Should schools stamp out copycat behaviour?

Children copy and paste the behaviour of those around them all the time.

Role models are great people to copy and emulate…if their behaviour is positive and constructive.

But what happens when children copy behaviour that isn’t? Should a school step in and make a sliding tackle to stop the rot?

This is precisely what one primary school did during the World Cup when some of its children were playing football and ‘doing a Neymar’. For those not into football, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, commonly known Neymar, is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a forward for French club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team.

He is a great player but he’s also constantly criticised for diving, falling over and making a meal out of the slightest touch or in some cases not being touched at all. His comical play-acting has been laughed at and seen him get into a fair amount of hot water.

His fake fouls and theatrical writhing on the ground send out the wrong message to children because this is plain old simple cheating and unfair play. Described as an an embarrassment to football, Neymar is no role model for children to follow.

French legend Eric Cantona takes a poke at Neymar in this hilarious video:

Children look at football players and copy them – they’ve done this for years. Eric Cantona is no saint either having famously kung-fu kicked a spectator in a game – children copied that too.

But we have to draw the line and say enough is enough – this is what headteacher Richard Potter did at Home Farm School in Colchester. As reported in The Daily Mirror, he banned football for a week after he noticed that some of the children in his school were copying Neymar and arguing with each other Neymar-style. He said,

I am not anti-football at all. This is a learning opportunity to build on their sportsmanship.

Rather than supporting Mr Potter, incredibly some parents objected. Surely this was the right decision because Mr Potter is sending out the message that cheating and arguing aren’t behaviours he wants to see in his school. Who could argue against that?

Morals and sportsmanship are important for children to learn and a one-week ban gives them time to think about how they could behave differently if they value their football. The over-imitation of Neymar can’t be tolerated as “it’s just children playing”.

The headteacher is like the referee and will always face opposition but you would think in this situation there would be people applauding his decision not criticising it. He hasn’t banned it completely but establishing a new code of conduct.

Do we want children to become cheats? Of course not. Fair play always wins…look at the exemplary behaviour of Harry Kane. If children want to emulate a player then he’s a positive role model they should be looking to copy.

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