Q: Should boys be allowed to play with toy guns of any sort? If so, can they point the gun at each other and shoot someone else? Play dead when shot? What guidelines do you recommend for teaching them how to play with toy guns? My sons keep asking for them and I’m not sure how to respond.
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A: If you have a boy, chances are pretty good that he’s shot, stabbed, lasered or otherwise tried to kill you, the family dog, the chair, or his younger sibling with some sort of weapon. Said weapon could be anything from a finger, a stick, LEGOs or a stuffed animal. Frankly, I don’t know how you prevent shooting and playing dead among children, especially boys, even without an actual toy gun in a child’s hand.
We’re asking the wrong questions when we fret about whether or not a toy gun of some sort will somehow be harmful to our kids. Instead, we should focus on what’s going on in their own hearts when they play or interact with others. Is the play mean-spirited or fun for all involved? A boy who shoots his sister with his toy cap gun, for example, could be perfectly loving toward her on most occasions, except when she’s the bank robber and he’s the sheriff.
Video games and movies have more potential for desensitizing kids to violence than playing with a toy gun. Rather than worrying about whether they play with toy guns (or pretend to knife, slash or shoot others with pretend weapons), we should concentrate on helping them treat others with kindness and respect most of the time (because no one can be perfect all the time!).
Our homes should have a general atmosphere of love and not anger with siblings that respect and love one another most of the time. If our focus is on the intangibles of our children’s relationships with each other, then what toys they have won’t matter as much--because in the end, it’s not the toy that causes the distress, it’s the child who wields it.