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Kids killing bugs-rite of passage or not?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
DS is 8, and came to me today upset about another kid at school who pulled apart a bug in front of him. DS was very upset at this other kid hurting something innocent. I told him that I thought deliberately hurting the bug was a bad thing for the other kid to have done.

Is bug killing an 'acceptable' phase to go through as a kid?
post #2 of 45
I don't think it is. My husband was going to kill some bugs in front of kiddo (they WERE in the house) and I had to explain that teaching her to get enjoyment out of killing things, no matter how small, just didn't seem to make ANY sense especially when we talk to her a lot about being gentle.

I don't condone the purposeful act of killing something for entertainment or enjoyment. I'll kill bugs that get into the house that I can't get out (mostly spiders because I can NOT handle being near them alive) but its not something I like to do and I want to teach kiddo that if we do kill things, it should always be with the understanding that we ARE ending a life, no matter what our reasoning might be.
post #3 of 45
Bugs are a gray area for me. I think most humans have killed a bug or two ... even if we didn't mean to. I'm a catch and re-locate lady myself but sometimes.. a little too much force kills the bug, YKWIM?

Now hurting mammals is a sign of sociopathy... no kidding.


Wish I could help more. Give your son a big hug.
post #4 of 45
Ugh, sorry your son had to witness that. I do think there is a lot of ambivalence in this world concerning the respect bugs should receive (I certainly feel some of it myself, though I would never do what that boy did, and people certainly spend a lot of time and expend a lot of energy killing them), and that *small* children do have a tendency to play with bugs (until they learn otherwise). If no one ever tells them not to, or reminds them that bugs are living, too, then yes, some children are naturally going to get to the age of 8 and beyond not really thinking anything of it.

So, to answer your question: I think that humans have a complicated relationship with insects. Even many of us who don't like killing them (because they are living creatures), have occasionally (or frequently) killed them, and there are many, many people who don't give it a second thought. This anecdote speaks volumes to me about the gorgeous sensitivity of your son's soul, but I can't say anything about the other child because to some people, a bug is just a bug. Ya know?
post #5 of 45
Is bug killing an 'acceptable' phase to go through as a kid?
No, I don't find it acceptable in most cases. I say most cases because I do find it acceptable to kill say, a poisonous spider that poses a real threat to people, but beyond that, it really irks me.

Too many people carry the "it's just a bug!" kind of mentality and they won't even blink an eye when their kid kills a bug for no good reason. I don't blame the child for it though. It's a parent's job to teach their children to be kind to all creatures whenever possible.

Now I'm not talking about making sure you never step on an ant or crush a bug because you used to much force... Sometimes things like that can't be avoided. But indiscriminately killing anything is not ok in my book, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant that creature may seem.

ETA: My son is 8 and never went through a bug killing phase, as I stressed this very issue when he was young. He gets very upset when he sees other children killing bugs for fun, or when they're killed simply because they are there
post #6 of 45
yes it is.

however doing that at 8 is a big no no. doing it at 4 or 5 - it IS a rite of passage. my bro used to chase lizards and then happily watch them flee leaving their tail behind. he accidentally killed a few lizards and frogs.

i know for many kids that's a first exploration with death. also if they find that their mom kills every cockroach or spider they see, why cant they kill bugs either.
post #7 of 45
I kinda agree w/ meemee.

My 2yo has started this because DHs cousins kids who live in our building & the neighbor kids do it. I have caught her on quite a few occasions saying "Kill it!! Kill it!!", which I find disturbing. I really dont know how to address it though.
post #8 of 45
I don't know, I find it quite disturbing that he was pulling it apart. I don't think torturing anything is OK, even if it is a bug. DS1 went through a stage at about 4yo where he found it fun to kill bugs, but it was always quickly, never slowly and cruelly. I told him it was not cool to kill things for fun.
post #9 of 45
No, I've never been okay with this. I've taught dd from the very beginning to be very gentle with bugs, because they're so small and easily hurt. We've spent a lot of time together getting ants and spiders to crawl on paper to take them outside and put them somewhere safe. I've probably made her a little TOO sensitive if she accidentally hurts one. But I've never made the distinction with her that it's "just" a bug. It wasn't even intentional for me. I just can't stand seeing things hurt. I remember once watching a neighbour instruct his daughter to "kill it." "It" was a spider that was OUTSIDE crawling away. He said he was trying to "empower her" to get over her fear of spiders. I was appalled.

Which is all very hypocritical of me, since I eat meat. Yes, it's the local "humanely raised" stuff; but I have huge conflicts within myself about the the message I'm sending. It's probably what lots of other pp have said, there's a complicated relationship between humans and bugs. I guess it's just the overall respect I'm trying to get across.

I'd probably ask your son how well he knows the other kid and whether he thinks the other kid is a kind person generally.
post #10 of 45
Yes and no....I think for this 8 year old it is on the older realms of norm of not having conscious about.

8 year olds are not know of impulse control. So even though this is bullying behavior and disturbing I would not worry for this other child much being the next psychopath.

I would discourage my child from playing with him unless in closer supervision.

At that age, I could see my son doing bug killing then feeling bad about it later, in bed, requiring a cry, and a mama snuggle.
post #11 of 45
Yeah, I'd go with it is. I worked with a lot of kids around that age at camp and killing bugs was definetly something that some of them just did. They were otherwise perfectly god kids... but they liked to kill bugs When I was that age (and for years... probably till I was 13 or so... and tbh, I'd still do it for the right price ) I ate daddy long leg's... you just have to smell'm first an make sure they don't smell like oil - then they taste nasty Then pull off their legs and eat'm
post #12 of 45
I don't know.

We get sooo many bugs in our house. I don't know why, and it drives me nuts, but we can't possibly catch & relocate all of them, and I'm really squeamish around them these days. So DH & DS kill them. But we have a strict rule about ONLY killing bugs in the house. (DS is only 19 mos BTW). We've always explained that you can't kill bugs outside because that is their home. I don't like teaching him that it's OK to kill anything anywhere though, so I struggle with this a bit, & will be glad when we have fewer bugs in a couple months when we head into winter (because then I just don't have to deal with my conscience?)

I would be very disturbed by a kid getting enjoyment from deliberately pulling apart a bug. I'm sure most kids do it at some point (for some reason I remember squishing worms as a kid) but I wouldn't encourage it, though I imagine in many cases it's just about interest rather than the killing. So if it's done more in the spirit of learning by dissection, I'd consider it 'normal', but if it's done for the purpose of killing something, that's a big issue IMO.
post #13 of 45
you know i think we are making an assumption that that kind was deliberately 'enjoying' pulling apart a bug. i can see someone doing it out of curiosity. a sensitive child might have been upset seeing it, even by a mom stepping on a bug.

like my dd asked me when i was clearing cobwebs what right did i have to destroy someone else's home.
post #14 of 45
Depends on where and what type of bug.

Bug in the house (like the bleepin' ants that have moved in here) yes, kill it. Then flush it.

Outdoors and just minding it's own business? Leave it alone.

Housefly that's been sitting on the poopy diaper garbage bag because it's 90 degrees out and we only have garbage pick up twice a month ? Kill it. Please.

Cutworm they find in my garden? Kill it. Same with the slugs.

Spiders around our porch? Leave them be, they eat flies.

I've never seen or heard of my kids killing bugs just to be cruel (think ant + magnifying glass) , they mostly just leave them be, with the exception of the slugs and cutworms, they actually hunt around in the garden to find and get rid of those. But it's not to be cruel, it's simply because those bugs destroy the garden that we've worked so hard on.
post #15 of 45
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "acceptable", OP. My two cents...

When I was a kid, we had some family friends who killed bugs "for fun". They were pretty gross about it, imo, and it bothered me even when we were kids. They kept it up until they were about 9 or 10 or thereabouts. I knew lots of other kids who killed bugs, and I used to kill ants when I was about 7 or 8, although it was a few years later when I realized that what I was doing actually killed them. The people I knew who did that have all grown up into perfectly normal adults, with varying degrees of empathy (some of them very sensitive to other's feelings, others more in the middle range, and a couple who seem oblivious much of the time), but none of them are cruel, yk?

Some kids just do this, I think. They seem to have trouble grasping that bugs are living things. That said, I've certainly killed a lot of bugs as an adult, for one reason or another. I don't cultivate a full on "it's just a bug" mindset, and wouldn't (don't - ds2 sometimes crushes bugs for no reason) tolerate/support going around pullling them apart or killing them for fun. I think it's a bit messed up...but I also think it falls well within norms for kids developing their empathy, and can continue to an age that seems quite old for it (at least from the outside, to us, as adults) without being a sign of anything troubling about the person's eventual character.
post #16 of 45
My incredibly sensitive, gentle cousins once used a friend's insulin syringes (whole other problem there) to inject salt water into slugs. I'm not sure if their vegetarian mother ever found out but they talked about their little experiment a lot.

Who knows why the heck they thought that would be a good idea but they are certainly not sociopaths and have grown up to be very kind, happy, successful adults who would never kill anything just for fun. They were just kids, that's all.
post #17 of 45
Killing/torturing insects seems to be acceptable for many families.

Originally Posted by WindyCityMom View Post
My 2yo has started this because DHs cousins kids who live in our building & the neighbor kids do it. I have caught her on quite a few occasions saying "Kill it!! Kill it!!", which I find disturbing. I really dont know how to address it though.
I simply always said, "our family doesn't do that." we talked about the positive benifits of bugs and I relocate them outside the house. We've never had an ant or termite infestation but I would probably feel differently about that. I also have no problem killing bugs that are actively harming a person (mosquitos & bees who are stinging). In the woods, though, we really emphasize that that is THEIR home we are invading so it is your responsibility to move away.
post #18 of 45
No. I don't think it's a rite of passage. I think it's something some children do before they develop a more mature compassion reflex. I think it also depends on the parents, and their philosophies on life.

We don't kill anything, unless we're going to consume it (fish). Then it becomes a 'cycle of life' thing. Also, if our bodies are threatened (mosquitoes, poisonous things biting us) then yes, we kill. DH is usually the one to entrap and free wandering insects from our house.

We're also karmically based and Buddhist in our thinking, and killing/torturing something is just not on the radar. FWIW I have two DCs, 5 and 7, and neither have ever killed something on purpose. They usually stop their friends from doing it. DD stopped her friends from tearing apart a small tree the other day. Life is life, no matter how small.
post #19 of 45
I used to pull the legs of of daddy long legs. I am not a sociopath. Some people just don't care about bugs and don't mind killing them. Then add 8 year old boy in the mix and the gross out factor for pulling apart a bug with your own hands is very high. and when your 8 gross and cool really go hand and hand. The boys laugh, the girls squeal. Most people probably don't think anything of killing a bug so why would they care about picking it apart leg by leg?.
post #20 of 45
I don't think it's a rite of passage. I talk to the kids about killing innocent bugs. How would they like it if something 10 gajillion times their size just decided that they weren't allowed to live anymore?

But I'm also a total hypocrite because I kill bugs that come into the house (not all spiders or moths) but flies and mosquitoes etc. (and mice - we've had one recently and it's got to go)
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