pinataNeed proof that today's kids are being raised in a completely different world from the one we grew up in? I bring you exhibit A: the no-hit pinata. Aka, the dumbest thing I've heard of in a long while.

Let's get this straight. I grew up in the country, where the neighbor kid and I would disappear for hours at a time to wander through the woods, picking up sticks which inevitably become "guns" and "swords." We got out our aggression the old fashioned way: by beating on trees and running ourselves ragged. Neither of us grew up to become serial killers.

That was the eighties. This is 2011. When parents are so afraid their kids might shed an ounce of energy in a slightly "negative" way that we have taken a centuries old tradition and turned it on its ear.

The new pinatas are still papier mache covered in colorful bits of tissue paper. But instead of beating on them with a stick to get the candy out, the kids pull a string, and voila . . . everything just falls out. There's no skill involved. No energy expended. No FUN!

And yet, we're warned at every turn that we're not just encouraging violence with a pinata, we're rewarding it with loads of candy and bitty dollar store toys. As blogger Valerie Bartlemus warned on Yahoo!:

Doesn't anyone slightly cringe at the thought of their child whacking Dora the Explorer or Elmo around with a baseball bat? What is that doing for a child's character? Getting a flower or car piñata is only slightly less worse

Piñatas are not a good idea for your child's party. Children should never hit anything with a stick.

Never? Are we that scared that our children might be "violent" that hitting an inanimate object with a stick is now off limits? If so, we might as well stop building anything because smacking hammer to nail is an aggressive move. And forget closing the hatch on the back of the car with a slam to get it shut. Gentle. Gentle! Who cares if the rain gets in, and the open door signal won't stop beeping.

The irony here is that this new "no violence, anytime, anywhere" approach is quite the opposite of what we were taught as kids. In the eighties, we were being encouraged to acknowledge our feelings and to "channel our aggressions." At school assemblies people came to talk to us about going outside to scream out loud or going to our rooms to yell into a pillow, encouraged us to take a stick to a tree instead of our brothers or sisters, told us not to bottle up our feelings.

In effect what we say now is that our kids can't have negative feelings. If they do, they're treated as "bad kids" rather than normal human beings with normal reactions to negative situations. They're taught that they can't beat on a piece of papier mache, lest it turn them into bunny strangling psychopaths who will one day grow up to shoot up a McDonald's. And yet studies show they're exposed to an increasing amount of violent stimuli -- from the TV news to video games. A Justice Department report in 2009 concluded more than 60 percent of children are exposed to violence, either directly or indirectly.

So how do we let them get it out? When? Where? Shouldn't it be at a fun party under the watchful eyes of responsible adults, beating on an inanimate object? Or is it better to pretend kids never have a negative feeling and let them bottle it up. . . until the neighborhood bunnies start disappearing?

Would you buy a no-hit pinata?

 

Image via Steve Snodgrass/Flickr