Winning without playing

Yesterday I was at a center just before lunch.  The children were outside and it was time to go in and wash hands and get ready to eat.  Two boys, well one boy and the other was following him, decided that they were going to play chase with the teachers and not do what was asked of them.

So here is the scenario: 14 children waiting patiently like they were asked at the door, 2 children running sporadically around the yard, 2 adults running sporadically around the yard chasing the 2 children, 1 program trainer assessing the situation.

The program trainer (that would be me) stopped the adults and told them to go inside with the children.  I stayed out with the two.  The two boys?  Well, they saw me out there and went running from me.  I’m not surprised; I expected it from them.

Within 5 minutes, however, I had BOTH boys sitting at the lunch table ready to eat.  Oh, and I never broke a sweat and never said a word to them until they were at the door.

Want to know how I did it?  I took away the game.

The game they were playing was get-the-teachers-to-chase-us-around-while-we-run-from-them-and-laugh.  If the teacher won’t chase them the game goes away.

When the other children went inside, I stood and leaned on the post at the patio area.  The boys?  Ran around everywhere BUT where I was.  Then, they got real brave.  The stood on the same side of the yard as me about 6 feet away.  The stood there whispering to each other, laughing, giggling, and then….running as quickly as they could right in front of me.

I didn’t move.  I didn’t say anything.  I just stood there leaning against the pole. When they got to the other side of me about 6 feet away they stopped and turned to each other giggling, laughing, thinking they did something clever.  I didn’t even make eye contact.

Then they went running up the slide structure and were dancing around up there trying to entice me to come chase them.  I stood, leaning against the pole, not looking at them.

I heard the words, “I think break and some noodles or something.”  AH, so they are getting hungry…it should be about 30 seconds more.

They climb down the structure, walk to the door, reach up to the handle, and I stopped them held both their hands.  Why?  Not because they didn’t go in when they were asked, but because ONLY ADULTS are allowed to open doors in the centers. 

The follower?  He went inside and got ready for lunch.  The leader?   He stayed outside sitting with me.  Why?  Because the leader was still acting goofy and was getting the other children's attention in all of this and dancing around.  Until he didn’t have an audience, he was going to continue and think he got away with something.  He can’t think that because he’ll do it again.

So he and I sat outside for a while, we talked about listening and how important it is to listen to the teachers because it’s not safe.  He could get hurt.  When he finally calmed down enough and stopped the game, I asked him, “When the teachers say it’s time for lunch, what are you supposed to do?”

“line up”

Okay, go do that

Once he went to where he was supposed to, he goofed around some more.  I waited until he calmed back down. 

Now, what are you supposed to do

Sit down for lunch

No, you need to wash your hands first, and then you need to sit down.  When you go in, I expect you to go wash your hands and sit down without distracting the other children.  They are sitting eating their lunch and I don’t want you to disturb them.

He didn’t disturb them at all.

Why?  Because I took away the game.  It’s not fun to play with the teacher if the teacher won’t play the game.

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