Playing with toy weapons: inevitable or preventable?

Guest post by Victoria Brooke Rodrigues
By: Andy MangoldCC BY 2.0

When I tell people we don’t allow toy weapons in our house, I get one of those knowing looks. This look is the dreaded “you’ll see” combined with an accusation: unrealistic control freak, in the house!

The “you’ll see” is meant to tell me that while I can be keep plastic guns and knives off our living room floor with baby and toddler boys, there is no way I can do it when they are older. The accusation is that if I do achieve this, I will have those kids who spend 24 hours a day at their friend’s house, avoiding home because their mom won’t let them have the latest recreational-stabbing-simulation game or more than one can of Coke.

I am not naïve. I know my kids will be exposed to weaponry. I know kids don’t grow up to be ax murderers because they shouted en garde in pretend swordfights. But I also know the psychology behind de-sensitivity to violence and aggressive stimuli. I know that when I am at a house without toy weapons, the kids almost never choose violence as their theme of play, and when I am at a house with toy weapons, a kid inevitably pretends to shoot my six month old in the face.

But this isn’t really about toy weapons in particular — it is about the insinuation that implementing parenting policies supporting your values is all or nothing. It is about the difference between resigning total control in your children’s lives versus total resignation.

For example: your son is going have McDonald’s eventually, so why try avoid fast food and why bother to feed him organics in early childhood? Or, your tween daughter is going to be bombarded with sexuality and unrealistic female images, so why not get her a subscription to Cosmo?

The world is going to give my boys a million options, but my home is where I demonstrate where our family stands. The world will teach them about aggression while at home we will try to teach love and gentleness. The world will teach them about indulgence, and at home we will try to teach balance in mind and body. Even if our kids grow up to think we’re out of touch hippies, my husband and I will be satisfied knowing we did what we thought was right.

When we are at a friend’s house and the toy guns make an appearance, I ask Jonah not to point them in anyone’s face, and that’s about it. I don’t pretend he will never play with one. Eventually when he wants to know why he doesn’t have a gun in his own house, I hope he will notice over time that the explanation — guns can hurt people and I don’t like to see you pretending to hurt others — is backed up by our parenting actions.

We endeavor to instill our values at home without withholding the world, and I don’t think that is anything to smirk at.

Comments on Playing with toy weapons: inevitable or preventable?

  1. I work with foster kids alot so when ever the fake weapons and violence pop up I make a point to pull the kid aside and explain some basic gun safety rules: you don’t point at anything you don’t want to shoot, gun hurt people and we don’t shoot people we can shoot targets or fuzzy woodland creatures. Ironically half the time the kid that was just fine pretending to shoot his friend gets a little upset at the idea of hurting animals.

    most of the kids still play with the “weapons” but they don’t try to kill each other with them thats enough for me

  2. This just reminded me of my oldest brother, who is a total pacifist and a Mennonite pastor. He and his wife kept all toy weapons and violent video games out of their house, only to one day discover my four-year-old nephew out back pretending to shoot things with a vaguely gun-shaped stick. All they could do was shrug and sigh.

  3. My mother never allowed toy weapons in our home either, but my brother would simply fashion them out of Lego bricks anyway!

    But I don’t for one second think that her efforts were fruitless, or that she should have saved herself the hassle and handed him the toy gun anyway.

    Ultimately she thought the issue through, did not bow to pressure, judgment, or rely on the status quo to tell her how to raise her children. She set an example she was comfortable with, regardless of whether it had the desired effect or not.

    That to me is one of the most valuable lessons any parent can teach their children – toy gun or no toy gun.

    • Your mom sounds like my kind of gal 😉

      I feel more and more confident in making parenting decisions based on “informed principle” and hope for the outcome without counting on it.

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