Originally Posted by megincl
Any advice on how you've handled this at the younger end of the spectrum?
Most of the kids we know pretend to shoot, so not exposing my four year old to gun play wasn't an option. I'm handling it (and so many other aggressive play scenarios that come up, like pretend wrestling and pretend swordfighting) by talking to him about the difference between real and pretend. I believe that pretending is acceptable, as long as they learn that actual shooting and swordfighting is unacceptable. I also emphasize that all kids involved must be willing participants, and it's not okay to pretend swordfight/wrestle/shoot a kid who is scared or doesn't want to play that way. That part takes a lot of supervision because my kid doesn't always recognize when another kid is uncomfortable.
I thought I would never allow my son to engage in gun play, but in the end, that didn't feel very respectful of him. He knows the difference between real and pretend, he's compassionate and never hurts anybody in real life, and playing is how he explores. So I went with it.
I understand where you're coming from, though. You seem really passionate about the issue. If you don't want your kid to engage in gun play, then enforce that limit with him just like any other limit: "I know the other kids are pretending to shoot each other, but I'm not comfortable with you doing that because guns hurt and kill people." I use this tactic a lot with other issues, and I see other parents using it a lot, and I don't think anybody gets offended.
In fact, at my son's birthday party we did have squirt guns as party favors, and one parent told his son that he couldn't have the squirt gun, and I wasn't offended. I realized that squirt guns are considered toy guns (which never even occurred to me
, I only thought of them as water toys), and I probably won't include them as party favors again! But I totally respected his choice to leave the squirt gun behind. I think most parents understand that gun play is a sticky issue and are respectful of those who don't want their kids engaging in that type of play.