Little Boys and Guns (and Swords and ...)
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Little Boys and Guns (and Swords and ...)
My 2.5 year old son is in day care 3 days per week. This
week he suddenly started making pistol fingers and ''pioo
pioo pioo'' noises. I was shocked because he has never seen a
toy gun or even a picture of a gun in my presence, and this
is certainly not something I was ready to deal with! I said
''that's a strange noise, what are you doing?'' but he moved
on to talking about something else. But talking to my
husband about it later, he said he'd observed our son doing
the same thing. He also told me (more worryingly!) that he
and son had been playing an imaginary game involving an
imaginary cat, when son said that he was going to ''cut the
cat with a knife'', or similar. He apparently explicitly said
something about wanting to ''hurt'' it. My husband responded
with ''we don't ever hurt animals''. (I should say that in all
his encounters with real live animals, my son is unfailingly
gentle and loving).
I'm torn. On the one hand, I know it's important for
children to use imaginary play to explore morality and
territory that's off-limits in reality, and I want him to
feel safe exploring these things with us. On the other hand,
I am extremely disturbed by fantasies about hurting things,
and a little paranoid that we're raising a psychopath! I'm
also concerned about where he's getting this from (I presume
another child at daycare). I don't know of him hitting other
children, though the daycare staff say he often will hug
children who don't want to be hugged, sometimes with
excessive force. He does sometimes bite, kick and hit me,
especially when over-tired, and then will bawl when I
immediately put him down and walk away.
So, Berkeley Parents, I would really value your feedback as
to how normal this behavior is and how concerned we should
be. Is it a phase most children go through, or is it
something we need to take special care over (e.g. seeking
professional advice)? Should we speak to the staff at the
daycare center about this? THANK YOU!
Welcome to having a boy (mine is now 6). Most likely, the
gun play will only escalate as he gets older. Presumably at
some time he will grow out of it. This is totally normal,
though it's maybe a little younger than some to start it.
But this is what boys do. I've met a few boys who aren't
interested in playing
guns/shooting/stabbing/swords/blasting/killing but it's
probably on the order of ten percent of them. Most parent of
boys I know have come to accept this. Those who don't,
struggle and fight and squash it in their boys and get mad
at/isolate their children from boys who do. Meanwhile,
whenever the parent isn't there, their boy is playing such
play because he can finally get away with it. Most parents
of boys, including us, went belly up a long time ago and
realize it's not a big deal. We put down a few ground rules
- no guns in people's faces, no shooting projectiles at
people - and we periodically talk about what
killing/shooting really mean. Often the response is an eye
roll and ''Mommy, it's just a game,'' making me feel like the
idiot for investing a boy's play with too much adult baggage.
Don't worry about raising a long-term gun nut or violent
psychopath. It's very unlikely. Think about all the grown
men you know. Probably 90% of them played guns when they
were little. How many of them are violent killers? Probably
not many. Playing violent games as a little boy does not
turn you into a violent man.
Parent of a 6-year-old gun nut
Congratulations, you have a male child. That's what they do. And as
you can see, that's what they do naturally even when not bathed in TV,
toy guns, or other violent culture.
You say he's ''unfailingly gentle and loving'' in real life, and his
main problem at daycare is occasionally hugging people too much?
Chill out! The violent play is his way of trying to understand the
mechanism and consequences of violence and pain in a safe way -- to
''game it out'' in his head, understand it, ease his fears. It serves
important purposes, not the least of which is that it's fun for him
(and doesn't hurt anyone).
As Michael Thomson likes to say (paraphrased), ''Play violence is not
real violence, and we lose credibility with our children when we fail
to be able to distinguish the two.''
Father of a boy; and former boy myself
There was a great article about boys and guns (swords,
spears, etc) in Mothering Magazine a few years ago...
horrified pacifist parents with their little warriors
running around shooting people with their fingers...
Little boys know they are small and feel disempowered, and
yet they are SURGING with testosterone! They grab a stick, a
toy gun, a sword and use it to feel empowered!
There was a time (around 3.5) when my son would not leave
the house unless heavily armed. We're talking 3 or 4 swords,
a dagger and a gun. Granted, these were all fake. And one
day when playing with a fake gun, I started to lecture him
about the dangers of firearms, and he looked at me with this
''you sad, silly woman'' look on his face and said ''Mom, this
gun is pretend.'' He was 3.5!
I have a friend wouldn't let play guns in her house, so when
her son came over to my house, the first thing he would do
is go to the toy box and arm himself.
This has nothing to do with media or school influences.
Little boys have been arming themselves since time began,
because they FEEL SMALL and need desperately to feel like
they can handle whatever is out there. My son used to talk
about protecting me A LOT. Just go with it. Mine is seven
now, not violent in the least, gets along with everyone and
understands the dangers of real guns. I'm less certain of my
friend's son, I think he would be the one to pick up a real
firearm if he found one. Unfortunately it would be my kid he
would accidentally shoot. You just have to teach them the
truth and understand their need for self empowerment.
Buddhist with a (fake) gun
I really distinguish between truly imaginary gun play
(pointed finger, stick, etc.) and realistic-looking toy
guns. I agree that lots of kids (and not just boys) need to
act out violent thoughts and images (when I was pregnant
with my second, my first frequently ''baked babies'' in the
toy oven). But to me, the tragedy of real gun violence just
made me too uncomfortable having imitation guns in my house.
Maybe my boy wasn't as into gun play as some, but I felt
better knowing he didn't own any imitation guns (yes, he
probably played with them at other kids houses, but to me
that's not the same as owning them in our house). That was
our house rule (which my husband agreed with, by the way -
one of the few things we agreed on from the start!)
mom of a boy and a girl
My 3 1/2 year old son just started at a new preschool that we were
very excited to join. But at his first day there I noticed that a lot
of the boys did a lot of talking about guns, bad guys, shooting,
killing and other violent things during their play. At one point in
the day the kids each had an opportunity to share with the group a
story that they had made up. Almost every boy's story had similar
topics. I was quite shocked. The school philosophy is to allow it,
saying that if they ban it or make a big deal about it it makes it
worse. My son has had no exposure to this kind of thing and has never
mentioned guns. I have read all the posts on BPN that say this is a
normal, if unpleasant, stage that kids (mostly boys) go through. Most
posts reiterated the school philosophy, suggesting that if you ignore
the behavior it lessons. Still, I have a hard time with this being
sanctioned in the preschool setting.
Confused about guns
I think that age is when they start talking about death and
fighting. My son did it even though he had not seen a gun. Our school
has a policy against guns as toys or even superheros (toys or shirts)
but they do it anyway. I think at that age they start expanding their
world view and the death/gun thing is a way of exercising some
control. My son didn't know what a gun was or was called but when he
was about three, he got mad at me and pointed his finger at me (not
quite in a gun mock position) and made a popping noise. I said, what
are you doing? He said, I'm shooting you. My husband said, what are
you shooting mommy with? He said, my popping thing. I don't think this
play or even exposure to guns necessarily makes them violent. I grew
up in a gun culture and didn't turn out that way. Neither did my
brother who lives in Texas and is a conservative Republican. The
tendency to become some sort of shooter type may just happen in spite
of trying to protect them from it. About 15 years ago, I met a couple
who said their kids would be completely protected from voilence and
weaponry. When they got into their tweens and beyond, they were not
the nicest kids and both became FASCINATED with guns and other weapons
as they got older so I think it's better to not make a big deal of it
at this point.
mom of a boy
Are our boys in the same preschool or what??
Yes, boys, especially when engaged with other boys, are gun
crazy. As I'm sure you've heard, they will make weapons out of
the most innocuous things. I read a good article in mothering a
couple of years ago that addressed the phenomenon:
What I gleaned from it is that how the preschool is handling the
behavior is appropriate. My rule at home is no shooting at any
living thing. So no shooting the cat, the neighbor or mom.
I have three boys who went to two different co-op preschools.
Neither of the preschools allowed kids to bring in toy guns,
swords, light sabers, blasters, etc. I think this is a pretty
standard practice in Berkeley. They also had a gunplay rule, even
pretend gunplay with fingers or legos or Matchbox cars or tinker
toys or crayons or carrots or bread crusts or juice boxes or etc.
Our most recent preschool was quite relaxed about this policy,
and its enforcemnt largely depended on which parents were
participating on a given day. The other preschool was much
stricter about enforcing the gunplay rule. At this school,
children who lapsed into gunplay were quickly corrected, and
participating parents were constantly reminded to be vigilant on
the playground! Some parents sternly enforced this, others
adopted a don't-ask-don't-tell policy. The little boys found
very creative workarounds. For example, art projects that
involved large sheets of paper quickly evolved into projects to
make light sabers out of rolled and taped paper. (Since the
teacher had never specifically mentioned light sabers, that was
allowed for a time.) I started out as one of the Stern Enforcers,
but eventually lightened up a bit. My big boys still complain
occasionally about only being allowed squirt guns that were
shaped like animals. Hey, that's the price you pay for living in
Paradise, I tell them. We could move back to Alabama.
At any rate, if you are unhappy with your preschool's policy I
think you might consider looking around a bit, because there are
lots of preschools that have quite strict policies about this.
Surviving the testosterone
Hello, I would also be distressed by what you're describing.
The preschool both of my children attend/ed does not allow guns,
even pretend guns, and would discourage discussion of violent
play like that. Even though this will not make it go away
completely, I think it is very important for adults to be clear
that this violence and violent play is not OK with them, and
encourage other non-violent imaginative play.
Many boys are not interested in gun play, and I would be worried
that some may even feel pressured to play along because that
seems to be the norm in this place.
Good luck advocating for a more non-violent place for your child!
I bet you get a lot of impassioned responses to this one. I'm a
preschool teacher myself, and I have thought long and hard and read
long and hard about this one. But all I'm going to offer is a great
book on the topic, Who's Calling the Shots? by Nancy Carlsson-Paige
and Diane Levin. It's a very thoughtful book that may help you to
sort out your ideas.
In a word? Yank your kid out of there. No, there's nothing
wrong with a school filled with gunplay. But your child WILL pick
it up. The question is: do you want that to happen at this time?
And by the way, My child is eight, I have been to or been around
quite a few preschools, and this is NOT the norm!
My kid started with the gun stuff at about 7. When he was young
he was sheltered from it, which was great, because he got to
develop other interests before the rat-a-tat-tat thing started.
Hold fast, do whatever your gut tells you to do. If you can't do
it in Berkeley, where can you do it? :-)
not a gun fan either
my 4 1/2 year old is obsessed with guns. he talks about them all the
time and wants us to buy them for him. I finally broke down and bought
him a ''laser shooter'' and the a pirate pistol for his halloween
costme. I want to say enough is enough and stand by my value system.
He still wants a real ''looking' GUN. I have now entered into what
feels like a reactionary power struggle with my son and my partner
(who feels i am making it worse by resisting it). I have lost
perspective. I don't believe in buying guns for play. He is
fascinated. Help with advice please.
THis is not all that uncommon. You could take your son to a
shooting range (he may be too young...maybe there are ones for
littler kids) where he can safely shoot a gun. HOw about a gun
museum? There are ways to let him learn about guns, handle them
in a safe environment. As he gets older if he's still into guns
there are ways he can own collector guns (no bullets of course),
go places where he can safely shoot, etc.
Some of my son's friends own b-b guns or air guns. These kids
have been taught responsibly how to use these guns and are never
allowed to shoot them without an adult supervising or it will be
taken away permanently, no warnings! There are ways to make it
I agree that if you forbid him it could be trouble later on, as
with anything. good luck.
I have 3 boys who are gun crazy too. Everything turns into a
gun; sandwich; stick; socks; tv remote. We have purchased them
toy guns in the past and our rule with that is the gun MUST BE
TOY LOOKING. No ''cap'' guns with sounds, no plastic silver
western looking guns, nothing with wood, silver gun colors.
Another strick rule concerning guns with them is that they are
to NEVER imitate a gun with their fingers.
Many little boys are obsessed with guns or other forms of weapons, and
fighting. With my own child it is swords, daggers, axes. He does like
(and Transformers, and Pokemon, and battles of all sorts... sigh). And
characterized by everyone who knows him as thoughtful, kind, and
I think that banning guns will probably be a losing battle. Your son
sounds like the
type that, if he does not have a play gun, will shoot things with sticks
(as is mine).
Many little boys are like this.
I'm not crazy about guns and fighting either, but I chose a different
set of rules: no
pointing guns at people. That seemed to work a bit better (he can still
monsters, or whatever). I also, when I play with him, tell him that I
do not like to
play fighting, so when he plays with me, I want to play something
I actually read an interesting article awhile back, when first
struggling with this
issue, that suggested that guns and fighting are boys' way of struggling
notions of good and evil, and that some amount of such play will
beneficial for their moral development (girls tend to do this
differently, and in a way
that we as mothers can relate to). While I have no way of knowing if
this is true, it
actually seemed reasonable to me, given the degree to which otherwise
boys engage in violent play (even when they don't watch TV, or have any
source of violence being modeled for them).
My son now 6 also loves guns and swords. He does have all kinds,
and play with it imaginary games. What I think it is great! I
grow up in Brazil and played cowboy with my brothers
all the time. We had toy guns that really look like the real
think so did all my friends. We all tuned out alright we don't
go around shooting
The problem with that is playing with other kids, that parents
do not accept the idea of playing with guns.
I haven't found a place that sells guns looking like the real
I was wondering if people could offer some experience with boys
and guns. I have 3 year old twin boys and everything is a gun. I
mean the forks, the napkins, the blocks, etc. What is it from?
What should I do? They watch some KQED and a few movies and
videos. I thought I was choosing pretty non-violent stuff. I
don't watch adult TV around them. We have tried talking to them
about it. They don't have playdates with other kids. They get
some at pre-school. But I want to raise non-violent boys. Any
mother of future NRA members
This is an interesting thing about boys and violence. Parents
can be exceptionally careful to keep the idea of violence, guns,
etc. from their young sons, yet they *still* go through a phase
of dealing with guns, violence, sword play, etc. Observing this
over the years has led me to the conclusion that this is
I too have 3 (1/2) year old twin boys and the exact same thing
is going on at our house. EVERYTHING is a gun and since they
always have a friend (their brother) to play with they are
always shooting at eachother. It bothers me a lot and both my
husband and I agree that we don't want to support violence (no
toy guns, violent video games or movies.....) However, there
is no point in forbidding them from playing this way because it
will only make it a bigger deal and more appealing for them to
do so. They get it from school. Basically, what is important
to me is thay they know that guns are dangerous and that they
can hurt people and they never ever touch a gun. If they ever
see one they get a big person immediately. I don't know how
much this has sunk in at this point but I hope that as long as
we are consistent about this then eventually it will become
common knowledge to them. There is so much exposure to
violence in our society. I can only hope to help them navigate
through it safely and intelligently. To forbid them from
having anything to do with it is not preparing them for what
they will inevitablly come up against.
mother of two space ranger laser gun shooters
I was raised by a fiercely pacifist mother who was horrified by
guns and gunplay. From an early age I was fascinated by guns and
made them from any available materials. There are pictures of me
from as young as three years playing with toy guns, my mother
having realized by then that she was powerless to prevent it, and
that it was distinct from and not generative of real violence. We
didn't have TV and I was otherwise sheltered from the culture of
violence. The fascination with guns seems to be an inborn
proclivity shared by almost all boys of a certain age. I ''played
army'' up to the age of twelve but learned pacifism from my
parents' example, have never been in a fight, and have never
owned a real gun, though I had plenty of toy ones, including
''machine guns'' and even a bb gun. My advice is don't sweat it,
it's not what you think; Though testosterone related, it's
creative play, and really harmless. Save your energy for things
like getting them to clean up clean up their room.
Don't worry about it. When I was a boy I had lots of pretend
guns, toy soldiers, even played ''war'' in the woods. Yet I grew
up to be an anti-war protestor. Playing with guns does not make
one into an adult gun-lover, any more than kids who knock over
towers of blocks grow up to be arsonists.
I'd be reluctant to admit this in a group of Berkeley moms but
I don't think guns are that big a deal.
My siblings and I weren't allowed to watch TV but I recall that
we pretended that tree branches were ''swords'', trash can lids
were ''shields'', and there was lots of gun play with any pointy
shaped object we could find. I think kids are naturally
curious about weapons and forbidding it makes it more desirable.
When I was a teenager my Dad took us target shooting and showed
us how to safely handle weapons. He grew up in a rural part of
Pennsylvania and was very comfortable around guns.
I have 2 young children now so don't own any guns but
occasionally go to a firing range with my cousin (she's a police
officer) because I enjoy target shooting.
--Mom who can shoot straight
Not being the parent of a boy, I wasn't going to respond
originally, but then I saw all the posts, and found myself
chuckling over the memories they aroused. My parents were also,
as one respondent put it, ''fierce pacificists'' (I love that!)
and strongly opposed to toy guns and war play in general. But
then my little brother got to be about three, and pretty soon,
sandwiches got chewed into gun shapes, etcetera. Eventually, my
parents relented and allowed him to have some war toys, and my
brother went through a really horrifying stage of war
enthusiasm, co-mingled with the whole ''I'm a ninja'' thing. But
here's the point: as a teenager, my brother became a
conscientious objector to the draft, and now he is in his
thirties, the gentlest, kindest, most nonviolent man you'll
ever meet. He has no desire to own guns, has never hit another
person in anger, and in fact seldom even raises his voice. So I
have to conclude that gun-fantasy-play is just an unfortunate
but normal part of male childhood in our culture. And maybe
it's a necessary catharsis of some very heavy business?
Pacificist's big sister
Since there's been a discussion about Barbies and girls, I
thought I'd ask about toy weapons and boys as I didn't see
anything in previous postings. My son is 5 and obsessed with
swords, bows and arrows, guns etc. We have not allowed him to
have any toy weapons but he fashions his own out of
sticks/spoons/whatever. He is not an aggressive kid but I
still won't play with him when he makes a pretend weapon (I
generally say, ''I don't like playing with weapons even if they
are pretend--how about we play 'X' instead.'') I have monitored
his video watching and have banned certain ones (thank you
Disney) as being too weapons focussed. He recently got a squirt
gun as a gift--we called it a ''squirt toy'' and he looked at us
with pity, as it is a squirt ''gun'' as far as he is concerned.
Reading the Barbie posts made me think that maybe we are making
too big a deal of it and that these toys are gaining power
without ever being in our home. Should we give in and get him a
First, you can't keep boys from making weapons. My son watches
almost no TV, and nothing violent, yet he still is into
weapons. Second, given you can't get rid of them entirely, what
is important is that you teach proper and responsible usage of
a weapon. For example, swords hit only other swords. If a sword
hits a person, tree, furniture, etc, the sword is taken away.
(Note: for this to work, though, you must buy 2 swords, not
just one!) And third, a plastic sword with a rounded end is a
lot less dangerous than the sharp pointed sticks he's probably
A mother of a completely boy's boy
Like the Barbie issue,I think sword/weapon play for boys is
natural(I sure didn't teach my boys to want to play
fighting....they just started doing it so I think it's an inborn
boy thing). My 7 year old still plays with swords and does what
I call playacting with his figurines, etc. I've never encouraged
guns, never bought toy guns, but even their pretend guns I would
suggest they shoot at imaginary enemies, or their toys, not at
real people. My 11 year old is no longer into weapon play
(except on electronic games) and seems to be pretty well
rounded. I think any toy/activity that is forbidden can easily
become an obsession. Better to allow moderation with some
guidelines and boundaries.
mom of 2 boys.
My advice is, don't worry about the guns. When I was a kid I
had lots of toy guns and toy soldiers, I watched war TV shows
and would play war games with my friends. And I outgrew it, as
did all my peers, and as a young adult I was protesting against
war. From what I can tell, there's just a phase when little
boys are fascinated with good and evil (''bad guys'') and
conflict. My advice to you is play with your kid. Sometimes
he'll want you to be the bad guy so he can kill you. Let him.
I don't mean you should allow yourself to be physically hurt,
but when he shoots you, make dramatic sounds and die, or better
yet plead for mercy and promise to be good if he spares you. He
probably won't, then die anyway. The main thing is to let your
Until I had a son, my firstborn is a girl, I always thought I
would be absolute about allowing any sort of weapons--gun,
swords, etc. Now that I have a pre-school age son, I am more
governed by intuition and by the moment. While I would never by
my son a mock AK-47 assault rifle, I have capitulated to buying
him a set of foam(ish) swords, reiterating how we feel about
hurting or menacing people with the sword. Frankly, he can take
or leave the swords now that he has them. The times that he has
used the swords with a friend I have heard my articulate 3-year
old son say that we can use these for fun play but we can't hurt
each other or put them in each other's faces. It is precisely
this casualness my son has developed toward the swords that tells
me that I have done the right thing. In fact, my son's favorite
use of the sword is to conjure up an imaginary enemy and feign
that he is protecting the princess in the castle--his sister in
the treehouse. In the meantime, another boy whom me know, whose
mother has prohibited not only the use of swords, etc. but also
language like ''I am a warrior,'' or ''Halt, otherwise I will get
you with my sword [pretend],'' seems fairly obsessed by anything
military, etc. Maybe there is something to the adage, ''Forbidden
fruit is always sweeter.'' My son's very sweet, very gentle, very
measured disposition has not changed at all with the advent of
owning his foam sword. And! I think there is something to be
said about letting a child invalidate something for him/herself,
with the parents' governance, of course.
Before my boys (now 6 and 8) hit about 5, I thought the same way.
FWIW, they have never watched commercial TV (they are starting to
watch the Food Network on ocassion, though) and had very little
PBS exposure. Only books. I've since come to recognize (they
are very good teachers :)) that boys (we'll see about girls; mine
are only 3 and 1) need outlet for agression. We can channel it
so it isn't hurtful (against any living beings) but I really feel
that it is ''natural'' and ''normal''. I still will not allow toy
guns in the house, but we have swords - they will one minute play
with sticks aggressively and the next play with their sister's
I would encourage play as an outlet for agression (play is really
the way that they figure everything out) but to channel it so
that it isn't hurtful against you or any living thing (ants,
My 9 y.o. guy has never been super into weapons, but like most
kids (including many girls), he has liked that kind of play at
times. In our house, we still have a strict NO GUNS rule, but
that applies to toys sold as toy guns only. If he or his
sister fashion weapons out of tinker toys, we don't forbid it -
but (like others) we have difinite rules about how it is used
(no weapon can strike a person, and if it has a projectile, it
can't even be aimed toward a person). We let him know why we
are opposed to toys that look like guns - that there is a lot
of gun violence in this world that hurts real people, and we
prefer to play in ways that do not copy this. Now, I know a
the bad guy-good guy thing is imprtant for kids to play
through, but I don't think ''killing'' is the only way to deal
with this. And I know that kids have a need to express their
anger/aggression in some way. But would we let our kids ''play
rape'' because it can get their aggressions out? Of course not!
I don't think that one must allow gun play to meet
psychological needs. There are lots of healthy alternatives
that don't require ''killing'' the bad guy. (Capture him, lock
him up, teach him better ways, ...). One last thing - many
toys, such as Playmobile and Lego sets, come with guns. That's
been hard to avoid, but we still strictly prohibit gun toys
meant to be used by the child. So far in our house, there
hasn't been a lot of complaint about this.
I'm at a loss on how to deal with my 2 1/2 year old son's newfound
enthusiasm for turning toys or found objects into guns or swords and the
resulting play. He'll brandish something and declare he's going to fight me,
or hit me, or (after another reading of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back) kill
me with his popgun. (not just me, by the way, but dad, the dogs, anyone he's
interacting with) We don't watch TV, but he's picked up this kind of play at
daycare (where it's discouraged too). He doesn't actually hit anyone. I know
it's typical behavior, but don't know quite how to react to successfully
redirect or discourage. I've tried turning swords into magic wands, talking
with him about how fighting hurts, asking him why he wants to shoot
whatever, telling him I don't like to play that way and walking away, etc.
etc. I don't want to turn a toddler molehill into a mountain, but I don't
like this kind of play. Is it just an inevitable, normal stage we should
ignore? (as my husband thinks). Any insight would be very much appreciated!
My advice is to not make a big deal of it, but do feel free to set
some limits of your own: "I don't play that game," or, "We don't
play gun games at our house." My feeling is that gun games, like
chasing games or any number of other examples, are allowed only when
all parties agree to it, and the environment, such as the daycare or
home, allows it.
From my experience of having a boy and being around many other toddler and
pre-school age boys, this is extemely common and normal behavior. A friend
of mine said her son would help make a salad by tearing lettuce into gun
shapes. So, anything around, like fingers, becomes the gun. My solution in
our house was to set up rules for some things and ignore others. Like- no
pointing fingers at any people. Sticks used as make believe guns can only
be played with outside and, again, no pointing at any people. Otherwise, I
decided to give it as little energy as possible. Then my brother gave my son
2 water pistols, which I never would have done. I decided to not take them
away, so the rule was he could only use them in the bathtub, and could not
shoot any people (he sometimes takes a bath with other kids). My son is now
4 1/2 and the gun play is mostly over. If your son sees how upset or
annoyed you get, it's only more grist for his mill.
Our house rule is "no pointing guns at living things" . Other than that, we have
allowed guns and gun play, which I never thought I would. My son is almost 11 now
and shows no propensity towards violence... I think a gun ban would have been
counterproductive, conflict-promoting and ineffective, because as you've already
noticed, anything can be a gun to an imaginative child! Deborah
I have a 4 1/2 year old and we went through the same thing - and we're
still going through it to some extent. I have come to the conclusion
that boys just have this hard wired behavior. Not in all cases, but
in most that I have had contact with. My advice is to just not worry
about it too much. Don't put too much energy into it. They'll move
through it eventually.
I've been using a technique to help model more desirable behavior
using his dolls when I find my son doing the undesirables. It's hard
for a parent to see their child act like a brat, even if they're
naturally that way sometimes at this age... unless they learn
otherwise. My son is about 2 1/2 and I made up three plays where his
two dolls were in conflict and then proceeded to resolve the conflict
by sharing. I did this over a period of 2-3 days, and to my
astonishment, we've seen our usually greedy child offer a truck to a
friend and then a few days later, suggested that he would "share" a
play blankie during a tug- of- war with papa. Have others found
constructing plays for children to work? I'm planning to use this
technique on some other issues such as eating green vegetables, going
in the potty, etc...
I'm a mom of three boys and I can tell you that this is what they do.
Even if you refuse to buy them guns, they will eat their toast into a
gun shape and use that! The boys who visited our house who weren't
allowed to have any guns were often the ones who were most obsessed
with them, so I don't think it's a good idea to make a big thing of
it. I only ever bought my boys water guns (shaped like animals)
when they were little; as they got older they had the giant magnum
10-gallon water guns. I thought water gun play was fun though I
always gave them my editorial opinion about guns, swords, etc. --
a common refrain around our house now that they are older is "Mom,
you think EVERYTHING is a phallic symbol."
a good friend of mine has recommended the book "Who's Calling the Shots? How
to respond effectively to children's fascination with war play and war
toys," by N. Carlsson-Paige & D. LEvi. she says it's helped her talk to her
2.5 year old boy about his fascination with shooting, guns, etc... she got
it at rosiehippo.com.
Guns are a powerful symbol. The gun wielder is in a position to control
other people. It seems to me that this is something a toddler can't
resist. Most boys, myself included, engaged in gun play. At the age of
a toddler I would ignore it. To make an issue of it is to play into the
power play dynamic. He'll likely loose interest when it gets no
reaction. When the child is older, it is important to be sure he knows
that gun play of any kind is not acceptable. At the very least you
should keep in mind that police consider anything that looks like a gun
to be a gun.
My father kept guns in the house since we were infants. We were
instructed by word and example that guns are not toys. The guns were
handled only to and from target shooting, cleaning, and instruction.
They were never permitted to be loaded in the house or away from a
target range. I would suggest that you take a gun safety course even if
you don't own a gun. Ask lots of questions and don't be intimidated by jargon.
I guess I'm with your husband in believing this behavior more likely
to extinguish if you don't draw attention to it. My son, now almost
10, makes the traditional set of weapons noises, plays video games
that can sometimes get a little violent (there's an understatement!)
and has an absolutely clear concept of the difference between fantasy
violence and real violence. He also is known among his peers as a
good, fair, and non-violent kid. Except for checking in with him now
and then on that line between reality and fantasy, I try consciously
to stay out of it.
We took the same attitude on sugar at an earlier age...what's not
forbidden is not as tantalizing as what is... and found that he is
less obsessed with junk food than many of his friends who live in
"healthier" environments. Good luck.
Most kids go through the "cowboys and indians" phase, although today it's
more likely to be jedi knights and Darth Vader. Most kids understand the
basic concept of good and bad early on. I don't know of any child who
doesn't role play. It is a normal part of development and they do grow out
Kids that never watch TV and are never given guns for toys will still use
their fingers to pretend they have a gun or a laser or a turbo-charged
molecule zapper. I thought I would not have to deal with this if my son was
not allowed to have play guns, of any kind. I made a point of not allowing
my relatives to give him any, not even squirt guns. So what does he do? My
son made a "laser gun" out of his Lego's.
Your son is at a high energy stage in his development (the terrible two's)
and he has a lot of aggression as most two year olds do. He's exploring his
world and seeking out boundaries. As long as he's not hurting anyone, let
him have fun. Try to have fun with him. Changing swords into wands is a good
attempt at changing the situation to a scenario you can live with, but two
is pretty young to understand the world of fairies and magic. Good guy/bad
guy is a lot easier.
There really is nothing you can do about it to stop it altogether. He's
using his imagination to be a hero, to save the world from whatever monster
he's come across. He doesn't understand about mortality yet. He's only two.
You can try to route this creativity towards another platform, like art, but
the violent imagery may still come out. Let it and it'll eventually wear
I have a 3-1/2 year old who is going through the same thing with gun
play. He turns everything into a gun and is going to shoot
everything. I do discourage it, but have found the less attention I
pay to the problem the less he seems to do it. I think really believe
that it is a normal gender specific phase that boys go through and I
really don't think that there is too much you can do about it other
than do your best and ride it out. It can be really embarrassing
though when you are out in public and your son is shooting everyone.
I was recently flying with my son and that was quite a challenge
trying to keep his guns out of the airports. I am glad to see that I
am not the only one out there that is going through this. Hang in
Having 2 boys (10 and 6) I can agree with all the other parents who have
written to say that boys do gun play, like it or not!! We've never had toy
guns in the house (water guns, yes) but they do chew their toast or cucumbers
into gun shapes, or use their fingers, or broomsticks, or another toy. Our
rule, like other families: they can shoot at pretend bad guys. No shooting at
real people or animals. Both boys are pretty much past that stage now. I
agree that giving it too much attention will add fuel to the fire. Good luck.
I was in the exact same situation when my son went through this [disturbing]
phase. The best advice I got was to redirect the play into a fire rescue
game. That way, he can still "shoot" a fire hose and the play can be active
and aggressive, but it's for the purpose of helping people/animals rather
than hurting. It doesn't work every single time (does anything?) but it
went a long way for us.
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