As the oldest of three girls, I grew up in a household where we played with dolls, furry stuffed animals and a small kitchen set complete with dishes and pots and pans.
So as a new mom, I didn't have a clue about boys.
When my oldest started pretending to beat up "bad guys" and making loud noises that sounded like gunfire, I didn't know what to do. It was just make-believe, after all, but at the same time, I didn't want to encourage my son to become violent and aggressive.
After talking to a few educators and also other parents, I quicky learned that it was perfectly normal and OK for boys to engage in superhero play. In fact, it's good for them.
This recent Psychology Today blogpost from Dr. Christine L. Carter, author of "Raising Happiness: In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents," offered a practical and hopeful persepctive.
Carter, who is also the "happiness expert" at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, noted how encouraging our children to be superheroes can actually help stop bullying at school.
"Bystanders stand by and watch while other kids are bullied," she wrote in her bloy. "Heroes don’t let bullying happen: they intervene, get help. They are out to save the world, one kid at a time."
Carter insists that it is important for parents to foster our children's heroic imaginations, which encourages them to develop emotional intelligence. "(H)eroes have a strong awareness of things that aren’t right. They pick up on the cues that suggest someone might be in trouble—or headed that way. With those skills, kids can learn to avert danger before it occurs."
Her other advice:
- Teach kids they have the power to resolve conflict.
- Show empathy and be a role model to your own kids.
- Expect them to act like heroes.
How do you teach your own kids to act like superheroes in the real world?