Bringing the Co-operative Spirit into Christmas

This is the season to sing of peace on earth, while our children
unwrap  what? The latest in zap-em-and-blast-em-to-smithereens
video games? Toy missile launchers? This year's toy to die for is
a Power Ranger doll. Before that, GI Joe and Ninja Turtles ruled
in Santa's bag.

While we digest our Christmas dinners, will we watch our children
innocently playing at murder? 

Many adults say, "I played with guns as a kid, and I turned out
okay." While most people who carried six-shooters as children are
not homicidal maniacs, I believe toy weapons do encourage
aggressive play. They drill into the most impressionable members 
of our society the notion that violence is an acceptable way of
resolving conflict.

Play is children's work. It is how they learn to navigate their
way through the world and the people in it. If they are trained
from childhood that hurting, fighting, and war are glamorous,
macho ways to solve problems, how will they learn negotiation,
kindness, and co-operation? 

It's time more of us declared our homes war toy free zones. 

I have been struggling since my sons were babies to keep our home
free of violent toys. Because we knew no one else who was doing
the same, we often felt alone in our efforts. Sometimes I thought
it would be easier just to give in to the whole culture of

When my sons' friends brought over their favourite toy guns, they
would be quite surprised to be told they couldn't play with them
at our home. It was a brand new thought for them that someone
might not like them to play at war. They'd reassure me, "It's not
a real gun". In fact, they were sometimes downright patronizing
to this stupid woman who didn't know the difference between
fantasy and reality. 

However, no excuse changes the fact that playing with guns is
pretending to murder. Make-believe battles, including the annual
summer invasion of water pistols, teach children to enjoy
pretending to hurt people. I believe my 70-year-old neighbour has
come up with the only legitimate use for a super soaker: he uses
his to discourage neighbourhood cats from leaving a mess in his

Simply declaring our homes war toy free zones isn't enough to
make it so. Even keeping the guns away isn't enough. Lego blocks,
a stick, a finger can become a toy gun. Then there are the video
games and the television shows that teach the same violent

Refusing to allow violence must become part of our daily lives,
part of the way we treat one another. A family whose members
don't hit one another shows its children how to live without

We also need to think about the language we use, about the
message we send by saying "Dad will kill you if he finds out." or
"Do that again and I'll kick you into the middle of next week."
Some words are like blows.

If our children learn to see violence as something that is not
fun, if they can say no to it, they may learn the courage to
stand up for what they believe is right. 

If we all learn that kind of courage, together we can change our
corner of the world.

- Maureen Woodall
From December 1994 VICHA Newsletter (Newsletter of the Vancouver
Island Co-operative Housing Association).

Co-operative games allow everyone to take part without feeling
left out, without feeling like losers, and without hurting or
getting hurt. If you would like to share a co-operative game with
us, please e-mail Maureen Woodall: