A poster at the Catholic Answer forums is concerned about her boys’ interest in medieval warfare. The only concern I would have is if her boys want to be the princess and not the knight rescuing the princess.
My son and almost every other boy I know is genetically disposed to making weapons. This morning my son picked up a piece of Brio track with a gatehouse attached and said he had a “house gun”. He also makes guns out of sticks, bread, rocks, lego and flashlights. One of his favorite toys is a Nerf bow and arrow. We didn’t raise him this way. We didn’t say “Andrew doesn’t have any guns, let’s show him how to make them out of sticks.” Nope, he did this all by himself.
My favorite toys were little green army men and the castle Lego sets. I was enthralled by chivalry, knights, jousting and military tactics. I spent hours reading about D-Day, Custer’s Last Stand and the Crusades. The intricacies of battles, the great failures and the courageous leaders filled my days and helped me form an idea of what a “man” was.
He was brave. He protected the innocent. He told the truth. He cared for his soldiers. He defended his family. He was chivalrous. While chivalry has fallen out of favor thanks to feminism, women have gotten the raw end of the deal. I have yet to figure out how it is better for men to treat women like men instead of like women. Men have always been able to do horrible things to each other because they were men. Codes of chivalry and “being a gentleman” were devised by MEN to keep the innocent (women and children) safe from the brutality and roughness of men.
Our culture today could use a good dose of chivalry. Some organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, still maintain remnants of chivalry in their codes. For a quick introduction to chivalry and some ancient codes we recommend the Baronage Magazine. For a look at how to bring chivalry back into our culture, I recommend the Compleat Gentleman.
But, like anything you want to teach, you have to start with children and you have to guide them through what they read, watch and listen to. If your children are in a public school, good luck. I can’t tell you how often I am thankful that my wife homeschools.
I think one of the biggest draws for boys to war and war stories is a clear definition of “good” and “bad” guys. The falcon lego soldiers were the bad guys. The lion soldiers were the good guys. This is a point made by Michael O’Brien’s A Landscape With Dragons – Children need to read stories where there is a clear distinction between good and evil. This is why series such as the Chronicles of Narnia, Chronicles of Prydain and the Lord of the Rings are much better literature than series such as Harry Potter and Dark Materials. It is clear which side is good and which side is bad. Good guys may have flaws and do bad things – Edmund in Narnia, Boromir in LOTR – but these things are recognized as bad. Until you have clearly established with your children what “bad” and “evil” are, you should not introduce literature that muddles the issue.
What kind of shows and movies do your kids watch? When they watch something are you paying attention to the message in the show or just its entertainment value? My dad started a movie night for teen boys and their dads where they get together every few weeks and watch a movie (usually a “Clean Films” version) and then discuss the virtues presented in the movie. This week they are watching Master and Commander.
What are your kids listening to? It may be popular, but it probably isn’t moral. Take your typical “safe for the family” music station. The djs may be “family friendly” but what they play usually isn’t. Think about “Follow Me” by Uncle Cracker or “Why Does it have to be Wrong or Right?” by Restless Heart. This stuff is telling your kids that cheating on a spouse is okay. Think Country music is any better? At least a third of the songs on country radio are ones I wouldn’t let my kids listen to because of the lyrics. Toby Keith may be one of the top country artists right now and has become an icon for patriotism but his videos and music (Who’s Your Daddy, Stays in Mexico, etc.) are basically Cowboy Porn.
Raising boys is tough but one worry shouldn’t be that they like weapons and war. Use the interest as a lead in to the idea of chivalry and being a gentleman. Then, go buy them a catapult!
We are also raising our boys to be knights and gentlemen where the world generally expects wimps or barbarians. Guns, swordplay, wargaming, examples of real men and a good dose of moral training should do the job. Currently they are enjoying wargaming (Currently Lord of the Rings or Pirates) which we often post on our blog. Whatever movies we watch or books which we read or listen have examples of emn – good and bad – and we take the opportunity to teach through their examples as well as real men and fathers we know.
Thanks for the comment in my blog, Ian–I enjoyed your essay. Catapults are popular in my house too….Fisher Price has some good ones on the castle. My kids figured out that plastic Easter eggs are the perfect ammo 🙂
Any more Good Guy lit you can recommend to a 14-year-old boy? He’s done LOTR and Narnia already & wants more!
I also recommend the Chronicles of Prydain, Midshipman Quinn, Junia, Marcus, and I used to love the classic books like the Yearling, Old Yeller, Big Red, etc.
I suspect I know who is going to play with the catapult. It will be minor miracle if the kids ever get to launch anything….
My son is only 4 so I HAVE to do most of the work.
Codes of chivalry and “being a gentleman” were devised by MEN to keep the innocent (women and children) safe…
As if a man could never be innocent, eh? By the way, I’ve never noticed any modern woman, no matter how sotted with modern mainstream feminism she may be, fret about women being treated like children when being “safe” is at issue.
…from the brutality and roughness of men.
Who protects men from the brutality and roughness of women? Nobody, for the lives of men and boys are considered expendable. This is illustrated by the Crucifixion.
While chivalry has fallen out of favor thanks to feminism, women have gotten the raw end of the deal.
Chivalry has fallen out of favour? Thanks, I’ll tell that to the next man who makes a stink about me holding a door for him, or the next person tells me that I hate romance if I speak out against the assumption that a man pays for the meal (rather than the two people agreeing on a payment method that they both want).
I have yet to figure out how it is better for men to treat women like men instead of like women.
It’s not — it just reinforces the idea that the male is the default. But that’s not what feminism is aiming for. We want people to be treated as people, with the same respect, decency, and human rights that are afforded to everyone else. The idea of treating someone “as a man” or “as a woman” all to often boils down to treating them like the stereotype of a man and the stereotype of a woman, which robs them of the ability to fully express themselves if they have traits that don’t conform to their society’s view of “man” and “woman”.
In simpler terms, we want the women who find satisfaction in working to be valued as highly as the women who find satisfaction in being stay at home moms, but so too do we want the men who find satisfaction in being stay at home dads to be valued as highly as those who find satisfaction in working. And if your view is that the stereotypes of men and women are what men and women essentially are, then what’s the harm in giving a person the ability to go a different path? If their innate qualities are the opposite, they will eventually come back to where they’re most comfortable.
Codes of chivalry and “being a gentleman” were devised by MEN to keep the innocent (women and children) safe from the brutality and roughness of men.
You do realize that chivalry here sounds like the mafia: men protecting women from themselves at the cost of the women’s autonomy. Not exactly a deal that I’d want to take.
Personally, I think that instead of “chivalry” I’d rather see us teaching common courtesy and respect for our fellow human beings to children. I’d rather see emphasis on helping out others regardless of their gender, treating our spouses as partners, communicating in our relationships about what we both want instead of relying on cultural assumptions to do our thinking for us. I’d rather have a system that is aimed at doing the most good, instead of only helping a select group of men and women who fit the mold while leaving the rest of us in the ill-fitting costume of “brute” or “innocent child”.
In my house, it’s my daughter who plays with swords and my son who plays with dolls. Both sets of toys are available for them to choose. Sometimes my daughter plays with ponies and my son plays with cars. Sometimes they play together with trains. Kids play with what they like, and they also play with what they see the other kids playing with; my daughter started playing with ponies after a friend did.
When I’m the first to the door, I open it for the people behind me, regardless of gender. It’s not called chivalry, it’s called being polite. I suspect if more people stopped whining about the death of chivalry and started working on being more polite to other people, vis a vis holding doors and lending hands and offering to pay for meals and so on regardless of gender, you’d have your fantasy of a better world realized, while we feminists would have our equality. Everyone wins.