A Brain-Wise Therapist's Answer To My Son's Fascination With Guns

Yesterday, I posted a blog about my concerns of raising a gun-fixated boy in today’s society, and what does that mean, and how do I support him but not encourage violence. I had a lot of great comments and emails. I want to share this email with you from my Aunt Connie who is a "brain-wise therapist", a clinical social worker who provides psychotherapy and clinical supervision holding the brain in mind. She’s terrific, and I think she brings up some really good points that I found both interesting and comforting. Maybe you will too:  iStock_000016682100XSmall

Her response:


I get your concern.  I just finished listening to a five CD presentation on The Minds of Boys and Girls, by Michael Gurian.  I recommend you look at his website MichaelGuerin.com.  You will be impressed with the body of research on the difference between the minds of boys and girls (and thus, mothers and sons!).


I think you should buy "The Wonder of Boys" to get more support for parenting your son, especially around this guns/weapons issue; I think ALL parents, teachers and therapists should have access to this stuff.  It is so much easier to do well by our kids if we really understand how their brains work instead of projecting our own biases (or brains) onto them.


Gurian's research supports the blog response of your friend who suggested classes and training for Franz.  That is a great response with good ideas for supporting an interest without supporting violence.


After listening to Gurian, I understand that in our effort to empower the feminine in our culture we have swung too far the other way, placing high value on the feminine brain and how it works: relationally, attachment oriented, able to sit still and to focus on auditory learning and cooperation.  So our schools are set up to teach girls.  But the system fails many of our boys, whose brains are oriented to the spatial mechanical and objects in motion (guns and how they work!), and whose testosterone makes them need to move, to compete and to be aggressive without it having any meaning about relationships or whether or not they care for others.


In the minds of boys there is more gray matter and less white matter, which allows boys to compartmentalize their actions.  Playing an attack game with friends does not mean they don't value friendship.  It's separate.  Of course, we need to help these boys make the connections between their actions and how to be caring in relationships, but we should not de-value as evil their interest in guns, swords, bows and arrows...all those things that are objects in motion and have complex spatial mechanical workings.


As mothers (women) our brains are attuned to the relational, and all things move around those concerns, sometimes to our detriment.  It is hard for us to separate the emotional from the factual.  So we want our boys to be like US.  That would be so much easier!  But we need to learn more about how their minds operate differently from ours, and support their development with their unique brains in mind.


Did you know that there is a boy I babysit, Charlie, and he is obsessed with knights, swords, bows and arrows and battling knight armies? When I play with him, my knights are always killed! Franz’s obsession with guns is coming in a world that is focused on the terrible ways some people use them.  But the people who use them so viciously are not doing so because guns fascinate them.  They are doing so because of other motives or mental disorder or psychopathy.  Guns didn't create those motives or illness or personality disorder.  The AVAILABILITY of guns let those perpetrators act out their rage with guns.


Because of the current climate and recent tragedies, it would be easier for you if Franz was obsessed with weapons that were more fanciful or part of a long ago past.  Somehow it doesn't seem so bad when the hero of Princess Bride kills so many people with his sword and looks so dashing.  So Franz’z interests are much harder for you to swallow, of course!! You don't want to be the parent who misses something, as the press has taken to writing about Mrs. Lanza, the mother of the Connecticut murderer.  So it is admirable of you to think deeply about what you want to support and encourage in Franz and where you want to re-direct.  I think all of us need to avail ourselves of more good, solid research about how to best support the positive growth of our boys and girls, so I recommend the Gurian books, CDs and DVDs.  They are a rich resource that every family deserves to have available.


So.....your blog was engaging and well written and captured the dilemma of parents all over the world...especially mothers! This is a looong answer but I hope it is helpful in giving more food for thought as you create your own approach to your concerns.  In the end, it needs to be YOUR approach that YOU feel comfortable with.





Is it any wonder I love this woman? She should totally write a book.