Q: My 3-year-old is fascinated with evil characters. Whenever he plays make-believe, he always takes on the role of the villain; the only action figures he wants are the "bad guys." We've made big changes to our movie and TV viewing habits, but nothing has changed. How should we address this?
Jim: I don't think there's reason to be overly concerned -- yet -- about your three-year-old's interest in villains. Many young kids are fascinated with "bad guys." If your son is like most, this phase will eventually pass.
In fact, making a big deal out of the issue might actually delay the process of getting past it. Your son could be thriving on the negative attention he's getting by focusing on this issue. Kids will do almost anything for attention -- positive or negative -- especially if they're feeling neglected. The best approach is to ignore this villain business and concentrate on affirming your boy for interests that are more positive.
That said, a word of caution: If your son is mimicking the behavior of the evil characters and acting out in inappropriate ways, you'll need to nip that in the bud. Don't allow him to become aggressive or hurtful in his interactions with you, his siblings or other children.
Meanwhile, remember that you can use fictional children's characters to teach your child about virtuous character traits. Contrast between the "good guys" and the "bad guys." For example, you can ask your son, "Which character is more honest?" Then discuss the consequences of dishonesty. In the same way, you could ask, "Who is more helpful to other people?" This way you can direct the conversation into channels affirming positive virtues and actions.
Our counseling team would be happy to help if you'd like to unpack these thoughts in greater detail; call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: I married my husband basically for pragmatic reasons -- as a single mom at the time, I thought he'd be a great father to my child. Now I realize that I never really had romantic feelings for him. Is there hope for our relationship?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: The short answer to your question is yes: You can learn to love your husband with the kind of love that really lasts.
I say this for two reasons. First, in cultures where marriages are arranged, couples often learn to love one another deeply although their relationships weren't originally based on romantic feelings. Real love isn't primarily a matter of the emotions -- it's an act of the will. Feelings generally follow in the wake of intentional, deliberate actions; they grow out of commitment, perseverance and hard work.
The second reason gives me even more reason for hope. You apparently WANT to fall in love with your husband -- otherwise, you wouldn't have asked the question in the first place. So you've already taken an important step in the right direction.
Continue making progress by asking yourself what attracted you to your husband at the beginning of your relationship. The two of you felt an emotional connection at some level, even if it was only because of the kindness he displayed toward your child. Something about this man led you to believe life with him would be better than life without him. That spark may have diminished over time, but it can still be found and fanned into flame if you're willing to put forth the effort. You just have to take the time to dig down beneath the ashes.
Yes, it will take work -- but it's worth it. As Jim noted above, our counselors would be honored to help you start. I wish you the best.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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