Over at Daddy Daze, Dave has blogged a nice piece in response to my post from a few days ago called Things We Tell The Girl to Keep the Monsters Away. Says Dave (who has a 3 year old going thru a similar monster phase as we are with The Girl):
Dadventure is working on the problem as well, and he lists some of the tactics heâ€™s been using. A couple of the more amusing items on his list include: â€œThatâ€™s why we painted your bedroom pink. Monsters hate pinkâ€ and â€œMonsters donâ€™t want to eat us. We taste awful.â€
Pretty cute and clever, but thereâ€™s still a tacit implication that, yes, scary monsters do exist. I donâ€™t know about you, but when I read the 2nd explanation, I immediately generate an image in my mind of a monster actually consuming me. I know that wasnâ€™t the message, but the image is unavoidable. Itâ€™s like saying, â€œDonâ€™t think of a giraffe.â€
It’s a good point. A toddler’s imagination is an active playground, and the thought that a monster could actually eat someone could freak some kids out.
Our strategy wasn’t even a conscious strategy – it just sort of evolved that this was the way we dealt with it. Do we put our energy into trying to convince her monsters are not real, or do we accept her reality and reassure her that she is safe and protected? It’s a tough call that I’m sure most parents have to make.
Personally, I like the idea of letting her imagination go over to the dark side every so often, providing it doesn’t freak the hell out of her, of course. I don’t mind her believing that there are monsters, just like there are fairies and Santa Claus. Imagination creates both good and evil. Plus, I don’t ever want to poo-poo The Girl and make her feel that her feelings and fears are not valid or irrational. In the words of noted pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene:
This season of heightened imagination is a precious time. Dreaming of wonders, pretending great exploits, are the seedbed where life’s dreams are born. These times are fun. But it is the darker side of this season, the working through fears, that is even more valuable. Here you teach your child to recognize the fears that can hobble dreams, to acknowledge these fears, to face them, and to find her own way to break through to the other side.
The courage she will earn is the strength beneath all other virtues. Honesty, love, compassion, loyalty, dreams, ideals, will all be tested by fear. The depth of her courage will be the roots that determine how high she can grow.
Far from ignoring her fears, treat them with tenderness and eager patience. They are an invaluable window into your daughter’s inner life and the development of her soul.
My take on the whole monster issue is that The Girl is really looking for security, so that’s what we try to give her. And we take a pretty light hearted approach to it, delivering our “lines” with some pretty exaggerated tones and facial expressions that always make The Girl laugh. And if she learns a bit on how to cope with the fear of monsters when we are not there in the middle of the night, then she has learned a valuable life lesson.
So far, the strategy seems to be working. Since the original outbreak of monsters, nary a word has been spoken, or a monster has been sighted within 200 miles of our home.