I had a friend in high school whose parents didn’t let him do anything. In other words, he couldn’t get drunk on the weekend and do stupid kid things.
(we’re getting to guns, don’t worry)
Low and behold, when he went off to college, he went wild with drinking and parties and the whole nine. Not to pass judgement, as I had my fair share of fun in college as well, but he was often, as my dad would say, that guy, and you don’t want to be that guy.
It seems as though in high school he was like a spring being compressed more and more. Then when he went to school his parents could no longer dictate his behavior. The spring that was getting loaded up for three years was suddenly released. And boy did it go.
It’s like he couldn’t handle the change from a low freedom environment under his parents’ roof, to a high freedom environment in college. My oversimplified thought is that we need to let kids be kids while they’re kids, so they’re not being kids when they’re adults.
But what’s really going on here?
The reason this recoil effect happens to many kids like my friend is something called psychological reactance: when we feel our behavioral freedom is being threatened, we feel a motivation to counter that threat. For my high school buddy, the more he was told he couldn’t go out on Friday nights, the more he naturally craved the forbidden fruit. And when he got to college, he ate as much of that forbidden fruit as he could stomach.
I think this lends insight to how kids are with guns.
If we keep guns away from kids, they become objects of ultimate curiosity. The thing they can’t have naturally becomes the thing they want most by way of psychological reactance.
With this in mind, we might be wise to expose kids to guns in a responsible way. By doing so, guns are demystified and their curiosity is quenched. They become more normalized.
Think about kitchen knives: they’re a dangerous tool that kids use all the time, thus, we show kids how to use them properly. Not hide them away. Parents can’t keep knives from their kids forever. Eventually, they’re going to have to cut their own food, so we ought to equip our kids with the knowledge and ability to do so.
I’m not saying that knives and guns and alcohol are the same. Nor am I saying all parents should show all kids how to use guns. But I do think, as individuals, we owe this idea some thought.
We don’t want to raise a helpless generation. We want to raise a generation that’s capable and strong enough to weather the wicked waters of the world.