A Father’s Day Message – and Some Tips – from a Playworks Dad

As the father of two sons, age 8 and 10, I’ve worked hard to be a good role model. My children are at an impressionable age, and it’s important to me that I am someone they can emulate. I try my best to demonstrate good character, and I understand that good character starts with learned behavior.

But I know that modeling good behavior may not be enough. In actuality, my sons are away from me for most of the day. Influences by their peers, technology and their environment are also factors in their behavior.

Playworks has afforded my sons advantages on both side of the Playworks fence. My oldest son, Jeremy, is a Junior Coach. Part of his responsibilities is leadership training. These trainings give the students the opportunity to learn conflict resolution, problem solving and leadership skills. These skills are then used to assist the students and the staff at recess. In this technological world, where we barely know our neighbors, this sense of community is essential and greatly appreciated. Inclusion, fair play and establishment of rules are important attributes in good behavior and building of self-esteem. This behavior modification has positive repercussions even off the playground – children are better behaved in the classroom and elsewhere as well. My youngest son, Jalen, has also benefited from involvement in the Playworks program, being one of the students the junior coaches are supervising. He has learned about fair play, conflict resolution and group play.

As a parent who is involved in my sons’ daily lives, I have personally witnessed the positive effect the Playworks program has had on both of my children and on the other participants in the program. But, this behavior must be maintained. As the school year ends and the Playworks program has ended, the reach of the program must be continued. This is a role parents must play to maintain the positive results the Playworks program has worked to instill in our children. Balancing the social and emotional needs of children with their educational needs is imperative within our educational setting and as parents, we must encourage this growth in our own homes to help our children become responsible citizens in our society.

With Father’s Day upon us, I thought I would share some of the tips I’ve learned from observing the Playworks approach in action. I think they’re helpful whether or not your child participates in a Playworks recess program:

  • Demonstrate appropriate behavior yourself.
    • If your child sees you exhibiting anti-social conduct – losing your temper or cutting someone off on the highway, for instance – he may start mimicking that behavior.
  • Encourage your child’s school to incorporate life lessons – certainly at recess, but also in the classroom.
    • School isn’t just about the academics. While it may seem less important on its surface, teaching kids about fair play and conflict resolution is just as crucial as the three R’s to ensuring children’s potential for success in life.
  • Give high-fives at home as well as on the playground:
    • Give them credit for trying – make sure they know the effort is most important.
    • Praise them for their accomplishments.
  • "Check in" with your kids.
    • Ask them questions about their day that elicit a response:
      • How was school? What did they learn?
      • Are they being bullied? Being left out?
      • Are they treating others fairly?
  • Share your own childhood experiences.
    • Were you bullied as a child? Excluded from activities by your classmates?
    • Did you bully others or belong to a clique that left kids out?
    • Did you get into fights with other kids?
  • Find teachable moments.
    • While watching TV:
      • Although violence on TV might provide the most obvious opportunities for conversation, scenes where characters are throwing insults or otherwise exhibiting offensive behavior can serve as rich openings for discussion.
    • Discuss peer behavior.
      • We cannot control behavior of others, but we can control our own behavior. Use examples of others’ behavior to start a conversation.
  • Encourage your kids to use “Rock, Paper, Scissors” when dealing with minor conflicts with their friends or siblings.
  • Talk to other dads/parents.
    • Consider starting a Playworks recess parents’ group to discuss how you can reinforce Playworks’ efforts on the homefront.

Jeremy F. Tinsley, M.Ed. is a father to two boys Jeremy M. Tinsley and Jalen M. Little-Tinsley. He lives with his family in Philadelphia, PA.

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