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The wussification of American kids

David Epps's picture

Back in the spring some bureaucratic types in the Great State of New York announced plans to ban certain kid’s activities on playgrounds. Legislation was apparently introduced to “protect” kids from the horrors of dangerous activities.

What was banned? Games like “mumbley peg,” which all the kids in my neighborhood played back in Tennessee, a game that involved throwing knives? Nope.
BB gun battles, which I also regularly engaged in during neighborhood conflicts in the surrounding woods? Nope.

How about model rocket fights? Those were pretty cool.

Model rocket fights involved hollowing out the balsa nosecones of Estes Industries model rockets, filling the nose cones with black gun powder, and launching it toward an “enemy” kid who was doing the same to you. When the engine gases reached the nose cone, the rocket would explode with a force rattling windows. Nope, not that either.

Cherry bomb or M-18 battles, in which the combatants threw these powerful explosives toward each other as though they were hand grenades? Again, no.

The list of activities to be banned included the following: wiffle ball, tag, Red Rover, Capture the Flag, flag tag, flag football, dodge ball, steal the bacon, kickball, crab soccer, and a few other games that I did not play as a child.

A public outcry arose from the citizens of New York and the play police backed off their proposals — sort of.

As well meaning as some people may be, the great danger is not that some children might be injured on the playground (which they will be) during the playing of some of these games but that there is the real danger that the children will grow up to be a generation of sissies and wimps.

The world is a dangerous place and the playground is one place where that lesson begins to be taught. There will be bumps and bruises in life and those who do not learn how to deal with that reality will be unprepared to face the dangers of adult life. Such persons, especially boys, may grow up to be wussies.

The definition of wussy, according to one dictionary, is “A person regarded as weak or timid and especially as unmanly.” The World English Dictionary has this definition: “a feeble or effeminate person.” I was raised as one of two boys and helped to raise three boys and I can attest to this: wimps, sissies, and wussies have a very rough life.

One of the places that boys (and girls) learn competition, struggle, victory, defeat, recovery, standing up for oneself, success, failure, and learning to deal with pain is on the playground.
The sting of a dodge ball strike is nothing compared to the impact of a tackle on the football field or the pain of rejection when asking for a date or when looking for a job.

The risks of playing tag pales into insignificance when comparing it to the dangers an 18-year-old Marine or soldier in Afghanistan faces on a daily basis.

It is on the playground (which almost always has adults and rules present) that children test themselves and begin to overcome fear.

But, even with the public outcry, the New York fun cops still struck a blow ... this time at summer camps. The games are not banned at camps, but they come at a play-at-your-own-risk cost. Camps that want campers to play the games will be required to pay a $200 registration fee and have medical staff on hand.

However, statistics show that of more than 640,000 children who attend camps, less than two-tenths of 1 percent are injured in any manner.

The issue will likely be raised again. The result, if the fun cops have their way, will not simply be safer playgrounds but the wussification of American kids. It would be better to get a black eye or a bloody nose than to grow up unprepared for the hard knocks of life.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]


Knives at school? b-b guns? Black gun powder, cherry bombs thrown at each other? As to no one hurt at camps---ask Norway about that one. Even here many are hurt.

Preacher, have you lost it finally?

This is a different world than what you had in eastern TN as a youth.

Preacher, my friends and I too used to do crazy things with knives, firecrackers, rocks, bows & arrows, spears, whips, nunchucks, throwing stars, darts, BB guns, shotguns, cars, water towers, matches, machetes, choke holds, dropkicks, bare fists, welding equipment, grinders, sanders, planers jointers, saws, axes, hatchets, window fans, porch roofs, dogs, cats, and other stuff! We all lived and nobody lost an eye, but we were lucky! Why do you want to return to such days! Maybe you could propose an M80 war among the kids in your church as a way to get closer to Jesus! You can take the church bus to Alabama to buy legal fireworks and have them blast each other to smithereens as a simulation for the end times! Rock fights are biblical because of the tradition of stoning I guess!

Falcons' first units still look a little shaky in some areas, but the D-line looks improved! Julio Jones is a force to be reckoned with!

kcchiefandy's picture

...'How The Cult of Self-Esteem Is Ruining Our Kids' in last month's Atlantic Monthly. It dovetails nicely with your op-ed piece above. Briefly, it highlights how avoidance of any & all 'failures', etc...have given the young adult of today very little resiliency.

There are some things kids should do on their own and others that require rejection.

For instance, everyone learned to use hand tools once and how to make at least something with their hands.

Kids used to be taught logic and how to spell--they aren't any longer.

These are different things however than "bullying," and "wussiness."
Children can be taught to care for themselves by methods that AREN'T NECESSARILY DANGEROUS.

I recall, many years ago, when if a kids stuttered or was simple minded, the others aggravated them unmercifully. A good example of this is featured in Steinbeck's, "Of Mice and Men."

A personal recollection had to do with "piling on." A kid in maybe fourth grade was very tall and skinny but simple-minded. They tricked him into lying down and at least 7-8 then piled onto him.
He nearly fainted before an onlooker hit the pile hard with a tackle and tumbled it off him.

I also recall several fingers lost or severely damaged with firecrackers. Many kids were also killed or wounded hunted deer without proper supervision..

I nearly got killed riding tree saplings down to the ground---one wouldn't bend and I fell into a rock pile.
I saw another kid draw a knife on another for winning a nickel from him "matching" coins.

I really understand your point - but unfortunately this is a litigious world - and Boards of Education and City Playgrounds are seen as 'deep pockets'. These pockets are 'taxpayer' money. It looks like backyards, vacant lots, etc. will be the place to prepare our kids for 'life'. <cite>It's not how many times you fall that counts - but how many times you get up and try again!</cite>

More to come..attorneys sue for everything thanks to Democratic policies. This is only ONE of the anti business, and anti individualism beliefs, that thrive under Democratic rules and regulations that continue to send jobs overseas, and shut down small to medium independent businesses nation wide.

I just knew that cherry bombs, knives, piling on, thumping the head and nose, tripping, swimming in nasty water, and taunting of kids either handicapped or stupid was the fault of the democrats, I just knew it.

Also, no one should be able to sue anyone for anything except fortunes of the dead, and state right of ways. Not to forget crooked judges who put innocent people in jail.

And certainly businesses should be able to poison us, corrode us, strangle us, pollute our streams, blow up cities, with cigarettes, bombs, poisons, e-coli, bad medicines, mesothelioma, lead paint, and best of all sell worthless house mortgages and fixing the stock market.

Those who allowed companies to void pension plans for 401.ks, then robbed the 401-ks, are certainly not to be sued. Trillions have been lost.

Now we have a country full of 50 somethings out of a job and WILL NOT be hired again--this is primarily favortism.

Yes, just let the well-trained crooks do us all in!

I didn't get mine into the Cayman's soon enough (yes, I did).

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