|From a 2007 UK Daily Mail online article|
A couple of days ago, a friend posted this as her Facebook status:
It makes me sad to see little boys who only know how to play fighting, guns, chase and whatever other aggressive tv-related things.
Her words gave me pause. I had been mulling over something similar the past week, and only after seeing her post, did I feel prompted to want to write about them.
I’ve noticed that in the last couple of months my son has been focused on gun play, and I’ll be honest – it unnerves me.
Some of the gun play has been rather tame and almost comical. At breakfast the other day, EZ turned his french toast into a gun that shot more pieces of french toast out of it. Somehow, that type of gun play seems absolutely fine with me.
|I mean, really…the world can always use more french toast|
I’ll be honest, my stomach totally churns at those words. It really doesn’t feel all that great to hear and watch your kid pretend to kill you. Even though we both know it’s all pretend, it’s still disconcerting for me to absorb.
Beyond these moments of gun play (and by moments, I truly do mean brief instances…less than a handful of occurrences on some days and none on others – yet enough that it’s clearly bothered me) he’s the same joyful boy. He’ll just as easily sit and color, or play in his kitchen (or help cook in the real one!), play with his race cars or play “family” with his dolls.
He isn’t smearing camouflage paint on his face and hiding in the front yard to ambush the mailman.
What it comes down to (as it does most parenting/kid issues) is that I just end up having too many questions: Where is it coming from? Is it really an innate behavior? And if so…am I squashing it by discouraging gun play? Is there a way to encourage his innate behavior without involving gun play?
Because…in my “perfect world,” my son wouldn’t be interested in violent activities and guns and other items that promote destruction. No, in my utopia, he’d be the one with the flower.
I stumbled across the UK’s Daily Mail article that I linked to above while searching google images for a picture for today’s post. (Which, by the way… googling “young boys, guns” returns more uneasy pictures than I wanted to see on a Friday morning). Despite being from 2007, the article references reports stating that pretend weapon play in boys allows for healthy and safe risk-taking. The article continues to say that because of “political correctness,” preschools (and parents by default) are denying these boys their natural instincts.
Another article that popped up amidst my search was this editorial from PBS, that shared six things parents can do to ensure toy gun play doesn’t get out of hand. While most of these suggestions are common sense, they’re at least a starting point for somebody like me who is caught between being completely uncomfortable with guns/gun play and not wanting to squash my son’s innate curiosity.
I’m sure if I spent some time, I could find articles and books on both sides of the debate here. I am sure there are excellent arguments for encouraging pretend weapon play and for curtailing it.
Right now, I’ve chosen neither path as I struggle to deal with my own feelings regarding it. Basically, we’re in an ignore and distract pattern, since the gun play in our house is not that frequent, but I know I need to develop a better strategy if it is only going to increase.
Interestingly enough, my husband isn’t as concerned. He says that he played “guns” when he was younger and it didn’t affect him negatively. And, I have to agree. He’s an incredibly peaceful, non-violent man, so it’s easy to get dragged over to his “no big deal” mindset.
We recently had our near-the-end-of-the-year conference with our son’s teachers, and I brought up my thoughts, wondering if they encounter pretend gun play in the classroom, and if so…what do they do about it.
Both teachers noted that it’s not incredibly prevalent in the classroom, but when it does happen, they offered various strategies. One teacher mentioned that he reminds the kids that they’re in a safe space, and there’s no real need for guns. I like that approach, and perhaps will try it out if the opportunity arises with EZ.
His other teacher suggested re-branding his pretend gun as a “love gun.” And while the idea is appealing, I’m not quite certain that I’m ready to unleash my son and his “love gun” onto the unwitting public.
Surprisingly, googling “love gun” was tamer than I feared it would be