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Ah well, it was a valiant effort

February 16, 2012
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Our house has a “no weapons” rule for toys.  We have tried to let the kids be active, but guide them not to be aggressive.  I’m disturbed by the amount of accepted, pervasive violence in our society, and at how much of it is marketed for consumption by kids.  But with 2 boys, one of whom now has outside influences school friends, I’ve had to start intervening to stop the turning of innocuous objects into guns and swords.  I know I can’t stop it forever, but I’d like to at least keep the imaginative violence “protective”.  I don’t like them pretending to hurt each other.  They like to pretend they are police officers “protecting” deer from hunters, for example, but I don’t let them pretend to shoot other people.  (I am not anti-hunting – the kids came up with that on their own – and yet they love to gobble up venison jerky, heh heh.)

They are also a tad obsessed with pirates.  I can tell by Tea’s questions that he is both fascinated and scared of them, and no amount of my reassurances that there are none in our land-locked county has eased his mind.  Perhaps there is some value to letting them imagine the bad guys and vanquishing them to conquer their fears?  I don’t know.  I would be interested to read something on the topic so if anyone has any recommendations, please share!

For Valentine’s Day, I was excited about the presents I chose for them – big coloring / doodle books by Japanese author/illustrator Taro Gomi with ideas for what to draw on each page, some more open-ended than others.  “What has this bird caught?”, for example, and “What do you think can be making these noises? Tok tok!  ah!  Wooosh!”, and “Put shoes on this centipede”.

"Draw the passengers on the bus"

The kids were excited to start working in their books and ran for the markers.

Somehow, within seconds of opening his book, Tea found the one page in 360 with two pirate ships facing off, multiple cannons pointing at each other across an expanse of ocean.  “Ready, aim, fire!” it proclaims.

Of course this was the page he wanted to start with.  But with his limited exposure to pirates and weapons and scariness in general, he thought that “Ready, aim, fire!” meant that the cannons shot actual fire out of them.  So he drew fire coming out of the cannons, and then subsequently drew fire engulfing the ships.  With an enormous grin on his face.  Why can’t I keep him a baby forever?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2012 3:12 pm

    OK, I did have to let out a little giggle at his facial expression on that last pic. 🙂 I have struggled with so many different and new situations that have come from “outside influences.” And although we can’t protect them from everything forever, I do think it’s worthy trying! OK, maybe not “everything” and maybe not “forever” but setting ground rules and making the attempt to guide thought patterns/behaviors is a job I’m not willing to forfeit. 😉 And I guess we have to go with the flow when something interrupts our parenting plan!

    • February 16, 2012 3:30 pm

      Very true, Jen. I think what makes this issue hard for my brain to sort out is that I grew up without brothers. So while Kyle and I know what we’re striving for, neither of us grew up in a “no guns” house with little boys, and it’s not always easy finding like-minded parents to compare notes with. =)

  2. Kristen A. permalink
    February 16, 2012 3:45 pm

    It gets difficult to set guidelines for them to understand, at least for mine. Swords, guns, anything that can be used as a weapon is not allowed to be done on a person. Quillian at age 3 used to “hunt” his stuffed animals (setting up blinds and everything needed) and than proceed to “skin” them, followed by serving us the raw flesh. yes, I know…disturbing. We chose to alllow this because we are raising the kids to know where meat comes which obviously includes a killing part. HOWEVER, anything that is violent is not allowed. Example, beating a stuffed animal with something.
    Good luck this summer. Sticks are another lovely topic in our house. Mike as a kid was never allowed to play with them. I was allowed having two older brothers. So, we choose to allow them to play with sticks, but never towards a person. And yes, this is easier said than done.

    • February 16, 2012 4:22 pm

      I think it’s awesome that he hunted and prepared his stuffed animals, actually. We don’t eat much meat, but the kids definitely know where it comes from. Tea will announce that he’s eating “the muscle of the chicken’s leg”, for example.

      Yep, sticks are the hardest thing for me. I don’t mind them playing with sticks in theory, but they’ve nearly poked their eyes so many times I just can’t take it anymore. Can I just require them to wear face shields in the yard? It doesn’t help that I worked with a man who poked his eye out when he was in kindergarten – and he’d gladly pop his glass one out to show you if you requested it. Eek.

  3. jen s permalink
    February 16, 2012 8:38 pm

    interesting conundrum this one . . . we have a testosterone loaded 7yr old boy in our household (he came to us at age 3 & was already heavily into superheroes). we did (yes past tense!) not have guns in the house (until someone gave us a nerf gun 3 mths ago) but from day one he made his own ‘guns’ out of lego, bits of sticks, pipe cleaners, etc. no amount of us suggesting why we thought this wasnt a good idea put him off. in conversations with other parents a couple of things became clear to us . . . 1. we parents all grew up with the ‘normal’ – for then – amount of guns, swords & other similar paraphenalia as well as watching an array of aggressive tv war/sci-fi aggresive shlock and none of us is in anyway interested in, nor in any way preoccupied with any of this & all of us have a real aversion to and dislike for violence, aggression, war, etc (ie. we suppose then that we were able to be exposed to such stuff yet still were able to formulate our own negative opinions in our own way which would include absorbing our parents attitudes to all of this) . . . and 2. kids waving stickes & swords around have a higher likelihood of causing physical damage to other kids than if they ‘fired’ guns at each other.
    i have also read several articles that suggest boys need to get out their agression in some way & that this is a ‘normal’ way for them to do this. that they have a need to get in touch & explore their primal need to ‘protect’ and ‘defend’ their future partners & families and to develop skills related to this even though we are no longer in caveman mode.
    my son is in 2nd grade at school and ALL of his male friends (even those – perhaps even more especially those – that come from families that BIG time disapprove of & ban guns/etc at home) play games in school recess that involve the killings & deaths of one or more of them, but like all of us that have gone before them they are beginning to understand the difference between reality & fantasy and do not seem to get confused about killing someone/something for real and pretending in a game.
    i am not in anyway suggesting you change your approach, just putting out there my thoughts.
    my husband and i in no way encourage this behaviour but we are – now – over worrying about our son & his changing intense interests because, as with everything else that we are learning, he is an intelligent kid who needs exposure and guidance BY US so we would rather he become aware with us in the picture of anything & everything so he can see from us our preferred ways to approach & interact with the world. we dont feel sheltering our child from reality is a good thing to do but then we also dont expose our child to things we dont think apropriate . . . if anything ‘accidentally’ comes into our home from outsiders then we talk about it and demonstrate clearly our opinions on & actions with regard to the matter (disipline in the true sense of the word).
    right now we are more concerned with the awful language our son is picking up in the school yard . . . after all he is more likely to use language to communicate with others than a gun, yikes!
    ps gosh, i am really sorry, i didnt mean to turn this into a ranting lecture. mmmm, i too am obviously concerned with this topic, 😉
    jen s

    • February 16, 2012 10:42 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Jen. I can understand your point of view. It is fascinating how boys seem to find a way to play with weapons one way or another – even boys, like mine, who have no exposure to cartoon or movie violence. At 3 and 4, though, they are still relatively easy to redirect, and I think they can also get their energy out with lots of noise and muscle (some days we just send them outside to yell and run the length of the yard 5 times). And if “boys will be boys”, which I’m afraid may be the case, I am not going to supply them with the tools or any media to encourage them – they’re going to need to at least be using their imaginations. 😉

      I so agree that sticks are dangerous. I watched my eldest trip while calmly using one as a walking stick and it missed impaling his eye by a hair. My heart stopped beating for a full minute. And that was while he was behaving himself.

      I think I’m due for a trip to the library. This topic is interesting to me and I’m in unfamiliar territory. I don’t remember my sister and I minding that we had “squirt animals” instead of squirt guns.

      • jen s permalink
        February 17, 2012 3:17 pm

        i also remember reading an article that suggested wrestling with your kids was a good thing to do but always being the one to give way to them when you could tell they were wanting to ‘win’ and to let them control the tempo & physicality of it all. the analogy was that of a lioness with her cubs . . . lots of rough housing but totally at their level of intensity. this worked wonders when our boy was 3-4yrs old, he loved being the one ‘winning’ whilst wrestling either of us on the bed or on the floor (also great for attach
        ment) .he was also learning how to take control of his body and learning how much strength he had as he mirrored our movements.
        i do notice in the school yard some kids who have no idea of their strength or of where their body is in space & i suspect many have not been given much physical interaction or activities that promote body awareness.
        anyway, just wanted to wish you all the best with your research, & if you come across something pertinent i would love to read about it!
        jen s

      • February 20, 2012 11:13 pm

        Oh yes, wrestling Dad is huge fun for the boys. Totally not my thing, but as long as it’s not right before bed time to rile them up, they can roll around all they want. Interestingly, neither of my boys wants anything to do with wrestling other kids. They like playing tag-like games on the playground, but get upset if there’s any tackling.

  4. Jenn permalink
    February 20, 2012 10:45 pm

    Robin, if you’d like the research to actually back up whether viewing media violence effects children’s behavior, the effects of exposure to violence on children, etc, I would be happy to provide! But, if you don’t want me to bore you to tears, just google:” Effects of playing violent video games on children” or similar. Academic research beats playground theory any day. And yes, when the little one came to us, his favorite toy at his foster family’s was a black plastic Uzi. Even the social worker was appalled, and it did NOT go with him when he came to us. And yes, I redirected him from making his guitar into a “gun” for the first few weeks, and now he actually plays music with it. Well, ok, he plays “rockstar” with the big one, so it’s more yelling than singing. Not sure where the heavy metal came from, but that part I am fine with. There are no studies showing heavy metal playing leads to violent behaviors in play. Yet.
    P.S. Todd and his brother played with sticks as children. Todd has a fake front tooth and his brother has a scar riiiiight above his eye. You do the math. 😉

    • jen s permalink
      February 20, 2012 11:02 pm

      interesting jump from a discussion on the use of guns & sticks (however imaginative) by kids to a suggestion of a link or comparison to viewing media violence . . . i just wanted to distance myself from this aspect of the conversation. they are very different.

    • February 20, 2012 11:09 pm

      Hey Jenn, I’d hoped you’d chime in. Eek on the uzi! Good call leaving it behind. It makes me reconsider my feelings towards Pea’s cherished toy from his foster family. His Doraemon may be disturbingly phallic-shaped, but at least it’s just a blue cat. =)

      Heavy metal? I can totally see your boys starting a garage band in a few years. They can call it The Pointy Sticks, in reference to the toys their parents never let them play with. Hee hee.

      It’s reassuring to get a professional to back us up. You rock. Thanks.

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