Violent Games and Rough Play at Preschool

Updated on May 10, 2010
J.K. asks from Davis, CA
4 answers

Okay Mamas, I'll try to keep this shortish... My 4 and a half year old son has been attending at play based preschool since last August. A few months ago, his primary teacher (there are about 4 on staff at a time, but one assigned to each age group) told me that there were concerns about my son's behavior mostly related to how he interacted with the teachers when he was corrected and there had been some instances where he displayed "puzzling" behavior. They wanted to address these problems before he went off to kindergarten where his behavior would not be tolerated.
He would seem to be happily playing but then would act out toward someone else in what was considered aggressive. We talked about him being over stimulated and having trouble recognizing boundaries. I talked to them about my concerns regarding how the kids are allowed to play there... before my son started there, he did not play shooting games or act out aggressively. I was concerned that he was playing with older boys whose play was more aggressive than he was used to and that his "aggressiveness" was actually a result of him feeling threatened and not knowing how to deal with these kinds of feelings or how to stop the play when he was not comfortable with it. ( He also had nightmares when he first started which I attributed to a move to a new house, and him being away from me and his sister for the first time) I was told that he was a leader and that they didn't believe that what I was saying was valid.
Today I had a conversation with a teacher about an incident involving another child pushing my son to the ground and calling him names, where my son said that he told a teacher and it seemed to be handled appropriately. But the game they had been playing was with a large group of boys in which "bad guys" and "good guys" were involved and there was shooting etc... I was concerned because my son does not play these types of games at home and I felt again, that if he was not used to playing in this way and the games are not closely monitored or directed, that it could easily get out of hand and there could be behavior that was not understood. I was told that (shooting games and wrestling) "this is the way boys play." And that if children are not allowed to play this way at this age they go onto higher grades where there is less supervision and they play this way anyway. They are trying to teach children that they have a choice to play games in which they could be hurt. This happens every spring at their school. I was asked how they wanted me to deal with him wanting to play these games and me not being ok with it.

I am confused and frustrated by this!! Am I the only person that thinks that violent games aren't ok?? And if it happens each spring and this is the way boys play, then why are there not some structured games that are somewhat teacher directed in terms of boundaries and rules to help the kids learn what behaviors are considered ok and which ones are not?

School is over in about a month and I have opted not to enroll my son in summer school. I don't want to pull him out because he seems to be doing better (behaviorally according to them) and he has good friends there, but I also feel like someone should say something about the way that this can impact kids.

Feedback please!

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So What Happened?

This is a little late, but I wanted to report in. My son did not want to go to school the last 3 weeks and I didn't make him. We talked about why he didn't want to go back and I was heartbroken to hear that he felt the the teachers were "mad at him a lot of the time." I did end up talking with his teacher and giving her our reasons for him not coming back and letting her know that I was disappointed that the school wasn't good fit for my son... I kept the conversation constructive, but still productive and I felt like I said what I needed to say without losing my cool and defeating the whole purpose.

I had really strong reservations about putting my son in kindergarten the following school year, partly because of the experience in preschool. But I am happy to report that he is doing very very well. He likes his teacher and is well liked by the students... he's engaged and learning and not the behavioral disruption I was led to believe that he would be. We've decided to leave last year behind and look forward to his success in school.

More Answers



answers from Honolulu on

Here is a good article for you, about this subject:

Next, if your ideas about how the kids are handled/taught, does not coincide with the schools/Teacher's philosophy... then perhaps you need to re-evaluate that.
And if your son is playing with older kids (obviously it is a mixed-age) type of school/classroom... then it does not seem to be real positive for him. Not all schools are "mixed-age" classrooms.

Next, your son's Teacher(s) seems to do nothing about it nor how the kids play. But, there are some teachers who WILL use it as a "learning" occasion, and talk to the kids about it and how to behave and be "nice" etc.
So that is why I say, if this school does not coincide with your ideas of how kids are taught/treated... then maybe find a school that is more constructive.

ALSO at his age of 4.5 years old, I believe that an actual PREschool (not play based play school), would be better for him. It is more structured then.

Then again, throughout his school years, and as he progresses onto other grade levels... there will unavoidably be other kids/varying ages/different influences there, that will impact your own child.
So, you need to teach him, about values/right&wrong/how to discern situations & good or bad kids etc. And how to problem-solve if a kid is mistreating him. For example, telling the teacher. A good Teacher, will assess the situation without assuming blame without analyzing the situation, for example.
Throughout school life, these things will happen. And it may be a cliche, but it starts at home... in how a kid, will be able to handle themselves, make decisions for themselves, choosing the right choices etc... and that their Parent, is there to advocate for them in instances of bullying or blatant misconduct upon them by another kid or Teacher. That the child have a voice... and will know they can tell you, the Mom about it or any mistreatment.

anyway, sorry for rambling,
all the best,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

my kids go to a school where imaginary guns or bad guys are not permitted in play. The school's focus is raising peaceful human beings who are good citizens. We do not have a tv in our home, as is the case with other kids in this school.

Yet, the boys bust out in fake guns made of sticks, swords, the whole nine yards. While spying on my sweet innocent three year old, I've seen him do it in an agressive way. He's not like that at home, but HE is like that at school and I can't blame it on anyone else. Maybe boys do just play like that. I don't know where it comes from in our family, we're all pretty laid back, no violence watching people. But it's in him.

We are lucky that our school's philosophy is on par with ours. I do wonder if there is something to men being hunters that inspires a lot of this, in which case our boys would have made excellent cave men, lol. Maybe there is a creative outlet you can find for this type of behavior, like throwing stones at a target, which diffuses the energy and is good for large motor coordination.

Good luck to you. I'm sure your boy is perfectly who he needs to be.

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answers from Dallas on

I would agree that them encouraging this sort of play is odd. But, they do have a point in saying he needs to learn to cope, because in reality, boys do play like that, at that age, and it does get worse as they get older and enter elementary school.

Where they are dropping the ball, is by allowing and encouraging the game and not teaching how to cope with it either, and also what you said, about not teaching the children play boundaries and behaviors and having teacher directed play time. That said, unless your child is being bullied, I don't see how a couple of games can put that much fear in him, so perhaps there is some more bullying going on than you are aware of, or he is just extra sensitive.

I'd pull him from the program and find somewhere else, since this curriculum isn't teaching him anything and doesn't know what they are doing from what you have said. Enroll him in a preschool or another setting and teach him at home how to deal with these types of situations as well, and how to handle himself and have courage in different settings and when to walk away.

Keep in mind, his fear and play aggression will have to be dealt with sooner than later, so you may as well start now.

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answers from Augusta on

My son's school does not allow play like that, it's a public school with a NO TOLERANCE policy, that gets ridiculous a times. But at home he plays super heroes , army , etc. He doesn't see this stuff at home. Boys just naturally play like this, doesn't matter what you do, for some unknown reason boys pretend play is violent. I grew up playing with boys and we almost always played , cops, or spys or secret agents. all of which involve rough play and pretend guns. Violent games are in the male DNA and just because they are going to be violent adults. no one I know grew up to be an inmate.

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