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The Bang-Bang Theory

Oh, Boys! Why They Do The Things They Do
Oh, Boys! Why They Do The Things They Do

Before guns even existed, little caveboys probably pointed sticks at each other and grunted something (who knows what, exactly), fully expecting little cavebuddy to keel over.

During a Q&A session with, renowned gender expert and child psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, shared the story of a Quaker mother from Philadelphia, who like all good Quakers believed in peace and pacifism. Toy guns of any kind were completely forbidden in her house. Yet, one morning her son chewed his toast into the shape of a pistol and shot his little brother with it.

These days, whether or not boys are exposed to violence-infused media, the daily news or video games for instance, Dr. Thompson assures parents that research shows “that there is no relationship between childhood make-believe gun play and actual adult violence.”

Nonetheless, no parent, moms especially, relishes the notion of looking down the barrel of the Lego machine gun her son engineered for the express purpose of offing her – all in good fun, of course. Dr. Thompson cautions moms not to worry and to remember that your son isn’t trying to hurt you. He’s just looking for a reaction to his imagined power.

Next time, little man approaches with guns a blazin’, Dr. Thompson suggests a tactic he picked up from Playful Parenting, by Larry Cohen, PhD. “If a child shoots you with a gun, you say, ‘That’s a love gun and when you shoot me with it, I have to kiss you.’” Then, Thompson says, moms should jump up and chase him until you can grab him and make good on the threat with a smooch. “Do that a bunch of times,” Thompson adds, “and the game will be transformed for you. You will begin to see it as imaginative play that you can enjoy too.” Frankly, this game almost makes me wish we had had a boy. Almost.

In the meantime, the psychologist says parents should try not to overreact to gun play and keep in mind that most of our fathers, and many of our brothers, played with toy guns growing up – maybe even the taboo plastic kind. Mine did. And the majority of them turned out just fine.



Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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