When my husband and I first started talking about having children almost two decades ago, one of our concerns was the pervasive violence in our culture. Seeing boys barely old enough to write their names pretending to blow one another up was troubling, and we decided our kids were going to be different. We didn’t buy in to gender stereotypes. Kids are blank slates. We were going to raise our boys to be peaceful. We’re seventeen years into this parenting gig. Twelve of those years have been spent raising boys, and I’ve worked with hundreds of children aged preschool to high school, so I do have at least some experience when I offer this advice.
To raise gun-free boys:
- Teach them new meanings to common behaviors. Children naturally extend thumb and forefinger. Teach them it’s an “L” for “Love.” If that doesn’t work, I recommend gluing their thumbs and forefingers together.
- Monitor their television consumption. Weapons are everywhere on TV today, so screen time must be regulated. I recommend no more than fifteen minutes a day in ten second intervals. Choose shows carefully. We limit our boys to Thigh Master infomercials and reruns of Care Bears.
- Monitor their video games. Violence in video games is ubiquitous. Studies have shown that video games can skew perceptions of what is acceptable behavior. Minecraft was shown the door, for example, when our boys began punching actual trees. Stick with Reader Rabbit.
- Choose good playmates. Kids are easily influenced by their peers. I suggest never letting them play with actual children. A mirror is a reasonable substitute. Animals, preferably those without opposable thumbs, are a decent choice. Store mannequins are also acceptable.
- Choose toys carefully. No Nerf guns, of course. I also recommend never letting them touch things that may to their eyes look like a gun. These items include, but are not limited to: coat-hangers, Lego bricks, sticks, high heeled shoes, kitchen implements, brooms, and, interestingly, a Thigh Master.
- Aim for early orthodontics. Namely headgear. If their lips can’t meet, they can’t make shooting noises. Little known fact – Little Willy Wonka didn’t have dental issues – his dad got tired of hearing him say “Pow! Pow! Pow!”
Original version published at Becoming Cliche. Reposted, in full, with permission of the author.
I thought your article was interesting. I’ve been raising a boy myself for nearly 11 years now. As a Buddhist, it has always been important to me to teach my son to be kind, even to those who aren’t kind to him. I am against guns in general, though I support the 2nd Amendment in a limited way. The Right to Bear Arms is quite different today than it was when the Framers wrote the Constitution. I think if they saw what was available now perhaps they might have put some limitations on the type of arms we as citizens are allowed to bear. For instance- I see no reason why a regular person would need to keep an assault rifle for “protection.” I see no reason why a regular person would need anything more than a single handgun and a single rifle- one to defend oneself and others, one to hunt for food to provide sustenance for oneself and one’s family. I would not own a gun myself nor would I promote it for my own family, but I understand not everyone is like me and my family. My practice and my teachings to my son are always that we need to lead by example, and our example is that one does not need a gun or another weapon to defend ourselves. Some of your other writings I do take issue with. I am assuming that some of it was supposed to be funny, so I am not going to point by point say, not this, that. One thing I wanted to say is that I completely disagree about the video game Minecraft. My son has learned great creativity playing that game. And if you want to take it away form your children that is your business,but “attacking trees” is a bit ridiculous as a reason to limit the game. People “attack trees” in real life all the time- we make books and build houses and use wood in a thousand different ways- you do this in the game as well. When my son was born I tried to think about what I would and wouldn’t allow him to “protect” him from the big, bad world, but then I realised that it is impossible to do that, particularly as an American where I think we have a violent culture as it is. Should I not allow television? How about the internet? Well, my decision was no, that I would not limit these things for my son but would try to keep things age appropriate until he was old enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Also, I remember the same arguments (minus the internet) when I was a kid- television is too violent, it will cause you child to become a violent person. Video games (Atari?) were violent and would cause your child to become violent in real life. Well, with the amount of children in my generation who watched a lot of television and played video games, percentage wise I think we’ve probably done okay. And I also thought, well, if we think we have a problem now with tv, video games and the internet, what will it be like by the time my son becomes an adult? So No, I did not limit. I let my son play with Nerf guns and water guns- he is smart enough to know the difference between a toy and a real gun. I think the real solution was not to shield my son from what is out there but to talk realistically about how the world is and what is right and what is wrong. I also think it is important to have some type of spiritual teaching with your children, even if you son’t have a particular religion, teaching Secular Humanism isn’t a bad idea. Teaching your children to value all life is very important, but valuing pixels is quite different. I don’t allow my son to play video games that are not suitable. My son tells me often that his friends play Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games which I don’t allow. My son has no problem with this and plays Mario and The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong and games like that. He also folds amazing origami and is in the process of attempting to make 1,000 paper cranes for my sister who has stage 4 Ovarian cancer, because there is the folk take that if you can do that, the person you love can be healed. My son is growing into a sweet boy. Sometimes he feels bad that he is not able to keep friends because they are very different than he is- they curse, they hit, they disregard other people’s property- all things he knows are wrong. But he often says he would rather be by himself than with those who don’t share his values. He knows when he gets older it will be easier for him. Thank you for your views on this subject and for allowing me to express mine.
Hey, Krychick! It’s great to hear from you!
Actually, you and I agree more than you might think. It’s a humor piece and doesn’t reflect my views on firearms. Or Minecraft. I wrote the piece to laugh at myself over how uptight I used to be about how I thought I’d raise my kids before I ever had them. It’s a good thing the words “No kid of mine will ever…” don’t have actual calories, given then number of times I have had to eat them.
I agree that constant conversation with kids about what our family believes is right versus what happens in other households is incredibly important, and it’s definitely a part of our parenting.
Just too funny!