5th birthday party for Arthur and… so many tears…
Arthur has been waiting till the following day late afternoon (due to our hectic schedule of course ;-)) to open the presents and as every 5-year old would be – was very excited indeed!
Some 15 minutes later his face was sullen, his smile wiped off and his comments made me feel rather uneasy ‘Mummy why are these such a scary presents? I don’t really like them.’
Sorry Arthur but that is the world we are living in – I should have said. Instead I looked for some comforting words and managed to find a few suitable and kind (!) pressies which brought his smile back.
But my worry cannot be wiped off that easily I am afraid. Why have we stopped listening to the ‘real’ needs of our little girls and boys, and I mean here all 3, 4, 5, 6th year olds? Why are we all engaging in ‘my child is going to grow up first’ race and why do we seem to put a blind eye (or careless eye – not sure which one is worse) at the content of some of the toys, films and games the small children are being subjected to?
Arthur got a few Transporter figures which look truly scary with its huge uninviting face, metal ‘body’, evil eyes and the whole lot of ‘disturbing’ content they came with. He also got some Star Wars characters which appear to be less scary but equally puzzling to a 5-year old mind.
And would some mums find it really shocking if I say that neither my 5-year old nor my soon to be 7-year old have not been ‘subjected to’ Transformers or Star Wars movies as YET. And who supposed to be feeling embarrassed in here – myself for not following the latest ‘toy trends’, for ‘delaying’ my child development, for austricing them form his peers (what is he going to talk about with his friends?!) or these who… simply don’t think it through enough in my humble opinion.
These movies are full of violence, really scary images, very powerful visual effects with the story line almost impossible to follow for an average 5-year old. These movies are simply too scary, too violent and too advanced for these little brains to digest. All these mums who have at least two children will know what I am talking about if you compare the emotional development of your younger and older child being some 2 years apart. In these early years the differences in their understanding the world around them are enormous!
And yet we often don’t think twice when sitting them in front of tv with one of these PG movies on (we are guarding them from the kitchen of course!) and it won’t even occur to us as to how are they suppose to deal with all this noise, chase, death, shouting, killing and.. well simply chaos which has been playing in front of their eyes.
A mind of a young child is not capable of making a clear distinction between good and bad (in a sense these movies are demanding them to do), between real world and computer world, between ‘killing in the name of good’ and ‘killing in the name of evil’. And how are they supposed to know all this?! Its been only a few years since they learnt to talk and they are just beginning to make sense of the world around them. And as soon as they can make sense of some more complicated sentences we make the false assumptions ‘they are ready for the more advanced stuff’. Well they are simply not.
And why are we actually doing this to them?! In the name of what? The social pressures, trying to impress other parents/ child’s friends that they are also familiar with ‘these characters’, showing off that we can also afford ‘these branded toys’ , that we are also ‘up-to-date’ with the latest toy trends? Or is it that we can’t be bothered to be their teachers anymore as.. it simply takes too much time and hard work to teach them right from wrong?
Surely the Transformers can do it for us, can’t they? If we stop and think we realize that there is no way the child is going to learn any positive behaviour, any valuable lessons from these fast-paced, erratic and truly scary images other than trying to copy their behaviour, reacting in the same loud and erratic manner, the very same thing we are trying to avoid dealing with by putting them in front of tv and switching THAT movie on.
Fine it will keep them enthrilled for an hour or so but the price the children and us (having to put up with their horrific behaviour afterwards…) have to pay is simply too high.
Yes of course we all need a quiet hour (or hours in some cases ;-)) and there is absolutely nothing wrong at all in putting them in front of tv in these too-early-for-bed but too-late-for-doing-anything-constructive times in the evenings. But let’s stop for a moment and CHOSE CONSCIOUSLY please.
There are so many AMAZING books, movies and games they can play with at that age. The ones which are funny, gentle, kind and warm. The ones whose content is actually simply enough to be able to follow, the ones which would offer them some comfort, reassurance and humour and (but not necessary) teach them a thing or two. The ones who will teach them about love, friendship and love again (never enough love ;-)).
Why has become ‘trendy’ to skip the stage of Hans Christian Andersen stories, Mary Poppins dvds, Nina and the Nurons, Andy’s Dinosaurs Adventures or Shaun the Sheep movies, skip all the magic, storytelling, lovely animation, gentle background music?! Why???
These are the values we are working so hard to introduce to and install into our children’s minds. What is wrong in being kind and gentle and compassionate? What is wrong in good old fashion Lego blocks, wooden blocks, 100-piece puzzles, funny board games, interesting books, soothing cds?
Or rather what is wrong with us subjecting these little minds into so much violence and aggression at such an early age, making them sitting through these suitable-for-all-ages movies (how is it supposed to go with the different stages child’s brain is developing?). And paradoxically expecting them to be kind and considerate to one another. Well these movies are anything but kind so why would we expect a 6-year old to be ‘well-behaved’ after watching hundreds of scenes where Transformers are anything but well-behaved!
They fight, shout, crash, try to force their way through without a single consideration for other (robots!) – does it sound familiar? Is it not what all these ‘desperate posts’ on parenting sites are full of? ‘My dear child behaved like a… Transformer’ it should say. Of course it is not always as straightforward as this and there are many reasons why the children’s behaviour is not quite up to scratch but that is most definitely one of the reasons.
It is quite simple really – if I put 5-year old Arthur in front of tv and put the Transformers on and then give him the Transformers figures he got for his birthday to play with how do you think is he going to play with them? Precisely the same way as he has just seen on the screen. And taking the figures away and placing him in the company of his friends – how is he going to interact? Precisely the same way he has just seen on tv screen. So that how simple it can be and that how much damage our absent-minded parental behaviour can cause if we are not careful…
I am not prepared to do this experiment on my 5-year old as well as I am not prepared to sit here seeing so many children being pushed into ‘growing-up’ far too early, far too soon, far too briskly, far too abruptly…
A conscious choice is what we need in order to be the conscious parents. And of course one day (read: one year ;-)) these children will be ready for the Star Wars as well as Transformers wars but not yet! Let’s give them what they deserve the most which is calm, gentle, naturing and fun environment to grow up in. They will watch and experience enough conflicts and wars by the time they are adults so let’s ‘load them up’ with enough ‘love power’ to be able to deal with these effectively at the later stage in life.
I am feeling truly passionate about it and sorry to all these mums who are feeling inadvertetnly offended by my comments. Let’s transform our habits into the positive ones and have a courage to make the conscious choices for our children. At some stage the time will come when it will be them and not us making their own choices. But they may simply follow up what we have taught them to follow – would we be happy with these?