Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Should We Raise Our Kids to Shun War Games?

Guns are on my mind these days…And my chattering mind is so full of contradictions.

Here’s the thing: The twelve-year-old Chattering I blogged about yesterday is much more interested in soldiers than he is in girls. He’s a big reader of history, or he was before he began to think that history wasn’t “cool.” And he collects toy soldiers like crazy. It started with tiny handpainted Normans and Saxons. Now we’re on to plastic figures of World War II infantrymen. Needless to say, I’ve been uneasy about this, and my discomfort has increased as worldwide strife intensifies.


So here we are up in the ultra-liberal Massachusetts Berkshire hills, and Chattering son and his closest friend from day camp (a very good guy) were setting up their toy soldiers on the sandy banks of the tranquil lake last week. Lots of discussion between them about “fronts,” “attacks,” “bombings,” etc. I was afraid that one of the other mothers relaxing on her blanket nearby would club me over the head for allowing play that was so militaristic. I mean, I should be killed, right? Of all weeks… I did say to the boys later in the car that the world’s in a tragic spot right now. And I wondered outloud if human beings will ever cultivate a permanent peace. Always, when conflicts arise at home, I tell my kids that peace begins within. If we can’t find peace within ourselves, the world will never know peace. That’s pure Thich Nhat Hanh. One of Beliefnet’s most moving interactive meditations presents this idea beautifully–try it!).

What’s your stand? Should little boys and girls play soldier games?

Here‘s a link to the U.S. Army’s combative online video game. I haven’t analyzed it. I don’t want to look, frankly.

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posted July 28, 2006 at 8:25 pm

After reading your article I want to assure you that introducing your child to the all the possibilites of the world does not indicate the child will adopt any, or all of them. When my son was young, I said I wasn’t giving him any war toys. I,in the tradition of my own continued growth and contridiction, purchased his first knife when he was a tender 8 years of age. Rationlizing that it was a collectors item. His collection grew over the years, along with his interst in knives. His father was a fisherman and hunter (we’d lived on the plains of Kansas where hunting and fishing is a given). I gave my son his first 22 gage shotgun. He tred to hunt, it offended his sense of decency. My son adopted fishing, more for the joy of spending time with his father than catching the fish. (I hated killing things, but then I ate plants didn’t I?). And so the story goes… but at the age of 27 now, my son is very balanced and a lover of peace, with the ability to take care of his basic needs for survival. Will he wage war against another? I doubt seriously he would adopt that path. He made the choice. He has indeed chosen a path that comforts me, and as I grow old I know that he can take care of himself. I am at peace with myself and my decisions to give him the right of choice. The world will never be at peace until all mankind learn the art of loving themselves. I was digging in an old sand pile area this summer and found where he and his friends had buried a GI Joe figure many moons before. This was his last brush with war, as he understood war. I see him surrounded in the beautiful light of love, now and forever more. Peace lives within us. Blessings.>

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posted August 8, 2006 at 4:55 am

I don’t like them, but my 11 year old son begged for and I gave in to him buying a violent computer game called Counterstrike, which had good guys and bad guys on various teams shooting and knifing each other and blood showing. Ew! We talked about it a lot. Sometimes I sat down with him and tried to understand his liking for the game. He played online with his friends (sometimes..sometimes others), he seemed to ignore the foul language of people he didn’t know (being typed/said), and he really enjoyed the “chase”, etc. He didn’t seem to relate it to real life. I’ve decided it’s not all bad. There are some benefits. The eye/hand coordination seems to be there but more so the opportunities to talk about violence. When he got nightmares, he agred to play it less before he got to bed (overstimulation). As he’s a more fearful kid in some ways, we talked about how games like these make kids more fearful of strangers and people….checking them out to see if they are safe or not..assuming people could be enemies. We talked about how it was ok to be cautious but also that most people are good and to look for the good. We talked about how I didn’t like seeing the blood and we talked about the strategies he used to stay “alive”. Maybe there was something empowering there for him? We’ve talked a bit about the use of power in conflict and relationships. I think often those of us who are seeking for more peace in life, tend to ignore the dynamics of power in relationships, to our detriment. I think it’s possible that he can use games like this to understand power dynamics more. To understand violence and process it somehow. I think that’s a bit of what I’m doing now as an adult and wish I’d been less oblivous to it. The game has lost its fascination for him. He rarely plays but it goes in cycles. We keep him busy with games like soccer and lacrosse, which in their own ways teach the appropriate use of physical power. We look for opportunities for positive creative and artistic play. Balance.>

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posted August 8, 2006 at 4:56 am

Oh….and btw…he’s one of the boys on the team sports who is the least aggressive and quite focused on the object of play. This is similar in his life where he tends to avoid conflict generally. I think the computer game is his way of engaging in that kind of conflict safely in some way.>

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