Contraband of the Childhood Kind

Last Thursday as we’re all about to sit down for dinner, T casually mentions to me that he “got to sit on the thinking bench at school today.”

Um, what?!

See, the “thinking bench” or “chair” is where his teacher, Mrs. W, asks kids to sit when one or two (or several more) warnings just isn’t and hasn’t been getting the job done discipline-wise. It’s a place she designates in the classroom (chair) or outdoors (bench) for the kids to sit when they’re having a tough time listening to directions or following a rule (or two or three). Yes, it sounds very much like “time-out” but trust me when I tell you this is part of a much more structured, step-by-step discipline plan. It’s not anywhere that a kid immediately sits without passing go, nor is it a discipline tool that is used lightly. It’s also a place that gives a child a part of the power in the discipline process; they are asked to sit and think about what it is they did and why they’ve been asked to sit down and think about it. This helps to open dialogue between student and teacher about understanding the school and classroom rules and limits, and I think it’s fantastic.

But having said that, no parent really WANTS to hear that their kid got to sit in the “thinking anything” when it’s defined like this, so this was my cue to follow-up with T about why it was he “got to sit there.”

“Guns,” he stoically says.

Um, WHAT?!?!

Yes, T’s teacher caught him talking about and/or playing some sort of gun game during recess on the playground with his buddies. Or as T’s version goes, he “got told on.” Well, whatever the story, he admitted it happened, and that’s all I cared about.

After a very careful and calm talk with T that night about why this sort of play isn’t allowed, I told T that he was to apologize to his teacher the very first moment he got the next morning at school. Staying even-keeled during this discussion wasn’t easy, but his openness and honesty really did help his cause and our approach (thank goodness for something positive in this, right?!).

The next morning, I walked T over to Mrs. W. He was very sincere and polite in his apology, which was another shining moment in this entire episode (silver linings, RMT’ers, take them where ever and whenever!). However, the light suddenly started to dim as he headed over to the rug to get seated for class, as this was when Mrs. W tells me that this wasn’t the first time this had happened with T since the start of school.

SAY WHAT?!?!?!

Piggyback that with a phone call home from Mrs. W Wednesday afternoon regarding another hands-on playing episode with a friend on the playground at recess.

WHAT. THE. EFF.

I was shocked, but at the same time, not really. We don’t own any guns in this house. We don’t hunt. We don’t watch violent shows in front of T (if ever really). We don’t spank or use any forms of corporal punishment. But let’s be honest: Boys will absolutely be boys. This gun-fighting, karate-kicking thing seems to be pre-programmed into these little testosterone factories (and some girls, too, I do not discriminate). However, this is not an excuse for rule-breaking of any sort anywhere or anytime. To hear that my kid is one of the ones at school that needs to sit down and think about why he’s chosen to play “guns” or use his hands on a another child for any reason – playing or not – is so SO not OK. Zero-tolerance really. At school, at home, at the playground, anywhere, anytime, any how. No.

As I reflected on this new-found information, I realized that this was a call for action; thing is, try as we might, we really haven’t been 100 percent zero-tolerance about the guns. Have you ever gone through your child’s toys and really looked at how violence and fighting wedges its ugly self right in there? I actually hadn’t gone through his stuff in a focused way for a long while, so what better time than the present. Anything that was an actual toy weapon and anything that could be construed as a launchable projectile – no matter how cutesy and play-like – was fair game for confiscation.

T’s contraband. It’s all been surrendered for a date and age to be determined later.

Whoa. Check out this pile of stuff. I almost feel like one of those proud police officers on the news showing off their  pile of contraband that they discovered in an unsuspecting warehouse somewhere off the criminalized beaten path. Except trust me when I say that I am not so proud. I’m stunned actually. And truthfully I know there’s more crap just like this lurking about in his room and around the house that I just haven’t gotten to, and I know there’s more outdoors, too. Water guns, disc launchers, LEGO swords and guns, ropes, chains, bubble swords, foam “batarangs,” Imaginext gun- and disc-flinging thingies, and so much more! Wow. And that’s just T’s toys; think of all the books and videos looming behind-the-scenes, too. Oy. I already did snag  one library book for return because of the “knight” theme. Sorry, T, I liked that story, too, actually, but rules are rules.

I know some might be thinking that ours was an extreme reaction to this predicament. Well, I don’t, not for now anyway. T must learn that this type of play is off-limits at school always and elsewhere for the time being. School doesn’t take these things lightly, and I completely support and understand this, and we are on board 100 percent. The weapon-based toys have been taken away and will be out of sight and reach for a while. Down the road when T is older and better able to understand the difference between role-playing like this with toys on toys and role-playing like this with other people and in inappropriate situations (i.e., that it’s not OK at school), then he will get them back. That could be a month, a few months, or next year. Only time, good behavior, and better choices will tell.

I’ll keep you updated as to when we schedule T’s contraband “parole” hearing.

How have you handled the “gun” play issues at your house and elsewhere? How do you redirect your son’s natural energies into something other than hand-on-hand play with his friend(s)? Please share. We’re all in this battle together, RMT’ers!

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