A ten-year old boy said to his uncle,
"Did you see the plane go through that building? Wasn't it
cool?" "It would have been if it was a fictional
movie," replied the uncle, "but, no, it wasn't. I felt
scared and sad." This boy is growing up attached and until
September 11, had never watched TV. Indeed, he is a compassionate
and kind person whose current interest in bombs and war is his way
of releasing fear and connecting peacefully and responsibly with
his emotions. He may be too scared to let himself comprehend the
impact of what he saw on TV.
Although parents of young children may not see such reactions
yet, the fear of raising an aggressive child exists even among the
most conscientious parents. Indeed, even children in attachment
parenting families often surprise us with their intense interest
in cruelty and guns. A child may seem joyful or disconnected when
they hurt someone, or they might express delight or curiosity in
watching a scene of cruelty.
The young child has no tools to comprehend intentional cruelty
and is therefore better off without exposure. Yet, by a certain
age, which differs for each child, it is not only impossible to
shelter a child from the world but it can be counter productive.
At that time we need to escort him through the experiences and
help him sort them out.
The events that unfolded on September 11, 2001 are an
expression of human beings and their intense emotions. We may want
to deny this fact and call it "inhuman." Yet, sadly, it
is an aspect of being human which we have seen manifested.
Since September 11, the Trade Center Towers and the whole of
Manhattan have been built and destroyed six times in our home.
They were made from Lego's, from paper, and as a 3D puzzle. These
creative acts combined with free verbal expression are the
children's way of dealing with their emotions, learning to include
these possibilities and to stay sane and happy.
Fear is a major part of being alive. Yet, our fears and
discomfort need not get in the way of trusting a child's ability
to face reality. Children can handle knowledge about human
aggression when not exposed too young and when free to express
themselves, to be listened to, and to feel our confidence in their
choices of play. When a child shows an infatuation with guns and
violence, he is not on the way to criminality; he is releasing
fears about the violence he experiences around him.
Acts of violence and terror are the expressions of intense
hate, anger and powerlessness. It is the result of being raised
under the dominating control of adults who render the child
completely helpless. A loved child who plays war games is far from
that category. Psychotherapist Alice Miller believes on the basis
of her extensive research that there is no criminal who was raised
without experiencing violence in childhood. Yet there are people
who were raised with violence who are peaceful adults. The human
capacity for compassion is so great, that even a hint of
validation of a child's feelings can give him the freedom and
power to choose kindness.
Why would a child experience violence in a loving home? The
answer has to do with our culture. We cannot hide the whole
community from our children for very long. Children absorb these
qualities in spite of our intent to protect them. They see us talk
to each other in negating, violent ways and they experience
themselves helpless in the face of greater powers every day. In
addition, this culture is one of competition, which in essence
means the wish for another to fail. When extreme, this wish
translates to hate and creates isolation and fear. Children need
safe outlets for expressing negative and even violent feelings and
they need to do so without denial of the existence of cruelty.
They can then make choices that represent their own compassionate
Do not be surprised when your sweet boy takes to war games and
guns or when your daughter kills slugs with gusto. Isolating a
child is not the solution because it denies his feelings and his
way of making sense of it all. Our best protection, therefore, is
in providing peaceful day-to-day relationships and open
communication about the complete nature of being human and its