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I’ve never seen a Ninja movie and have no idea what a Pokemon is. But I’ve witnessed many a boy portray these characters on the playground or in the gym. They can seamlessly fall into character and diligently orchestrate what can often look like a dance of two compliant combatants. Despite the in-depth and well thought out overtures, boys are rarely praised for their envisioning. Remarkable, since the imagined drama almost looks like an operatic production that plays out as a grand struggle between good and evil. On the contrary, this spontaneous choreography, which instinctually emanates from the heroic inner dialogue of boys, typically draws ire and abhorrence from adults. In fact, the mere appearance of violence can provoke thoughtless overreaction from adults, and forget it if one of the participants pulls out a pretend firearm.
Unfortunately, we know where that will go.
So in the wake of all these school shootings, and zero tolerance for violence policies, there have been numerous cases of children being suspended for simply wielding a finger. This is nothing short of an all out affront to being a boy.
Nothing More Than the Good Guys Against the Bad Guys
Long working with kids, I witness boys on a daily basis engaging in these pretend struggles. Misunderstood and rising to the level of disdain, the goal is usually straight forward and on the up and up. They simply want to rescuing the good guys from the bad guys.
At the same time, this dance doesn’t lead certain identifiable boys down a path to violent evil. The boyhood mindset is easy enough to figure out: someone must stand in as the bad guy for the drama to play out, and none of the participants wants to play that role.
Tears and arguments ultimately give way to compromise, and no case can be made against this crucial skill boys accrue as they digress. All the boys now in play, the Darth Vader’s face off against the Luke Skywalker’s in this daily take of mythological proportions.
Furthermore, the pretend violent passion plays provide boys a vehicle to interact in a language that is all their own. Finding their way among each other, cooperation, socialization, and restraint leaves them in a much better place. This is especially important, because the boyhood address they occupy as a result, readies them to engage once the school work begins again.
As for gun play, I’ve been ahead of the curve and don’t even give a second glance when the pretend pistols come out. This even as someone who abhors guns and the NRA. My philosophy: If you don’t let them have pretend guns, they’ll want the real ones later.
My genius aside, I still have to regulate myself. I see them play fighting and fear that the pretend swords will actually make contact with a face or poke out an eye.
As Boys Are Continually Badgered, Grades Go Down
So even for someone who is attuned to the nature of boys, I can’t help intervene when the play seems to get too rough. A question and persistent problem then emerges from the ongoing conundrum. When boys are continually badgered to reign in this normal tendency, how badly does it hamper their growth and development.
If we look at the declining state of academic performance in boys, inference suggests its impact is quite a lot. That means I’m going to have to do more for my part.
So when the next rainy day relegates us to a movie, it’s ninjas or putting front and center the glorious saber rattling of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. And afterwards, I’ll make sure no one gets in the way so the boys can ready their play swords to rescue the princess and save the day.