Getting the children to play nicely

Once upon a time the children used to play nicely. They had quite a lot of freedom and invented all sorts of very involved activities. They played singly, in pairs, in small and large groups.  They developed constructive, co-operative, competitive and territorial games which were a pleasure to watch.

However, the children’s activity could get quite heated, tempers would rise, people would get upset and bad things would be said. Sometimes they got violent and some children would threaten others and even hit them. Occasionally things got out of hand and a child would get badly hurt.

Most of the children disliked the threat or use of violence in their activities because it really spoiled things. But when the problem seemed to be on the increase a few children decided that they should use knives to protect themselves.

The parents could see that the children were sometimes capable of threatening each other and didn’t want any of them to get hurt so they always told them off when they behaved aggressively. When they discovered that some of their children had knives they tried to explain that this was not making anyone safer – quite the opposite in fact. The children could see that this was right as a general rule but those that had knives still kept them, and even collected them because it made them feel safer. They knew they could use the threat of using a knife to settle arguments and get their own way.

Some of the children without knives tried to get hold of some in order to be able to stand up to those that already had them and the parents found it hard to argue against this.

Things got quite dangerous; a couple of children had been very badly hurt in a knife attack which was allegedly aimed at preventing further violence and, despite all the parents’ efforts, there were a number of further occasions when a fatal incident was narrowly avoided.

The parents did their best to persuade the children to cut down on the number of knives overall and often brought them together to discuss the problem. The children who had knives mostly took the view that they didn’t really want to use them but had to hang on to them to help ensure everyone was safe from other children who were less responsible.

Eventually, the parents did the obvious thing. With the children’s agreement, they got together and used their collective authority to confiscate all the knives and to ensure that no child ever had access to any. They started by saying they were just ‘looking after’ them for safe keeping but they soon destroyed all of them and made sure that no child could get a knife again. Anyone who even tried would be subject to the harshest sanctions on behalf of the entire community.

Taking all the knives out of circulation didn’t stop the children from disagreeing, arguing or occasionally fighting but it did mean that there was no danger that knives would ever be used to settle an argument.

Try reading countries for children, weapons of mass destruction for knives and United Nations for parents.

See also:

Let us be midwives! Sadako Kurihara (August 2015)

Nazim Hikmet: Hiroshima and Strontium 90 (April 2015)


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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