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post #41 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by JavaJunkie View Post
Okay, I'll go ahead and go into detail with the whole "if you allow gun play, do you allow pretend spousal abuse?" thing.

I don't micromanage my kids' play. They play with guns sometimes, swords others. Mostly they play other types of things. I have never shown them "this is how you play with guns, this is how you play with swords, this is how you play house". So pretend spousal abuse isn't an issue. My kids are naturally inclined toward pretend play that involves a certain level of violence. Mostly where they team up against an invisible "bad guy/force/monster". They have not been naturally inclined toward pretending to beat a spouse for having the pretend dinner late. They also are not naturally inclined toward re-enacting racist scenarios. So it simply isn't an issue. You can say "Well what if they DID?", but it's a what-if that is simply ridiculous.
My question is if you (general you) would stop one, why would you not stop the other.
Why do we think children are "naturally" inclined towards one kind of violence in play and not the other? Perhaps it's cultural and rather than innate, in which case I think it is valuable to discuss whether it is something we may want to change in our culture.
We can disagree on the value of gun play but I don't think it's a ridiculous question. I'm interested in a genuine conversation. I could do without the condescending attitude though.
post #42 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
I'm curious - and I am not being snarky - I am genuinely curious about the idea that because gun play is pretend and fun it's okay. Would you let your kids play house and have the Dad play hit the mum because dinner was late? Or let them play school and not intervene if they had one kid being black and being treated differently?
Kids, even the most gently raised kids, play WEIRD THINGS.

This past weekend we were at a friend's house, and their two little girls (5 and 3) played in the most embarrassing, hilarious way. There was a lot of "Nooooo! Don't beat me and lock me in a closet!" and "You're punished! Go eat all the frog eyeballs!" The oldest girl was WAY big into abandonment and depervation- "Please, Mommy (to the pretend-mommy), please can't I just have 1 kitty? You took all my kitties and threw them in the trash! I just want one little kitty!" (She was so cute.)

I promise you these children have never been forced to eat eyeballs or sit in a closet and they aren't being deprived of a thing- kids just play weird. Play is how they make sense of the world. Play is how they express themselves. Play is extremely important, but I think we get stuck on play = modeling known behavior/ practicing future behavior.

Nurtureshock has some really awesome stuff about play. For example, when kids play house, they're not pretending to be their own mom and dad- they're pretending to be a generic, very gender-role-stereotyped version of parents, regardless of what they see at home.

My own mom was VERY AP, anti-tv, and anti-gun, but we have a home movie of when I was about 5, shooting a Lego "gun" I'd made.

"Erin, no guns. You know that."
"Mom, it's not a gun! It's a fairy dust thrower! I'm killing you with fairy dust!"

Kids are weird, and do weird things, regardless of what's been modeled or the ideals we'd like to instill in them.
post #43 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
My question is if you (general you) would stop one, why would you not stop the other.
Why do we think children are "naturally" inclined towards one kind of violence in play and not the other? Perhaps it's cultural and rather than innate, in which case I think it is valuable to discuss whether it is something we may want to change in our culture.
We can disagree on the value of gun play but I don't think it's a ridiculous question. I'm interested in a genuine conversation. I could do without the condescending attitude though.
It's not cultural, otherwise little boys wouldn't need to be drugged and brainwashed into becoming boy soldiers. Kids know the difference between play and real life.
post #44 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
I'm curious - and I am not being snarky - I am genuinely curious about the idea that because gun play is pretend and fun it's okay. Would you let your kids play house and have the Dad play hit the mum because dinner was late? Or let them play school and not intervene if they had one kid being black and being treated differently?
It seems a little strange to me to forbid any kind of pretending. So, yeah, I think I would let my kids play games like those, as long as everyone seemed to be enjoying the game. Would you tell your kids they couldn't read books that talked about domestic violence or segregation? Would you tell them they couldn't imagine what it might have been like to be a slave or a slave owner, or to hit another person? If they can explore those ideas by reading or thinking about them, why can't they explore them by acting them out?

Now, if the way my kids were playing made me think they didn't really understand the wrongness of hitting your spouse or treating black people differently, I'd certainly talk to them about that. And I'd certainly warn them to be careful about playing games that might upset other people. But I doubt I would outright forbid any pretend game. I think you can let your kids play at doing something you feel is wrong and still have them understand that it is wrong.

I think it's even harder to make a case for forbidding shooting games. Guns and fighting are so common in books and movies and on TV, and kids are exposed to so many examples of "good guys" using guns or gun-like weapons for what are presented as good causes - Star Wars, the Revolutionary war, policemen who carry guns to protect us from bad guys. Of course kids get interested in the idea of fighting and shooting, and of course they want to act it out.
post #45 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
My question is if you (general you) would stop one, why would you not stop the other.
Why do we think children are "naturally" inclined towards one kind of violence in play and not the other? Perhaps it's cultural and rather than innate, in which case I think it is valuable to discuss whether it is something we may want to change in our culture.
We can disagree on the value of gun play but I don't think it's a ridiculous question. I'm interested in a genuine conversation. I could do without the condescending attitude though.
So could I. My kids have pretended to hit each other. I don't stop it. I might admonish them to make sure they don't accidentally hit the person, rather than just pretending to. The scenario of "my dinner is late so I'm going to beat the crap out of you" thing has never come up. Really. So it's pretty far off my radar of hypothetical situations that I'd stop my children from doing.

My dd has a wowee alive panda that cries and drinks and sleeps... Last night she was taking care of the panda. After about 30 minutes or so of carrying the panda around, playing with it, and feeding it, the panda "falls asleep". The panda woke up after about one minute. LOL My dd picks up the panda and starts shaking it. Not maliciously, but playfully. I didn't stop her to warn her of the dangers of shaken baby syndrome. I didn't say anything. She's playing.

I do intervene with my kids if I see any sort of bad intent, or see something veering into bad intent. My kids know that if meanness starts to happen, then they might get separated and play individually for a bit. That happens with ANY sort of play, be it gun, sword, ball, or block play.
post #46 of 163
Thread Starter 
OP here.

Lots to think about. I personally have bad vibe type feelngs about playing guns, but I still don't think I want to jump to outright forbidding it. I'm in the "pretend play is to work things out" camp. My son is a particularly aggressive kid, and this is not a new theme for him, just has new tools. I have thought about outright forbidding it, but I'm trying to sort out my own feelings from what's appropriate and necessary for him. And I would love some ideas to keep things more calm and/or redirect this obsession to some other sort of play.

And as far as playing "spousal abuse", I don't think the two are the same. Playing guns is using modern tools to explore the universal problem of curbing one's aggression (which all people have in some form another), whereas spousal abuse is based on demeaning women, which is socially constructed. That's how I see it anyway.

I read once on the GD board that imagining oneself doing whatever violent thing you felt like doing when your kid drives you crazy was a good way to diffuse anger and rage for some moms. I don't really think this is a whole lot different.
post #47 of 163
We have a similar situation. DS is 3 1/2. He's recently been introduced to guns by the older neighbour kids who have nerf guns. I have to say, it bothers me a lot less than I thought it would. The neighbour kids don't have violent words or body language. They follow rules and are respectful. If they were using a lot of violent imagery I think it would bother me a lot more.

So how I feel about it at the moment is that i won't buy him a gun but he can borrow the neighbours. I don't make a big deal about it or tell him I disapprove. I do tell him he has to follow 'the rules' as told to him by the neighbour boys (no aiming at the face, no shooting at people who aren't playing 'especially mums!')

My boy is high energy but not physical or aggressive. He doesn't even get that he could hit people with the nerf bullets. He just loves the mechanics of it.
post #48 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Needle in the Hay View Post
A few seconds later the boy was running around and she said "hey you're supposed to be watching the babies" and he replied "oh, well, the babies are dead so I can run around with you out here".
Oh my gosh, I just choked on my tea! That is so funny in a horrifying kind of way. Kids!
post #49 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
We talk a lot about how play is how kids learn to "be" in the world and about whether it is a good idea to practise something in play that I would never want them to do in adulthood.
That's a really broad spectrum of things, though. My kids play all KINDS of things that I would never want them to do in adulthood. I mean....I won't even get started, we'd be here all day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
We also talk about how there is really only one outcome for gun play and how it is kind of boring. My boys do have swords but I find sword play is just more creative and less limited in outcome. We have talked about how there is honour and skill in being good at sword play (and their fencing teacher has reinforced this) and how that doesn't apply in the same way to gun play.
I think it's interesting that you see gun play as so linear, because that's not been my experience watching children engage in it. There's certainly as much skill and responsibility involved in learning to use real guns as there is in fencing, and just as much possibility for creativity with pretend guns as with pretend swords. (fairy dust guns, magic pew pew that turns you into animals, shrink rays, freeze rays, etc. etc. etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
My kids sword play actually very rarely involves violence or killing. Epic dance-battles a la fencing and lots of spinning it around like Samuri but no pretend killing or injuries. Sometimes some dragon slaying - but of course they are magical and come back to life immediately.....
My kids' sword play more often involves pretend killing and injury than their gun play, honestly. It certainly involves more *actual* injury (hey, even foam swords can hurt!)

I find this distinction between swords and guns as acceptable/unacceptable to be a bit baffling. Swords are actually even *more* specifically tools of violence and murder then guns. You can't go out and hunt food for your family with a sword. It's a brutal weapon created to hack into someone and maim them or cause them to bleed to death. I guess because they're not currently used for that purpose, it's easier to maintain the mental separation between fantasy and reality, but I doubt it's because the fantasy is actually any cleaner or more noble than that involved with guns.

The fantasy vs. reality element is why we don't, and won't, own any toy guns (other than ridiculous looking water squirters), but toy guns are separate in my mind than gun play.
post #50 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post
Sometimes some dragon slaying - but of course they are magical and come back to life immediately.....
I allow both gun play and sword play, and I don't get the distinction you're making here at all. When ds1 and my nephew used to play - both swords and guns - they were usually "killing" monsters...not necessarily dragons, but some kind of monster. If they were "shooting" at each other, it was generally because one of them was pretending to be the "monster". Anybody they "killed" could come back to life again, whether the "death" was by shooting or by stabbing/cutting with a sword. The only difference I ever saw between the two kinds of play was that, occasionally, someone actually got hurt when they played swords, which never happened when they played guns.

re: the scenario of pretending/playing domestic violence or racial discrimination. I can't really be sure how I'd react to that, as I've never seen it happen. But, I think I'd simply let them play, but pay closer attention than I usually would to what was going on. I'd be very curious, and possibly a little concerned (depending on exactly what was being said/done) about where they even got those ideas. Issues of strength, power, control, good, bad, fear, self-protection, safety, security, etc. are all things I think crop up very naturally in pretend play. Issues of beating up someone you love for not having dinner on the table, or treating a darker-skinned child as being inferior do not come up naturally, imo and ime. So, those themes would cause me a bit of concern...but I wouldn't necessarily stop it. I'd definitely want to figure out what it was they were trying to work through, and where they got the notion in the first place. But, this is all hypothetical, because I've never seen these themes come up in play - not as a child myself, and not with any of I don't really know for sure how I'd handle it
post #51 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by prothyraia View Post
That's a really broad spectrum of things, though. My kids play all KINDS of things that I would never want them to do in adulthood. I mean....I won't even get started, we'd be here all day.
I agree. One of the first that comes to mind is car crashes. DS2 slams Hot Wheel type cars together in "crashes" all the time.

Quote:
I think it's interesting that you see gun play as so linear, because that's not been my experience watching children engage in it. There's certainly as much skill and responsibility involved in learning to use real guns as there is in fencing, and just as much possibility for creativity with pretend guns as with pretend swords. (fairy dust guns, magic pew pew that turns you into animals, shrink rays, freeze rays, etc. etc. etc.)

My kids' sword play more often involves pretend killing and injury than their gun play, honestly. It certainly involves more *actual* injury (hey, even foam swords can hurt!)
This is all pretty much my experience, too.

Quote:
I find this distinction between swords and guns as acceptable/unacceptable to be a bit baffling. Swords are actually even *more* specifically tools of violence and murder then guns. You can't go out and hunt food for your family with a sword. It's a brutal weapon created to hack into someone and maim them or cause them to bleed to death. I guess because they're not currently used for that purpose, it's easier to maintain the mental separation between fantasy and reality, but I doubt it's because the fantasy is actually any cleaner or more noble than that involved with guns.
I've been thinking the same thing.

DS1 happens to love swords and just got his first "real" one (a birthday present from his dad). It's actually a decorative sword, and not a real sword, but it could definitely be used a weapon in a pinch (ie. it wouldn't last 10 seconds against a quality sword, but it could hurt, or even kill, someone). Finances permitting, I expect he'll own a few dozen, or even a hundred, before he's through.

He's expected to follow safety rules, and if his younger siblings ever manage to so much as see it, except under strict supervision, it will be confiscated, and removed from the house. (He can have it back when he moves out.) It's a weapon. It's dangerous. It's not a toy. DS1's interest in them is mostly aesthetic, from a collector standpoint, but that doesn't change the fact that swords are tools meant to kill people, and nothing else. That's their sole reason to exist - to kill people. I don't worry about that, with respect to ds1's interest in swords, swordfighting, fencing, etc. (he hasn't learned yet, but wants to study fencing and swordfighting). He doesn't want to, and isn't going to, hurt or kill anyone.

I probably wouldn't let ds1 have a real gun in the house. The only reasons I differentiate between a gun and a sword in this respect are:

1) He can't legally have a gun, and
2) A gun is small enough that one of his siblings could, conceivably, find it and shoot it and/or hide it without me or ds1 realizing it was missing. If he were fool enough to leave it loaded, they could also kill someone with one. They couldn't get his sword without our knowledge, and if they could, neither one of them has the strength/mass to actually use it.

Guns have a real life use (hunting) other than killing people. Swords don't. (I realize they both have an adult use that isn't killing - fencing, range shooting, etc - and both are collectibles. I'm talking about their original functions.)
post #52 of 163
Quote:
I said gun play doesn't fit with my values, and the values I want to teach my kids.
I had an aunt that felt this way.

Her kids all grew up and without exception are working with guns as a PROFESSION. (Military, military contractor, hunting teacher.)

So much for that. We laugh to think of how she wanted to engineer them and how it turned out all wrong.

Quote:
I find this distinction between swords and guns as acceptable/unacceptable to be a bit baffling. Swords are actually even *more* specifically tools of violence and murder then guns. You can't go out and hunt food for your family with a sword. It's a brutal weapon created to hack into someone and maim them or cause them to bleed to death. I guess because they're not currently used for that purpose, it's easier to maintain the mental separation between fantasy and reality, but I doubt it's because the fantasy is actually any cleaner or more noble than that involved with guns.
No, it's because fencing is a sport. There are a number of sports that evolved from being violent, life-or-death games, into benign games of skill. So perhaps that's where this is coming from?

I don't think "original function" is relevant because guns were originally designed for war, as were swords. I mean... they're weapons.

I will let my girls play hunting, I will let them play fencing, I will let them play doctor with medicine.

I will not let them play robbers, pirates who kill, or evil queen that poisons. Or rather... I would use such play as a teachable moment and request that they reflect on the nature of what they are doing.

When other kids "shoot" at me, I tell them I have an invisible, God-powered forcefield and they can't hit me, and that I put one on my baby, too. The looks on their faces are priceless!
post #53 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by prothyraia View Post
That's a really broad spectrum of things, though. My kids play all KINDS of things that I would never want them to do in adulthood. I mean....I won't even get started, we'd be here all day.



I think it's interesting that you see gun play as so linear, because that's not been my experience watching children engage in it. There's certainly as much skill and responsibility involved in learning to use real guns as there is in fencing, and just as much possibility for creativity with pretend guns as with pretend swords. (fairy dust guns, magic pew pew that turns you into animals, shrink rays, freeze rays, etc. etc. etc.)

My kids' sword play more often involves pretend killing and injury than their gun play, honestly. It certainly involves more *actual* injury (hey, even foam swords can hurt!)

I find this distinction between swords and guns as acceptable/unacceptable to be a bit baffling. Swords are actually even *more* specifically tools of violence and murder then guns. You can't go out and hunt food for your family with a sword. It's a brutal weapon created to hack into someone and maim them or cause them to bleed to death. I guess because they're not currently used for that purpose, it's easier to maintain the mental separation between fantasy and reality, but I doubt it's because the fantasy is actually any cleaner or more noble than that involved with guns.

The fantasy vs. reality element is why we don't, and won't, own any toy guns (other than ridiculous looking water squirters), but toy guns are separate in my mind than gun play.
I agree with all this. I said earlier we have swords and not guns and I think we are a bit weird in having maintained that distinction (mind you my son also hasn't asked for a gun aside from a water gun).

On the topic of swords as weapons...I have a real sword (what's called a functional reproduction) - sharpened and everything with decent balance; I have to keep it locked up - and it is definitely a weapon and pretty single-purpose although I did hack some dead grass down with it once. It was really inefficient at that job. I'd hate to have to catch dinner with it.
post #54 of 163
Thread Starter 
Good point about swords. I suppose I romanticise swords because they have a lot of basis in literature, etc., and sword fighting well was historically a sign of skill and achievement, whereas guns typically have the killing and war background in our culture and....not much else.

But you're right. The point of swords is to kill people. Or dragons, or whatever. That's certainly what they're used for in our house.

And DS's sword has an "unkill" button. His own invention.

And Storm Bride, the difference with the car crash scenario is that at some point, my son did have an obsession with car crashes and would throw these raging tantrums in the car because I told him I was not going to get us in a real car crash. He's a destructive kid, which is why this topic bothers me with him. Like I said, it's a long standing theme, just new tools. I had a thread in preschoolers about it but didn't get much response.
post #55 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by EFmom View Post
We don't have guns and we don't spend time in the homes of people who have guns, period. We talk a lot about why that is the case.

We don't buy guns, with the exception of supersoaker types, where getting wet is the point, and everyone has to want to join in or we don't use them.

If kids chose to form guns out of their fingers or sticks or whatever, while we don't encourage it, we don't forbid it.
Do you ask them if they own guns before you enter their home? Just kidding. That's interesting to me though, I guess I've never heard such a strong stance on it. What is your reasoning if you don't mind me asking?
post #56 of 163
Quote:
guns typically have the killing and war background in our culture and....not much else.
Which culture are you referring to?

I'm from out west. While I know a couple of people who own guns for "self-defense" (I know, I know, don't bother), nearly every family has one for hunting. People get about 10% of their meat from their own hunting even if they don't hunt often. Some families get 100% of their meat from what they hunt.
post #57 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by InMediasRes View Post
And Storm Bride, the difference with the car crash scenario is that at some point, my son did have an obsession with car crashes and would throw these raging tantrums in the car because I told him I was not going to get us in a real car crash. He's a destructive kid, which is why this topic bothers me with him. Like I said, it's a long standing theme, just new tools. I had a thread in preschoolers about it but didn't get much response.
DS2 is actually a pretty destructive kid, too. He's had raging tantrums, and he's also asked me to crash our car (although he hasn't, to the best of my recollection, had any raging tantrums over that, specifically). It doesn't bother me - the crash thing, I mean. He has no real understanding of what a car crash means, how badly we'd be hurt (or that we could be killed), etc. That kind of thing is starting to register with him, but it's been a slow process. When he asked me to crash the car, and argued with me about it, he had no idea of what he was actually asking. Through my adult filters, asking me to inflict severe injury/death on himself, his siblings and me is horrifying. Heck - asking me to cause that kind of property damage is horrifying, even without the injury/death aspect. But, he really isn't asking me to do that, because he doesn't have my filters. He just wants a big crash. (This is the same little boy who has gone to hide, crying, on the stairs after accidentally making his baby sister cry by hugging her too hard.) These things don't mean the same thing to a small child that they mean to us.
post #58 of 163
We own a gun, but we don't have any play guns. NOt because I'm opposed to them, I have all girls and none have ever shown an interest in having a play gun. Dd1 has a bb gun, though. Sometimes they play with toy guns at other people's homes, and my only rule is don't "shoot" at people who don't want to be shot at.
post #59 of 163
I haven't read the whole thread so forgive me if I'm repeating someone else... but here goes :P

We have guns. Several. I honestly couldn't tell you how many, exactly... probably 7-10, a couple of those being just bb guns. I don't remember the first time I shot a gun, so was obviously pretty young. I do remember being 'given' my first gun (well, OK, it was my & my brothers both...) when I was like 4 or 5 and my mom being absolutely appalled . But, we live out in the country, and my dad and my grandpa and dh all hunt, and I used to (though I never did shoot anything... I had bad luck, obviously...), and fully expect ds1 to want to go out w/ dad/grandpa/great grandpa this winter and sit for a little while with them - its what I did for years till I was big enough to actually hunt w/ a gun myself (~11 or 12, after taking hunter safety course).

So. All that said... ds1 doesn't have a toy gun (other than water guns), but everythign else has certainly become a gun, mostly lots of sticks, and I really don't see the point in attempting to limit it. Seems really counter productive and kind of a pointless never ending battle. and as someone else noted, we let kids play with other stuff that are 'real' - toy ovens, toy spatulas toy knives and swords and spoons and lawn mowers and chain saws and... well, you get the point. And some of them can be used to kill/hurt/maim people as well (and to those that say 'but thats not their only point!' meh, chainsaws are used more-or-less exclusively to kill/maim trees, swords are (or were) only really used to kill people, axes I spose have a dual purpose - kill trees or kill people, but still... and guns dont *have* to be used to kill things - many people shoot them more-or-less exclusively as target practice on skeets and paper targets).
post #60 of 163
I just thought of something else that might be food for thought.

In our family, the basic human right to self-defense is sacred. Firearms can be used in self-defense as well as for hunting or sports shooting, so for us, they are indeed a tool that can be intentionally used to kill someone who poses a deadly threat. We feel it's just as important to acknowledge this aspect of gun ownership as it is to emphasize their other uses and reasons for ownership. Defensive lethal force carries with it many heavy responsibilities, legal and moral, and we want to emphasize to our children, over and over and over again, that a gun should only be used to harm another human being if one's life is truly in danger.

I guess I could hypocritically pretend that we only own guns for hunting and sports shooting--and those are indeed our main uses for them--but it isn't entirely true. In the interest of full disclosure, we believe in the right to self-defense and we're prepared to defend ourselves if someone is foolish enough to attack our family. I realize not all families share that value, but it's one we hold dear (as do most of the gun-owning families we know) and plan to pass down to our children. So for us, pretend gun play that involved killing "bad guys" or monsters or whatever would not be a problem, because that is in fact one very solid reason to own guns in the first place.
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