Are Boys Naturally More Aggressive? – Part Four
There has been much said since the Hockey Riots here in Vancouver…. so on with my analysis of what I’ve observed as three types of aggressive behaviour in children, especially boys!
Our children need to process what they’re learning in society of rules, power-roles, gender roles, media, moral codes of wrong and right…
I think most of us agree that children these days get, if not most, then a large dose, of their cues of what is right and wrong, male or female, cool or lame, to be imitated or shunned, from media, TV, Movies, advertising and now, video-gaming. Whether or not we choose to protect them from media until they are older, it eventually seeps in as they start to read adds on the street, through the influence of friends, books in the library, peer culture at school. Does some of the aggressive, cool and tough behaviour we see in our boys increase due to these influences? I believe it does, in the absence of stronger real-life models (children are more likely to want to emulate Disney characters, pop or sports stars that their own parents or family members) , traditional cultural stories: myths, religious or ethical codes of heroism, justice, strength, mastery, mystery, man-hood, children nowadays automatically look to the dominant cultural representations to fill what, I see, as a real and pressing need:
To belong to a community that has a clearly defined moral story. Clearly, mainstream media wins out here! Don’t you think?
Rough play then arises as they imitate the stories of right and wrong, good and evil that society presents to them: cops and robbers is a favourite one at my son’s school. I remember playing cowboys and ‘indians’ now replaced by Avatar’s militaristic humans versus uncooperative spiritual indiginous peoples, or army heroes versus scary aliens, still popular knights battling dragons or goblins, or rescuing damsel’s in distress, humans fighting robots on a dying planet, ninja’s , shape-shifters, hobbits, humans or hunter-gatherer’s fighting the forces of nature….and the list goes on. It seems to me that children want to know and play at stories society presents to them of good and evil, or what is wrong or what is right, and have a need for especially black and white answers from the age of 4/5 to 7/8. After which the tones of gray become more interesting.
But who is telling these stories to them? Which cultural models? Greek, Haida, Celtic, Pagan, Christian, Jewish? Are your children Waldorf influenced? Do you read them Robin Hood or The Arabian Nights or First-Nations tales? Do they know about heroes from your own family, culture, local history? Is there philosophy, religion, moral teaching? Is this necessary? I feel that it is. And that for many children, and families, even those who provide a lot of moral guidance whether personal, religious, or through careful selection of stories and influences, it is difficult to compete with the overwhelming presence of media and popular parenting culture. Both of which put a lot of value on power-over: might is right, male and white most often win, life- is all about winning or losing, scarcity over abundance, fear over peace…parents should control their kids…
And we wonder why older, school-aged children try so hard to lord it over their younger siblings, or name-call, using age, gender, or viasual coolness or ownership as a privilege. We wonder why threats, ultimatums, raised voices and physical aggression are used???
Yet, power, roughness, strength, winning, ruling, controlling are part of society (perhaps??) – it’s up to us to decide which models we want to teach our children and to make sure how much of our time, our example, our story-telling we provide for them, because if it’s not us or our childrens’ teachers, family, friends, then surely it is TV, Movies, POP/Consumer culture, Video-Games – and oh, almost forgot – their peers that will fill that need.