"bad guys" and other violent play - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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#31 of 46 Old 03-29-2003, 07:46 PM
 
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Taylor is almost 3 but already we are dealing with this too.

Right now Taylor's favorite "game" is to dress up as a Knight in Shining Armor [paper bag with foil taped on] with sword [fabric sister made] and protect The King Of Burger [sister with burger king crown and blanket] and Beautiful Princess [me with tiara and white bathrobe] from The Dragon [daddy with bird claw gloves, or one of the cats that is a good sport about being chased etc]. Usually this revolves around rides on The Mighty Steed [our dog] and drinking from The Blessed Chalice [water in sippy cup] while hanging out in The Castle [IKEA kids tent in family room].

It is fun, and because his playmates are most always adults, we are able to keep it very calm and even so to speak. Rules like no hitting, scratching, biting, or we imediately stop play etc. And we take turns being chased, no real bad guy all the time per se. Taylor's cousin Kate has joined us a couple times [she is 3 too] and LOVES it because she gets to be the princess and taylor the knight and they chase the rest of us [kissy-monster Never tickle-monster in our family FYI] all over the house and back yard.

I think all this activity and imagination is good? I am glad that we have the chance with both kids to supervise their play and play WITH them too. Even at 3 Taylor and Kate are getting VERY responsive in larger groups to other kids feelings... when someone "scares" them or gets "in their face" etc they know to say "please stop..." and even better for Taylor he is respectful of when other children tell him "no" or "stop" too which we like.

What will he end up like as an adult? No clue. We can only hope for the best.

Oh. One thing that has REALLY made a change this last few weeks, we got a book "Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight" which is fun because all the other stories we've seen have dragons as bad and knights as good but this book reverses that and the Dragon is the hero. So now when we say switch and we chase you it goes well. At least even if it is "us vs them" he sees that there are two sides?
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#32 of 46 Old 03-29-2003, 07:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by imakebelieve
The mom was pretty POed, and then ds said to her, "you shouldn't let your child play with toys guns." Then she was really mad and stomped out of the store.

I was so proud!!!
Oh My!! Just wanted to pipe in with GOOD FOR YOUR BOY!! Wow. That is great!!
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#33 of 46 Old 04-01-2003, 03:46 AM
 
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My 5 year old has also taken an interest in good guys and bad guys. I always tell him that bad guys are just people who sometimes make bad choices. We have rules about gun/sword play like the game has to change if someone doesn't feel safe, no pointing at someone who isn't playing. I think if you try to hard to stop the play that it will become a power struggle which may lead to sneaky behavior. I'd rather have it out in the open and talk about what I believe.
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#34 of 46 Old 04-02-2003, 04:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Good point about having it out in the open. I am learning that this is just a time for teaching/exploring what I believe with him.
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#35 of 46 Old 04-02-2003, 10:28 PM
 
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Great thread!
I think it is so important right now that we, as parents, don't project our frustrations with the world at large at our children when they are just doing what children do. It is so easy for me to see my son's violent play and good versus evil oversimplifications and think of George Bush or a terrorist organization, but I really do believe that he's just healthily grappling with a big, big world.

I have been through the whole thing I read over and over in this thread. Ultimately, I concluded that this is normal. Our perfectly-raised boys (generally) go through this. I got a lot of support from this board while I was grappling with this, but one thing really stuck out. You don't see twenty replies about well-brought-up APed boys who suddenly are obsessed with weapons for no reason. This is a normal phase. There wouldn't be so many of us so worried about this if it were a freak of nature kind of thing. There must be some important task in it for them.

I also realized that I needed to support him in it. If he were equally fascinated with the violin or with woodworking, I would be acting so differently. Rather than risk communicating to him that I truly don't care about his interests (or am antagonistic, even), I decided to channel his interests in directions I could tolerate. This meant, for us, knighthood. I ushered in an era of knight training, even allowed swords, which I never thought I would do. For me, swords don't cause many problems in schools or late at night in Circle K's, also there is an art associated with it, so I sucked it up. One great bonus: We've learned A LOT about chivalry and that has had a really positive effect on his behavior.

When I comprmoised on the weapons in the house thing, it did create a testing phase. I think he figured if I'd waver on one, I might give in on all. I finally explained to him, honestly, why gun play didn't work for me. I think someone else mentioned this, but everyone involved (even if they are only watching), must accept the play for it to be fun. I told him exactly why gun play wasn't fun for me and he got it.

The best advice I can give is to find the support you need as a peace-loving mother to support your son in the way he needs you to. Great strength comes from moms with older sons, who, lo and behold, turn out great. Also necessary: another mom to mourn with. This really is hard (or at least, has been for me). But it is so universal, that it can't be something done "wrong." It must serve some purpose...
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#36 of 46 Old 04-03-2003, 02:31 AM
 
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There is a wonderful book entitled "Who is calling the shots: how to respond effectively to childrens' fascination with war play and war toys" by Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Diane E. Levin.

It talks about the need for children (mostly boys) to act out the polarity they encounter as humans on this planet in the "good" vs "bad" camp. How important it is for the parent to honor this need, yet remain firm about setting safe boundaries for this to occur that is in keeping with the family's morals and belief-systems and the child's own integrity.

While I think that this sort of play is healthy (within aforementioned boundaries) I don't think age 3 is too young to explain one very important thing to children (and something I do from time to time): that there are no "good" or "bad" people. Simply people who make "good" or "bad" choices; "good" or "bad" behavior. An important difference, but one that honors the Light within us all.

Thoughtfully offered,
Michelle in NY - mom to ds (4) and dd (9 months)
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#37 of 46 Old 04-03-2003, 02:36 AM
 
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Ackermama, so true...I appreciated in your post how you mentioned that it would help if we had someone to commiserate with! The mom I spend the most time with is my SIL. She is extremely judgemental about my son and "his violent tendencies". He's a sweet kid, like all the others mentioned here. He plays very gently, so I have to remind myself all the time that this is a real need for him right now. Her son ONLY plays with Thomas the tank engine. That is his only interest and has been for a long time (going on a year). She loves to make comparisons about that. I'm usually defending my children and thinking, "I'd rather they act out this type of play and have more than one interest" (I get judgemental too, vicious circle ). In a sort of related topic, my older son has caught me crying a couple times in relation to the war. He doesn't watch TV, so he doesn't see any kind of war footage. I have debated talking about it with him, I want to protect him from it. But he asks why I'm crying so I have started talking to him about it. Not all the gory details, but he's got a lot of questions about why? He knows there is a war going on, meaning people using guns and other weapons to hurt and kill each other. He knows that there are children and moms and dads who are dying because of it. But, at 4, death doesn't quite mean death, he knows death is bad, makes people sad, but doesn't know the finality of it. How are you other moms handling this?

DS 12 DS 9 DD 6
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#38 of 46 Old 04-03-2003, 02:42 AM
 
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Michelle1k, I think we cross-posted...I completely agree with the good/bad labels. Also, the "bad guys" portrayed in the media, usually have a certain "look". If we see that, I will usually engage him in a conversation about it. Just because someone looks "mean" doesn't mean they are. On the other hand, many people who look "nice" may not be. They totally get it, you're right 3 years old is not to young. They are much smarter than we often give them credit for.
p.s., I'm glad this thread is thriving, I've learned something from everyone who's posted here!

DS 12 DS 9 DD 6
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#39 of 46 Old 04-03-2003, 03:38 AM
 
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This information was written by my former co-teachers. There was more, but I thought it might be too long for online. Hope this helps.


Keep young children away from media images of Violence, War and suffering.
Children simply do not have the experience to process some of the unthinkable graphic images that the News will portray. The emotional impact of such pictures are long lasting and fear inducing. Paradoxically, the “play by play” approach of modern media has also de-sensitized us to the suffering induced by these distant events- it seems unreal to even those of us who have endured violence first hand. Get your news away from children’s eyes and ears. Be aware of your conversations in front of children, including phone conversations where they hear only one side. They DO pay attention, even when you think they aren’t.

Be the “open door” that children need to field the questions they will inevitably have.
Children, even when kept from the media bombardment of news, will sense the feelings of those who care for them. Pretending that everything is normal when you are fearful, angry, sad, depressed, worried or upset only confuses children. They will inevitably hear bits of the war from others. If no answers are forthcoming from the adults, children make up their own-, which can be even more frightening than what is truly occurring. Acknowledge your own feelings and opinions. Allow them theirs by actively listening, asking questions for clarification, and answering questions based on the child’s age, experience and needs.

Let the Children “play” it out.
Children use play as therapy, fear-facing and gaining control. As we adults turn to each other to talk and debate, or we take action by protesting, signing petitions, sending donations, signing up for the military, making emergency supply kits- children take action by playing out the themes in the society that surrounds them. Don’t change family values or boundaries- but within those allow children to play out what they are feeling or thinking. This can include drawing and painting, dictating stories, playing with friends or action figures, or even building and destroying what was built.

Convey love and reassurance as best you can.
Children need to know they are loved, and that someone will always care for them. They need to feel routines and everyday life are as undisrupted as possible. They are trying to make meaning of what is so difficult to understand. If you are a family that takes action, explain to children your actions. If you are a family that needs to use home as a “denial” refuge from the outside world, explain that the war stops at the door. If you have spiritual beliefs use these to outline your behaviors and yearnings to your children.
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#40 of 46 Old 04-03-2003, 04:35 PM
 
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If you or anyone else your child knows is upset about the war or other current events, I do agree that it is important to talk (fairly) openly with your child. I can remember being sheltered from things as a child myself and, often, what I made up in my head was much worse than what was actually going on. Example: My father was in the midst of several affairs and a drinking problem; I knew something was going on that my parents were not letting me in on, but I had somehow convinced myself that they had decided to give me away. I had ZERO evidence for this and, in fact, much evidence to the contrary, but it didn't stop me from being scared #$@&less through this period.

Everyone has a different threshold for what they are/not willing to withold/reveal with their children and I think that is too individual to really even discuss in this forum. It depends on so much more than age, etc. Whatever you choose to let your children in on, I take some really great advice from good old Mister Rogers... He said (post 9/11, I think, but it may have been an echo of something said previously) that no matter what you are seeing in real life, watching in tv, hearing about on the radio, or reading about in print, there's always a way to refocus it for children. No matter what horrible image is there, it is surrounded by something hopefull... car accident: ambulance/firemen, crime: police, etc. Every bad thing that happens brings out the best in someone somewhere and a hero is born. This sounds kind of cheesy, but I have found since then that it is true. My son saw 9/11 happen live, before anyone knew anything more than that (another) bomb had gone off on a couple floors of one building. I was unable to conceal my response as the second tower was hit and the reality of what had happened came into focus. This was totally inappropriate for his age, but that's what happened. As a result, he was honestly well-shaken, but came through with a zeal for firemen that bordered on obsession and lasted nearly two full years. We knew the guys at fire station #1 on a first-name basis and have a dress-up box to match. It worked really well for him. Even now, there are good people and things going on in every tv image, you just have to help your child look. Just a thought to throw out there and incorporate when in works...
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#41 of 46 Old 04-03-2003, 04:36 PM
 
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That's great information, makes perfect sense...I'm going to try to copy it if you think that would be okay. Thanks Tiffany C.

DS 12 DS 9 DD 6
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#42 of 46 Old 04-03-2003, 10:47 PM
 
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yes ok to copy
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#43 of 46 Old 04-04-2003, 12:13 AM
 
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Gosh, this is a long thread!! Anyway, my experience has been (as a former preschool teacher and now a mom of two beautiful girls--4 and 2 years old) that children need to "chase" away the bad and scary forces in their lives. I think it is useful to avoid toy guns, etc. but to allow children to pretend a stick is a sword or gun. When they put that stick back down, it is a stick again. (Put a gun down, and it's always a gun!). When they pick the stick back up, it can be anything! Just my two cents.

~Melissa
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#44 of 46 Old 04-09-2003, 03:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I liked the idea of needing another mama to mourn with, as I don't have anyone in quite my situation in my everyday life, at the moment. At the same time, talking to all of you helps me realize how normal this is and how I have to take a deep breath and learn along with my son.

I totally understand that this is all wrapped up for me with my feelings about the war. I don't let my son have ANY media exposure, which limits mine, which is ok, but he has been to peace marches, and thus knows something of what is going on. He has adopted my pin with "Justice, not Vengeance" as his own, which he translates as "Take the guys who do bad things to jail and don't fight with the people who didn't hurt anyone."

I have to wonder, just about the term "bad guys?" How often do you hear "bad girls" (ok, in the same context?) Does this fact that males commit most of the violence in our society have something to do with the need to fight evil in our "well raised AP sons"? I guess they have to struggle with the way to become a "good man".

Thank you so much to everyone who has shared in this thread, it has helped me so much.
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#45 of 46 Old 04-09-2003, 11:57 AM
 
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I have struggled with the good guys/bad guys thing, too. I started without that language, but empasizing that there are people and people, all people, sometimes make bad choices and sometimes make good choices. I was very firm on this, but there were bad toys/good toys in our home, bad books/good books, bad/good blocks, socks, bubbles in the bathtub, etc. At the same time, I heard the same things from others on this website and began to wonder if bad versus good was important developmentally. Perhaps, as our boys struggle to become good men, they must first define what it is they don't want to be. To make things easier, they stereotype/villify/etc. Maybe I will try to reintegrate the complexity after he's solid on the simplified version of good and bad. It just seems too ubiquitous to be a matter of (mis)perception. Anyone agree (I'm open to support)? Anyone disagree (I am open to thoughts I have not thought of yet)?
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#46 of 46 Old 04-18-2003, 02:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I've come to agree that it is important developmentally (bad vs good) and that they need to simplify it to that extent, because of their age. Not only do they have to villify, I am convinced that they sometimes have to try out what they know you don't want them to be, or what they think they shouldn't be. My son gets a certain thrill from "being an outlaw" (my words, not his) As a feminist, I know it is not easy to be a woman in this world, but being a mama of a son has made me realize that it is awfully hard to be a good man, too.

Thank you to whoever recommended "Who's Calling the Shots?" by Carlsson-Paige. I second the recommendation. It made me realize how important and valid play is, how it is my child's work and I need to respect his need to play out certain themes, AND reconfirmed my decision to have no TV in our house, very very limited video, and no war toys. Great suggestions to encourage creative play and for books and resources. Check it out. I had to request it from another library, but worth the wait.
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