Since I just posted about making a weapon, and I’m sure we’ll post about lots more weapons in the future, I thought that I would post our family’s thoughts on boys playing with weapons like guns, etc. Our position on this has developed as our boys grow and we are faced with new parenting situations, and I’m sure it will continue to change a little as our boys get bigger and into different things!
Boys like guns. There’s no way around that! Even if we didn’t own toy weapons, there would still be gun shaped pretzels, “gun sticks” brought home from the park, etc. If you have boys, you know!
The bottom line is that when it comes to violence, guns are not really the problem. The problem is our sinful hearts. Anger. Hatred. Desire for revenge. The thought that violence is something to turn to to solve our problems.
We have often taken our sons to Matthew 5: 21-22:
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall the liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
These verses are not teaching that bad people go to hell and good people go to heaven. Rather, the point is that murder comes out of the heart attitudes of anger and hatred. A person is guilty before God if there is anger in their heart, even if outwardly they never resort to violence. Therefore, we need to address the heart issues of anger and revenge if we want to get to the root of the problem. Like most aspects of parenting, this is not easy!
We allow our boys to play with weapons, but we don’t allow:
- Pretending to shoot or injure each other, especially in anger.
- Pointing a weapon at a parent as a response to something they don’t like.
- Being the bad guy. This is not a black-and-white issue in scripture, but we don’t like them pretending to be bad. They don’t need any more practice at that!
The behaviors above are evidence of wrong heart attitudes that need to be addressed.
We have discussed with them that:
- Police officers and soldiers do not (well, should not) shoot because they enjoy it. Law enforcement is not a fun game. People should not enjoy injuring others.
- Hunting for food to eat is one thing; Killing animals out of a destructive spirit is another.
- Life has value. All things are created by God.
However, we can still enjoy catapulting, shooting, flinging, and all the other wildness boys love.
We do play:
- Nerf gun wars
- Water gun fights
- Shooting a sling shot!
- Running around with the neighbor boys playing hunting games
- Old west cowboys
- Sword play with nerf swords or pool noodle lightsabers
I will say that we do have to end some of these games when they take an angry turn or get too wild!
The boys have more historical weapon (like Davy Crocket) type toys because we prefer those over semi-automatic weapons of mass destruction (violent video games, toy machine guns). Again, this is our preference but not specified in scripture.
I’m absolutely sure that I have not exhausted this topic, and we will continue to learn as our children grow!
What comments do you have to add about shepherding boys’ hearts in the right direction concerning weapons?
Angie Sep 18, 2010
Sarah, You addressed this issue very well! Great job! We've "been there - done that"! And I love when some of this play becomes a strong desire to protect their sisters and even once in awhile their mom! :)
Milehimama Sep 19, 2010
That sounds a lot like our policies! We have an extra one, though: You cannot shoot someone who is not playing with you. Because my boys will torture their sisters with gunfire.
Felice Sep 21, 2010
Sarah, I have just recently found your blog, and wanted to say i love how you have addressed this. I have a 2 year old boy, so this is quickly becoming a topic for us. I knew I had a position but wasn't really sure what it was, but when I read this I was like hey this is exactly how I feel. So thank you for putting it into words. I think that shaping their heart is exactly correct.
Courtney Sep 21, 2010
This is great to see in print ..I feel 100% the same way. I have three boys, and I grew up not being allowed to play with guns (mostly girls in our house!) ..I had to really decide how I felt about it when a) I had three boys and 2) when our uncle Dustin died as a soldier in Iraq (we have lots of pics with him in uniform with a gun) and our Uncle Blu became a police officer.
I appreciate your thoughts written down! :)
DawnJoy Oct 21, 2010
Sarah, Thanks for putting this out there. This is exactly how my husband and I feel. We have an almost 4yo son and an 8yo daughter and they love to play fight together and with Dad. I join in sometimes too. I'm going to print out this post and the comments to add to our family manual since you put it together so well. Thanks.
Jen Aug 2, 2011
Oh, I needed to read this today. I've been frustrated at dealing with all the neighbor boys playing with our boys...guns and war. The neighbors all play killing video games, and we don't allow our boys to. Trying to come up with guidelines for their nerf wars has been hard, but I 100% agree with what you have written. When I was growing up we had very strict, never point a (pretend or real) gun at a person rules, so we pretended to shoot other things with our capguns. We were girls though...and I have three boys.
Trisha Mar 7, 2013
Great post! I have two girls and three boys. There is definitely a difference! My oldest boy learned about guns...somehow?? His older sisters didn't play with them. I have no idea...probably a TV show or watching the neighbors or something. But it didn't take long after that:)Backing up a bit. When he was one years old he even played with his toys differently than our girls. More aggressively (he's not an aggressive kid in general)Anyway, there is a line in Jurassic Park...Jeff Goldbloom's character says in the lab when the scientist explains it's impossible for the dinosaurs to reproduce.."Nature finds a way." It just does:) We feel the same way as you do. It's harder to implement as they get older and more independent. You just hope they make good choices. Thanks!
Molly Mar 8, 2013
I love this! I have been struggling with this and my son for awhile. It is especially hard because my husband is in the Air Force and carries a gun on a regular basis. I was adamant that my son would not have guns or play "fighting games" but my husbands' influence and his love of certain role-playing games forced a change. My son LOVES knights and castles and turned just about anything into a sword anyway. I too, encourage him to never be the bad guy and always be a good guy. I also don't let him assign me the bad guy roll either. All his bad guys are invisable for now (he's 3). Hope this post helps me keep his pretend play going in the positive direction!
Danielle Mar 8, 2013
this is great, thanks for posting! We have two boys and it is a big issue here, they do figure out a way to play "shooting games" even with no toy guns! :-)
Jessica Mar 8, 2013
Thanks for this great post! We have similar rules (and the same additional rule as Milehimama).
My brother is a hunter, so he has shown my sons real guns (so they understand the different look of toys versus real) and explained that you never touch a gun and if a friend picks up a gun that you think is real, you get out of there and find an adult. I plan to put my sons in gun safety courses when they are 10. My husband and I will never be hunters or have guns in the home, but I want my sons to have a knowledge of safety and proper handling in case they are ever in a situation outside of my control.
Shell Mar 8, 2013
Thank you. I seem to have a lot of people who judge my standpoint (which is the same as yours on guns). Being that my husband is a US soldier and we have pictures in our home of daddy in Iraq with his friends and their guns this is a question that comes up to me by many parents, I now plan on printing this and handing them the article.
Emma Mar 9, 2013
I agree with most of this...I'm pretty anti-gun, but I can't shield my sons from hearing about/being interested in them. I'm really perplexed how cowboys and Indians is okay though but not shooting "bad guys"...
Sarah Mar 9, 2013
It has to do with the attitude. When my boys play cowboys and Indians, they are dressing up in cowboy hats, putting pistols in holsters, and running around outside. There aren't any bad guys involved in that game. When they play other games, they are instructed to fight against imaginary bad guys rather than one of them becoming the bad guy, or making neighborhood children into the bad guys. In fact, fighting games where it's one team "against" another seldom work without turning into sinful fighting!
The thing to watch for is children becoming angry about something that happens and turning to weapons as a way to solve the problem. Then they need some shepherding. They need a parent to talk to them about the issues and what God's word says about whatever is bothering them.
Our specific rules on weapons are not inspired by Scripture, and each family needs to make their own decisions based on God's word and their particular children.
I'm not sure if that answered your question, but I hope it helped!
Katelyn Aug 17, 2013
I had a similar response as Emma. I was assuming that someone was the "Indian" and someone else was the "Cowboy." I'm still not sure I like the general representation of the "Indians" as bad guys whether pretend or not. Your description just sounds like playing Cowboys not the traditional Cowboys and/versus Indians.
I have a son who just turned 3 and we've heavily shielded him from guns/violence. However, he's discovered nerf guns at the neighbors house during a BBQ. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to handle the play/toy gun issue. I'm going to have to think some more on it, but this post gives me a good jumping off point. Thank you. For what it's worth, we are also a military family but my husband doesn't regularly handle weapons as part of his job and we haven't had to field any questions from my son regarding others carrying weapons.
Dannie Aug 16, 2013
Great post! I've always felt strongly that my kids (oldest is 3, 3rd boy on the way!) shouldn't have any "toy" guns until they are ~12 and get BB gun, just because we don't ever want guns to be confused with toys. I'm not at all however, against ALL weapon toys and I love the guidelines you've posted for indulging that martial spirit all boys seem to have without inciting them to love ACTUAL violence. Thanks so much for writing!
Emma Aug 17, 2013
Hi- I was just wondering how you would deal with a 4 1/2 year old boy who is obsessed by police and criminals. He always wants to chase the criminals and 'lock them up'because they have been bad and taken money from the bank. He loves lego city and lego in general and is always playing by himself in his room. He always asks me if he can role-play and he wants me to be the criminal and he will be the policeman. I just find boys so tough to parent...at his kindy he runs around with the other boys play 'fighting' being police and criminals as well as sword fighting but he just doesn't want to role-play anything else. What do you suggest?
Sarah Aug 17, 2013
I think it's fairly normal to be obsessed with something like playing police and criminals. That being said, it doesn't necessarily mean that you don't do anything about it. I like Katelyn's idea about playing along as a fellow good guy. I don't think that there is anything wrong with playing that there is a "bad guy," but at our house we prefer to make the bad guy imaginary and don't allow the boys to be bad guys or to make their brothers or friends the bad guy.
One more thought to throw out there... We have taken "breaks" from certain games before. At one point, my oldest two boys were really obsessed with Star Wars, and while we're okay with some Star Wars play, we don't want it to take a prominent role in their thinking to the exclusion of other better things. We don't agree with the Star Wars worldview, and don't want it to be an obsession. So we have taken Star Wars breaks where they don't play Star Wars or read Star Wars books for a while to allow them to become re-interested in other things.
Katelyn Aug 17, 2013
I'm not the blog post author and I only have a 3 year old but I had a few thoughts.
1. I don't think your son positioning himself as the "good guy" is a negative thing. You may want to join in the pretend play sometimes as a fellow good guy and help lead his play in ways you find appropriate.
2. Has there been an incident that he's witnessed/seen on TV or a movie/show that depicted the "bad guy" getting away with something? Or has something happened where someone got away with doing something bad/negative to your son (i.e. stealing a toy or snack from him without an authority figure acknowledging that act as wrong?) He may be trying to right a wrong that he didn't have the power to stop when he saw it.
3. Children seem to hone in on an idea and recreate it as a way of understanding/processing larger concepts. It sounds like your son is really trying to form in his head "right vs. wrong." You could search for books (I prefer books to tv shows b/c they require parental interaction) with a strong moral hero and use them as a tool to discuss right and wrong and how/why a good guy/hero acts in appropriate ways. Basically embrace the cops and robbers type play and help your son develop tools for being a good guy.
4. You might also be more comfortable having a discussion with his teacher about guidelines for this type of play while at school. What do they prohibit during the cops and robbers play? How would you like them to redirect your child when it might get a bit intense?
I hope that helps a bit.
Heather Oct 19, 2013
I completely agree with your post :) I came across this during the week, its an interesting way to look at the banning of gun play in preschools and classrooms etc. Click on the link for "bang bang! You're dead (Power playing in the classroom". Enjoy :)
Heather Oct 19, 2013
Heather Oct 19, 2013
Also.... one last one, I allow my son to explore all the roles he can imagine, including the bad guy! Its a natural part of growing up and a means in which to understand other perspectives ....
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