Friday, February 8, 2008

Bang, Bang

A while ago, I saw this headline in the newspaper...Boy, 7, suspended for drawing stick-figure shooter. My initial reaction was "Oh, give me a break!" But, I kept reading..."was suspended last week for violating X's zero-tolerance policy on guns...gave the picture to another child on the school bus, and that child's parents complained about it to school officials...the picture showed two stick figures with one pointing a crude-looking gun at the other...What appeared to be the word "me" was written above the shooter, with another name scribbled above the other figure." That painted a different picture to me than I originally had in my head, of overreacting, overzealous parents punishing a poor seven year old boy for doing something all seven year old boys do. If Dylan brought home a picture, no matter how "crude", of someone pointing a gun at him, I would probably react as strongly as those parents did. But that got me thinking.

Aren't boys by nature interested in guns, bombs, swords, ninjas, cowboys, jedis, and warriors? Aren't we being hypocritical if we say we won't buy our boys guns, but we will buy them video games and movies that depict violence in other ways? When I taught preschool we were told not to allow "gun play". I can't even tell you how many times I had to tell the boys "No guns!". One of my favorite little boys said to me, "Well then, how are the good guys supposed to win over the bad guys?" I said, "Use your brains, and outsmart them", to which he gave me a look like I had 3 heads, and asked "Huh?"

For Dylan's birthday he got a wagon filled with large leggos. The first thing I built with them was a house. When my mom came over, she made an airplane, and flew it around the room. What was the first thing Jim made for our one year old son? A machine gun, complete with spit flying through the air sound effects. Men. It's in their blood, I think. Oh yea, it's called testosterone.

I have to admit, though, as a kid, who spent a lot of time playing with my two male cousins, I coveted their machine guns. What this says about me, I don't know, but would I have turned out differently if my parents had given in? Boys have always played with play guns through the ages. Doesn't the increase in violence have to be due to something else? Perhaps the media's glorification of it? Perhaps the onslaught of violence in the movies and on television? Should we teach our children that "gun's are bad"?

I would love to know what all of you out there in cyberspace think, whether you have boys or not. Let's have a discussion.


Kristi S said...

My parents NEVER allowed any form of toy guns, my mom absolutely opposed it. My brothers never made pseudo-guns from what I remember. Guns still scare me!

Pam said...

I personally am not a fan of guns. But having 3 step sons and my 'own' son growing up quickly- it is virtually impossible to stop. Even Ashlyn makes guns out of legos and other objects. But, what I stand firmly by is that gun play is okay in the hunting sense. What I will not allow is the point it at another person and pretend to shoot that person. I think that guns are okay if (and this is the part I believe is missing these days) we teach respect for it also. We need to teach that guns are not funny and should never be pointed at a human. Guns are weapons used for hunting, protection, etc but not as a joke. Pretend war is fine as long as you are imagining and not aiming it at your sister/mother/brother/friend/whoever. I think that drawing a picture of shooting another person is not acceptable either. Kids don't understand the finality of being shot - they don't get that you don't get to have 'another life' like you do in video games.

I believe the video games are very harmful as well. It desensitizes kids to the harmful and seriousness of guns. We say don't hurt, but we let them play games that show violence from the point of view of the shooter. It isn't even like the atari games we had growing up where you were a ship flying through space. This is through the eyes of the shooter. Those games terrify me. And what scares me more is that even though they are rated M and should be for grown adults- 2nd graders play these games and think it is cool. How can it be cool to hunt a person and shoot them?

I think some parents just get these games and don't follow up with their children. They are not having discussions about what they see on tv/in video games. Some might not even be aware.

This is a subject hubby and I battle over all the time. He doesn't see it to be as big of an issue as I do. But he does agree that the 'shooter' games are too much for children.

Sorry to post here in your comments- but I feel strongly about this!

Sparx said...

My parents didn't want my brother to have guns either but eventually someone gave him one and he loved it immediately. I do think it's a boy thing. Equally however my brother was never going to grow up to be some macho nightmare who thought guns were good... it's in the way children are raised really, what they're allowed to watch and how they're taught. I'm not sure how I would have reacted to this - probably quite strongly. I'm also not sure that the punishment fit th crime... perhaps an apology and some lessons on humanity?

Julia said...

I sat tonight for my neighbors 2 sons. MAN do they play differently. It was insane. Our house is full of dolls and tea sets (4 girls). And the amount things that they could turn into weapons was astounding (plastic bread from the play kitchen!) But I know for an absolute fact that they aren't allowed gun toys/gun play/violent anything at home. They just do it on their own.

I'm not sure its a strictly boy/girl thing though, because while 3 of my girls were cowering in the corner-one of mine was right in the center of it.

Sarah said...

For another "its a boy thing" comment, when I was growing up there were no toy guns in the house (other than _maybe_ one that was part of a transformer).
In spite of this my three-year-old brother once found a bent stick and told my mom it was his "killing thing" ... he didn't even know the word, but it was a gun.

Joanna said...

It is a boy thing. I also think it's the parents job to teach the boy respect and responsibility towards all weapons.
My husband grew up with no guns and his folks have not been happy that we let the boys play with guns. They tried to say that the exposure to weapons will make them want to harm things. Pa-lease! They never were allowed to pretend shoot people and they aren't harming things either.

I think Pam is right on the money. You teach your kids what is okay and what isn't. My nephew plays all types of gross video games and no one tells him that this stuff isn't acceptable.

With that said I would freak out if my kid brought home a picture like that. There are too many kids out there that don't respect weapons or other people and see everything as a game.

Janet said...

I agree with Pam as well. Mine don't have video games and don't watch movies with guns, but DeBoy can make a weapon out of anything. He runs through the house pointing the toy spatula from their kitchen set. I was a child in the 60s, so we were allowed toy guns (some of you may remember the little silver kind like the Lone Ranger had that no one could possibly mistake for a real one - nowadays the toys are made to look real), but we were not allowed to aim them at anyone. Only the air or some invisible "bad guy." We didn't really play with them much - we preferred trucks in the sandbox and climbing trees. So I think there is some genetic thing too.

Shellie said...

I never let any kind of toy gun into my house for years. And then I had boys. I'm not like super prudish or controlling about TV, but I try to keep the channel changed away from unnecessary violence and all. Still, by the time they were two, the boys made guns out of sticks, legos, spoons, EVERYTHING in sight. Eventually, I figured there was no point in not having play light sabers or guns if they were going to play it with everything anyhow. Mostly, they just have things like nerf guns though. I think the media is a big problem, and that we are too desensitized in a way, like it's no big deal to see shootings. It has to make it easier to pull a trigger if you've seen it a gazillion times, but I think that the underlying problem is something more. People aren't learning how to understand and handle anger, or they are being abused in one way or another and they end up lashing out in violence all too often. Some of my kids have anxiety and real problems handling their aggression and it is a constant struggle to find ways to help them think in a different way and react better. I really want to help them learn the skills they need to handle all their emotions. Then they drive me to the edge of my abilities and I find myself yelling and realize I need to work on me too! The biggest gift I can give them is to be an example of overcoming my own weaknesses.