Gay Uncle Brett Berk: I was out west the other week, visiting my friends Victoria and Butch. These two recently added a second son to their brood, and this little infant seems to be following his job description quite well (eat, sleep, poop, gurgle, cry). But they've been having a bit of a struggle with their older boy Skylar, 4.5. "He turns everything into a weapon," Victoria said. "A stick, his sunglasses, a piece of toast. And it's not just that, he's sort of obsessed with ... murder. He's not just shooting. He's saying, 'I'm killing daddy. Or, I'm burning up the cat with a laser.' It gets to the point sometimes where it really disturbs me."
"I guess I can understand that," I said. Then I asked if they had a rule about gunplay at Skylar's school.
"Yeah," Victoria said, "they don't allow it."
"Well. You could set up a guideline like that at home too."
"You know, I get so fed up sometimes that I do just that. I tell him that we're going to have a 'no-kill day' where he's not allowed to pretend to annihilate anyone. Where he has to find other ways to channel his energies. And it ends up forcing him to be much creative with his imagination."
I felt like my friend had solved her own problem. But contemporary parents sometimes need extra reinforcement -- from an expert -- before they can trust their instincts, so I provided this. "I love that rule," I said. And I suggested that she implement it as a regular practice. "It's fine to place restrictions on things your kids like, even things they really like -- ice cream, TV, genocide. This isn't ruining their fun, or their life. This is your job."
I suggested that in order to get Skylar's buy-in -- and to provide a tangible group of acceptable behaviors to replace those that are being banned -- they work together to create lists of activities that would be disallowed, as well as forms of play that would be deemed acceptable. And because I'm all about using appropriation as a tool for defeating children and crushing their spirit, I even suggested that she use my patented Co-Option Option (COO) where you allow kids access to the illicit on a restricted and proscribed basis. "In addition to the general ban on killing, you could host a monthly or quarterly All-Kill Day, where's Sky's allowed to go all Columbine on everything. Circle the date on the calendar, and let him know in advance. Then when it arrives, let him have at it without any efforts at restriction." I imagine that his excitement would wear off pretty quickly. So long as escalation is not encouraged.
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|