My Family Hunts
They will.You’ve tried to make them stop (repeatedly).They won’t.What if you could add life-lessons into their fascination with shooting things?A Boys Alive! friend in Montana eagerly responded to my query about families that hunt and how they deal with gun play. Embracing a “true hunting” ethic -- even if we never pick up a rifle and go to the woods, means we can honor the hard-wired impulses of many boys -- while fostering deeper development of their natural urges to provide and protect.
John, father of 2, explains, “True hunting is a collection of actions prior to the act of harvesting.”True hunting is: “when you walk with the stealth and strength of the mountain lion and hike with the stamina and determination of the wolf.It is where you think like your prey, you know their habits and understand the country.”
True Hunting communicates family values:
· Safety – following rules, respecting adults, learning to operate and handle dangerous weapons with care· Honor – honoring the animals, the land, the wisdom of elders· Respect – of self, of others, of animals, of land· Challenge – pushing self physically, emotionally, spiritually· Teaching & Learning – listening and applying knowledge hands-onHunting is a legacy that John wants his sons to have. He wants them to “experience what the natural world has to teach.” He hopes his children will carry on what he has taught them and that they will teach the “same or better” to their children.It is important to John and his wife, Laura, (who didn’t start hunting until a few years ago), to know that their sons understand their place in the food chain.“Hunting and harvesting teaches the lesson that in order for you to eat and live something else has to die:They learn the hard work involved in harvesting food.They experience the weariness of long hours walking through the woods.They know the exhaustion of carrying hundreds of pounds of meat over miles of rough country.They endure the tediousness of butchering meat for hours on end.They learn the skill needed to prepare a meal.I cannot think of a better way to teach them to not be wasteful and to appreciate each mouthful of food they consume.”He continues, “To be a good hunter, you have to be a good marksman. This means understanding your gun and its limitations. It also means understanding the importance of choosing when to take a shot and, more importantly, when not to take a shot.”
Meat comes from WHERE?!
Contrast this honest, strength-filled, life-enriching picture of hunting with the parental information given to a former student of mine (age 9):"The animals we eat are the ones that get old and die or the ones that get sick and die.”Imagine his surprise (and distrust of adults) when he eventually found out where most meat comes from!
Let Him ‘Hunt!’
Many parents that I work with have a strong aversion to guns and the violence they evoke. It is important to realize that children do not have this connection to guns - unless they have been exposed to explicit gun violence via real life, media, or video games.
What if you helped him incorporate some of the qualities of True Hunting into his play?
Guide him to connect with animals, spend time in nature looking for tracks, and listening for animal sounds. Research animals, explore their habits and habitat.Encourage his sense of adventure and curiosity.Teach him (or find someone to teach him) how to make arrows or carve a sword, cutting, sanding and polishing it with great care.Set up targets for practice. As John says, “To be a good hunter you have to be a good marksman.” You must understand your equipment and how and when to use it safely.Even if you don’t live in Montana, or have a family legacy of hunting, you can guide his ‘gun play’ to have deeper meaning while nurturing his hard-wired nature to provide and protect.Have you read the other gunplay-focused posts?Voices on Gunplay - Parents have asked about and shared their personal experiences with their sons who make everything into a gun.Guidelines for Gunplay - They're going to play, what boundaries will you keep?Aggression. Violence. What's the Difference? - Reassurance that just because he likes gunplay, he won't be led to violent behavior.Gunplay at School - How teacher's handle gunplay at school may vary from how you handle it at home.
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