Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Questions on parenting boys...

Okay guys, I'd like some opinions and advice on this one.

This past weekend has been really hot, so I got out a bunch of squirt guns for my two boys (ages 4 and 3) to play with.

As soon as he saw the water pistols, my little Nico was all excited to have a "pistolet," and started playing at shooting people, using the French for "bang! bang!"

This was not a big deal, but I found it a little disturbing when he asked "Mommy, what does it mean 'tuer'?" (i.e. "Mommy, how do you say 'kill' in English?")

I explained to him that squirt guns are for getting people wet (and demonstrated by squirting both him and his little brother Leo), and that killing people is bad. That seemed to have the desired effect since he didn't talk about killing people much after that.

On the one hand, I don't want to be messing him up for playing with the other boys at school, but on the other hand, I'm kind of not really thrilled to have him think it's a fun game to pretend he's killing people...

I guess most parents of boys eventually have to deal with the question of toy guns, what's okay and what's not. Any other parents out there have thoughts on this subject or tales of how you've handled this?

On the other end of the spectrum, this very same weekend Nico decided that he wanted to watch The Sound of Music about a hundred million times. He then put on my hat and a pair of my dress shoes and spent the better part of the day telling everyone he was "Fraulein Maria" (and that Leo was "the Captain").

Also, he and Leo were digging around in a toybox and found a couple of dolls. They took one doll each, gave both dolls the same name as our nanny's baby, and each boy decided that he was the mommy of his doll. (Our nanny brings her baby on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the baby's grandmothers take care of him on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays.)

Oh, and they told me I was the daddy of both dolls. So I guess my kids think I'm some sort of incestuous transgender polygamist... (Let's see what google searches that line attracts to my blog!!! Hehe!!!)

None of this bothered me -- it seemed cute and normal for little kids to play with different roles. But maybe he would be teased if he did this at school? Anyway, I didn't discourage him in the slightest...

Then, as of Monday, they've forgotten about all of these games and have taken to playing with toy insects...


Anonymous said...

Had you ever heard the no guns on sunday rule in my dad's/your uncle's house growing up?

I guess at one point they got a bunch of toy cowboy guns for Christmas. The boys there got out of control so that's why the "no guns on Sunday" rule was implemented.

I agree it's a sticky situation - but just being a parent, boys or girls. I find it difficult to both be aware of gender roles and freedoms for everyone regardless of gender but also admit that there are very real differences between how males and females are treated in our societies.

At least you and your husband are aware and engaged with these questions for your kids. I think that diologue is the most important thing - so they become aware of issues of gender and guns. Granted, they're still young yet.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rachel!!!

No, I didn't hear about that rule, but I can completely imagine that crew getting out-of-hand... ;-)

You're right that -- boys or girls -- that are a lot of gender questions that don't have simple answers...

Cyn Bagley said...

Hmm. Well, when I was taking my biology class with a Dr. Haykim, we discussed gender roles. Most of the class believed that roles were taught... HOWEVER, according to my favorite biologist because of feminist ideas, we forget the biology of males and females are very different.

For instance, testosterone (sp) causes aggression (and other behaviors) in animals. Hyenas (females) when they are in the womb are masculinized (testosterone from the males crosses the membranes and into the females). Masculination makes the females aggressive.

Boys who have never been allowed to play with guns will at the first opportunity yell bang bang... and ask about killing. It is our job to socialize them.

OK... so nature vs. nuture is a big argument in the biology fields. I am on the side of nature... but if I were a parent (not anytime ever LOL) I would work real hard at the socialization of boys and girls.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of children in the U.S. who are allowed to raise themselves. It is like allowing a pet to go feral... and has about the same consequences.

And, I have not had children of my own, but I raised my brothers...being the oldest of nine. :-)

Bishop Rick said...

I think you handled the situation just fine. I played with guns when I was kid and had no ill effects from it, but my kids don't (my wife's doing) and they seem well adjusted as well. I'm not sure it matters really as long as we teach our kids right from wrong.
The socialization will happen one way or another.

Just one of many said...

My boys ages 9 and 7 both have a 22...did I say we live in Texas? We do not hunt animals but shoot at a local target range. We have taught our boys to respect life and all that entails. I have taught my boys that there are no gender-specific roles. Female and male work together to cohabitate efficiently and work together toward a happy union. Just because a man doesn't give birth doesn't mean he can't change a diaper, scrub the toilets, or cook dinner! I guess I am raising Metrosexual boys...send me to morg hell!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hi Cynthia!!!

Good perspective -- we start with what comes from nature and then get in there and nurture!!! :D

Hey Bishop Rick!!!

Also good perspective -- focus on the big picture and a lot of the details of socialization work themselves out.

Hey Just one of Many!!!

It sounds like your system isn't all that different from mine -- be sure the boys aren't restricted to one particular set of gender roles and expectations. I'm not a huge fan of keeping guns in the house, but it's good that your kids are learning gun safety at home since they will almost certainly see guns at their friends' houses.

I did some target practice at a shooting range myself as a kid (and also target practice with BB guns and cans at home), in spite of being a girl... ;^)

Joseph's Left One said...

I have boys and girls. If boys playing with guns and dolls is your worst problem, you're doing pretty well. I've found that my boys are wired differently from my girls, but also from each other. One son is enamored with vehicles, another with computer games, and another with guns and bows and arrows. They all seem relatively well-adjusted. I wouldn't worry about it.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks JLO!!!

Yeah, I'm sure I have nothing to worry about -- they're just playing at all sorts of different things at this age.

Now they've been watching a set of old Disney movies (from the 30's I think) about music. This morning for fun I asked Nico if he was Fraulein Maria, and he replied "No, I'm a saxophone!"

Duh, Mommy! lol

Anonymous said...

On the other end of the spectrum, this very same weekend Nico decided that he wanted to watch The Sound of Music about a hundred million times. He then put on my hat and a pair of my dress shoes and spent the better part of the day telling everyone he was "Fraulein Maria" (and that Leo was "the Captain").


C. L. Hanson said...

Yeah, it was funny!!!

As a second child myself, I can completely relate to Leo's situation. The oldest kid wants to do some role-playing, and if he needs a supporting character, well that's what the second kid is for... ;-)

Bull said...

A couple of thoughts.

1) Play can be a way for kids to explore ideas and activities in a safe environment. They are exposed to murder and death through news and other media. They then use play guns to play cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, war, or whatever. They get to experience, in a small way, the pluses and minuses. As someone who used to love playing with toy cap guns, we loved it, but quickly learned that when you "killed" someone that the fun stopped until they were "unkilled." In other words, we learned that killing was bad because then we couldn't play with our friend anymore. So, anyway, play is a place to explore ideas.

2) Guns are not toys. No matter your feelings about firearms you need to teach your children gun safety, drill them on it, and then drill them some more. I'm pretty hard nosed on this because the gun safety rules I learned from my father have literally saved my life. For young children the basics are simple. If you find a gun:

- Don't touch it.
- Leave immediately
- Tell an adult

For those that handle guns it's also simple:

- A gun is always loaded. Treat all guns as if they are loaded whether they are or not.
- Never point a gun at anything you aren't willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger unless your sights are on the target and you are ready to fire.
- Always be sure of your target including what's behind it.

My kids learn these rules from their earliest childhood. They see my guns when I clean them. I allow them to safely handle them under my supervision. If they want to hold a gun all they have to do is ask. I use it as a teaching opportunity. They quickly get bored of it and lose their curiosity about guns. Guns become like other tools and lose their attraction.

Some people would consider me a gun nut. I have a concealed carry permit and carry a gun everywhere I legally can. But, I look at guns as tools. I'm not fascinated with guns and carry for the same reason I wear a seat belt when I drive: to save my life should it ever be needed. I don't have a problem with cap guns and squirt guns that are obviously toys.

But I HATE, ABHOR, LOATHE air soft guns. These are frequently sold and used like toys but are capable of doing serious bodily harm and killing. Their very name is misleading. They fire projectiles and therefore should be treated as firearms. They teach a serious disregard for gun safety. They are also very realistic looking and can easily be mistaken for real firearms. I had a friend's kid point one at my face from about a foot away. After stepping to the side I calming informed him that the next time he point it at me I'd break his arm. I was very upset at having a firearm shoved into my face by a child that could have easily blinded me. I was shocked at how this boy had learned to disregard all of the fundamentals of gun safety because it was "just a toy".

Also, in the majority of the states in the U.S. concealed carry is now legal. Kids have no idea who is carrying or not and goofing around with realistic toy guns can easily turn tragic. At least in Texas, pretending to stick up someone with a "toy" gun is likely to result in an armed response. There have also been cases where police have shot children with realistic looking toy guns.

So, I'm of the opinion that past a certain age kids need to grow out of playing with toy guns and be taught to religiously follow the rules of gun safety. In my house kids learn to shoot when they are around 8. After that no more toy funs.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Bull, thanks for the detailed advice about safety!!!

You've hit upon exactly what concerns me most: the deadly danger of making a mistake when thinking a firearm is a toy and not knowing how a firearm should be treated.

Eric said...

Some words of wisdom:

incestuous transgender polygamist

Instead of writing about parenting, guns, killing, and testoserone (sorry friends!), I'm writing about incestuous transgender polygamists.

You are now the #1 search result for incestuous transgender polygamist, out of a list of 25,000. Of course, when you search for "incestuous transgender polygamist" only your blog comes up. I think that proves your genius, Chanson.


C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks, Eric!!!

It's a gift. ;-)

Mason said...

You could always wait for the church to teach your kids about...

Wait, that won't work.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Mason, it's the thought that counts. ;-)

Cyn Bagley said...

I agree with Bull... in his gun safety rules. I am also appalled at the toy guns... many of the children in our area shot them at cars, people, lights with quite a disregard for the damage that they can do to property or people.

I learned to shoot at 12. I don't get the opportunity to shoot to often any more, but my husband has an open carry permit and is planning on getting a concealed carry permit.