my 7 year old son always wants to play "villains & bad-guys"

Discussion in 'Teacher Time Out' started by UpNorth, Jul 23, 2009.

  1. UpNorth

    UpNorth Rookie

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    Jul 23, 2009

    This isn't exactly a teaching question, so I hope it's OK that I posted it in the "teacher time-out" area. :unsure:

    My 7 year old has me concerned.

    During his independent play time (dramatic play time) he plays with his toys (legos, dinosaurs, bionicles, etc.) in a very "villain" oriented way. It's like he'd obsessed with "bad guys." He uses words like "evil" a LOT. He plays with his little toys using creepy voices that his says are "scary voices" or "evil voices" for the "bad guys."

    Also, when we're reading stories to him, he always wants to read the "bad guys'" lines using his "evil/scary" voice. At first I considered his interest to be creative and dramatic, but he ONLY wants to read the bad-guys' lines, never the kind characters or heroes.

    I try to play with him often and model kind, friendly play with his bionicles and dinosaurs and so on, but he's not interested in "mommy's way of playing."

    Should I take away his toys like bionicles? They do have a rather scary look to them, but we thought that they'd be OK toys because you build them and have to read and follow step-by-step directions (they're made by lego) and we figured they were a "boy version" of playing with dolls.

    How should I handle this? He doesn't have any close friends and I'm worried that this odd behavior will repel friends and concern his teachers come fall (our family is moving to a new town and I want him to be able to make friends without these new friends' parents thinking his behavior is troubling.)

    Am I simply over-reacting? I'm considering having him chat with a counselor.

    I'd love to hear from parents who can offer gentle advice regarding this situation. Thank you. :hugs:
     
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  3. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    No advice (no kids here), but that was really well written!
     
  4. UpNorth

    UpNorth Rookie

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    Also, at a playground today, he went up to another child and his mother and while spinning around, he said, "I'm an evil tornado... I love everything that's evil." And he said this using his "scary voice." I calmly took him aside and I told him that talking about evil things like that could scare that child and mother. He calmly said "ok mommy" and dashed over to swing.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think it depends on what he's thinking.

    It sounds to me as though those are the more exciting characters in most of the stories. I mean-- who is going to appeal to a little boy more: Dorothy, who needs 3 friends to find her way home, or the witch, who flies a broom and has an army of flying monkees at her disposal? The "hot, hazy and humid" summer's day or the "evil tornado"?? It seems to me that your son is choosing the exciting characters in just about every story.

    I would make a real effort with him to differentiate between fact and fiction. So, yes, the witch was cool. But real bad guys aren't-- they leave familes grieving when they hurt somoene. (You can use a local newspaper story-- carefully selected-- to illustrate your point.)

    As to the socialization: that's something he'll have to learn to take slowly with your help. He'll have to learn that constantly talking about "evil" may lead people to believe that he's more like the guy in the newspaper than just a little boy who likes excitement. Teach him to use the word "excited" instead of 'evil."

    Does that make any sense?? I should add: I don't teach elementary, but do have an 11 year old son.
     
  6. BLHutch25

    BLHutch25 Rookie

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    My son just turned 7 in May, so I can kind of relate to what you are going through. My son doesn't do the "evil" thing, but last year I noticed that he was obsessed with "enemies". When he would play with his action figures, one always had to be the "enemy". At school he would tell other boys on the playground that they were his enemy.

    My problem is that his mother and I are divorced. He is with me every weekend, but my influence is still limited. I basically set him down and explained to him that while enemies do exist in a way, he shouldn't call people his enemy. Whenever I heard him say it, I would politely remind him. It must have worked because he doesn't do it anymore.

    I think you handled the situation on the playground VERY well. If you continue to handle it that way, it might help reduce the problem.
     
  7. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    Jul 23, 2009

    I teach 6 and 7 year olds. What you have described is what they do all day!! haha! Some days they fight over being the bad guy, some days they fight over being the good guy!

    What is he watching on TV? Is he playing a lot of video games. I would say cut out both of those until he matures a bit. I have kids who watch a lot of Star Wars stuff and then want to play it at school. Our principal finally made the rule that they couldn't play any "capture" games.

    You might also spend time teaching him some fun board games - checkers, etc., and card games.
     
  8. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Advice from my Mentor

    Below a very long reply to a related (hopefully relevant to you) question from my mentor on an email list. I am pasting it here because it makes so much sense to me, and I hope something in here will help you with your son's situation....


    Children want to feel powerful. They need to play the powerful one often, in order to counteract the power arrangement in their day to day lives, which is that they have to take direction from adults all the time. We act powerfully, we have skills, we have language, we have concepts they don't. So playing the powerful role, and laughing and creating stories in which they are the strong, the swift, the brave, in our quotable President's terms, "the Deciders," can be quite healing for them.

    But we live in a society in which the grownups have, with few exceptions, gotten a chance to notice their feelings of fear and grief about the wars, the genocide, the grave injustices, and the deep hurt that we, as a people and as a species, still live under threat of death and grave bodily harm. We see it in our papers every day. We see it on our streets in the lives of the homeless, the injured veterans who never got their lives together after whatever war they fought in, the gang warfare among young people, the unsafe neighborhoods and streets. We grownups have mostly numbed out, put our human feelings in cold storage, feeling like that's what we have to do to function. And, instead of giving each other the time and the permission to have feelings about all that's not yet right about our world, we have to come up with behavior patterns to cover all that. (This is a big societal "we," not you in particular, that I'm talking about.) So we have fascination with guns, wars, gangs, violence, monsters, gore, horror, that is played out on the media ad nauseam. It comes because so many of us have feelings we haven't worked through, and it's human instinct, when feelings sit festering, to play them out in public somehow. So distress about, and fascination with war and violence and domination with weapons is shot through most of the toys made for boys. This fascination dominates video games, comic books, movies, graphic novels, commercials on TV, and many of the programs on at prime time, that children see if there's a TV in the home. We in the US "have an issue!"

    In a society that was concentrating on relationships and in which it were safe to play in the neighborhoods and in the hills, kids would be working out their issues around power with learning to ride horses, with climbing trees, with making forts, with making go-karts and racing them, with jumping bikes over mogels. There might be some us against them games, there certainly would be contests--wrestling , jumping, running, climbing. Kids love to dare each other and test each other. There would be the digging of giant holes and the making of really amazing tree swings.

    I lived for awhile in Switzerland, a country in which every single male serves in the military, and owns a gun, which is kept at home. It's the law that you must keep your gun at the ready. But Switzerland has 900 years of history with no wars fought, no slaves brought over and dominated, no genocide of indigenous peoples. And the tone around guns and warfare and military service is so different there. So different. Children live in safe neighborhoods. Life isn't perfect, but the tensions just don't arise the way they do here for us. Scouting is big there. Scouting gives boys a way to be brave, to build skills, to have adventure, to face the elements together.

    Kids need to feel their growing power. They need to test themselves. They need to build real physical skills. They need to know that they can be afraid, feel the fear, then take daring steps, and overcome their fears.

    But the fact that they are preoccupied with scenes in their brains of monsters and transformers and police and jails and rockets and bombs and armies, all that is them trying to find a way to work on images that don't digest well in their minds, because they reflect the hurtful parts of their cultural heritage. They're trying to offload the way the toxic stuff they pick up from other kids, and from the media, sticks in their minds, because it's not congruent with loving, cooperative, thoughtful, creative human behavior. So much of how our boys play reflects the fact that they are infected by unnecessary, unhealthy influences, stories and images unworthy of real estate in the human mind. Those stories and images create wealth for corporations, but they do not create health for children.

    (There's a later time when it's important to teach kids history, and to break the news, with thoughtfulness and emotional support, about the many stories of man's inhumanity to man (and woman), in such a way that they can cry hard about the awfulness, so that they aren't paralyzed by discouragement and hopelessness. That time is not when a child is four, or six.)

    Once it's there, we need to help them detoxify the images, and release the fears they carried before they saw those images, which give those images the fuel to fascinate and to govern children's behavior. A child whose early fears have been worked through will play that stuff, find some interest in exploring it, but won't HAVE to play guns, or HAVE to talk about warrior guys and the Hulk and all manner of superheros all the time. He'll want to cuddle, love to giggle, and be able to play other stuff. All of our boys and girls can be flexible: play that stuff, but in a relaxed and flexible way, and be able to think of other stuff they like to play, too. If they're not there right now, lots of wrestling, laughing, affection games, and some limits so they can feel the "need" to play guns, and can cry about a loving adult saying, "It's time to think of something else to play now."

    Just forbidding the play outright doesn't help the child get to the emotional release process. Going with the play first, to create occasions for laughter and physical contests that they can "win," but not easily, and in which we can insert our good will, our attention, and our affection, is a good first step. Then, at some times, limiting the play, "No war games this afternoon, I'll stay with you until you can think of something else fun to do," done with attention to feelings, can help offload the urgency which is a sign that the child is frightened underneath his drive to play that way.

    But in schools, where there's too little attention for all those children with similar issues, it can be a smart thing to limit this kind of play. But good to try to get all that "I need to show my power" energy heading in a playful direction, such as chase games and affection games (tag where the grownup has to tossle the hair of the child, for instance), and plenty of admiration for feats on the outdoor equipment, are good substitutes.

    Hope that's helpful.
     
  9. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Jul 23, 2009

    My little cousin was sort of similar for a while. But, he was unfailingly gentle and loving with my cockatiel. So I didn't have any real concerns about his bloodthirsty playing.
     
  10. Hoot Owl

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    He's probably pretty normal and this will pass. You don't want to encourage the behavior and making a big deal out of it might make the behavior even more desirable...

    Monitor what he watches on t.v. and video games. Encourage him to have friends over often.

    When my son was this age he wanted to be a garbage truck rider, the guy who rode on the back and did the heavy duty job of lifting the garbage cans. I can remember being so upset about it.
     
  11. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    In my opinion, he is just acting out a role to experiment how it feels. He needs to explore all roles. Males need to play to mommy role to experience what being a mommy feels like. Males need to play the role of the dog, the cowboy, the teacher, all to see what it feels like. I would just be watchful and encourage a board range of play topics.
     
  12. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sometimes that 'bad guy' play is a kid's way of dealing with what is scary...they work out all those scary ideas though their imaginative play.. A New York Times observer said that kids' games are "an important means through which children learn to understand their world....certainly reflect all the “big ideas” – or myths – of our culture. (A player learns] to handle myth, lore,…danger, betrayal..." Most people think about things they would never do in real life- game play is one way to 'test' those waters without really doing something that you would never do...Keep an eye and ear open, make sure he is surrounded with good role models, positive people, happy family activities... As long as your child keeps the 'bad guy' stuff confined to his games, and you continue to keep lines of communication open regarding rules, right and wrong, doing 'the right thing'...as long as your kid is basically a great kid who likes playing 'bad guys', I'd say you have a typical boy on your hands...
     
  13. BLHutch25

    BLHutch25 Rookie

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    So did I!!!
     
  14. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Do you have any brothers? You might want to ask their opinions. My brother always wanted to play bad guys. He even played Dungeons and Dragons when he was a teenager. He turned out fine. He's now in his 40's. He's a very successful inventor. He was always imaginative and now he has a very lucrative career using that creative brain of his. In addition, he's very kind, gentle, and honest. None of the bad guy characteristics were his own - it was all just pretend.
     
  15. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    I think with all the superhero movies and shows "bad guys" and "good guys" are everywhere. Remember our father's generation played cowboys and indians, because those were the shows they watched on tv. I really don't think it's anything to worry about.

    I watch my kids play sometimes and envy that the line between good and bad can be so clear. I have difficulty explaining why the soldiers are in Iraq when asked by a child. So the people there are bad guys?
     
  16. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    I have two boys. My take is that kids usually obsess over something. (One of my boys it was Pokemon and the other had a series of obsessions the longest ones being Buzz Lightyear and Legos.) Unfortunately, your son chose bad-guys. There are a lot of kids who chose to play the bad-guys games. I think this is a phase that will pass.

    I would tell him that you don't want him using the word evil anymore. I would play with him and switch characters. You be the bad-guy and have him be the good-guy then switch back.

    The evil tornado thing is even normal except that he said it to a stranger. What you did was fine.

    I teach first grade and there are some kids on the playground who always play this way. From a parent standpoint, it's probably not what you want, but I think it is pretty normal.

    I agree with talking to him about good and bad in real life.
     
  17. Rabbitt

    Rabbitt Connoisseur

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    I have 3 boys who have not watcher Star Wars, Transformers, Poke-mon, etc. and they play it all the time!

    I think they need to feel in control and power over something. Preants and teachers are constantly telling them what they can and cannot do. Kids are role playing this.

    As much as you may not like it, I am confident your son will be fine and is only learning. I think how you are talking to him is all you need to do.
     
  18. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    When I play Littlest Pets with Jeannie, her character is constantly mean, smart *ssed ( as far as she knows how to be!), and pushy. I once actually pointed this out to her, and asked her if she felt like she was treated this way by one of us . She replied, exasperatedly and with a bored attiude, 'Ma- it's only pretend.'
    Fast forward.
    We've been at the town pool most days this summer, except when her cough was too bad. Once in awhile a kid will make a comment to her, like they will say she's weird because she wears swim gloves. Jeannie does not know what to say in retaliation! She's not all brassy like her LP character. See where I'm going? She will explain what the gloves are for, but if the kid continues to belittle her, she's at a loss for words. So, it really is an 'in control' thing when the kids play evil or tough guy, I think.
     
  19. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jul 24, 2009

    totallly off topic

    Becky, I've never heard of swim gloves. What do they do?
     
  20. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    Jeannie's uncle from Nevada bought her those when he came home recently. According to him, they give you more force as you push your hands through the water. I forget his exact explanation, but the poiunt was, they help you. Jeannie swears by them, now, too. She wears them during swim class as well as just swimming for fun.

    Of course, the occassional kid will hound her just because it's something they've never seen.. and they have poor social skills.:rolleyes:
     
  21. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    I just asked Jeannie about her gloves. She said that if she's underwater, they help her get to the surface faster and if she's above water they help her push the water behind her. They behave like a duck's feet webbing, she says.
    Straight from the fish's mouth!
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Cool... kind of like scuba fins, only for the hands I imagine!

    OK, back to our regularly scheduled thread. Sorry for the hijack!
     
  23. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Evil characters are also generally portrayed as confident and don't usually seem to have to struggle.

    Becky's daughter Jeannie's reaction is pretty much what I'd expect of most healthy kids who were engaging in this sort of play -- an eye-roll and assertion that she knows the difference between pretend and real.

    I'd suggest you look at his actual behavior with other children as a more reliable guide. If he seems to be developing traits such as not sharing or being pushy or demanding (which wouldn't really be that unusual either, but would be something you should step in and stop), then you should be more concerned.
     
  24. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    I haven't read all the posts, except the OP's, so excuse me if I'm being repetitive, but I assumed you've asked him why he always wants to be the bad character & likes evilness so much, so what does HE say?

    This would concern me because in a few yrs, he'll already be a pre-teen. It's not like he's still 3 yrs old.

    Does your son watch a lot of violent cartoons & other violent-type shows & movies or play the shoot 'em up type or evil themed video games? What kind of friends does he have at school? I'd be dying to know how they play together.

    If I were you, I'd cut down on that & start exposing him to concepts that are totally opposite of all this evilness.

    Read him stories that have a good moral to the story, so he learns that it's good to be kind & good to others. Take him w/ you to volunteer somewhere, so he learns that it feels good to help ouf others. If you're religious, by all means, please take him to church & pray & read the Bible w/ him & take him to Sunday school.

    Occupy his mind w/ sports, music lessons, etc. God knows we don't need any more evilness in the world! :(
     
  25. TeacherSandra

    TeacherSandra Enthusiast

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    Upnorth,
    I wouldn't worry. My son was big-time in Bionicles, Spiderman (ugh; some of those villians are UGLY!) and some of the others I can't recall.
    I do remember looking at some of those bionicles and villians and saying, "wow; they're really scary; yuck!!" and my son just replied..."it's just pretend".

    Boys! :hugs:Gotta love them! :love:

    Just wondering...do your kids say "kill" when they "die" when playing their Wii games or "Mario" games? That used to bug me! I'd tell them use another word...but of course, "kill" and "die" are the words that the kids use. :blush:

    Both of my kids are very mild mannered kids.
     

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