Which led me to my quandary. Is it okay for our children to play with toy guns?
|Nerf Guns on display in the toys section at Target|
Ask any seven-year-old boy what was on top of his Christmas wish-list and the answer was sure to be a Nerf gun. In fact, the kids and I had access to one on Christmas Day. “Gum! Gum!! Gum!!” said Caleb, pointing the Nerf gun at Caitlyn. I guess I should have been relieved that he didn’t even know it was called a gun; not “gum”. Or that a gun actually makes a “Bang! Bang! Bang!” or “Rat-a-tat-tat” noise. But where did he learn to "point and shoot"? We’ve never spoken about guns at home. We don’t even watch the news when the kids are awake. “Mum, most of the boys in school pretend to shoot the girls,” explained Caitlyn...
Enough said to get those alarm bells in my head ringing wildly. I’m sure the day is going to come when Caleb asks for a toy gun. And I wonder what I’m going to do about it. I know what you're thinking: guns = violence, therefore, guns are bad. That was my initial knee-jerk reaction, too.
But I don’t want to have my kids wrapped up in cotton wool, shielded from the real world. I don't want them to grow up into adults who turn into blubbering messes every time reality is ten shades too dark.
And, I rationalise, didn’t my brother and my cousins race around in my Nana’s house, “shooting” each other with their “machine guns”? One day they were soldiers in the army; the next day, pretend Arnold Schwarzeneggers and Sylvester Stallones (this was the 1980s, remember?). The sound effects were always pretty spectacular. Have their gun-totting childhood games resulted in any psychological trauma today? No, they’re all quite well-adjusted, thankyouverymuch.
But just because it was done in the past, doesn’t make it right, does it? I mean, our parents’ generation smoked, ate and drank their way through the 1970s and it was all considered “hip”. Today, these things just spell lung cancer, diabetes and liver problems. We have so much more information these days. So how do we use this knowledge to guide our parenting decisions?
My stand is this: so long as your son engages in all sorts of role-play – think superhero/fire-fighter/astronaut – and is not fixated on only killing people, it should be okay. It can be a part of his imaginative play so long as he is aware that reality is a different story. After all, you wouldn’t stop your daughter from playing dress-ups as a ballerina/fairy princess/doctor now, would you? For now, I’m holding my breath that my son never asks Santa for a toy “gum”.
Is it okay for children to play with guns? What rules do you have when it comes to kids’ toys? How do you teach them to differentiate between reality and their imagination?