4 years ago, about violence and non-violence in children’s play

I’ve been thinking about this A LOT, and I want to write about it —- and I *welcome* thoughts, suggestions, etc. But, at the outset, I want to say how much I *don’t* want to be heaped with biological determinist thinking about boys and violence, ok?

Simon just asked me on the way home from the gym, again, why I don’t want him to play “killing games.” This question, and my increasingly freaked out demands, have been a recurring topic in our house over the past year. (He’s now 4).


I come from a place of non-violence (well, non-violence against people; I don’t have so many problems with violence against things – another story for another time). But it is a hypocritical place, and my specific location on some sort of non-violent/violent tolerating continuum moves a lot. LATELY, I can’t stomach the mysteries I’ve been devouring for 15 years, or the action movies I’ve enjoyed for so long.


I have had a visceral reaction against hearing my kids playing hitting/kicking/punching/shooting games, for as long as my kids have tried playing these games. First I tried to speak out against this – then thought that was a losing battle, and that I know people who haven’t taken such a stand and their kids haven’t turned out psychotic…especially. So I adopted a more non-interventionist policy —– and in this environment, Simon’s obsession with guns, with violence, with killing TOOK OFF. Also, his violent play with ACTUAL people – like Zoey, Andy (not me – they know Mommy don’t play that), and even the cats – escalated.

So I instituted a moratorium on “killing play.” I’ve tried to substitute instead other kinds of superhero-type adventures that can be about stopping bad guys and evil plots, but not about killing.


But he keeps asking. And he keeps trying to ask my why I like “Princess Bride” if I don’t like killing. And it is hard to present as internally consistent. I’m finding it hard to move past: sad, hurtful, forever. I’ve tried to suggest that the world is such a full, interesting, wonderful place – how unfortunate to only focus on this one aspect – no dice.


Finally, this:

(a) I think it is VERY possible I am making a mountain out of a molehill; but it feels important.

(b) This also feels to me very much part of the gendering process he’s undergoing – esp at his preschool. HEAR ME: gendering process, not “all boys are born to be violent.”

(c) I dunno. I think Andy and I are doing a pretty good job at opening our kids minds to things – to trying to get them to be open to many things, see multiple perspectives, etc. But on this one thing, which is more, perhaps, about closing off an avenue – I feel a little helpless.

(d) He’s a good kid – don’t be scared of him (hee). Violent play took a real nose-dive after moratorium.


It’s going to be ok, it’s going to be ok, it’s going to be ok.

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