ABC, one of the main Spanish newspapers, published this very interesting interview (original in Spanish) by Laura Peralita of Manuel Antonio Fernández, a Spanish neuropediatrician which I’ve taken the liberty of providing here in English. The bold highlights are mine to enable fast reading if you wish.
Harnessing the power of kids passion for superheroes is a powerful way to communicate and get them to reflect on being a Hero: being strong, being brave and most of all, being kind to others.
“It is very common for children to be amazed by the strength, powers or attitudes of a fictional character. So much that many try to imitate their gestures, words, clothing … Why do they do it? Is it positive that they want to become that admired character or can it be counterproductive? Manuel Antonio Fernández, a neuropediatrician, explains to ABC everything that it means for the little ones to want to become a superhero.
What do superheroes bring to children?
The truth is that what superheroes bring to children is the possibility of dreaming and seeing their dreams come true. Children are aware that they are not able to do everything they want. They are short, they are not strong, they have no freedom of decision … and all of us when children considered what we wanted to do, what we wanted to be when we grew up … As we grow up we learn and the best way for children to do it is imitate, emulate. If their role model is someone strong, smart, who helps others, is good and valued by everyone for doing so, I don’t think there is a better way to teach children to also be good people.
Do they encourage imagination?
Of course. Superheroes have always enabled that both children and adults let their imagination fly and think of unattainable goals out of their mind, at least initially. Many times reality surpasses fiction and, in the long term, they are achieved. Children learn that limits are not where one thinks, that they can be overcome and this allows them not to close the doors of their mind to things that may appear at some time in their life as a great idea. Creativity is typical of children and this is a good way to develop it.
What does it mean to imitate them?
First of all, nothing bad. We may have heard that story that a boy jumped out a window saying he was going to imitate Superman. There is a case, but of course that is not usual, nor is it something that any child does not have any problem.
We have all played in our childhood to imitate our favorite superhero and I think we were clear that, when we imitate Spiderman, we don’t have spider webs that can stand it all. There are many more aspects to imitate than acts, also behavior, values … It is something key when it comes to correctly developing a superhero.
Well taken, these imitation games serve to improve the socialization of children between them and why not, to improve the relationship with parents when we are the ones who play with our children and share time taking advantage of their hobbies. We must learn to take advantage of these opportunities.
Is there a risk of being obsessed with a character?
All children have somewhat obsessive behaviors in some period of their life. I would tell you almost that it is a phase of development. Looking at something you like, that you love, and talking about it constantly is something very common, and not only in children. What about the obsession of many for football or others for running marathons? There are those who could say that they become sickly. The reality is that in its fair measure, almost everything is positive. Parents should not worry about this issue.
Does their behaviour influence them in any way when they are older?
From my experience, the truth is that the vast majority of children hardly remember their favourite superheroes when they are older. Sometimes they find it curious when parents tell them stories about them as children. By this I mean that the normal thing is that this influence is not conscious, but has to do with the values, habits and behaviours that a child is learning and needs to develop as he grows. That influence is what we must take care of and what will be key in their life as a person.
Do boys and girls share equal interest? Why?
Here you have to be very careful with the language issue because it seems that it is badly seen lately that boys play ball and girls play skipping rope. But yes, the truth is that there are differences in this between boys and girls. It is not directly related to the fact that there are more or less female superheroes, but to the type of activity they do. Most superheroes do amazing things related to physical abilities like Superman, Batman, Spiderman … being men, but the activities of superheroes like Wonder Woman, Cat woman and others are very similar. As much as we are determined to say that we are equal, what should be equal are our rights.”