Shooting for success in Parenting

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The other day I shot my eight-year-old son in the face. Twice.
The first bullet struck him on the forehead. The second struck him on the cheek. Thankfully, he was wearing his goggles. Even more thankfully, I was firing from a Nerf Gun. Before you judge me I would ask you to consider the fact that playing Nerf Gun wars with an eight-year-old can be exceedingly fun.

Furthermore, I didn’t mean to shoot him in the face, I was aiming for his upper body area, preferably the chest. You might rightly question the wisdom of playing any form of a gun game with a child. I’ve been told the same thing about wrestling with him. Or playing full body contact hockey in the basement. My experience is that boys sometimes like to play rough. And they like to have fun. Should we discourage this? Or play with them, teaching them the difference between play time and real life situations.

Should we teach our boys to be wimpy? Should we raise them as if they were girls? Not that girls are wimpy, that’s not what I mean at all. Rather I mean that girls, generally speaking, are different than boys in the things they enjoy. If I had a girl I probably wouldn’t wrestle with her (at least not too much), or check her up against the boards during a basement hockey contest. I’d probably play dolls with her and have make-believe tea parties.

My philosophy of parenting is that boys should be raised as boys and girls as girls. If my boy wanted to play with dolls, quite frankly I would discourage it. For his own sake. And mine. His mother’s. His grandparents. And for society’s. Believe me, I don’t pretend to have this parenting thing all figured out and I’m open to change my philosophy in the face of new information and experience. Currently though, I’m sticking with the line of thinking that says boys are from Mars and girls are from Jupiter.

It could also be argued that not all boys are the same. Just as there are various species within a family of animals so there are various temperaments, personalties, etc. within the species of boys. If I had another boy, he might not enjoy hockey or Nerf Guns, or any other type of highly competitive activity or sport. He might prefer a quiet game of checkers to a rough and tumble game of basement hockey. I suspect that parenting, like many areas of life, requires an element of “going with the flow.” My wife and I have sincerely tried to refrain from pushing our boy into any particular sport or activity. We merely suggest possibilities and allow him to try different things in order to find out what he’s good at and what he enjoys doing so that we can encourage him along those lines.

And we try to teach him that there are more important things in life than winning. We tell him that he’s not going to win every game, or finish first in every contest. He doesn’t have to the best, the fastest, or the smartest. Life is not a competition. He simply needs to try his best and have fun. Such is not a bad philosophy of life even for us adults.

I also try to teach him that the most important thing of all is having faith in Jesus Christ and love for people of all walks of life. He has a long way to go to reach perfection in this. But then again, so do I.

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