Misunderstandings During Play
“Teacher, he called E a bully!” the angry boys informed me, aghast that such a strong word could be uttered in Kindergarten.
“But, first he…” the sad boy tried to defend himself.
Taking in the scene before me, and knowing the key players as I do, I determined to talk to the “bully-accuser” first.
“Tell me why you are sad,” I began.
“Well, he said I couldn’t play commander fighter with him.”
“But why would he say that?”
“I don’t know. He said I’m mean and he doesn’t want to play with me.”
I called E over to explain himself.
“Tell me what happened before he called you a bully.”
“I asked him to give me those two pieces he has on his space ship and he wouldn’t give them to me, so I said he can’t play with me anymore. He can’t be on our commander fighter cause he’s not nice.”
“But why does he have to give you those pieces?”
“Because there’s only two of them and I want them.”
“But he’s playing with them right now. You can’t tell him to give them to you when he’s using them.”
“L, maybe you could say that he can have them next time, or when you’re done with them.”
“But he called me a bully and Teacher A says that bully is a really bad word.”
“I think his feelings were hurt.”
L nods tearfully.
To E: “It made him sad when you said that he can’t play with you. His feelings were hurt.”
“L, when your feelings are hurt, you need to say that. Please say, ‘Those words hurt my feelings and make me sad.’”
Nods and looks down, mumbling, “My feelings are hurt.”
Sometimes, when our feelings get hurt, we say things that we don’t really mean. Sometimes, it takes a neutral party to come in and help us identify the feelings behind the words and translate them into words that others can understand.
We especially need to label and explain feelings and words to children who might understand that words have power, but don’t always attach the correct meaning to the words they use to describe their own feelings.
My job today in the classroom was to listen, explain and offer suggestions for what to do and say next time. There will be a next time, I am sure, but hopefully, over time, the boys will learn to play and work together without hurling accusations at each other and walk away with mutually hurt feelings over a misunderstanding.