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My son who just turned 4 this month has been increasing in his violent play and "war games" as he likes to call it, which makes me so sick. dh and I are peace advocates in every way possible. There is no television in his life, and we don't sit around talking about war but he seems to know all about it and loves it. Every day it's bombs ,army, guns, killing ect. and he always wants to be the "bad guy"<br>
This makes me uncomfortable and I feel that he is breaking our value system that we are trying to instill. Should I be worried.<br><br>
I've tried to shelter him so much from that aspect of this world, trying to raise a gentle, humble, and commpassionate son and he is already rebelling.<br><br>
What may be some other outlets for this kind of energy/interest?
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug"> I'm sure you're an excellent mother! I'm sure someone here will have very helpful advice for you about this. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 

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It's normal. Many boys love this kind of play, whether it's soldiers, pirates, knights, vikings...<br>
It's fine to have talks now and then about war and why you are against it (when it comes up in some other way, not from his play), but I wouldn't show ANY disapproval for the play he chooses to engage in. That may be a reason you are feeling some distance between you and your DS. Let him pretend, it's just a game and a child really shouldn't feel shame, disapproval, etc. when he is just playing. I'm sure that lots of people (esp. men) who are peace activists played these kinds of games as kids. With parents who feel the way you do, I don't think he'll grow up to be a general.<br><br>
My DS often pretends to be a commander and says he has "more soldiers than trees in the forest". Some of these soldies are Sonic, the Powerpuff girls (we don't have TV either, go figure) and Lucky Luke (he does have a DVD of this one). It is just fantasy play. It can feel empowering for a small child to pretend to kill or capture "mean guys". Or to command a group of others. I really don't see how this is "rebelling" against becoming a kind, compassionate person. Maybe try to show a little compassion and kindness for what it means to be a 4 year old boy.
 

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Well, our eldest will be four in June (wow, that happened fast!), and while I have no idea what to expect for the future, I can tell you that our son has entered into a 'fight for justice at any cost' phase as well. He is very independently-minded right now and we have to guerilla-hug and kiss him most days because he's pretty preoccupied with the 'cause.' <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol"><br><br>
We are also a peace-loving family, but I do confess that we read fairytales and some of them are quite explicit- sword fights, obviously 'good' vs 'evil' characters, death of 'evil' characters, triumph of 'good', etc... I had a hard time with reading them initially to our boys, but my dh told me that it is okay for them to learn and espouse justice, even though at first it might be soooo exaggerated. I thought I'd wait and see, and sure enough, he's onto it now. While I find the desire to 'kill' a bit disturbing at times, like when one of his brothers, unbeknownst to him, becomes a 'giant' or a 'cruel prince' and I have to rush to his aid (rarely, but it does happen- mostly his opponents are invisible). I am learning that my boys are very different than I was as a girl, and that this development (the crusade for justice) will turn into a healthy awareness and desire to help others, as it has in my dh, who was an ardent swordsman as a boy, as well as a sling-shot-ist, archer, woods-survivalist-soldier, etc...<br><br>
Honestly, it can look frightening, but I've come to join his play by asking him pertinent questions about his opponent, and his strategies, etc, encouraging him in his play, not denouncing it. I agree with the pp that a four year old boy needs approval for his quest for understanding in this area of his life. I really think men need to know that they know what is right and wrong and confidence that they can defend themselves and others if they need to do so- even if in the end, it's with words; this is the way he's learning how to do that now. We have friends with an almost five-yr-old boy who is the same, although his father is a martial arts instructor... he is very confident though, and has learned the boundaries for when and where it is appropriate for him to act. I think that if you encourage your son, he will learn that too, and then won't be 'rebelling' since you're 'on his side', yk?<br><br>
FTR, we don't have any weapons here, but clearly the need to fight is innate or our son wouldn't be constructing them out of spoons, sticks, cardboard tubes, popsickle sticks, accompanying pieces of felt for 'handles' and scabards, etc... I'm fine with that.<br><br>
HTH
 

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I should add that our eldest is not the 'type' you might expect if you didn't know about this. When he's not 'fighting', he's reading, asking questions, behaving in a way that is very compassionate such as infoming me of what he thinks his brothers need, hugging them when they cry, sharing food and toys, negotiating arguements between the younger two, and playing in other ways too- building with blocks and tools, playing with animals and practising his letter forms, playing electric guitar, etc...<br><br>
Until lately, he's been our 'book boy'. He still spends hours/day reading his books. Others thought he would turn out to be a 'nerd' (enter mama puking sound now for the labelling of a child), so unlike his brothers, he has been a much less physically active child than many, until this new phase of learning and expression. I think he's just active in mind moreso than in body; the reading gears him up!<br><br>
I thought I'd add some context to my initial post.
 

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Run out and borrow or buy: Playful Parenting by Larry Cohen (make sure it's the one by him, there's another one around that's not very good).<br><br>
He addresses this concern precisely and talks about (a) the value of play like this for some children and (b) the value of you playing something with your son that you hate (I think the chapter is called "why I play barbies" or something like that). It also offers GREAT suggestions for reconnection.<br><br>
The basic metaphor is that a child who is acting out is a child who needs their 'cup' of affection and connection refilled. All I have to say is that the things he suggests REALLY work, and it's a really helpful way of thinking about difficult behavior. He's not doing it to get you <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1">, he's doing it to express a need HE has.<br><br>
I don't honestly think that a 4 year old can reject his parents values - he doesn't have enough of a sense of what they are yet! He's not actively rebelling, he's trying out some new ideas. Kids experiment with this kind of thing all the time.<br><br>
Finally, is there any chance that you are suffering from depression? Your anxiety about his 'rebelling' and your comment about your inability to connect might be red flags for that. I know that when I'm depressed, I cannot connect, and things that I might otherwise shrug off suddenly take on monumental status in my life.
 

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I was also going to recommend Playful Parenting. But Mothering also had a recent article in the Nov/Dec issue on kids and toy guys that may be worth reading as well, it doesn't seem to be online though.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Wow, ok. So it is clear to me that i cannot realy convey my concern in a one paragraph post to strangers who don't know me or my child, silly me. I'm trying not to take some of those comments to heart.<br><br><br>
I'm not trying to throw a pitty party, just some creative ideas on how to deal with this kind of behvior. never mind this post
 

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I think play in children is often misunderstood. There are a lot of needs fullfilled by play, and one really big need is the need to work through new ideas. He does not have the cognitive ability to think through the concept of war/violence abstractly -- he needs the concrete play acting to begin to get a handle on what its all about, and eventually -- how he feels about it.<br><br>
I would not buy him toys weapons, and I would continue to shelter him from violent media. I would protect him from actually comitting violence by keeping close tabs on him, and stepping in if he seems to be harming someone. BUT, I would step back from interfering with the pretend play. For whatever reason, he needs to do this now. And its much better that he do it now, when its pretend, and work it through his system -- then to experiment with it later, kwim?<br><br>
But yes, its hard to watch and listen to. It is normal though.<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">What may be some other outlets for this kind of energy/interest?</td>
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I think thats a really good question. Is he interested in nature at all? I can imagine him maybe being interested in learning about the food chain, predators, mating rituals, animals fighting over mates, etc.<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">I've tried to shelter him so much from that aspect of this world, trying to raise a gentle, humble, and commpassionate son and he is already rebelling.</td>
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We don't get to decide how they turn out, or what temperment they have. We guide their growth, but the seeds of who they are exist within them, and they have and ever increasing capacity to make their own choices. Its important to be prepared to appreciate him for whoever he is -- however he "turns out." Parenting is a process-oriented adventure, not a product-oriented "project."
 

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<div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>mamaduck</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7909283"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Is he interested in nature at all? I can imagine him maybe being interested in learning about the food chain, predators, mating rituals, animals fighting over mates, etc.</div>
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Our boys (all three) looooove to pretend to be animals. We made some rules about it so that nobody's bitten or scratched, though. We allow predators as long as the 'prey' is aware that he is, and willing to play that part; no attacking- if they want to do that, they have to attack our toy animals, not each other; they can look fierce, but when they have contact with one another, they have to be gentle. If they begin to behave angrily or someone is discouraged, we redirect them, which seems to be quite easy so far, as long as it meets the same need. For instance, we hand them the corresponding animal (to their play) and encourage them to play with the other toy animals. This is a great outlet for the same desire and drive! Good suggestion!<br><br>
As an aside, Mamaduck, I read your post to my dh and we both loved it. Thank you!
 

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Hey Preggie - glad it helped. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> Parenting boys is quite a ride, isn't it??
 

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Mammamoon -<br>
Sorry that you aren't getting the feedback you need on this thread - take what you like and ignore the rest! One of my 4-year-old boys really likes this kind of play too, and I found it quite distressing. I didn't really know what to do about it - nothing I said to him about it seemed appropriate or reasonable. Then, I just decided that I definately didn't want to drive it underground, and now I pretty much ignore it. Sometimes we discuss war and its horrors, without going into graphic detail (loss of life, family members, etc.), but only when he asks about it. And for the most part, his interest is now wrapped up in food chain dynamics. He carries around a huge plastic T-Rex that he named "Biter", and Biter gets to do pretty much whatever he wants, and can eat his way through all of the innocent stuffed animals. As a real T-rex probably did back in the day! Its really gotten a lot better.<br><br>
S.
 

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*edited for clarity<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
<div class="smallfont" style="margin-bottom:2px;">Quote:</div>
<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">
<div>Originally Posted by <strong>mammamoon</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7901627"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Every day it's bombs ,army, guns, killing ect. and he always wants to be the "bad guy"<br>
This makes me uncomfortable and I feel that he is breaking our value system that we are trying to instill. Should I be worried.<br></div>
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While I agree with other posters that, no matter how much we shelter children, many will find ways to play "war." We did not allow any toys in our home that resembled weapons and we were diligent in what media we allowed into our home. In spite of all that, one son would insist on making guns out of everything. i.e. eating his bread until it was shaped like a gun, connecting math manipulatives into a gun shape, paper towel tubes into swords, etc. I do believe there is some hard-wiring there and I do believe it can be healthy to allow some "war" play, vanquishing enemies, feeling strong and powerful (especially for children who do not feel that way.)<br><br>
What caught my attention about your post was his desire to always be the bad guy. My "weapon producing" son always wanted to be the bad guy as well. We finally figured out that it was his way of expressing his frustrations about some big issues he was having (We later found out he has sensory and auditory issues that were making everyday life soooo difficult for him and he was always angry.) I am not saying your son has any deep-seated problems, but it might be a good idea to try to figure out if this is coming from anger that he feels he must repress because it he doesn't feel it is a "permitted" behavior. I am not saying that you are repressing your son, but that some sensitive children want to please their parents so much that they repress feelings that make their parents uncomfortable.<br><br>
I could be way off base here, but I hope this gives you something to think about.<br><br>
Ellen<br>
wife to G, homeschooling mom to 13yos, 10yos, 6yod<br>
Bradley Certified Childbirth Educator
 
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