Why I encourage my son to be a superhero

Superheroes ... it isn't violence that kids learn.
Superheroes ... it isn't violence that kids learn. Photo: Getty

Superheroes have long been part of childhood history, and with a five-year-old son fully embracing the world of make believe, these characters visit me once again on a daily basis.  

For example, there are times when I take Hulk to the supermarket, Iron man swimming and Spiderman to preschool.  

Mimicking play fighting and actions against 'evil' has become the 'norm' and, in addition to the plethora of dress up costumes, you only have to open up our cupboards to be met with a collection of superhero paraphernalia.  

There are Spiderman cups, Captain America bowls, marvel puzzles and story upon story of good versus bad. Am I encouraging my son to embark on a life of crime and violence? I hardly think so! 

So, imagine how my eyes rolled back in my head when I read the story about a little girl who has been banned from taking a Wonder Woman lunch box to school.  

The offending lunch box, which pictures Wonder Woman alongside her trusty lasso of truth, apparently breaches school dress code by displaying an image of a violent nature. 

The letter that was sent home to the parents read; 'We noticed that Laura has a Wonder Woman lunch box that features a superhero image.

"In keeping with the dress code of the school, we must ask that she not bring this to school."

The letter outlines that the school's dress code requests that children not bring violent images into the building in any fashion, and explains that their definition of 'violent characters' are those who solve problems using violence. It concludes that 'super heroes certainly fall into that category.'

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Now, all laughing and eye rolling aside, I think that those who've come up with this 'definition of violence' seriously need to revisit it. 

Because, aren't superheroes renowned for NOT being violent?  Don't they only fight 'baddies' armed with little more than words, webs or lassos of 'truth'?

In every cartoon I've watched of superheroes – and trust me there are many – I've noticed that, rather than violence, there's actually underlying morals and values being taught to children.

Sure, the messages are dressed up in the traditional and predictable 'good versus bad theme', and subtly embedded amongst the web throwing, hulk smashing and shield wielding. But they are there - messages of forgiveness, responsibility and optimism. 

And if my son's mimicking is anything to go by, then it does sink in and have as much – if not more - impact as the 'violence'.

Take the other day for example. On our way to preschool, Hulk was kitted out in his full dress up when we stopped at the traffic lights and he let out a low rumble from behind the confines of his ill fitting mask.

"Hulk is angry", he growled. "Hulk is really angry!"

I turned from my seat to establish the problem. A giant green hand pointed out the window to the footpath outside. 'Someone dropped rubbish," came a further growl. "That makes Hulk real angry".

Now I admit this is a one off and - no pun intended - doubt it heralds the start of him becoming a green warrior, but still you see my point. It's not always the 'bad' things that children pick up on, but actually the good too.

In conclusion, I think we need to stop and take a reality check. I think we need to stop obsessing about every little thing that could 'possibly' be considered harmful to our children, and instead just let them be.

Besides, as far as I'm aware, a superhero was never a culprit in influencing the hardened violent criminals of our time and Spiderman has never truly hurt anything more than a fly.

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