Children and power

superman and the flash duke it outWhy is it so important to be the ‘fastest’, the ‘strongest’, etc. etc.? It’s a question I’m asking myself more and more now that my two are hitting that wonderful ‘isn’t it fun to hit my brother’ stage. I understand that competitiveness is to be encouraged but sometimes it seems genuinely nonsensical. I’ve had squabbles over who can fly the highest (basically bound by the laws of imagination; i.e. infinite) and other utter insanity that I just can’t get my head around. So again (and again) I find myself asking myself, why is it so important to them?

Ordinarily I can get myself into my kids’ shoes fairly easily, despite the fact that so much of their play makes no ‘real-world’ sense, there’s normally some internal logic to it. However, this imaginary one-upmanship looks like nothing more than an exercise in futility to me.

At the start of Toy Story, Andy has the toys duke it out in this kind of competition but the key thing is that his imaginings stop after about two rounds (basically because there’s only one child playing):

“I brought my attack dog with the built-in force field.
Well, I brought my dinosaur who eats force-field dogs.”

The story is alarmingly, brain-achingly, different with two children in the mix. Thankfully I’ve had a dry spell of this for the past few weeks but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that the spectre of the debate over ‘strongest’/ ‘fastest’/’furthest’/’most immune to damage’ etc. etc. returns.

It will no doubt start along the lines of “well I’m lava proof!…well I’m as hot as the sun!…”well I’m sun-proof!…” and it will degenerate (along with my sanity) from there.

Is it just me that get’s utterly sick to the back teeth of this or are there others out there with a similar dread for what I call the pretend-power arms-race? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. As always thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Tuesday repost: Big toy little toy

Here’s a wee post I did last summer covering jealousy and fairness, and how kids have often got us truly trumped in terms of their ability to appreciate what they have. Feel free to throw in any opinions you have. Cheers, John :

The summer holidays will soon be upon us, which means a lot of kids pouring into the shop with holiday money burning a hole in their pockets. Some have saved a little bit of pocket money all through the year to add to their holiday budget, others are happy to just go with the flow and get something nice to play with on holiday. The scenario gets strained sometimes when different siblings have different approaches but amazingly this results in far fewer tantrums and meltdowns than you might expect. My sister and I used to be like this: instead of getting a sweet on a Friday afternoon when my dad picked us up from school I’d always ask if I could get the 30-40p (yes there was a time when you could get a decent sweet for 30p) to put in my bank at home. A year of this (plus some stashed Christmas and birthday money) and I was all set for something really good on holiday, maybe something big like a new lego set, maybe just a bundle of really cool stuff.

Christine (my sister) was different, like most kids she spent her pocket money most weeks and so when the holidays came along she’d get a few pounds to spend on something she liked, that could keep her amused in the caravan if the weather took a turn for the worse. I’d have to ask her now to make sure, but I don’t think she minded much, the toys I got weren’t the kind of thing she liked to play with anyway. Though she was probably aware that my purchases were worth more than hers she seemed happy enough with what she had.

Adults don’t seem as good at this, we see someone close to us with more than us and we feel jealous, not only that but we often try and find ways of making ourselves feel better, like assuming that there is some admirable personality trait that we exhibit through having less (we’re less greedy, less ruthless etc. etc.). Why can’t we just enjoy the things that we’ve got?  We earned our money and went to the effort of choosing our possessions (let’s assume we pick them because we like them) so they obviously seemed appealing at the time we purchased them. It’s so peculiar that suddenly that nice new TV in your living room looks outdated and small when you go and visit some friends with a bigger fancier one. Your TV is still the nice one you went to the effort of choosing, chances are you picked it because it suits the place it has in your room and it provides you with entertainment, but this seems to fly out the window when you see that new 50″ flat screen.

It would be easy to think that it’s a sign of the times, that everyone is more materialistic nowadays and that mine and my sister’s attitudes towards each others’ purchases is a thing of the past but this is not so; I see kids every day of the holidays come in and do the same thing. I won’t pretend there isn’t the occasional meltdown of ‘they got more than me!’ but these are surprisingly rare and no more common than they were in the toy shop I worked in more than a decade ago.

Just this morning a young lad and his wee sister came in with holiday money, he bought a big lego set (about £30) and she bought a soft toy (about £6) and neither even batted an eyelid at the other’s purchase. They got what they wanted with what they had and they were happy, fantastic. Again I feel like kids have a lesson to teach us (and as a casual aside I wish Christine all the best with her new gigantic flat screen TV).

(N.B. Image nabbed from http://super-dupertoybox.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/marvel-select-avengers-hulk.html, a blog that my friend Adrian might enjoy a lot:P)

Big toy little toy

It’s the summer holidays, which means a lot of kids pouring into the shop with holiday money burning a hole in their pockets. Some have saved a little bit of pocket money all through the year to add to their holiday budget others are happy to just go with the flow and get something nice to play with on holiday. The scenario gets strained sometimes when different siblings have different approaches but amazingly this results in far fewer tantrums and meltdowns than you might expect. My sister and I used to be like this: instead of getting a sweet on a Friday afternoon when my dad picked us up from school I’d always ask if I could get the 30-40p (yes there was a time when you could get a decent sweet for 30p) to put in my bank at home. A year of this (plus some stashed Christmas and birthday money) and I was all set for something really good on holiday, maybe something big like a new lego set, maybe just a bundle of really cool stuff.

Christine (my sister) was different, like most kids she spent her pocket money most weeks and so when the holidays came along she’d get a few pounds to spend on something she liked, that could keep her amused in the caravan if the weather took a turn for the worse. I’d have to ask her now to make sure, but I don’t think she minded much, the toys I got weren’t the kind of thing she liked to play with anyway. Though she was probably aware that my purchases were worth more than hers she seemed happy enough with what she had.

Adults don’t seem as good at this, we see someone close to us with more than us and we feel jealous, not only that but we often try and find ways of making ourselves feel better, like assuming that there is some admirable personality trait that we exhibit through having less (we’re less greedy, less ruthless etc. etc.). Why can’t we just enjoy the things that we’ve got?  We earned our money and went to the effort of choosing our possessions (let’s assume we pick them because we like them) so they obviously seemed appealing at the time we purchased them. It’s so peculiar that suddenly that nice new TV in your living room looks outdated and small when you go and visit some friends with a bigger fancier one. Your TV is still the nice one you went to the effort of choosing, chances are you picked it because it suits the place it has in your room and it provides you with entertainment, but this seems to fly out the window when you see that new 50″ flat screen.

It would be easy to think that it’s a sign of the times, that everyone is more materialistic nowadays and that mine and my sister’s attitudes towards each others’ purchases is a thing of the past but this is not so; I see kids every day of the holidays come in and do the same thing. I won’t pretend there isn’t the occasional meltdown of ‘they got more than me!’ but these are surprisingly rare and no more common than they were in the toy shop I worked in more than a decade ago.

Just this morning a young lad and his wee sister came in with holiday money, he bought a big lego set (about £30) and she bought a soft toy (about £6) and neither even batted an eyelid at the other’s purchase. They got what they wanted with what they had and they were happy, fantastic. Again I feel like kids have a lesson to teach us (and as a casual aside I wish Christine all the best with her new gigantic flat screen TV).

(N.B. Image nabbed from http://super-dupertoybox.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/marvel-select-avengers-hulk.html, a blog that Adrian might enjoy a lot:P)

It’s good to share?

Long time no see, this week I want to talk about sharing. To be honest there are some things about the concept which baffle me. For starters I can have a group of friends round and slice a cake into an appropriate number for us to share it. Alternatively a child can be playing with a toy car and in allowing another child to take a turn they share. We can also share an activity, we can share interests or share a common ancestor. Basically we can apply the word ‘share’ to a whole host of different activities and it’s this that confuses me. For me the cake sharing is the closest thing to ‘real’ sharing that I can think of since all parties walk away equally satisfied and when it comes to teaching my son how to share his toys this causes problems. I associate sharing with mutual satisfaction through compromise and I’m not sure if this is the consensus.

Here’s an example scenario of how tricky the concept can be to explain: my son is playing with some figures on the floor and his little brother comes over and picks up a toy which Logan is currently not holding. From Alexander’s (my youngest’s) perspective he hasn’t snatched (which he vaguely aware he’s not allowed to do) but he has disrupted Logan’s play, typically in this instance I’ll take the toy off of Alexander and give it back to Logan or ask Logan if Alexander can join in and share (which sometimes works). When the situation is the other way round and Logan takes a toy I am faced with the additional (and difficult) task of explaining why he should give it back. Logan responds that he is ‘sharing’ which isn’t right but I can’t seem to explain, in terms which a four year old can understand, why sharing only works one way for toys (that is you can share your toys but if someone shares their toys with you you aren’t the one sharing).

Maybe I’ve got it wrong somewhere but you typically don’t praise someone for being on the receiving end of a kind act and you can’t really force an act like sharing or it ceases to be praiseworthy. So that’s my problem with the definition of ‘share’ but I’ve also got an issue with how sharing is to be initiated which is similar in form. Why is it that a child must instantaneously share their toy when asked? Imagine a similar scenario for an adult: I’m in a coffee shop reading my kindle and someone asks me what I’m reading, it turns out they’ve been wanting to read this book for ages and they ask that I share my kindle so that they can read a few chapters, they assure me they’re a fast reader so they won’t have it all afternoon, am I supposed to just hand it over? If you answer no, you’re in the same place as me when it comes to sharing: sharing is a choice, not a necessity, we choose when and what to share. If a child is absorbed in playing with a particular toy and is causing no harm in doing so why must they break from their activity for another child who asks for a turn? I’m not saying that they have a right to rudely ignore the other child but if they politely say that they are busy with it and that the other child can have it when they’re done what right do we have to insist that they ‘share’, if we can even call it ‘sharing’ when it’s forced upon someone?

I understand the importance cooperative play with others but when did solitary play get so heavily demoted? Of course some activities can only be shared: playing a board game, playing football etc. etc. Maybe I’m getting this wrong, I’m starting to worry that I’m a much less sociable person than I thought I was, because I think everyone has the right to loose themselves in something without fear of their attention being broken to ‘share’ the object of their focus. I’m genuinely irked and confused by this whole issue.

I’d like to add that I’m sorry for not getting a new post up here for a while, I’ve had a busy week or two (birthdays, a wedding not to mention working on our web site http://www.funjunctiontoys.com). Also when I said ‘this week I want to talk about sharing’ I really meant talk about it, please feel free to leave comments after this post or on my work facebook page http://www.facebook.com/funjunctiontoys I’ll welcome any suggestions from people about what the word ‘share’ means to them.