If you are a new parent watching your boys grow, it may be alarming at times to see how often you find them re-enacting violence or how drawn they are to games of war, cops and robbers, and other variations of the good guy/ bad guy theme. And in a society where violence has reached alarming norms on entertainment that is often accessible to children, it's easy to be a little concerned, but is it the media or are boys inherently violent when playing? And if so, is it necessarily a bad thing?
If you think back on your own childhood, no matter your age, it probably doesn't take long to remember that this is no new trait in American society (and other cultures are no different). If you were a boy, you likely played the same war games with your own buddies if you weren't have roughhousing matches in the backyard that somehow never resulted in broken bones but looking back probably could have.
If you are a woman, you probably remember wondering just what made those boys so crazy, right?
The truth is that boys are naturally hard-wired for a certain degree of aggressive behavior, and many educators believe that restricting this is restricting healthy natural activity and may be a significant reason for the huge gap in intellectual development between girls and boys that has appeared in our schools. It appears that even the more aggressive forms of play are a chance for the child to act out their imagination, but even more than that, you'll find if you observe that when you break up an imaginary play session and restrict these children from playing aggressive roles, the energy and enthusiasm for the game is no longer sustainable.
Psychologists go even further to suggest that role of a hero gives children a chance to act out their inner desires for building moral ideals into true ideals. Boys have an inherent need to be dominant and to control a situation by separating the good from the bad, and often that comes in the form of an antagonist.
And as far as having a propensity for being the bad guy, this may not be much reason for alarm either. While another chance to use the imagination in full force, some psychologists also believe this kind of play gives us a chance to act out the battle between the good and bad that exists within all of us and give that struggle some life in a harmless and healthy way.
Indeed, there is no correlation between children who play violent games on the playground and young men who end up in jail. Children outgrow these games and find other places to place their energy, and the nature of their play is rarely if ever an indication of where they go from there. There are always exceptions, and common sense dictates when things have gone too far, but be careful to think that all aggressive play is a bad thing.
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