therapist Angela Hanscom is founder of the New England nature-based program TimberNook, and author of a bunch of fascinating articles, including â€œWhy So Many Kids Canâ€™t Sit Still in School Today.â€ Her latest piece is about how weâ€™re inadvertently depriving children of the opportunity to learn how to use their muscles, which leads them to a strange new kind of body-incompetence. This essay appears on Valerie Straussâ€™ blog in The Washington Post.
Why Kids Are Getting More Aggressive on the Playground, by Angela Hanscom
Tag a simple game of tag. Seems innocent enough. But is it? Not according to many teachers.
Kids are starting to hit with such force that they often end up whacking their opponent across the back in a monstrous slap. I’ve seen this myself many times. “Ouch!” one kid cries, now on their hands and knees and fighting off tears. “Don’t hit so hard!” they yell up at the child standing over them. Often, you hear the other child whine, “I didn’t mean to!” Many times the act seems unintentional, although painful for the victim nonetheless. Tag is now becoming such an issue that schools are starting to ban this once beloved game.
In the fall of 2013, the problem of banning the childhood game hit a little too close to home. At a local New Hampshire school, tag was no longer a reality for many children. A classic game that was cherished through the ages was dismissed due to safety concerns. Parents and children were confused and some were outraged. Headlines stated everything from, “Banning Tag is Dumb” to “More Schools Banning Tag because of Injuries.” Curious, I started interviewing teachers in Maine and New Hampshire about what they were seeing at recess time.
One teacher said, “Kids are becoming more aggressive. When they play games like tag, they push with great force, often hurting the other child. We had to implement a ‘two-finger’ touch rule, so that kids couldn’t push so hard.” Another teacher that had been around for 30 years, said she had seen an increase in aggressive behavior as well. “They can’t seem to keep their hands off each other! Kids are always getting hurt.” A local principal stated that tag had become such a problem that they had to get creative. They gave the children foam noodles to “tag” the other children with and avoid actual contact with the hands.
The problem? Due to less time in active play these days, children are not developing the senses in their joints and muscles (proprioceptive sense) like they used to.
Read the rest here. And my totally off-the-cuff guess would be that in addition to not getting to know their muscles, they also have so little practice at playing (and have perhaps too much practice at being part of our super-sensitive culture, attuned to every slight), that they could well misinterpret a tag as an assault.
Either way, same solution: More unsupervised play, especially beyond the school. â€“ L