Like many parents, I made a few vows against vices before giving birth to my son, such as no TV, no junk food, no sleep training, no kid clutter and no taking them to the groceries or the mall. Some I abide by but most are now laughable. As it happens, one of those vows included no playing with toy guns. Well, turns out we have toy guns… sort of.
Before I get into our toy guns (yes, plural), below are a few reasons I didn’t want them:
- I never liked or played with guns. Even though I played rough and watched TV growing up, I had zero interest in the actual shooting up of the bad guys.
- I don’t like the idea of making a game out of killing people.
On the other hand, I can understand some of the arguments for gun play, particularly from author Nancy Carlsson-Page, author of Taking Back Childhood. In her book, she asserts that gun play, particularly the kind where children create the entire scene all by themselves (as opposed to re-enacting scenes from TV shows), helps children sort through their aggression and help them beat the “bad guys” of their world.
Since kids rely on play to apply logic and understanding to so much of what confuses them, gun play seems to play a predominant role in helping them recover lost power over the bad guys and express their aggression. After all, kids play doctor to help them take back the control and power they lost being in the vulnerable position of patient, just as they do playing house to sort through family roles and changes at home.
Still, I wonder about killing play. Couldn’t kids just box the bad guys until they’re squished and small? Pound a play dough to rid themselves of aggression? Run as fast as they can to relieve any bottled up emotions best expressed physically?
For me, playing killing games seems to place less value on life, considering the lethality of the weapons they’ve turned into a game.
But back to our guns. We happen to have three small water guns, purchased on a sweltering summer day when all we could find to squirt water at one another were the small ones we ended up buying. We call them squirters and we don’t play dead when we aim at one another. It’s the first time our son has seen a toy gun, but who’s to say how he’ll use these toys in the future? Will I tell him we don’t make a game out of killing people? Will doing that glorify guns even more?
As of right now, I don’t see myself promoting guns but I won’t be overly strict either. I wouldn’t buy my kids toy guns or encourage killing games, but, like many of the vows against vices I had made in the past, I understand that I’m better off taking it on a case by case basis.
All that said, I don’t believe that kids who play with guns -- even for killing games -- grow up any more violent or aggressive than those who don’t. In fact, I don’t think many purported reasons for gun violence, including music, movies, TV and video games, makes a person more likely to kill.
Still, guns in general bother me, even more in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. And I would much rather my kids not play with guns or submerge themselves in violent media. The lethality of guns doesn’t seem all that much fun to me. I’d rather play a game of chase around the house.
What are your thoughts on toy guns and gun play? Do you let your kids play with toy guns? Why or why not? Do you explain the idea of guns to your kids?
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