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Toddler Talk: The Superhero Lessons

I’ll admit I was resistant to my son’s sudden obsession with superheroes. As a mom, I saw violence and aggression—good guys fighting bad guys with punches and explosions.

I may have rolled my eyes a few hundred times, while my husband was thrilled to see his baby developing into a boy’s boy.

But, much to my surprise, Noah has learned plenty of positive lessons from those superheroes:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

This is Spiderman’s catch phrase, and it’s a good one. Peter Parker could have used his newfound “spider” skills to get back at the kids who picked on him at school, or for fame and fortune—but he decided to use his power responsibly: to catch bad guys.

Noah has heard this line over and over, and I’ve even heard him mutter it under his breath. Apart from the building climbing and web shooting, Spiderman instills a noble duty—despite what the bullies at school think of him.

You don’t need superpowers to do good.

Batman didn’t come from a faraway planet, naturally born with super strength. A radioactive spider didn’t bite him, resulting in gravity-defying powers. He’s just ordinary, handsome (and filthy rich) Bruce Wayne—a regular guy with an elaborate set-up to fight crime. (Noah watches the 1960s Adam West version, where he works closely with law enforcement—eliminating that iffy vigilante issue.)

Batman proves that you don’t need supernatural abilities to be a hero.

The importance of teamwork and friendships.

Noah used to be the little boy playing quietly in the corner by himself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—I’m an introverted person, and I could tell he was happy in his solo play. He was lively and animated with adults—singing and joking—but he was slightly uncomfortable around his peers, never standing up for himself or voicing his opinions. He was genuinely uninterested in interacting with kids his own age.

But then he (and most of the kids in his preschool) started taking on superhero identities, and now he’s the ringleader of playtime. He introduces kids based on their alter egos (“Here’s Iron Man, and here’s my best friend Robin…”), and it’s almost like the pretend masks have helped him become more comfortable and more connected to his peers. Not just while playing pretend, but in all aspects of socializing. He makes friends everywhere he goes now—the doctor’s office waiting room, gymnastics class—and my heart flutters each time I see him talking and laughing with kids his own age.

And I know I have superheroes to thank for that.

Always be the hero.

There’s a common theme throughout the superhero genre: No matter what other people think of you, no matter what obstacles are in your way, stand up for the little guy and defend the greater good.

Always be the hero. And that’s a lesson that all children should learn.

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