I was playing with my younger sister the other day, chasing her around our house, flipping her over my shoulder, carrying her upside down. All the while she was screaming and laughing, and shouting no no no stop. That phrase, no no no stop, is something we have all said when playing and having fun, whether we are being tickled or being chased. There is almost no playground in the world where those words haven’t been uttered. Being the great big brother I am, ignored her screams and we continued to play because I knew she wasn’t in danger or really wanting to stop, but just playing.
We finished playing and my sister went to bed, and I finished the homework she had distracted me from I started to think about those words, no no no stop. I knew she was just joking and we were playing and had she really wanted to stop playing she would have said she was tired and wanted to do something else. Part of me began to wonder if by ignoring that phrase in play was subconsciously teaching her that it was normal for her to be ignored or that she couldn’t say no. I kept thinking about the reading where the girl was tormented by another boy in her class and felt that she couldn’t speak up about it. I would never want my sister to ever feel that she was in a position where she couldn’t say no or felt her words were not important.
I wonder if we are not subconsciously teaching kids that they can ignore and be ignored. If so, we need to change it, maybe if only starting with how we play.