What we can learn from Superman about raising children

Following on from yesterday’s post about Superheroes in the Classroom, today’s post is just a bit of fun about how we can learn from Superman.

This is adapted from Rosenberg (2008) ‘Superman’s Personality: From Krypton, Kansas, or both?’

Behavioural Activation Systems:

We are all born with innate ‘activation systems’ that vary depending on our biology and genetics. Some children are born with Behavioural Activation Systems (BAS) that are easily activated, causing us to actively seek out and engage with the world and other people (these children will be more motivated by rewards). Some have a Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS) that is more easily activated, causing us to withdraw and avoid things in our environment (these children are more anxious, and more responsive to punishment).

Superman, Roseberg states, does not have an overactive BAS as he is not lured by the power, fame and money that he could achieve through his powers. On the other hand, Superman appears to have an underdeveloped BIS as he actively seeks out trouble, and does not seem put off by danger.

Attachment Styles:

Attachment is established early in life through family environment and social closeness. Children’s attachment styles can vary depending on how they develop an understanding of the world, on the basis of how well their needs are met in infancy. It is known that Superman builds a close relationship with his parents on earth and trusts them immediately. This would not have been possible without a secure relationship with his birth mother on Krypton, causing him to believe in the goodness of people.


Studies have shown that children who are gifted, tend to develop better academic self-concept if they are educated in a mainstream classroom than in a gifted special programme. This has been labelled the ‘big fish, little pond’ phenomenon. These children also tend to underplay their giftedness in order to fit in socially. Indeed, Clark Kent hides his superpowers through being ‘bookish’ rather than ‘athletic’, for fear that his superpowers will be revealed in sport.

Culture and Values

Cultures can be divided into ‘collectivist’ cultures, where value is placed on getting on with others; and ‘individualist’ cultures, where autonomy, self-reliance and assertiveness are valued, and individual achievements take precedence over group goals. Parents’ descriptions of what they want for their children can yield interesting insight into what type of culture is present. Parents who live in an ‘individualist’ culture tend to want their children to mind their own business, toughen up, have self-confidence; while those in ‘collectivist’ cultures tend to want their children to be hard workers, honest and loyal. Superman seems to live in a collectivist culture (as farms often are) and yet he displays characteristics of individualist culture in his jaded world view.

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