Little Boys Like Guns

Don’t be afraid. It’s just a poptart. Also, your son is not a sociopath.

Time recently published a compelling article on how zero tolerance policies and teacher and parent aversion to action-packed boy play is hindering the social, verbal and academic (and possibly other) development of little boys.

At the same time that more and more research has shown that creative play is essential to childhood development, policies have been decreasing the amount of acceptable pretend play.  From redirecting superhero play (but not princess play for girls) to draconian policies that suspend or expel very young children for merely making a gun with their hands or other harmless object, we are robbing boys of essential growth.

If you’re one of those parents who doesn’t allow toy guns at home, maybe the next time you think “Oh no! Are my boys too violent?” because they want to play cops and robbers you should instead rethink “Oh yes! My boys are so creative.”

6 thoughts on “Little Boys Like Guns”

  1. Yup, my mom commented on several occasions that had I been born a few years later I might have gotten in a lot more trouble in school just because I would hold my pencil on top of my fist as though it were the barrel of a pistol.

    It seems to me like a case of either busybodies trying to parent somebody else’s children, or parents being too lazy to have anything other than a black or white response — instead of accepting that roughhousing and other “violent” imagination is fine and just making sure to teach the kids the difference between imagination and actual random violence.

  2. That may be the cause, Dan, but what’s really interesting is the growing gender cap. I haven’t seen anyone try to seriously work out the timeline and find out if these kinds of silly “zero tolerance” policies started out 15+ years ago so that they could actually be a factor in explaining the gender cap today, but it so then it would be a reason for concern since it would indicate the trend is going to worsen substantially in coming years.

  3. True confession: I played army right along with my brothers and their friends in our five acres of weeds and woods. We skulked after each other, climbed trees to scope out positions, used sticks and, later, more complicated gun effigies, to “shoot” each other. But somehow, we never solved the “You’re dead!” “I am not!” “Yes you are!” “No I’m not!” problem. It was creative play, and it involved coming to know nature, since we romped through it constantly as we chased and retreated from each other, dealt with injuries from falls and getting tangled up in briars, accidental injuries we caused each other in the rough-housing.

  4. H. H. Munro (Saki) wrote a short story about how even being forced to play with non-violent toys won’t stop little boys from violent games.

    “Harvey,” said Eleanor Bope, handing her brother a cutting from a London morning paper of the 19th of March, “just read this about children’s toys, please; it exactly carries out some of our ideas about influence and upbringing.”

    “In the view of the National Peace Council,” ran the extract, “there are grave objections to presenting our boys with regiments of fighting men, batteries of guns, and squadrons of ‘Dreadnoughts.’ Boys, the Council admits, naturally love fighting and all the panoply of war . . . but that is no reason for encouraging, and perhaps giving permanent form to, their primitive instincts. At the Children’s Welfare Exhibition, which opens at Olympia in three weeks’ time, the Peace Council will make an alternative suggestion to parents in the shape of an exhibition of ‘peace toys.’ In front of a specially-painted representation of the Peace Palace at The Hague will be grouped, not miniature soldiers but miniature civilians, not guns but ploughs and the tools of industry . . . It is hoped that manufacturers may take a hint from the exhibit, which will bear fruit in the toy shops.”

    “The idea is certainly an interesting and very well-meaning one,” said Harvey; “whether it would succeed well in practice –”

    “We must try,” interrupted his sister; “you are coming down to us at Easter, and you always bring the boys some toys, so that will be an excellent opportunity for you to inaugurate the new experiment. Go about in the shops and buy any little toys and models that have special bearing on civilian life in its more peaceful aspects. Of course you must explain the toys to the children and interest them in the new idea. I regret to say that the ‘Siege of Adrianople’ toy, that their Aunt Susan sent them, didn’t need any explanation; they knew all the uniforms and flags, and even the names of the respective commanders, and when I heard them one day using what seemed to be the most objectionable language they said it was Bulgarian words of command; of course it may have been, but at any rate I took the toy away from them. Now I shall expect your Easter gifts to give quite a new impulse and direction to the children’s minds; Eric is not eleven yet, and Bertie is only nine-and-a-half, so they are really at a most impressionable age.”

  5. Seriously considering home school. I’m scared to death that my oldest will get suspended because he plays like a little boy should at home. We try to tell him ‘don’t do that at school’ so he knows not to do that, but I fully expect one day to get a call that he’s been suspended over something as silly as a the pop tart gun.

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