A flag on the play. Literally. I had a genius idea the other night after dinner, watching my sons play the way little kids do: full contact and with lots of enthusiasm. They started to get a little too rambunctious, and my husband I started to call out warnings for them to cool it . . . of course they ignored us, and things elevated, and then everything ended in tears.
Luckily it wasn’t serious (a bonk here, a tumble there), but then a light bulb went off. Bright. Yellow. Flags. The weighted ones. Tossed in front of their faces when things started to look like they were getting out of hand. I floated the idea to Steve, who was skeptical at best. His position is that they’ll ignore the flags, which is a valid thought, since they ignore our warnings. I floated it by some friends (and my colleagues here at NPN) and their response was unanimous: it’s worth a try.
Here’s my theory, if you can picture this scenario: kids are tumbling around like a bunch of puppies when you notice that they’re headed for calamity. You grab a handy yellow football-style flag, and launch it in their direction. Kids are like predators: if it’s bright and moving quickly, they are drawn to it and must have it. So it distracts them long enough for them to be redirected. No raised voices, no having to physically intervene. Just a flag . . . on their play.
I immediately ordered a set of two off the internet. We waited (some more patiently than others) for them to arrive. Once they did, I weighed them to make sure they weren’t too heavy and discovered each one comes in at right about 3 ounces. Which means if I accidentally bean one of my boys while trying to regulate their play, I can breathe easy knowing they’ve likely whacked each other harder than that in the previous few minutes. Obviously I’m never going to aim for their bodies, but they don’t call it “rough and tumble” play for nothing, if you catch my drift.
So here’s what happened: the flags arrived, I showed them to the boys, told them where we were storing them, and we had a discussion about what their purpose is. I had to remind them a dozen or so times that only adults can use the flags.
Then I forgot to use them.
Seriously, I had them sitting in a bowl on the bar for about a week before I remembered they were there and flung them into the melee. It actually worked – they saw the flag fly in and were mesmerized by it. The bright color and the motion combined to catch their eyes and distract them long enough for me to calm them down and redirect their play.
It’s still novel, but I’m hoping that the novelty slides into habit. I know I’m going to have rowdy boys for at least the next decade or two, and I’m happy to embrace that. But when things move from rowdy to dangerous, I’m not going to hesitate to throw a flag on their play.