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Little Boys and Little Toy Guns

Disclaimer: This post contains the thoughts, experience and parenting style of the author and will not reflect the perspectives and choices of all moms. Dayton Moms Blog encourages respectful discussion and varied opinions in the comments.

Chances are, if you are a mom to a boy, you’ve had the following phrase shouted at you:

“Bang! Bang! Mom I shot you, you’re dead!”

In fact, just this morning my son pointed his cereal spoon at me and said those exact words.

It was around the 3 year mark when I first heard my son saying these type of phrases. Up until this point, we did not have any toy guns or toy swords in the house and the shows he watched (Mickey Mouse, Paw Patrol) do not reference weapons at all. It was interesting to me that he had picked this up from somewhere outside the home. My children do go to an in-home babysitters where there are 5 other little boys, all from different families. Some have older siblings and I was certain this is where my son learned the phrase.

With all the news stories of school shootings and civilian/police shootings, I will admit, these phrases coming from my toddler made me really think hard on how I was going to handle the situation. Like everything else that comes from parenthood, you learn as you go. Here were the thoughts swarming around in my head:

“I should probably steer him away from any sort of violent play, I don’t want my son to become aggressive.”

“My brothers played cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers and Batman and Robin when they were little. These are harmless games that I too even participated in occasionally. My brothers nor I are not it any way aggressive today.”

“Does my son even know what he’s saying? Like really KNOW the true meaning of death? I mean he’s seen Mufasa die and Arlo’s dad die in movies and he points those out but does he truly know what death means?”

“If I steer him away from the toy guns, he will only just pick up a stick and perform the same action. I should probably talk to him about it.”

“What would I say though? Should I explain how dangerous guns can be? Definitely not, that would open his eyes to a world his little mind isn’t yet ready for.”

There were so many questions and thoughts going through my mind. I realized one reason I was having such a hard time on my next course of action was because I didn’t truly understood how a boys brain operates. So I turned to some experts on the subject.

First up was child psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D. and New York Times Bestselling Author. I checked out the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys from the library. I loved this book for many reasons but the best of all is that it gave me, a woman and a mother, a different perspective on my child. As mothers, we are not wired the same as our sons and sometimes it takes us awhile to figure out why boys do what they do.

According to Thomson, when we look at play violence through the “adult lens of violence, we miss the opportunity to use it as a window into a boy’s hidden emotions.” As an adult, we’ve experienced the world and gun violence, sometimes even first hand. A child’s perspective is far less than ours. I’ve learned, through reading and experience, that little boys enjoy games in which they are able to project power into the world. Take hunting for example. From the beginning of time, men went out to hunt and provide food for their family. When little boys play these sort of games, they are practicing their hunting skills. Boys are innately wired for dominance and that is going to have a role in the type of play they choose. Not that boys will choose this type of play every time but they may choose it at some point.

Thomson says it best when he says, “there is no such thing as violent play. Violence and aggression are intended to hurt somebody. Play is not intended to hurt somebody. Play, rougher in its themes and rougher physically, is a feature of boyhood in every society on Earth.”

After some reading around the world wide web, I actually stumbled upon Michael Thompson’s website that includes an advice section. If you don’t get anything out of this post, I hope you at least visit Thompson’s advice section on his website. The information is so interesting and useful for boy moms. I came across one particular forum where a mother addressed the gun play her child was partaking in and I just love Thompson’s response as to why little boys shoot their mothers. 

“Why do boys shoot their mothers? My answer is that a boy’s mother gets to see everything he is proud of or excited about; she is his first and best audience. But why does he shoot at you? Doesn’t he love you? Yes, of course he loves you, and doesn’t really want to hurt you. He’s playing and he is quite confident that his actions won’t really hurt you. After all, he knows that it isn’t a real gun. He just wants to see you react to his imagined power. There is no relationship between childhood make-believe gun play and actual adult violence. You don’t stop adult violence by banishing toy guns or objecting to boys’ play. That just confuses them.”

As a mom, I’m still learning about boy impulses. I don’t actually believe I’ll ever stop learning. But what I’ve learned so far is that boys are more active and aggressive when compared to girls. It’s in their nature. As a mom to a boy who attends an in-home daycare with 4 other boys, the one rule I go by is no shooting guns at people or animal’s faces because it could hurt them. And the the one thing I learned from all my research is that play is not intended to hurt anybody.

One Response to Little Boys and Little Toy Guns

  1. Suzanne Hines May 30, 2017 at 8:39 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this, Jena! My son is only 7 months old so I haven’t had to deal with this yet, but I really enjoyed reading this and will for sure be looking into more of Thompson’s research! I have heard similar things before but never laid out in such a manner.