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Why Can’t Boys Be Boys?

By Jen at PIWTPITT |

Pirate/Ninja/Bandit Gomer

Why can’t boys be boys? I have a 7-year-old son who is one of the kindest and sweetest boys you’ll ever meet.  He is gentle and loving and has the biggest heart of anyone I know. He also has an enormous collection of guns, swords, Army men and other “violent” toys.  (If anyone is reading this who knows Gomer, vouch for me, will ya? Because I know this just sounds like a crazy mama bragging about her kid.)

When he was a baby I bought “gender neutral” toys for him. Everything was educational. We don’t own real weapons and we don’t have any close family members who do. The Hubs is not what anyone would describe as “macho” and he never tried to interest Gomer in boy behavior. We both just let Gomer take his own course naturally. He migrated towards balls at an early age and learned to kick and throw a ball through trial and error. And then, at about 2 years old he became that kid who would chew his sandwich into a gun. Before I had children, I never believed they existed. But, believe me. They do.

At age 3 he discovered pirates and swordfighting. At age 4 we harnessed that love and sent him to fencing lessons where he is still an eager student.

I can’t tell you how many moms I come across who forbid their sons to play with pretend weapons and act like my son is a bad influence for having them. I remember growing up with a younger brother who was very similar to Gomer. He always had a gun tucked in his pants or a sword in his hand (and sometimes both). I can remember when my brother’s friends would come to play and they’d go absolutely bananas playing with his weapons. They became violent and wild and couldn’t be distracted to play anything else. When you’d ask them about their upbringing and their toys you’d always find out these little boys were never allowed to play with pretend weapons or “violent toys.”

I remember making a decision early on that I wouldn’t deny my kids stuff like pretend weapons or TV or sweets or whatever. I would allow it in moderation, because I didn’t want them to binge on their vices at their friends’ houses. Everyone needs to learn boundaries and moderation and this is the perfect way for me to teach my kids. Of course, if they had their choice they’d watch TV all day while eating candy, so I have to teach them limits.

I just don’t understand the parents who want to stifle their kid’s creativity. Yes, swashbuckling is creative. It’s physical (you try swordfighting for an hour — it’s a work out!), it’s imaginative (you should see some of the costumes he comes up with for his character), it’s analytical (he’s got to use strategy to defeat his opponent), and it’s an outlet for his energy (he always goes to bed early and sleeps soundly).  My son enjoys reading, drawing and riding his bike, but he also enjoys a good Nerf battle or swordfight and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Be sure to read my daily rants at People I Want to Punch in the Throat where you’re sure to laugh and/or might be offended (it’s where you can find my R-rated rants).

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Read more of Jen at PIWTPITT – Are You Raising Free Range Kids? and Open Letter to Silly Celebrity Moms.

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About Jen at PIWTPITT



Jen is a blogger and author who recently published the book Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat. She started her humorous blog, People I Want To Punch In The Throat, in April 2011. She has written for Babble, and has also been published in The Huffington Post. She resides in Kansas with her family.

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55 thoughts on “Why Can’t Boys Be Boys?

  1. Megan says:

    Yes! Weapons are almost the only typical boy thing that my son likes. He loves his ballet class and does all the local theatre workshops and hates sports, except for volleyball and kickball. We take a group of boys to a big park with a whole arsenal of Nerf guns and darts/discs, and they run around happily for hours. They even share(the smaller guns) with other kids at the park who ask to join in. Its a blast, and sometimes we parents grab a gun and join the fight too.

  2. Heather says:

    Mom’s who prevent there children from playing with those things, well I will keep that comment to myself. But, on that note, I think that a boy should be allowed to be a boy. Keeping toy weapons away from them is glorifying them, making them seem alluring. If we as parents teach our kids that playing with the plastic toys is ok, but also try and teach them about weapon safety then everything may be ok. I plan to send my child and other children to weapon safety classes, and put them in hunter safety courses. Confusion of how to use and how weapons work is probably one of the biggest reasons people get or cause weapon related injuries or deaths. They are cool, and great for protection, but they are very deadly. That is why some people are scared. People shun things that are scary or unknown.But it’s not the weapon that is deadly, it’s the person behind it. We shouldn’t be blind, we should be educational and teachers to our children. Not every child that plays with toys like swords, and guns are going to grow up to be the psychopath that cuts up the neighbor and stuff him in the refrigerator or goes into the school and shoots up the place. Most or all of those people had big psychological problems.

    1. dadcamp says:

      Hell to the no on guns in our house. I’ve got a post in the works for this and will have the rebuttal up in a few days.

      Oh, and they’re not “cool”, nor are they “great for protection.”

  3. JD says:

    I’m all for fostering whatever it is my child is into – whether it be guns or baby dolls. I am also all for ensuring my child knows the difference between a toy and reality and also the appropriate place to play with certain toys – running around the neighborhood in the dark with a toy gun is probably not a good idea!

    To that note, I agree guns are not great for protection but they are used by many for hunting and shooting practice can be great fun – I intend to let my child take a course in safety and hunt/shoot at a course if desired at the appropriate age. Guns are not around my home for protection (we have huge dogs and one scary cat for that) – although trust me – if someone broke in my house I’d use it!!

  4. Tamsyn says:

    DADCAMP, how can you have a rebuttal for this post? If you read, you can see the author says “We don’t own real weapons and we don’t have any close family members who do.” Nowhere in this post does she say guns are “cool” or “great for protection.”

    1. dadcamp says:

      Was responding to a comment.

  5. Helicopter Mom says:

    Toy guns & toy snakes are not allowed at my house. And I make no apologies for that. The snakes are because those little rubber things look real in the middle of the night & I don’t need the heart attack.

    As for going crazy at the house where these things are allowed, that is also not allowed. My children know that the rules at our house apply everywhere. If/when I find out they have been broken, the consequences are the same. Granted, my son builds guns out of Legos, and as irrational as it sounds, I am okay with that- at least he had to use some creativity to create such a thing. But even with the Lego fashioned weapon, shooting one’s sister is not allowed.

    On this one, I respectfully disagree.

  6. Ali says:

    “Hell to the no on guns in our house”? I’m more upset by your abuse of the English language than by guns in the house. We are a “gun” family. Hubby is a 20+ year vet of 3 diff branches of the Armed Services. We were both raised with dads and extended families that hunted. I went squirrel hunting with my dad as a kid. Hubby hunted rabbits in the fields growing up. We each own one weapon. At this point in our lives we don’t hunt but we feel that having our own weapons is our right and as parents protecting our family, it’s part of our duty. We are both skilled shooters. My weapon stays in the safest place for my needs and hubby’s is in a different location for his needs. Either way, our family will be defended if ever necessary. We are not gun “freaks” or deranged people and our child is well educated on gun safety. We both grew up in homes with more guns in them than ours and somehow we survived…Probably because our parents taught us about the reality of guns.

  7. Tara says:

    My kids were the same way with guns. They would build them from legos, or sticks. The kids who are deprived of ________ fill in the blank are totally the ones who can’t get enough when they go somewhere else. The vegan kid who comes to my house, goes straight for a slim jim. The kid with no TV comes to my house and is glued to the TV, and the kids who don’t have guns at home, I can’t pry the weapon away from them. My kids are no longer interested in guns because they worked through that stage. Beware the forbidden fruit.

    My boys have also been averse to pink and purple. They got a set of sidewalk chalk one year for Easter, they took out every pink and purple and gave it to me. This year my son saw a kid he knew at Easter brunch. He looked shocked “Mom, that dude is on my lacrosse team, and he’s wearing pink.” I have done nothing to encourage this behavior, they were born that way.

  8. BeThisWay says:

    Growing up I was not even permitted to use a water gun. My son has a sword and a nerf gun, and doesn’t seem that interested. Whatever. It wouldn’t bother me if he did.

    I do think every child should know about gun, other weapon and personal safety – at appropriate ages. The fact is that there are guns out there, and just about anything can be turned into a weapon. We may or may not know whether there are really guns in the homes our kids’ visit, even if you ask. Older brothers, other friends…or simply people who lie. I wonder how many tragic accidents occur because a curious child handles a weapon improperly.

    No, I haven’t sent Son to the shooting range, but he was taught a bit about gun safety while going for his BB Gun Belt Loop. That’s okay with me.

  9. Northern Mom says:

    Could not have said it better myself Ali…you just beat me to it. :) I grew up with guns also and here I am, alive and well at 41…..oh the shock and HORROR!!!!!!

  10. SouthernMom says:

    I too agree with you. Most everybody I know was or are being raised with guns in the house. We are taught from a very young age that they can be deadly weapons and that you do not touch them without an adult present. My daughter has play guns and can shoot my .22 Sig Sauer semi-automatic rifle. My BIL has a gun dealer license and him and his son go shoot every chance they get. Break in my house and if your lucky, my laser sight will be on your nut sack instead of your head.

  11. Melissa says:

    Well being anti-gun is such a easy knee jerk kind of stance to take Guns=Bad. Having grown up in the country with a police officer as a father, my childhood home contained hunting rifles and police carried hand guns. They were absolutely dangerous and I was taught to respect that. Guns are not toys.
    When my son started making guns out of mega blocks and kitchen gadgets before he could clearly utter sentences, I knew I was witnessing something almost genetic. His older sister had done nothing like that and with PBS line up of TV I wasn’t even sure where he saw a gun in use. I let him play with toy guns, but his favorite toys are Lego’s. And if you pay attention to those little sets those guys are fully armed.

  12. EveK says:

    When my son was little I was opposed to play weapons. As he got older he naturally gravitated to swords, pirates, playing army, and guns. I came around to it when I realized that the more I told him no the more he wanted to do it. He is a well rounded 7 year old who is in the gifted program at school, plays football, and is kind to his little sister. He just happens to like playing with “boy” toys.

  13. Leila says:

    Dadcamp- while you may feel that real guns in your house is not for you, that’s fine. I personally, have one. Soon, my husband will be getting his first one. We’ve been through the safety training. In fact, we have lifetime hand gun course memberships, so that we may keep up on the safety training every year. Education is the most important thing when it comes to those real weapons. My future children will learn about safety and they are NOT toys. They will not become items of intrigue, wonder and mystique for them to want to play with them. Education. Education. Education.

    I was raised in house with guns. Hand guns, shot guns and rifles. It also had hunting bows and regular bows. Are we crazy gun toting southerners? No. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Safety was the top lesson we learned as children with the guns. Respect the gun. And whether you like it or not, they are good for protection. There is no need to go around proclaiming to all the world you have a gun to protect you. That just invites trouble. But every one is free to choose how they will protect their families and guns are not always the right option for a person. I can only hope and pray that the freedom to choose remains.

    As a comment to Jen’s post, while I grew up around boys, being the only girl, my parents made sure that I still had girl toys. Relatives and friends would give me girly presents. Did I play with them? Not really. I preferred the dinosaurs, legos, airplanes, army men and mud. My little brother and I would take our dinosaurs into the pumpkin and zucchini patch and pretend we were in the cretaceous period. I did ballet (I did have the dream to become a ballerina), but I also played softball, volleyball and basketball. Restricting toys just makes them that much more desirable. They will get access to them, one way or another. They are very clever.

  14. Courtney Ellis says:

    While we DON’T own guns and I am a happy hippie mom, whatever lights my 3 yr old son’s imagination is OK with us. He loves pirates and swords. The neighbor kid plays with every violent toy he can and he and my son love each other. I’m not going to run out and buy him toy guns but if he asked, I think I would. Water gun season is around the corner and how fun is that? Water balloon bombs too. My husband and I have an understanding that the real things are never going to be a part of our lives. Our neighbors are different and their children are the sweetest most well rounded kids. Its not the toys, it’s the parenting. Toys are just the excuse that you suck as a parent.

  15. Courtney Ellis says:

    Also, when I was teen, I remember listening to Ozzy Osborne made you suicidal. How dumb was that? Rap music made you smoke crack and rape girls. Again ignorance!! Its all in the parenting or lack of…..

  16. Toni says:

    I would describe my 10 year old son about the way you descibed Gomer. Very sweet and loving, etc. But he loves to play guns, etc. We let him. Its not a big deal. He loves his nerf guns. In fact, at Christmas, he got like 4 new nerf guns – the ones that shoot discs – me, my husband and my son had a blast having a nerf war in the house! Best time ever! Love you Jen!!!

  17. Poppymann says:

    Dadcamp:I seriously doubt you have ever fired a gun. I learned to shoot pistols at church camp when I was thirteen. Before that we shot .22 rifles. We were taught how to safely handle weapons. There’s nothing wrong with guns and those who say they are not good for protection usually live in gated enclaves. The emasculation of boys has been going on for years and it does all of society a disservice. Contrary to what many postmodern thinkers believe, gender are not solely determined by society..Raising a gender neutral child is about as flaky and stupid as it gets.
    Boys will be boys no matter what you do.

    1. dadcamp says:

      As I mentioned, I’m a Canadian city-slicker. Why would I EVER want to fire a gun?

  18. Amanda says:

    I was totally against my son owning guns! I send my son to a Quaker school! Oh, and my husband is in the military. We own NO weapons and have NONE in our home!
    My son made a gun with his had and called it a “shooter” (because he didn’t even know the word gun).
    I have slowly relaxed. He still has no guns in our house other than water shooters. He is well aware of the fact that “mommy doesn’t like guns”. But he builds them out of leggos and trio-blocks, etc. Now the main rule is that he isn’t allowed to point it at people, only chairs, tables, floors, etc.
    He is a sweet sweet boy. Couldn’t play sports because he isn’t competitive enough; however he LOVES “fighting” “destroying” “shooting” and “putting in jail” – he is just clearly a boy and I have accepted it with limits! I agree with Jen’s post!!!

  19. Rosie says:

    My almost 5-year old daughter’s favorite toy (right now!) is an inflatable light saber. She loves Star Wars, but she’s also very girlie. She wants to wear a Princess Leia costume with a tutu.

  20. myselfasme says:

    I had to laugh at this one- I grew up playing rough with my two brothers (I’m a chick) and decided that I wanted a non-violent household for my children. Not so much as a water gun entered my house.

    My 14 year old son became obsessed with hunting and began going with responsible men a few years ago. He now kills things, butchers them and cooks them.

    I’ve relaxed my crazy and now let my children engage in pretend sword fights and other ‘wild’ behavior.

    You can’t take unmake what God has created.

  21. Rosie says:

    Tara, just curious: what did you say to your sons when they gave you the pink and purple chalk. And what (if anything) did you say to your son about his pink-wearing friend?

    Again, Just curious..

  22. Rhonda says:

    Little girls play with guns too. I remember playing with them when I was little. Both of my boys have had guns, swords, and lightsabers. I grew up around guns and so have my boys. We live in Eastern Kentucky and most everyone I know has at least one, even my sister who used to say she would never have on in her house. I so agree about forbidden fruit. They always want what they can’t have. If you don’t let them play and teach them what can happen if they aren’t careful, someone is going to get hurt or dead. My dad’s idea of gun safetly was to take us out and let us shoot the hight caliber gun he had and when he picked us up from the ground (yes it knocked us down) he would show us the hole we made and how the hole is forever and if someone had been there, they would be dead. Since I am 43 and still remember vividly that lesson, it was a good one.

  23. Jessica says:

    As a mom of three boys…I totally believe that boys will be boys! Giving kids the creativity to explore what their interest are is so important. My kids love laser guns and swords especially anything related to star wars! Having children respect weapons is also very important and hands down I think they are a excellent form of protection when the right people have them. Both my father and husband are law enforcement officers and having guns in the house is normal. We take precautions of course but out kids see their dad with his weapon daily . If anything it has made them respect his profession. Accidents related to weapons have more to do with poor safety procedures and parental supervision.

  24. Nichole says:

    I agree with you Ali. We too are a “gun family” both myself and my husband grew up in households with guns in them. We have a safe with a combination lock to house our guns/ammunition. It is locked at all times. We own our guns for protection and for sport. We both enjoy target shooting and belong to a gun club in our town. Our children are growing up learning about guns and gun safety. Our belief is, if you teach your child the right way to handle and respect a weapon they will be less inclined to “play” with a weapon.

  25. Lindsay says:

    DADCAMP – “Hell to the no”?????…you should be shot in the foot (with a Nerf gun) for even posting that! And HELICOPTERMOM , do you really think your kids are going to come home and tell you if they played against your rules at a friend’s house? Ruling with an iron fist, and forbidding things (think Adam and Eve and the ‘forbidden’ apple) is only going to lead to rebellion in the future (and banning toy snakes???WTF? Maybe you should seek therapy)!
    We do not have real guns at home, but the hubs is a cop…and thank God he has a gun when he is on duty. I have 3 boys, water guns, Nerf guns, swords, you name it. Store bought, or made out of whatever objects they can find, they play with them often. They also laugh, love, and have a genuinely happy childhood. We use new situations in their lives as teaching opportunities. It really isn’t our job to shelter them from everything in life that has a potential for danger, but to educate them, and give them a good head on their shoulders, with a solid knowledge of right and wrong. I believe in instilling empathy and building confidence through trusting them to make the best decisions. One day they are going to leave your nest, and enter the big bad world as it exists…guns, drugs, and all. I hope at that time, I have done my part in creating strong human beings, able to deal with difficult life choices INDEPENDENTLY.

    1. dadcamp says:

      What’s wrong with saying “Hell no”?

      We’re trying to put a lid on weapons until the kids have a better understanding of what it’s about. Same at his school. The 4 yr olds with older brothers are running around playing Star Wars and causing problems as they turn everything into a weapon and assault each other in class.

      So there is a ban on “gum shooters” (as he calls them) in our house, and at his school. That’s how we’re handling it.

      Yay to empathy, but I’m down on weapons as toys.

      My house, my rules.

  26. Mary says:

    As I read through the comments the most prevalent themes are: respect for the weapon, responsibility as a gun owner and parent, and education about safety. These could apply to just about everything. Courtney Ellis said it best, “Its not the toys, it’s the parenting.”

    I have a daughter and son that are only 19 months apart. We had LOTS of girly toys around because we had a girl first and that’s what she liked ~ dolls, dress-up, kitchen etc. My son came along and only wanted to play with balls and wheels. It certainly wasn’t for lack of exposure to other things, he had plenty of that. That’s just who he was from birth. He was also a lot more destructive than his sister. Not in a malicious way, more of a curious “What will happen if I bend this board book all the way back? Huh, the spine snaps. Imagine that….” He is now 10 yrs. old and is sweet to his sisters but at the same time is all boy in that rough and tumble way. I love that I have both genders in my house because they are so different but so wonderful in their own way.

  27. Mary says:

    I also think as your kids get a little older you relax a little more and know that they will be fine. I now am the mom of the 1st grader that has a sister in 6th grade and a brother in 4th. I get “the look” from the moms whose eldest (or only) is my daughter’s friend. Its the same look I gave out when my eldest was in 1st grade. All “those 4 y.o. with older brothers running around playing Star Wars and causing problems”. It made me laugh only because I’ve been there. No judgement from me. We all walk that path and we all need to remember what it was like when we were living it.

  28. Lindsay says:

    lol…’Hell No’ is fine DADCAMP, ‘hell to the no’ just sounded a little too ghetto ;) I was just kidding around though. To each his own my fellow Canadian!

  29. sally says:

    Are you sure your not talking about my 8 year old

  30. Sally Walker says:

    When they are old enough, teach them the right way, safety first and they will know how to do it properly! Can’t have the little fucker running around half cocked shooting willy nilly out neighbours windows etc Better yet, take them out into the country once every few weeks and do it where there is no danger of shooting out something and let them have at it. Boys will be Boys, if they show and interest & have the expertise, share it or take ‘em to a range, plenty out there! Basic gun knowledge can go a long way, just hoping its not the wrong way LOL

  31. Allison says:

    I have no problem with nerf guns or water guns. My issue is with the realistic looking toy guns. Those are not allowed at my house. Water guns these days don’t even look like guns anymore.

  32. valerie says:

    Wow, I can’t believe all the outpouring of perspectives on this matter. I personally agree with the author of this article. I remember when my 6 yr old was 1.5 and he started pretending things to be guns. I would try to stop him and my grandpa said (in Spanish), “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And if you’re son is going to be a murderer, there is nothing you can do to stop it, he’ll just play with guns behind your back.”. I will never forget that aha moment. So true. Now I have an 11 month old and I kid you not, the first thing he goes after in the toy box are small water guns and moving cars. I have no clue why but he loves holding and studying those things. Anyhow, I also grew up with brothers and we grew up in a household with little toys and absolutely no regular tv at all. They would play outside for hours and make any sticks they found into weapons. It’s crazy but I just think by nature more boys are intrigued and fascinated with anything associated with aggressive behavior or a lot of action. I.e. fast vehicles, guns, swords, super heroes, buildings they build just to destroy them….

  33. Marie says:

    I had three girls but I ran a home daycare and I had a no toy gun policy. The boys I watched were fine playing with the other toys I had in the house and did not miss playing guns. I am now out of the daycare biz but have a husband with kids younger than my own who are mostly grown. Out of his 6 there is only one boy and the hubs lets him have toy guns (his kid his rule is his policy) and I still have a problem with a kid pointing a gun at my head and pretending to kill me. I am more relaxed if h is pretending to shoot bad guys but I am his stepmom not his stepmonster and having a toy gun put between my eyes freaks me out a little. He has a sorta stepbrother at his house (mom’s) and they play very violently until someone gets hurt. I just think there is enough violence and not enough constructive parenting to have your kids pretend to kill each other without any rules or guidelines. I don’t like violent video games either and yes I think they can be harmful and desensitize kids. If there are firm guidelines about playing with fake guns and a lot of instructions to never touch a gun at anyone elses house I know they can be harmless but with too many absent parents I stick by the decision I made to not let other people’s children play guns in my home.

  34. Kim says:

    My little boy was bending his older sister’s Barbie dolls at the waist and using them as a “gun” long, long before we ever caved and bought the toy guns. I just figured crap, that is obviously his thing and we better get him some “boy” toys before his sister beats him to a bloody pulp for “not playing with Barbie the right way!!” I’m fairly certain I saved his life with the purchase of a few Nerf guns and swords.

  35. Jen Madsen says:

    LOL….. my husband and I were at an estate sale today where there was a box full of broom and shovel handles minus the brush/shovel parts. At first he was thinking of buying 1 to replace his missing broom handle but on second thought he bought 11. Why would he buy 11???? Because every boy in the neighborhood is constantly running around with a broom handle they have stolen from mom or dad and playing sword fight with them. Hubs thinks if he has a boat load of extra handles he might be able to keep 1 attached to his broom while all these boys are playing swords this summer.

  36. Kathryn says:

    Interesting how the article wasn’t really about gun safety.
    It is our right to decide whether or not to own a gun. With that being said it is all of our responsibility as humans to know, learn, and teach respect and proper handling of such weapons
    Bottom line, they are weapons. With all the horrible news stories of children bringing guns to school or kids “looking” and accidentally shooting their parent’s gun; why even make a toy gun at all? If there is true respect for the weapon of a gun, why would you cheapen it by making a toy out of it?
    Let children both boys and girls be creative. Teach them the difference between real and pretend. Allow them to play. But always teach them safety and respect.
    I am fine with my son wanting to play solider, cop, hunter, pirate or anything else. But I do not allow him to point anything pretending to be a gun at me or anyone else. Unless and only if it is agreed upon before hand as a plot in a story he wants to act out. We do not and will not own a toy gun. Imagination in play is far better anyway.
    Maybe because I am a woman, even though I had a toy rifle growing up but I don’t see the fun in pretending to randomly shoot people or animals that I have seen many kids do.
    I just hope respect of real guns and gun safety is taught and practiced by all, even if you don’t own any in your own home. You never know when your child will be in the presence of one.

    I’m glad so many proud gun owners are showing responsibility in their choice of ownership.
    My personal thought is a gun is a weapon NOT a toy. When you introduce it as a toy to a growing mind of a young boy or girl it is confusing and sends many mixed messages that are unnecessary. I feel toy guns take away the respect and power of real guns.

  37. Tara says:

    My son was at a boy’s home that had never been taught weapon safety. The parents believed weapons to be a bad influence (although they owned one) and chose not to teach their kid about it. One day, the kid wanted to sneak his father’s pistol out to play with while my son was visiting. My son, who had been trained by my father (ex-military) about weapon safety from a very young age, firmly told the boy “no” and that “it wasn’t safe to fool around with weapons” and then called me promptly to come pick him up. Moral to the story: keep your kids in the dark about weapons and you’ll most likely see them on the evening news for having accidentally shot themselves (with a weapon at home or maybe even from a friend’s house). Train them young and train them right and they learn that a gun is not a toy, but a tool – and a deadly one at that. To each their own, but that’s my two cents.

  38. Kris says:

    I have an almost 7 yr old boy and a 4 yr old girl. We did not buy “boy” stuff when he was a baby. But he gravitated towards cars and trucks and blocks. We have not tried to influence him in any way although family and friends have bought him “boy’ toys. My daughter on the other hand has no intrest in most of his “boy” toys. She will play with him when it is on her terms. We have not restricked any toys in our house(execpt for battery opperated toys when they were under 3). We are not a hunting family nor do we own any wepons for protection. Our son will make guns out of legos, we only have one rule “NO Shooting at anything living thing”. I don’t have any problem with him playing with nerf guns at other childrens homes, in fact I would probably would love to play with him. He has not asked for any type of gun to play with. I have taught both my kids that real guns are not safe and never to pick one up, get away and find an adult to tell about it.

  39. 3BoysandaLittleLady says:

    I couldn’t have said it better or agree more with you Tara!! I believe it’s the parents responsibility to teach these serious issues to their children. A parent cannot be with their children every second of everyday. They need to know how to react and deal with situations that come up when we aren’t their.

  40. Kimmi says:

    Lol… Ali and Northern mom…. I live in a neighborhood full of boys! At any given day you can find the boys running with big brightly colored robotic looking nerf guns. I truly enjoy chasing the kids and joining in on the fun. It’s tag with foam darts. I even fake injured for all enjoyment.
    Now, the second a gun of any substance enters their hands they are being taught respect for the weapon . I’ll agree it’s hard to keep when UNCLE (a grown adult) runs up with an air soft gun and nails them in the butt.
    That said, who would protect our neighborhoods as police officers when they growup, or serve our country.
    We hunt and eat what we kill, just like when we fish.
    So why the lol, Ali something tells me perhaps the northwest “hell to the no” also tells me perhaps living in a gang related neighborhood. :) uneducated responses can make you jump the “gun”. Don’t bring your child by my house, where you’ll find boys being boys.

  41. Julie says:

    I discovered early with my now 8 year old that he could pretty much turn any stick into some type of weapon. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with our household’s decision to have or not have real weapons (we do not have guns, though I grew up with a dad who did). I think Jen’s point is that we should let the kids play how they want (within reasonable boundaries – like don’t shoot the nerf bullets at people). I can tell with no doubt who does not have shooting toys at home because the second they arrive at our house that is ALL they want to play with. Everything in moderation I say as well!

  42. Miranda says:

    When my oldest was a baby, I bought gender neutral toys as well. He had a toy dump truck and a toy doll, he loved both. Some time after turning two, everything became a gun. I banned toy guns from the house but when the grandparents started buying them for their house, I caved. I still don’t buy my son toy guns, he has a few nerf guns and toy guns that others have given him but his favorite are his elaborate lego guns. Now that my baby has arrived, I’m sure all my snarkiness about age-appropriate toys will end. I remember when my younger siblings arrived, the babies were playing with barbie and all her little choking hazards (ARG!, seriously?) Not quite ready to do that but baby boy loves anything brother has. Guess I’ll prepare for more guns, trucks or dolls and purple! Who knows! Kids will be kids after all. Who am I to tell my kid that guns/doll/purple/blue/camo aren’t appropriate toys? All I can do is help him be responsible for his own behavior and use of the toys he chooses.

    I feel where you are coming from. I don’t own a gun, we don’t have guns in our home. I’ve never shot a gun. I am in EMS and work with cops all the time and their guns make me have heart palpitations!

  43. Jessica says:

    When parents force “gender neutral toys” on their kids and don’t allow them to be who and what they are, in my opinion, it can contribute to gender neutral children and adults who don’t know their role, their place, their identity. Boys are different than girls. Girls are different from boys. Parents should quit making their boys try to be like girls.

  44. Stephen says:

    This question of “boys being boys” is really one of balance and respect. The author’s children like to play with toy guns and swords in make believe scenarios—this is a great combination of activity and imagination, and I would encourage it. It even has real world consequences; getting whacked with a play sword is going to sting a bit. I believe kids feel bad if they actually hurt their opponent, and a lack of empathy would trigger more serious questions from me. However, ‘first-person shooter’ video games are not allowed in our house. The obsession with violence is too intense for young minds.

    We had a rule that a toy gun (even self constructed ones) is never pointed at a person or living thing (such as a pet). This rule applied to our son and I enforced it with the kids in the neighbourhood, too. Nerf guns and its version of dart tag made us rethink this rule. Water guns and paintball, too. Instead, we’ve chosen to teach respect for both the power of real guns and the nature of play. Essentially, real guns are never toys and the victims are really dead. When using play guns (always bright colours), ambushing someone who doesn’t know they are playing is forbidden.

  45. Julie says:

    Amen! I have two young boys who are allowed to be boys! Some day I fear my eyes will get stuck rolled up in the back of my head at all of these new-age nutjob parents who, in an effort to make their child some sort of uber-kid, wind up stifling everything about him (or her). I loved playing army, war, and cowboys/girls when I was a little girl, and I enjoy watching my kids do the same thing. Teach your kids about real guns and how to stay away from them and what they can do, but let them play! The ability to get out natural aggression (and it IS natural for many boys and some girls to be aggressive -it’s a personality trait that has to be channeled correctly) during play is a wonderful way to keep it at bay during other times.

  46. Tara says:

    Tara’s comment above about the kid who knew to fear guns when he went to another kids house….this is so common. My husband is a hunter, an Eagle Scout, and a Scout Leader. It is well known we have guns…some people ask us “with fear and caution” do we have guns. They know darn well we do…..our guns are locked away in a gun safe. Others try to find common ground, people you would never dream own guns confessing that they too have guns, but they are sure the kids don’t know where they are. Closet gun owners…the gun is in the closet. Don’t kid yourself. Kids are little snoops. Don’t risk it. Many police departments give out safety locks for free. The dirty little secret about guns is the more serious gun owners are also more often than not the more responsible.

    I would like to offer up some of our shotguns to shoot the crow that all these “I would never…….” parents are going to be eating. Extremist parenting always backfires.

  47. Eliza Cooper says:

    Thank you for this post. I have the same struggle: My son is a great, compassionate kid who likes all weapons. He’s 9. We’re not a gun family, and i’m hyper-sensitive about violence. Your post really helped me think differently. Hope you enjoy a terrific day!

  48. mbaker says:

    When my husband was a child he saw his father get shot during a carjacking and had to go find help for his father so he didn’t bleed to death. Toy guns aren’t allowed in our house and as soon as our older son is old enough to handle learning why we will tell him.

  49. Partyofsix says:

    I have a wide range of ages in my house, and I can say this for sure. You have no way of knowing whether or not true gun violence will ever be a factor in your life, but guns are as real as cancer and they are not going anywhere soon, so your best chance of avoiding an accident is education about the weapon. You can’t ever be sure how much your child will be able to understand about the difference between fantasy and reality, but if you live like guns aren’t a part of life, then you are being unrealistic. It is everyone’s individual right as a parent to allow or not allow toy weapons. I personally don’t have a problem with it because real guns should be locked so that should never be an issue in your home or the home of anyone you would trust with your young children.

  50. Tina Wolf says:

    I love this. I taught preschool for a number of years and trying to stop boys from playing guns or swords if futile. They will make anything into one. What parents are failing to understand is that it is through play that children learn the most. Allowing your child to play with guns and swords allows them to process how they are really used. We need to go back to the days where kids were allowed to play more and study less. We have preschools teaching 3 and 4 year olds to read, it is simply ridiculous. At three and four they should be throwing balls, painting, making messes and playing! They have plenty of time to become an adult and be one, but they only have a small time to be a kid

  51. Pat says:

    Guns are not the problem, attitude toward guns is the problem. Same with alcohol and any other “forbidden.”

    My son (now 21) also made anything he could find into a gun as a child (Legos were the favorite and most elaborate). At 13 we took him out and taught him how to shoot a shotgun at melons, equating it (circumspectly) to a head and the damage it would do.

    He was also allowed to drink a small glass of wine at dinner when we had some, (to the abject horror of some of our friends).

    Today at 21 he is a moderate, well adjusted adult, not a gun toting drunk. Go figure.

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