chasing each other and playfighting. I’ve told my son very firmly that he is to try and stop these games as his friend is still kung-fuing all over the place. However, today, I picked both of them up from school and his friend told me that my ds had been given 'time out' for hitting him in the class. My ds says it was because of something that happened early but I don’t care why he hit him just that he did. The teacher didn’t say anything on collection today so I don't want to over react but how do you get this silly hitting to stop?

Is it just boys being boys? I've been loathe to accept that conclusion about boys behaviour. But there is a little group of boys always playfighting so how do I get my ds to move away from this and get some control over his own behaviour? He is so young and sometimes seems less mature than the others. He gets way too engrossed in these games

We’ve had a long talk tonight and he was very upset. Should I talk to the teacher or assume that if she isn't saying anything to me, there isn't a real problem?

I felt I was becoming a bit of a fuss pot last year and don't want to repeat the same this year.

What would you do?? He’s only 5 and learning to ge on with others but I don’t want him to get into trouble.

Thanks for any advice you can offer

Debbie

bobthebuddha Tue 09-Sep-08 20:13:36

Hi Debbie,

Having something similar with my DS who's just started Reception. He's been doing a lot of playfighting over the summer when he's been at the childminder's & I've seen a couple of occasions when it starts to spill over. I am generally of the opinion that it's just boys being boys, this is something they've done since time immemorial & whilst you can try to stop them 'going too far', trying to prohibit it is pretty pointless & setting him and yourself up for trouble!

I was called in by the teacher today (on only DS's 4th day!) and told he'd had to be pulled off another boy before he punched him. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. To complicate matters, the kid involved is one who dished out a fair bit of verbal bullying to DS at nursery, so they have history. Unfortunately DS is the only boy this kid knows. Not a good situation.

Have also had the long talk with an upset son, & I can't really offer much advice as I'm in a total quandary myself. But... I honestly don't think you should try to stop him playfighting, just try to teach him where playfighting stops & aggressive hitting begins. How, I'm not sure!

bobthebuddha Tue 09-Sep-08 20:22:24

Oh, I do keep reminding myself of the '1st day at school' story my Dad told me. He pitched up and was promptly shown the boy he'd be fighting at break time. They did as they were told and were still slugging it out when the bell went, not a single adult having intervened. Now this is 70-odd years ago, but I hope it helps put our modern-day parenting traumas in perspective smile. Dad and this boy suffered no lasting injury & went on to be best friends...as well as lads who wouldn't hurt a fly!

cory Tue 09-Sep-08 20:26:38

There is the added complication that different children may have different ideas of where the line goes.

Ds went through a phase of being afraid of going to school because his much bigger and stronger classmates would regularly knock him down during playfighting. To them it was just a fun game, but he kept getting hurt and frightened.

The school did intervene and explain to them that the playfighting had to stop, and I was grateful to them.

scattyspice Tue 09-Sep-08 20:33:45

Play fighting is totally normal (and probably vital) behaviour in boys of this age (like monkeys and lion cubs etc lol). The important thing is for them to know how far to go and to be able to say stop when they have had enough (this has to be learned).
IMO the best way to learn the boundries of rough and tumble is at home with dad (or mum) and siblings, uncles, cousins.

At school they will allow this sort of play in the play ground but step in if it goes too far.

Don't discourage your boys (or girls) from playing like this, they are not being violent (they are bonding).

Apparently it peaks at about 7 (so you've got a bit more to come lol).

bobthebuddha Tue 09-Sep-08 20:34:50

Mmm, I saw the same thing over the summer too Cory; there were boys several years apart in age playfighting together & the youngest got pushed in play, started crying, older ones baffled by his tears. Only this weekend the same kid was at a party with DS & seemed to have become completely hardened!

bluejellybean Tue 09-Sep-08 20:40:58

I would make an appointment to ask the head what supervision (ie how many teaching assistants) is available during playtime and how these adults are used. Are they facilitating play? Are they organising singing gammes, skipping, ball games. Are there playtime buddies helping the younger children play?

This is something all good schools should offer.

debs40 Wed 10-Sep-08 20:44:35

Thanks for all your responses. Much appreciated.

I spoke to my son's new teacher today and she said that the incident in class was nothing and she certainly wouldn't have reported it back to me. He wasn't given time out. They just talked about how to deal with disagreements.

She says playfighting is entirely normal and she hadn't even noticed it and that she would expect them to tire of it by the end of the year.

I felt much better. She says if there is a problem she will tell me. I think the moral of the story is not to worry too much. Just to reinforce boundaries but that they will grow out of it... fingers crossed!

forevercleaning Wed 10-Sep-08 20:46:51

just boys being boys, go with it, relax, and they might grow out of it! I am still waiting with boys of 12 and 8 though grin

Niecie Wed 10-Sep-08 20:52:49

I agree with scattyspice. It is totally normal and to be expected.

Little boys especially are like puppies and they learn their physical boundaries by play fighting. They need to be allowed to do this but they also need to be watched as I know from experience of my two DS's that a poorly aimed play punch/kick which makes contact and hurts can escalate into a real fight.

I think you have to assume that the teacher doesn't think it is a problem.

When they are a bit older this energy can be channelled into sports a bit more but at 5 they are too young for organised games.

It will pass - 7 yrs is probably the time it starts to abate. It is definitely more a feature of infant than junior playgrounds.

AbbeyA Wed 10-Sep-08 20:59:28

I have 3 boys. Boys just love playfighting! It is just like baby animals. We went to the zoo once and watched 2 young bears having a playful fight-after a few minutes DS2 looked at DS3 (20months apart-aged about 5 and 6)and they started to imitate the bears!! It was only what they did at home anyway!

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