Saturday, October 28, 2017

Smack, Punch, Slap: What the Movies Can't Teach About Reality

Something I realized watching TV last night: people are always hauling off and hitting each other.

Bar fights, food fights, country, city, fights between women, women and men and of course tons of fights between men happen in almost everything we see. They happen in movies, too.

So, yes, Virginia, you are likely saying, you only just noticed this?

Yes and no.

No, because I realize how violent most shows are (even for kids) and grew up seeing violence in movies. Yes, I'm just realizing it because I was ignoring it for so long.

But why, you ask, are you mentioning it now?

The other day I was thinking how easy it is to accept the violence we're seeing every day is normal. But would you seriously hit a co-worker (and knock him down, no less) because he said something that bugged you?

And suppose you do decide to hit that co-worker. Won't there be consequences?

I promise you there will, especially in today's easy-to-sue climate. So is just telling your kids not to hit someone enough?

(Ah, now, she's finally getting to the point).

No it's not, but how do you explain it? I would start by talking about the difference between story, which thrives on conflict, and reality, which eats conflicts and regurgitates them in your face. I just think it's important to talk with kids about this stuff, just as you would when reading a story about a child who meets a stranger in the park and starts talking to him. (And yes, there are still such stories).

Stories will show people doing all sorts of things that don't seem to net many consequences. If there are consequences, chances are they won't happen to everyone, and often not to the "hero" in the story.

Reality, on the other hand, shows us there are often no heroes and LOTS of consequences. So it's wise to keep practicing words with your kids that can be used to reply people who are annoying you. And if some kind of physical outlet is needed, using sports (including boxing) is a good idea too, as long as you can separate the sport from everyday reality too.

Another interesting exercise is to choreograph a fight with your child -- just to show him or her what professional actors and directors have to do to make something look real. I wish my dad or someone had showed me how to fake a fight, because it would have given me a whole new perspective without the preachy tones of "Don't hit. Don't fight."

Would have made a lot more sense, too, in creating a gulf between what we see on the screen and what we actually experience.

For more information on talking to kids about violence on the big and small screens, start here:

How to Talk to Kids About Violence
5 Ways to Talk to Your Child About Violence
Empathy: Teaching Kids to Value Others

Fighting boy: Phillipe Put