An article entitled “Disciplining children over fake guns may be a wrong lesson” recently appeared on Yahoo. It is an old theme. After Columbine, the temperament and nature of the work I do changed dramatically. Kids were suspended from school immediately if they “played aggressively.” Parents were concerned their kids would be the next “killers.” Children were discouraged from pretending play or fantasizing about those things which were dangerous to others. I recall shortly thereafter the first Halloween (which is the paradigm of death, kill, die, etc. for children) that many more of my clients were suspended from school.
With that as a backdrop, this is no surprise to me, that as a society we have become defensive about the normal play of our children. If we continue to encumber and restrict our children from playing normal, appropriate play, we will create a generation of people who are aggressive, mean, and disrespectful to others. I encourage parents to not be afraid to allow their children to create fake guns out of Lego’s, to pretend death, die, and kill, and to sometimes, even be involved with their fantasy, aggressive play. ALLOWING IT IS NOT ENCOURAGING IT. As a matter of fact, in most situations, it allows them to not continue doing it.
To those ends, my office becomes the only place the child is allowed to act out, play, and express him/herself. Perhaps we need to encourage parents to create safe areas in the house where children can, as in the playroom of a therapist, play, act, fantasize and imagine some of their inner, most difficult playful struggles. I would encourage parents and school professionals to not be afraid to encourage, set limits, monitor, but not restrict, children from playing in normal appropriate ways.