Toy Guns (and Pieces of Toast that go Pew Pew)

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6 December 2012 by thaliakr

Plea for Weapons

Plea for Weapons (Photo credit: Randy Son Of Robert)

My own theories on the place of toy guns haven’t been put to the test yet, but the ever wise and thoughtful blue milk‘s have:

Since that night I have been either giving up or making well-considered peace with him; I never can tell with my parenting. In my head I played with some of the moratoriums I saw other parents use: no assault rifle toys, but ninja swords and pirate muskets could be historically charming enough to be okay. I also considered the rule some parents have made about not allowing toy guns, but turning a blind eye to sticks and pieces of toast that make pew pew noises.

In the end, I’ve decided I am reluctant to make any kind of ‘play’ – particularly one that is active, imaginative and self-driven – entirely taboo. These are my new rules. I am allowing some weapon play but won’t particularly set out to buy toy guns and swords. I will accept the idea of killing as a game but I will also use this opportunity to talk about problems with and alternatives to violence. I will not stop him and his friends from playing gun games, but I will not let adult versions of the game extinguish his own imagination either. (That means limits around films, TV and computer games until he is older.)

A few years ago I would have been disappointed in these compromises. Now I am fine with thoughtful failure. I like the way parenthood turns you in on yourself and you never quite know how it will turn out; although you can feel lost and stupid, I even quite enjoy the work of figuring it out.

Read the rest of the post here, and add your own stories below, please!

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10 thoughts on “Toy Guns (and Pieces of Toast that go Pew Pew)

  1. Larraine says:

    That’s a fab response – I think it’s really balanced and gracious.

  2. Rachael W says:

    You know those toy bunnies SBJ played with at our place when you were here- we’d had a 3yr old Korean boy visiting, and he used them as guns. Yet to test this personally, but I suspect it might be a case of ‘boys will be boys’.

  3. Caroline says:

    While we can talk all we like about overcoming gender stereotypes, it does seem to be the case in general that boys are more likely to get into fighting-play and girls are more likely to be into princesses and dolls, although that’s obviously not true for all children. There seems to be little point in trying to ban either entirely as by the time they get into those things they are often at school or at least nursery and no longer under your supervision all the time. I think Blue Mill’s approach seems sensible. It seems to be a phase lots of them go through and I’m not sure it does much harm as long as it is only part of what they are playing and does not take over everything. Also, it can be an important part of bonding with other boys and making friends in the playground – at its best they can learn about teamwork and leadership and are often running around in the fresh air while doing so.

  4. Alex says:

    I too think Blue milk’s approach is instructive and sensible. I have to confess my first experience of being confronted with this dilemma did not result in such a balanced and mature response, though… My in-laws bought my son a toy gun (ok, it was just a water gun, but a full-on pump-action machine gun type affair) for his second birthday. I was heavily pregnant at the time, so perhaps not at my most rational, but the sight of my two-year-old baby boy being shown how to shoot at things (pigeons in the back garden – he had no chance of hitting them, but something about the sight really got to me) caused me to flip out hysterically and – looking back – probably quite hilariously. In short, I got very upset and banished the toy from the house. I don’t know whether a more simple water pistol would have elicited the same response, but I was genuinely horrified. I had always just assumed we wouldn’t let our child play with guns, but had not expected to have to deal with it at such a young age.
    I see now that it is a ridiculous – and possibly not even helpful aspiration – but I still feel uncomfortable about encouraging such play.
    Wind forward two years and we have foam swords and cutlasses in the house (for being a pirate or knight), but I still haven’t resolved how I feel about these being used as instruments of death, even play death. I know that when my son starts school next September my control over how and what he plays will be diminished still further, and I take the point that it will be an important bonding opportunity with other boys… but I still have reservations. Deeply felt and purely instinctive, but incredibly hard to articulate.
    I will proabably try to take the same approach as Blue Milk – in that I still have no intention of ever actively purchasing him guns, but I will not outright ban them. I don’t really know how successful that can be as a strategy in terms of not letting such play take over everything though… I guess all we can do is keep providing alternatives and hope that some of them stick.
    “Thoughtful failure”. That’s the best description of parenting I’ve come across yet!

    • Caroline says:

      I think there’s a big difference between letting role play develop naturally (as in swashbuckling pirates and, probably eventually, shooting games) and an adult giving a toy gun to a 2 year old and teaching them to shoot pigeons. I would have had the same reaction as you in that situation.

      There’s a big cultural element here too though – it’s not that long since hunting small animals for food would have been a useful life skill in this country and it obviously still is in rural parts of many countries.

    • Woah, that is quite a story. You are clearly doing a brilliant and amazing job with Little G.

      ‘Thoughtful failure’. The best kind. A phrase that sticks, eh? And a good title for our co-written book on overcoming perfectionism? :)

      • Alex says:

        Good point, Caroline. I suspect there is a cultural aspect to this, or at least the influence of personal histories. Given Mr G and his brother ran around the streets of Bucharest collecting spent ammunition as 10 and 7 year olds, I can quite see that a water gun – of whatever nature – probably seems (and is) entirely harmless!

        A perfect title, T! I look forward to compiling that book ;)

  5. Anna S says:

    Hanging out with a four year old recently, I was very impressed that his colourful made-of-Duplo gun was in fact a nail gun. So it went ‘pew pew’ just like any self-respecting(?) gun, but he understood that it was to be used for the very important task of Building Things, and it shouldn’t be pointed at other people. (Well, I think he understood the last point – his Dad was enthusiastically reinforcing the concept as they were playing together). I wonder how long it’ll be before the ideas of his peers overtake the ideas of his parents, and he decides that nail guns aren’t the coolest type of gun around??

  6. […] want to be in the business of banning things. Certainly not such a long list of things (including pieces of toast that go pew pew!), and certainly not when it is likely to be such a losing battle. Every mother has a story of being […]

  7. […] talk about toys a lot here. Too many? Too gendered? Too violent? Too untidy?! It’s not all fretting, of course, but I’d like to balance the thoughtful […]

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