Afraid of the Clown

From the question and answer section of “Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy“, a book for parents published in 1976:

The Letter:

Dear Doctors:

I have a problem of fear in a usually fearless boy who is just Three. When he was about a year old we gave him a clown that rolls back and forth, with a very realistic face and eyes that roll. At first he seemed a little afraid of it, but soon he seemed happy enough. In fact, for a time he liked it so much that he carried it around.

A few evenings ago we saw a TV program about a circus. There was some violence in the picture. A knife thrower was trying to kill some other man, and although he wasn’t dressed as a clown, there were clowns in the play.

I don’t know if that caused it, but the next evening our son said, ‘The clown is going to hurt me.’ His daddy told him no, that the clown was just like any other dolly. This morning the first thing he said was something about the clown.

I thought about burning the clown before his eyes, but perhaps that would be too dramatic. We are going to leave soon for a vacation with his grandma. Would it be best to take the clown along or to leave it at home?

From the doctors’ answer:

You seem to have made several mistakes. In the first place, the clown seems a somewhat dubious choice as a play

object for a little boy. Second, a child of his age should not be watching knife throwing and other violence – people trying to kill other people – on television. We would definitely screen his TV viewing from now on. He is a sensitive child and appears to be extremely vulnerable to this kind of stimulation.

Burning the clown would indeed be too dramatic. It might lead to a fear of fires as well as a fear of clowns…

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