Parents often feel it’s a losing battle trying to keep their young boys from playing at being super heroes and “bad guys”. Yet, at the same time, they are concerned and nervous that their child is so drawn to this type of play.
According to well-known psychologist and author of “Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys”, Dr. Michael Thompson, “parents need not worry about this kind of play if it really is play. Children’s play is just play.”
Children pretend many things in their imaginative life – being mommies, daddies, doctors, firemen, bus drivers, teachers, tigers, dinosaurs. They are busy figuring out their world around them and this type of imaginative play is important and valued.
Boys seem to love to play – seem to need to play – at being powerful, having super powers. It makes them feel strong and masculine. There are some red flags that Dr. Thompson addresses, however, –” if your boy hurts other children, gets very angry at them, does scary things to them, that’s not playing. If other boys don’t want to play with him, if they leave your house crying all the time, that’s not playing”.
But, Thompson says, ” If they are running around the house using their imagination, pretending to be someone big and powerful, even a villain – but only pretending, then not to worry at all. They are just playing.”
And Thompson adds, “if you are a good boy in real life, pretending to be a bad boy can be exciting.”
Limiting television and other screen time programing of super hero genre, however, allows children to keep this kind of imaginative play truly their own script and therefore more creative and more beneficial.
Parents are concerned to let super power play happen since super power play is not allowed in most schools and day cares. It can be very stimulating and in larger groups, can be overwhelming for some children. But in your own homes, Dr. Thompson says, children should be able to pretend and play in this way – to have this outlet to experience their release of tension and emotions while imagining that they are all powerful and capable in keeping their own world safe.
Until, that is – he returns – to being your little boy again -to needing his mom to cuddle with him at bedtime, to listen to his day, to read him a story, to tell him how special he is – to tell him that all is well.
Boys … sigh!