Kids have always played with weapons and in the past adults have never even questioned it. Today weapon play is banned at most schools and children’s activities. This boy even got suspended from school for pointing his finger like a gun! This boys mom said he doesn’t even own toy guns! Are these things really to blame, even in part? I tend to think that what molds children is more about their relationships with their parents and how they are treated in everyday life than what toys they own. Being punished and constantly reprimanded for enjoying something is detrimental. Young children don’t have the social stigmas attached to weapons like adults do so they don’t understand why they are being punished, it just makes them feel bad.
When my son was two his favorite toys were trucks and animals. We’d drive the animals around in the trucks and make them give each other hugs and talk nicely to each other. But one day something happened; the animals were fighting and eating each other. I tried to steer him away from this violent play but I realized he couldn’t help it – it seemed like a part of him that needed to come out. It made me understand that some gender roles exist because they are natural. I realized that playing with weapons or pretending to fight did not make my son any different in his everyday life. As he got older, he identified more and more with weapons, superheroes and the like but he stayed that sweet boy too. He loves babies, and enjoys all kinds of play not just fighting games. He is one of the kindest people I know. I stopped worrying about it because it’s not about me, it is about him doing what he enjoys and being himself.
Here’s some things that helped me relax about weapon play:
- Play even if the game isn’t your thing. That way you know how the play really feels and can steer it in a more appropriate direction if it’s getting too rough.
- Talk about how weapons are really used and why real ones are dangerous. It doesn’t always need to be a lesson but it’s good for them to know the basics.
- Listen to why they enjoy playing these games and appreciate their happiness.
I choose not to control my kids’ toys because I want to support them no matter what they like. I want to appreciate their authentic selves. I don’t want them to feel bad for their needs and interests. What effects them most is the attention and support they receive from their parents and role models. Not allowing certain play or toys creates feelings of mistrust between the parent and child, which can then lead to anger. But listening to and playing with the child forms the trust and support of a good relationship. This seems like a much better defense against violence in children… funny how we’d like to blame it all on a plastic gun though.
Grateful for Gunplay
Boys and Weapon Play
With Toy Guns, Kids Know it's a Game