Dear Dr. Bill,
Our 3-year-old son is fascinated by evil characters. Whether it’s Captain Hook or the White Witch from Narnia; whenever he plays pretend, he always takes on the role of the villain. He only requests action figures that are villains, and for his birthday he wanted the theme to be “Swiper”—the bad guy in “Dora the Explorer.” Is this fascination unhealthy? What should we do?
I wouldn’t be overly concerned about your son’s fascination with villains. Many young children find villains fascinating, and my guess is that this is a phase that will pass.
In fact, if you’re making a big deal out of this issue, your son may enjoy the attention he’s receiving. Also, if you try to force him to stop liking these characters, there is a good chance you’ll end up in a power struggle. Your best bet may be to simply ignore his villain fascination and affirm him for interests that are more appropriate.
However, if your son is mimicking the BEHAVIOR of the evil characters and acting in inappropriate ways, you’ll need to nip that in the bud. You should never tolerate mean-spirited or aggressive behavior toward you or his siblings.
Also, parents can use fictional characters to teach their kids about positive character traits. For example, you might talk to your son about the importance of honesty using Dora the Explorer as an example. You might ask him “Who is honest: Dora or Swiper?” and then discuss the consequences of dishonesty.
To teach your son about godly virtues, you might get a good children’s bible and read him stories about Old Testament heroes like David, Daniel, and the three boys who braved the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Thanks for writing, Pam.
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