This morning, I read a recent article about another first-grader being suspended from school. The 7-year-old boy was suspended because he pretended to launch a grenade while playing during recess. Within the past two months, I have read about half a dozen reported cases of first-graders being suspended for similar play.
In response to recent tragic circumstances, our society is over-reacting and in the process creating an injustice — especially to young boys.
In the early elementary years, children are developing their ideas of what heroes are and enjoy imitating those concepts of heroes. Most imaginative play, involving imaginary weapons, is a boy’s way of practicing and imagining what it means to be a hero — to be willing to protect and defend. They are rehearsing what it means to be courageous and to be willing to fight a good fight.
In our attempts at removing any signs of potential violence, we not only demoralize and humiliate these boys, but we have now called their “hero-play” bad and in the process “villainized” our boys. Rather than associating them with the “good guys”, we are associating them as the “bad guy.” That is a social injustice!
These boys are simply being boys. Boys are created with a desire to protect and to defend. They are more aggressive in nature in order to be courageous enough to face dangers.
Do we want to raise boys who grow up to fear facing evil? If so, then we merely need to discourage their efforts to imagine heroes, demoralize their character, and denigrate their name.
Most of what these boys are imitating is similar to what our military does. Do we accuse our military of being villains instead of heroes when they fight to defend and protect our freedoms? My young son wants to be a police officer or to be in the military when he is older. I believe both are worthy callings. I just hope that some day, if I am called to give the ultimate sacrifice (my son’s life) in order to protect the freedoms of others, that my son is not considered a villain for sacrificing his life so that we can keep ours.
Having “Hero Days” in school is an appropriate proactive approach. Schools are wise to invite many different types of modern-day heroes to visit their schools. Today’s heroes are medical personnel, EMT’s, firefighters, police officers, military veterans, volunteers for service organizations, the Coast Guard, service animals, community volunteers who help clean highways, etc… If we want our boys to identify with heroes, then we must provide them with positive examples of heroes.
There are boys who become violent, but it’s not because they played imaginary heroes. In fact, the boys who become violent are often the boys who were made to feel insignificant, helpless, weak, and “villainized” as the bad guy.
The boys who become violent are often boys who are raised in broken families, a missing positive role model (his father), and/or spend too much time playing the evil guy in video games. Boys need to be raised to associate with the good guys — not the bad guys. (A rule in our house is that my boys are never to imitate evil or the bad guy; I want them to associate with good.)
We empower the bad guys by weakening the good guys. When we tell our boys that imaginary “hero-play” is bad, we are damaging their associations with good heroes and affiliating them with the bad guys.
Boys must be taught that chivalry is not extinct but is honorable. Chivalry means protecting and honoring those whom we esteem. It means treating others with esteem.
If we want to raise men who will defend the honor of others, then we must encourage them that protecting and defending is honorable.
So many women feel they have to be tough and be the protectors of their families. Why is this? It takes grit and courage to live life well, no matter the gender. But are some of these women so “tough” because they don’t feel protected and don’t trust the men in their lives to defend their honor?
Boys can be taught discipline and courage through positive activities, such as wrestling and karate, that hone their defensive skills but also teach them how to honor their opponent and how to maintain self-control.
Boys who have the tendency to become the “villain” are often desperate and angry, wanting to be heard and to feel significant. In seeking to find “significance”, they will take the road of the villain if they feel they can be better heard and recognized that way then by being the hero.
If we want a generation of heroes, then we must encourage our sons to associate with and emulate heroes, to be honorable, to be courageous, and to feel heard.
If we want a generation of men who are spineless, of weak character, and full of anger, then we must squash their heroic ambitions and treat them as imbeciles and crooks.
That’s a sure method to turn our boys from heroes into villains.