Creative play shouldn't be stifled


September 10, 2000|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q: My son, who will be 4 in October, has decided to be a cat. For about two years he pretended off and on to be a dog. Everyone said it was a phase. Well, now he's a "kitty," as he says. He even sits at the dinner table on his haunches with his fists balled up like paws and wants to be fed like an animal. I have tried to play along, but I feel this dinner-table bit is going too far. We have two cats he teases relentlessly, even though he knows this is not acceptable.

I am a stay-at-home mom, and he is my only child -- so it's not about attention. I know children need to use their imaginations and be creative, but some days, after hours of this behavior, I could scream.

Do I go along with this and hope it's a phase?

A: My advice is to go along with it. It sounds as if your son is having a lot of fun -- and he surely gets the reactions he's looking for. He may also be saying, "Don't try to control me too much" by this behavior.

As long as he has good relationships with you and his father and with other children his age, I wouldn't worry about his emotional health. You could consider getting advice from a psychologist who works with young children.

Otherwise, value your son's creativity and try to enjoy this phase with him.

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