There is a common theme, children-mostly boys, bring to their play: Good Guy/Bad Guy. I have spent a good deal of time researching and discussing with professionals the importance, or lack thereof, regarding this kind of play. What I have come to learn is that this kind of play is normal. Much blame is placed on TV and video games for this type of play, but the reality is, this form of play exists in all cultures and for many years.
It is thought that this form of play helps children sort through and negotiate conflicts they may eventually face in real life. During this dramatic play, children adopt the “power” they lack in their adult controlled world; it offers a safe feeling to bring “evil” down. The success of stopping the “evil” that comes their way is empowering. Key, however, is that we give children in our care rules to play by. Everyone must always play safely, and no one’s feelings should be hurt. Group play at this age of 3-5, should always be within earshot of an adult so the play can be guided. Adults in charge should occasionally join in on the play to make suggestions, which will be best heard if they come from a laser-powered control panel instead of an adult voice.
Continuing with the idea that we accept this impulse to play good guy/bad guy as developmentally acceptable, our guidance should include a change in our own adult attitude towards the “bad guy”. “GETTING” the bad guy could be altered to offering a feeling of kindness towards him. Our goal could be to teach the bad guy to be good!
…and speaking of “teaching them to be good”…
We often hear children use the term “bad kid” when they continually see a peer being redirected by their teacher because of their inability to control themselves.
In addition to academically preparing our children for kindergarten, we are all members of the parent’s team, obligated to create good students/citizens. When teaching children how to successfully negotiate in a crowd of peers, clearly some children are better at it than others. We often hear children say they don’t want to sit by the “bad kid” or have parents ask that their child not be put in the same class the “bad kid”. I recommend a change in HOW WE SEE these struggling children. Instead of coaching our children to avoid or feel POWER over another child, we could teach them to offer a feeling of kindness. I use to say to my own children, after being offended by another child, “They are still learning how to be good.” Eventually, my children would feel a kindness toward the “bad guy” for their misfortune of not yet knowing how to conduct themselves.
Instead of Good Guys/Bad Guys, how about Good Guy/STILL LEARNING Guy.