By Jane Stillwater, July 26, 2002
Why do violent cartoons make children feel safe? This is a good question. I asked a neighborhood expert: "Hey, kid, why do violent cartoons make you feel safe?"
"Because I'm just a little kid," he answered, "and big people are BIG! They are the size of...of...airplanes! And they yell at me and hit me and lie to me and call me stupid and beat me with a belt!"
"So," I said, "I take it that all this attention from adults doesn't make you feel protected and cherished and loved?"
"Say what? Hello? ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? This stuff makes me feel ENDANGERED!"
"Okay, okay! I got the point. On with the interview. So why do violent cartoons make you feel safe?"
"I LOVE Saturday morning cartoons!!!!"
"Yes, but WHY do you like them?"
"Because these cute little defenseless bunnies and Powerpuff Girls and school kids JUST LIKE ME go up against these evil mean nasty vicious terrible bad guys who are drooling blood and spitting fire and trying to BARBECUE the sweet little cute good guys! AND THEN THE SWEET LITTLE CUTE GOOD GUYS ALWAYS WIN!"
"And that makes you feel safe? Like you too could win against the bad guys?" The kid nodded his head.
"So," I continued my street-corner psychoanalysis, "who do the evil bad guys represent? Kidnappers? Terrorists? Bank robbers?" The kid shook his head. "Aliens from outer space then? Dragons in the closet? Monsters under the bed?"
The kid turned silent. His eyes brimmed with tears as he mutely focused on a spot near his foot. The kid either could not or would not answer me. His earlier bravado was gone and he just looked tiny and scared.
"But parents punish you for your own good," I told him. He just shrugged and walked away. Later I saw him throwing rocks at his neighbor's cat. "But if we don't punish our kids," I yelled after him, "they will grow up wild and out of control!" But even as I said this, I knew I was wrong.
Actually, research shows that children learn by example. If they see that we as parents are just, fair, kind and loving, they will try to imitate us.
On the other hand, if we beat our kids, they will go out and beat the dog. Then they will grow up and beat THEIR kids, other people's kids, other adults and even complete strangers. Call it murder, call it war, call it child molesting, call it Fascism, call it rape -- violence was embedded in these adults when they were kids. Garbage in, garbage out.
What is a parent to do?
For starters, let's stop hitting our kids. Then read John Gray's book "Children are From Heaven" for ideas on how to CONSTRUCTIVELY discipline children. And then, for a vision of the ideal to strive for, re-read that old child-rearing classic, "The Sermon on the Mount".
"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!" Plus no more grizzly, gut-wrenching kidnap headlines, the crime rate will disappear and, without war and prisons, taxes will be cut in half. Plus everyone could just relax and watch Barney!