Our lush backyard, at sunset, makes for the perfect setting in my son’s make believe game, which takes place in the Amazon (the subject of today’s lessons). He stalks a monster, a horrific creature who will break any living thing in half.
The bow and arrow he worked on tirelessly to create are held high, in the ready, to kill this monster. My son’s face is tense and alert, drops of sweat fall from his curly hair, mosquitos feast on his neck because he’s too engrossed to swat them away.
I watch surreptitiously from the back door, shaking my head. My sweet natured, gentle, amicable little boy always turns everything he learns into a bloody, frightening game.
I can still hear myself say ‘gentle, gentle’ when, as a toddler, he would hit or act aggressively. This past year, after several run ins with bullies, when all he could do was cry with self imposed impotence, I caught myself wishing I had not pushed the pacifist card so much on my son.
There has been a quiet movement making it’s way through parent circles for the last five years that claims quite convincingly that children need violent fantasy play as an ‘outlet’ for their development. This violent play helps children identify with the part of themselves that exists despite their parent’s efforts to squash or otherwise quiet it.
The range of emotion human beings feel goes from one end of the spectrum to the other. The theory is in trying to make our children gentle we deny them the right to be angry and defend themselves should the situation call for it. The ability to anger remains in children but a healthy way of expressing it is never learned.
A thoughtful and well researched book that’s a must read on the topic is ‘Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes and Violence’ by Gerard Jones. Jones makes a very convincing argument substantiated by research and experts to allow our children these outlets (video games, tv, comic books, violent make believe games) so they can learn early, through play, how to manage their anger and slay the ‘monsters’ they are sure to cross paths with in real life.
Article By Nuria Almeida
Picture By Liz (perspicacious.org)