When I write a blog I don’t profess to have all of the answers. I write them either to invite people to smile or invite people to think, and share their smiles and thoughts.
At the start of February 2017, a news story was published regarding two young children aged five and seven who were detained by police and questioned without parental presence. If I then went on to tell you it was because they had a toy gun and the referral was made by the school to the Police under the Prevent Duty I wonder what thoughts are going through your heads now. Read full story here
My first thought when writing this was to try and justify why it is okay to play with guns, part of the training I offer as a consultant is around Superheroes and Weapons play but then after counting to ten and taking a huge deep breath I decided to take another approach and try to put myself in the shoes of the children and “listen” to them.
Our children are surrounded by weapons and we cannot hide them from them and, why should we? There are atrocities happening around the word and children see and hear this on our news programmes and see images of people wielding guns. They may catch a glimpse of a gun on a TV programme in the hands of a bank robber stealing money or a re-enactment of a gunmen in America shooting college students. We quite happily tell our children guns are bad and you should not play guns.
However and this is a big however, we involve our children in Poppy day celebrations thanking those people who protected our country, with guns. We tell our children if you are lost then you should find a Police Officer, who may be carrying a gun. At local fetes, in shopping centres, or in our high street with have people smiling and holding out collection tins for “help the heroes” these are the people that carry guns. What about our Olympic Athletes, Britain returned from Rio with several medals in the shooting are these good people or bad people are guns good or bad.
If we hide guns from our children how will we inspire them to protect our country, to be a police officer, to be a hero or to be an Olympic Athlete. If a child in your care has a parent who works in the armed forces, are we telling them that their parent is bad and guns are bad.
These questions I quite happily explore with participants on my training, but going back to being in the child’s shoes if it’s confusing for us and we are all in dispute how can we expect them to understand?
Children act out their fears in situations where they feel safe, but if they act out a fear of guns and are then reported to the police do they then live in fear of acting out a fear. Is Prevent, preventing children from playing. In Penny Hollands book, We don’t play with guns here (2003) Penny comments about an observation she makes of a teacher telling children to stop playing with guns, to which they replied, “we are only pretending, it’s not real” Should as I often say, we be listening to our children.
So many questions, so many discussion and possible answers but the beauty of sharing stories like this within the early years community is that we can discuss it with passion and respect for others, putting the children at the centre of everything we do.
I want to end this blog with a more light hearted story I read about the use of guns in school in a certain tabloid newspaper some time ago. A mother was being interviewed after her son was excluded because he bit his sandwich into a gun shape and started to pretend to shoot his friends at the packed lunch table. Now the mother was being baited to say something awful about the school and she was asked to comment. She told the reporter that she would still be sending her son to that school because she loved the teachers and he had great friends. However she would not be sending her son to school with yogurts anymore. When the reporter enquired why? She told him, she did not want someone mistaking the yogurt for a hand grenade. This parent obviously has a great sense of humour and a lot of respect for the school it was so nice to hear that someone could see how difficult it can be working with children and some of the difficult policies and procedures we have to work with.
John will be speaking at the Childcare Expo London March 4th Book Tickets Here