Shooting Guns

As a parent you become a moral compass guiding your child through the rights and wrongs of life. As you into plunge into parenthood and there’s an expectation you have a view on everything. It begins with birth plans and develops through feeding and sleeping arrangements. Progresses to sharing and manners. Your child asks you the trickiest of questions about the ways of the world, the behaviour of adults and you (hope) you have the ‘right’ answer and can equip them with the tools and information to develop their own moral compass.

We made a decision that we would avoid gender stereotypes. We painted the room where the baby was to sleep a deep blue, because we liked the colour not because we knew what sex the baby was, we didn’t.

From the beginning it’s difficult to avoid clothes that don’t present a gender bias, I avoided T’shirts with words such as on “menace”. I’ve brought toys without a view on whether they be for boys or girls, hence we have a favourite baby doll and pram (admittedly the pram is blue). My son has a doll’s house, which I like because it encourages more imaginative play than shoving a car down a track and making ‘broom’ noises but we have that too. I suspected that the doll’s house would have a short lifespan and while ‘baby’ is still played with, the doll’s house, largely gathers dust. His choice is much more cars down the track.

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My view has always been to offer a wide range of toys and let him choose and increasingly his choice is boy toys.

Other parents have told me that whatever boys will play guns and fighting. Boys make guns out of anything. This has not been my experience, however, nursery has brought the advent of “shooting guns” in that they have been mentioned. Personally, I’m not comfortable with ‘play’ guns and so showed little interest, other than to say I don’t really like them. Just before Noo turned 4, we went to a party for an 8-year-old. Friends of mine, Noo knew no one at the party. I watched as he wiggled his way into a crowd of older boys who were dividing up toy guns. Noo secured him self a couple of ‘guns’ and spent the rest of the party grinning broadly and ‘shooting’, mostly, at me, while I attempted a disinterested face.

The general parental view seems to be you can’t avoid toys guns and eventually you give in.

Last week we went to another friend with older children and Noo spent a happy hour playing with a Nerf gun (a plastic gun that fires foam bullets for the uninitiated).

I have made my view on guns fairly plain. I don’t like them.
“Why don’t you like shooting guns, Mummy?”.
“Because guns can hurt people.”
“But these are ‘atend”. I’m having a conversation about guns with a child that can’t even pronounce pretend. This seems a bit premature.
“I don’t think it’s nice to play a game where you pretend to shoot people, because real guns can kill people” I retort.
“It’s not the same, it’s not real, it’s only a’tend”.

I think it’s important for children to have choices and I think that sometimes denying them something can make it more attractive.

At the weekend we purchased two Nerf guns. The two males in this house have happily been playing at “shooting guns” for hours. The laughter and the giggles have been boundless.
While I feel a bit grumpy.
What’s your view?

42 Comments

  1. jfb57

    It’s a tricky one. DS had a doll & loved it & I don’t remember buying a gun for him but I’m sure he used sticks & twigs!! It is the conversation that goes with their use that is important. You’re right – ban something & it is envied and desired so issue it with the right ‘safety net’. All we parents can do is hope we’ve had the right discussions. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether we did until it is too late! :(

  2. helen

    i think the important bit is that he understands that it is pretend. apparently for kids with parents in the military play guns help them understand what their parents do, lets them ‘ be like daddy’ (or mummy) which is what some kids (not mine, who wants to play accountants!) want to do.

  3. Emma @mummymummymum

    Like you I avoided guns and swords, we didn’t watch anything on the TV which featured guns, I thought I had cleverly kept my children in the dark about such things. Until one day both Z and S made a gun shape with DUPLO – what can you do??? they hear about things at school and nursery, and I don’t want Z to feel babyish in front on his friends. It really is a minefield.

    We have similar conversations to you too x

    1. helloitsgemma

      Yes, I was just like you. It is the influence of nursery where the seeds have been sown and I suspect in children with older siblings. I also suspect this is the beginning of various minefields. I’ve found it really shocking parents with older children allow they kids access to in terms of films and video games.

  4. Ali

    I can remember when my brother was about 8 he had a toy rifle, anyway one day when we had been playing in the back lane he popped into the shop to buy a drink. Gun in hand well basically the older lady serving at the shop had him banned because of the fright it had caused her. My brother was a very sweet chilled out little boy and still is I might add. Well not little but…

    Personally I don’t like guns but my husband and Oscar go clay pigeon shooting. It a rather nice activity for them and obviously my husband has a shotgun licence and I am sure Oscar will get one when he is older. Which means we have real guns here, locked away an legal requirement.

    When we were police inspected to get the licence the rather nice and pretty firearms officer actually said that youths that hold shot gun/gun licences rarely get into trouble and it is something that they look on as a positive thing because even one point on your driving licence can mean you lose your gun licence.

    As things like driving too fast and dangerously takes more lives than guns incidences you can see that actually there are some positives with it.

    I still really don’t like guns but thought i share this rather long different point to you :-) xxx

    1. helloitsgemma

      Ali, that’s an interesting point of view and one I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t know the link between gun licence and driving – thanks for sharing.
      The Nerf gun is bright yellow and looks like the sort of thing an alien might carry, I hope he won’t frighten anyone with it!

  5. Corinne

    I complete agree with your view of toys and gender stereotypes, I have tried to do the same with my boys. The toddler will happily play with his kitchen as he will with his train track. As for guns, I also feel the same way and the rule has been ‘not in my house’, the teen still knows this and we have often had similar conversations. The teen now likes soldier type figures and I don’t allow him to bring the weapons downstairs where the toddler can play with then and see them, I just don’t want to encourage it.

    What is equally difficult is time spent with a friends toddler who watches things with shooting in and for a week after my toddler will pretend to shoot at things while not really comprehending what he is doing or why.

    1. helloitsgemma

      Well done you for holding your resolve. The difficulty always is the clash of parenting styles and what other parents allow their children access too and the subsequent impact on your child. I’m not sure why anyone would let a toddler watch things with shooting in, but that’s just me.

  6. older mum (in a muddle)

    This is a tricky. I dont envy your position and i am glad I have a little girl. I dont like guns either. It must be very frustrating for you to unfortunately go along with something that seems part of the enivitable rights of passage as your little one grows up. As long as he is aware that this is pretend and this is enforced, then it should be okay. I reckon its also important to keep reminding him about the reality of guns and what they represent. I agree with you, if you try and take it away from him then he will want to more.

  7. Him Up North

    I can understand any parent’s apprehension towards toy guns. They do promote aggressive play, there’s really no escaping it. But Nerf guns and high powered water guns are fun. Fact. It’s goal-driven and competitive (yes, that dirty word). Best you can do is swallow hard and clamp down if and when tempers fray if you feel a line has been crossed. :)

    1. helloitsgemma

      I was hoping you would comment – as a father of older boys, I was interested to hear your take.
      Since the Nerf guns have been in the house they have been fun. Not my fun, but I think I am going to lighten up.
      ‘Goal driven and competitive’ are not something that can’t be escaped particularly once in education, less a dirty word more how life is. Better to understand the game and make your own rules is my view (if that makes sense).

  8. susankmann

    I was so against my boys having guns, then they were given a nerf gun and they love them. They also used to use wrapping paper as guns, so I don’t think there is any getting away from it. x

  9. mothersalwaysright

    Oh it’s a tricky one. I’m with you on the feeling uncomfortable thing. But then, Noo has a point. We had one of those super soaker water guns as a kid and I loved it. But I’m not keen on the mega realistic looking ones. They seem so sinister.

  10. Nikki Thomas

    I had exactly the same view as you and having refused to buy weapons of any kind, my eldest son starting making guns out of Lego which really upset me. When all of my boys have got to a certain age, they have been allowed nerd guns and they are entertaining, I think the important thing is to communicate with them, tell them that it is ok to play ‘gun’ fights and sword fights but when they are old enough to understand, talk to them about the reality of guns so that they can differentiate between the real and the pretend.

  11. northernmum

    I bloody hate toy guns, but the more I said no the more twin boy wanted one. Plus he has water pistols and part of me says they are the same. So long as they know it is pretend…..

  12. geekmummy

    This isn’t just a boy thing – my 4 year old daughter is at the stage where she plays guns with anything (like other commenters have said, DUPLO is a favourite), and plays at shooting people. I don’t feel comfortable with it, but she comes into contact with this kind of play both at nursery, and with her cousins (two boys, one older, one younger, who we see pretty much every week). She knows I don’t like her pretending to shoot things or people, but she can get away with it with her father. I just grit my teeth.

    1. helloitsgemma

      It is very much his Dad’s slightly more laid back attitude to this that has prevailed.
      I guess 4 is an age when they are so easily influenced especially by older children, and I guess as a parent all you can do is try to shape that influence is a wait that’s positive.

  13. super amazing mum

    We also went down the route of no gender stereo typing, and I don’t let the kids have a DS/Xbox but, by the age of 5 (reception) DS1 was obsessed with guns and being a soilder. Everything was made into a gun (sticks, lego) that in the end, I relented and he now has lots of nerfs and other brightly coloured ones. I draw the line at replicas, but to be honest, never see those around anyway???? I also had a thought, I didn’t want him playing with guns as was worried it would “normalise” them and he would end up a gun toting hoodie but equally, I let him play with babies and I realised that we don’t stop girls playing that for fear of becoming a teenage parent!

    In the end, common sense prevailed – my brother, dad, gradfather have all played with guns (cowboys/indians cops/robbers) and are all normal citizens. I strongly believe that this is part and parcel of being a boy……

    My only rule is not to point in faces!!

    DS2 on the other hand isn’t fazed in the slightest!

    1. helloitsgemma

      Thanks for comment, interesting to here the view of someone with older boys and yes, true dat, our generation and the generation before that played with guns – more life like guns.
      At the moment it’s a fun game and I hope that I can continue using it as a basis for conversations about the negative aspects of real guns.

  14. mymumdom

    No guns in this house. They can make them out of other things, like sticks and lego, but giving them an object that can only be used as a gun is a step too far IMO.

    1. mymumdom

      Meant to also say, I’m not convinced it doesn’t normalise guns somewhat to be allowed to play ‘shooting’, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to harm them to be told ‘NO. This isn’t right’

  15. Michael Cargill

    I don’t have kids but you are probably fighting an uphill battle here. It’s very much a culture thing and it wasn’t until your kid saw the other kids having fun with the guns that he wanted to play with them.

    As long as you raise them to realise the difference between right and wrong then the presence of toy guns probably isn’t really something you need to worry about. I would have thought that a boy’s competitiveness and aggression would simply be channelled elsewhere even if he never saw a gun of any kind at all.

  16. Jo 2 stars and a swirl

    I am divided, my view as a mother is that I don’t want guns in the house and I won’t be buying any for Ben. BUT I am then reminded that I had a cap gun as a 8ish year old, the one you put the red rolled up caps in that really went bang in. I played with this alongside my Sindy dolls. I was fortunate to have a mixture of toys and parents who were open to the fact that I liked a huge variety of toys. But the ‘hippy’ parent in my doesn’t want Ben to have a gun. So no logic there really is there!?!
    One of his planes has bullets in it that were hidden when I got it and that was fine until he saw the same plane (from Car2 film) in a shop with the bullets and asked for them. I gave them to him and the first thing he did was shoot them at the cats. I told him not to do that again or they would be thrown away, he was just experimenting and had no idea of what they would do I guess.
    Slightly different but Ben has been very into Mike the Knight as have most the children I know of this age – I made him a carbboard shield and sword, Granddad then decided to make him wooden ones, that are bloody lethal! They have been tidied away for the moment!
    (sorry slight essay here) Another issue related is the tv shows, Ben has never seen spiderman, superman, batman or the famous Ben10 but he knows them all, has a couple of t shirts and choose a spiderman from a car bootsale (my teeth were very gritted that day!)
    Oh I need guidance and someone to tell me where the line is drawn on this – I am just thankful I don;t have to deal with a games console here and all he stuff that comes with that (yet!!)

    1. helloitsgemma

      Thanks for comment Jo, it’s really interesting to me because our sons are similar age. The uphill battle seems to be the influence of other children and other parents choices which then influence our children. My son has a spiderman t’shirt which he choose, despite never having seen spiderman somewhere along the line he’d picked up the ‘superhero’ aspect of spiderman. I really don’t like Ben 10 and have completely avoided it.
      We no longer have a cat and I wonder if I would have been so keen if there was something he could shoot at or scare such as the cat.
      My decision has obviously been to go with the gun thing, a nerf gun is bright yellow and the bullets are foam. It’s been treated very much as a fun game and I have continued with my stance of not liking guns and repeating my reasons for that, I think it’s important to keep emphasising the message that real guns are not a good thing.
      It’s difficult a sword seems more innocence but actually could probably do more damage.
      I think as parents we have a lot of minefields a head, particularly games consoles and access to the internet. Before we even get to teenage issues!

  17. sarahmumof3

    I drafted up a post about this ages ago when their were the riots but never dared to hit publish, i have never had a problem with toy guns, play fighting, etc etc my boys have guns, they do run around playing army men, star wars, monsters whatever but they are not violent or obsessed with guns they will both happily also pick fowers, paint pitures and play with chloes bratz and dolls i think sometimes it is deffinately more attractive when you have been kept away from it x

  18. Honest Mum

    Really interesting one. I abhor guns and don’t want Oliver playing with them-whatever age. My Mother recently told me that she was the same but my brother would pick anything and everything up and pretend to shoot. Nurture or nature?

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  20. Tina Spit Spot

    My 3 sons all played with guns eventually (water and foam pellet ones). I resigned to this fact after seeing them make guns out of duplo, lego, and even using carrots to shoot with! As a nursery nurse I was trained never to make guns with children but the boys nearly always did with whatever was handy. Junk modelling with cardboard tubes often just produced the most incredible ‘guns’ despite encouraging other items that can be made instead.
    You cannot stifle a child’s wild imagination. Happy Days eh!

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