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Does Aggressive Play Lead To Real Violence?

-- In the sandbox or on the field, young boys often play more aggressively than girls. Whether this stems from genetics or environmental factors is up for debate. But one thing that's clear is the increasingly aggressive nature of games, toys and media culture influencing boys every day.

On Monday's Early Show, William Pollack, a clinical psychologist and author of Real Boys, will discuss how to draw the line between aggression and fun.

Are we sending mixed messages to our children about how they should play? Pollack believes boys are more confused than ever about their role, and modern toys and games are partly to blame. He believes children are drawn to the WWF because it's fun and interesting, but not necessarily because it's violent. If there were TV shows that are quest- and adventure-oriented without people being tossed around, Pollack believes boys would be equally interested.

"But unfortunately we do not have those kinds of programs," he says. "A boy learns what it means to be a male person and boy from the way he plays and others play with him. That play doesn't have to be ... goodie goodie."

Pollack says that rough play in essence isn't bad, it's how the parents handle it that's important.

So what's a parent to do? Ban guns and wrestling? Here's what William Pollak recommends:

  1. Know the difference between action vs. aggression. Pollack urges parents to respect boys need for action -- don't make them feel ashamed but when roughhousing starts to get out of control, you can catch boys in a physical embrace and hold them in a loving way til they calm down, rather than just saying "don't be rough."

  2. Avoid "realistic" war toys. Remember, it's the action that attracts boys, not the killing in toys and videos, so get the least realistic looking game or weapon. We want kids to play like kids, not mimic murderers.

Pollack says research shows that when you hug them afterwards, those little boys not only don't become more aggressive, they have fewer temper tantrums and seem to be better able to identify other people's feelings as they grow older. So some rough and tumble play is a very positive kind of thing -- it helps the boy to learn the limits of how to express aggression in a healthy way to express action.

Other books by Pollack include: New Psychotherapy for Men and In a Time of Fallen Heroes: The Re-creation of Masculinity.Real Boys' Voices is scheduled to be in bookstores in April.

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