What Superheroes Can Teach Us About Parenting

By David Layzelle

Almost everyone has their favourite superhero and we increasingly revel in their on-screen and graphic novel struggles against all the evil that the universe can throw at them. It’s loud and punchy, racy and cacophonous, but look just beyond the rampant action and real-life lessons are strewn around aplenty. Superheroes all have a backstory and from those come simple rules that help us become better parents.

Spiderman tells us that with great power comes great responsibility and quite apart from having the skills of a spider without much of the ickiness, that is also a great parental lesson, and one that we would do well to pass on to our children. But Spidey isn’t the only one, and if we look beyond the flashy graphics and thunderous sounds, the latest Hollywood summer blockbuster, we can find a few more handy life-lessons too; it’s not just about looking good in Lycra or titanium hyper-alloy suits which, in retrospect, actually aren’t good parental looks anyway!!!

Oldest of them all, the Man of Steel is a great role model; infinitely protective and dedicated to his less-than-super charges, Superman is always ready to spring to the defence of those less able than him; I.E everyone else on planet Earth. Batman derisively calls Superman the “big Blue Schoolboy” because of the clean cut lifestyle of Clark Kent and the unerring goodness of Kal-El – superman’s birth name on Krypton – but the calm strength that the Man of Steel oozes is a role that we would be wise to model or parenting, just don’t try the flying, and never ever wear your undergarments on the outside!!

Captain America embodies the force of will, and the drive to go on regardless of the odds against us, and teaches that we should never give up and that applies whether you are battling Hydra (without going into the developments of the recent issues) or tired and unruly children (not that children are akin to Hydra…). Strong, dependable and is absolutely always going to pick people up on cussing and a bad mouth, but beneath all the spandex and gritted teeth, we find a man who simply wants to help others.

But what of the darker superheroes? Batman is driven by revenge and while he’ll try not to take a life, he knows that he doesn’t have to save it either, however Alfred – Bruce Wayne’s butler – gives us hope in The Bat’s integrity. We fall, he tells Wayne, so that we can learn to pick ourselves up again, and that is a good lesson to pass on to our children. Hulk frequently demonstrates a bad bad temper and seems to revel in smashing stuff, both of which ae pretty negative, but looking on the flip side, he undeniably has a talent and puts it to use, and that is a positive and a notion that we should teach our children; everyone has a talent for something, and to find that and put it to good use is a noble cause. Despite being bought up from beyond the Mire to open the gateway to Damnation for his Nazi summoners, Hellboy shows us that despite expectations, everyone can change to become a champion of ordinary folk.

Superheroes – even the darker ones – act as distorted mirrors to our own lives and values, and they can teach us valuable lessons and give us insights into our lives and motivations. If we look beyond the obvious dazzle of superheroes we can see elements of their behaviour in our own and while we are not likely to be recognised for our sparkling costumes, we can be super to our children and those around us.

Taken from the September issue of Geek Parenting, out now!

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