Boys and Guns

Updated on July 31, 2012
J.G. asks from Friendswood, TX
24 answers

Recently a neighborhood boy paid a visit to our neighbor and wanted to play warfare. He is going into 6th grade. He plays well with the neighbor and they are close in age. They decided to play this game and they were aiming pretend rifles at my son, 6, and his friends who are similiar in age. I freaked out. I went outside and told him I dont like shooting games. OF course, my son thought it was cool because the older boys told them it was a spy game, so my son came looking for his starwars light sabers.

I have girls and most of our friends have girls. And the boys we play with are young and do not play that way. They are still into cars, legos, etc.

***I stopped the game when they were in my backyard. BUt of course they just went to another house and my son was watching and wanting to partake.

How do I handle this? I know boys will be boys, but I never liked shooting games. We dont own any video games like that.

Overreacting or not? And if I am, I am sure you have come across a mom like me. How would you prefer she handle it. I really am not going to change my view on it. and If I do, it may take some time.


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So What Happened?

Yes, kinda of figured its what boys do. I freaked out my head. And I did tell the older kids, Not in the backyard. And no aiming at the little kids. They got it, One of them is a sibling to the younger kids my son is playing with so I am sure they are used to playing that. Luckily they were respectful. They played shooting, but brought out water guns, nerf guns...

Thanks for the tips. Keep 'em coming. I am so grateful for a site like this.

I appreciate your feedback!!

Featured Answers


answers from St. Louis on

I think you need to realize you are overreacting. Kids, boys and girls, have played with guns forever. Doesn't effect them unless they are already a few beans shy of a combo platter.

I can tell you my ex is the opposite side of the spectrum, his mother allowed no gun play, too scary. Because of this he collected guns as an adult and treated them as toys. Much better to be raised to play with toys and respect the real thing.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My older son is 6.5, and I'm really starting to have an issue with this now. My policy is and will always be NO GUNS. PERIOD. I lost my 11 yr old brother in an accidental shooting 23 years ago, and I cannot tolerate the things. My son knows he's not allowed to play shooting games, but I can tell it bothers him when some of his friends are doing it. But, I will not bend on this. I'll have to deal with it when my younger son gets a bit older, but losing battle or not, I'm fighting it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think the bottom line here (with gun play and gun video games) is to reinforce the idea that a game is a game but life is life.

I'm very anti-gun. My husband has a permit to carry.

My son (9) LOVES shooting games, war history, etc.

But he knows that if he ever SEES a REAL gun....he is not to touch it and tell an adult immediately. He knows real guns are not toys. And I think that's the real issue with kids and guns.

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answers from Lynchburg on

Hi J.-

I have 4 boys (23 to 17).

I am certainly NOT pro gun...per se...

But when my eldest was 2 or three...and he 'bit' a piece of toast into a 'gun'...and started to 'point' it at his younger brother...I kinda picked other battles.

At that time...all they had been exposed to were disney movies and PBS.

Go figure!

Anyway, as time went on...I became a little less rigid. We had 'super soakers'...squirt guns...and water balloons as well. All things that, in MY view were a tad more 'appropriate' kinds of play.

I also, as they got older, educated them with regard to 'real' issues...mainly because where I lived in northern VA, at the time. many family's had 'real' guns. I imagine (correct me if I am wrong) Texas would be much the same in terms of guns in the home.

I say, 'pick your battles'.

IF this is one that you feel a COMPELLING need to make a battle...then go for it.

It was not one of mine...

And, as an aside...eldest is now an officer in the army...deploying to Afghanistan this fall. Next son is a history major...delaying his graduation...but working full time in the health field....Next son just got a 3 year ROTC scholarship...and is studying criminal justice...And next son is an honors/AP rising senior in HS exploring college options.

Oh...and my girls played with super soakers, water guns and water balloons...although none of THEM 'bit' toast to make a gun...LOL

Best Luck!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

You are choosing to fight a losing battle. Boys love guns, it's part of their male instinct to protect.
Best to just school him on rules about guns and gun play so he knows the difference.
Talking to your kids about guns is just as important about talking to them about sex, and it's something that should be brought up in regular conversation often enough so that no one is shocked or shy.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

Gun play is completely normal for little boys. If you don't give them toy guns they will improvise-with a stick, with their fingers, with Lego. At least with pretend gunplay kids don't get hit accidentally, like they do with swords and lightsabres. Google "boys and gunplay". Here is one good article: . Why wouldn't any boy want to be like a soldier, a police officer, or a cowboy? Don't freak out because the boys want to be boys. Of course, if you don't allow gunplay in your yard you can say it isn't allowed, but don't expect that just because your son isn't exposed to it he won't be doing it!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You are overreacting here-sorry. Guns are a perfectly normal part of being a little boy. As much as playing with dolls is what a little girl does. There is no correlation between playing with guns and any future violent behavior.

I HAVE come across moms like you and I have to be honest-I discourage friendships for my boys with those boys. Its just too difficult for them and for me. When you have those kids over you have to worry about every little thing that they do. My mind always runs like "Oh great, now they are going to go home and tell their mom that they did THAT over here (nothing normal moms would find bad.) And after a while the boys of the anti gun moms become the kind of boys my kids probably would not choose to hang with anyhow.

I kind of find it derogatory to hear girlie moms go on about "boys will be boys". As if it is a bad thing and something to be put up with. Please make the effort to get to know little boys and how they are. I promise you that you will come to find that they are just as good, if not better, than little girls. One thing I CAN guarantee-they sure as heck are nicer to their moms. At least from what I have seen.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

If I had a boy...he would be watching Little Bear, Barney and Sesame Street until he was 12. LOL

I have always wondered what I would do, too. But, I did not end up having a boy.

Many kids are desensitized to violence these days and it is scary. It is a gd thing that they had pretend rifles and not plastic ones. I do know that it is normal to some degree for boys to play like that. I think the age difference might be worrying you. It would worry me. I would feel better if your son was pretending w/ a few 6 yr olds!

I would tell him that your rule is no weapons and no big kid shooting games aloud. Tell him he can play ____ games w/ them, but, no shooting games. My gutt is telling me that a six yr old would need to be supervised w/ middle school boys anyway!

When I was getting my parenting degree - the expert told us that it is ok for boys to pretend to be cops, etc...Actually, it was normal. She said it not ok to give kids guns, but, to expect them to make a gun w/ their hand.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I don't allow guns and shooting games, but my boys will turn a shoe, a leggo, their nose.... anything into a gun and shoot at each other. There really is no way I know how to stop it, especially when it involves other kids. I just tell my kids to get in the habit of not aiming at other people, but at a tree or something.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I do think you are over reacting. ALL boys will play "guns" or "shooting". It's just a natural thing that a lot of boys do. Even if you told your son not to, he will just turn anything into a gun and play it anyway. My son who is 5 will be eating a cracker and say "look mom, it's a gun" and he bit the cracker into the shape of a gun. I am not against shooting games. We tell him to not shoot at people, but besides that, he can go for it! He does have toy guns too. Now, if you don't want the neighbors playing it in your house, that's fine. You can tell them not to play that. But, if they are not on your property, then you can't tell them what they can and can't play unless it's something dangerous or hurting someone

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jackson on

You are soooo waaaay overreacting. Girls enjoy Barbies and makeup, the sweet stuff. Boys enjoy war games and football, the macho stuff. It's natural for them to want to play guns. It is not going to turn him into a serial killer. Chill and let him be a boy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

All you are doing is making him more curious and wanting it even more. Lightsabers are equivalent to guns. All the boys in our neighborhood run from house to house playing. I would hate for my son & girls not to be a part of it.

From the beginning of time, men hunt. They are just built with this in them.

I have fun with my one boy (8) & 2 girls (5, 6), playing guns. One rule is don't point in the face. We run around the house inside and outside pelting eachother. We have a blast with water guns. Last week I spent an hour shooting targets my son set up for me. He and I had such great quality time together. Then we cuddled on the couch and watched a movie while he tickled my leg for me.

When your son gets a bit older & he never wants to have friends over or his friends don't want to come over, just know that this may be a reason. But your house your rules and everyone must respect that. If it becomes an issue maybe you can slowly reconsider.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I have two boys--just turned 16 and almost 13. My 12-year-old says, "Tell her she is over-reacting." I used to be kind of like you. I don't like guns and shooting games. We've all come to a compromise here. We have nerf guns and squirt guns, but no air soft guns (similar to bee bee (spelling?) guns, but the pellets are plastic). They are allowed to play with air soft guns at other homes when I am familiar with the parents and when they wear safety goggles. We also don't own any M-rated video games or shooter games. My husband and I just don't like them. However, once again, they sometimes play at friends' homes. Fortunately, they both have other video games they enjoy and don't really miss the shooter ones.

I know that nerf guns and air soft guns have a similar purpose. However, for me and my husband (a product liability lawyer) it's a safety issue. The pellets can cause harm, especially to the eyes. They are also illegal in our community although the ordinance is not enforced. I've talked to the local police about them and their concern is that they get a call at dusk or night about an individual with a gun and when they respond to the call the air soft guns look so similar to real guns (except they have an orange tip if it hasn't been painted over) that they fear they will shoot a kid with an air soft gun thinking it's real.

That's probably more than you wanted to know, but it's my way of explaining that I don't like guns and shooting games either, but it's a part of being a boy and we've found a way to compromise at our house. Maybe you can too.

I've tried really hard not to over-react in front of other parents or be judgmental about their choices so I'm not sure other parents know exactly how I feel, but they must have some idea because they know we don't own those things here. It's possible my sons have lost some possible friendships over these things, but they have a variety of friends who share their other interests so that hasn't really been a problem either. I've never (knock on wood) had a disagreement with another parent over this issue--other issues, yes, but not this one. We've always been able to work it out. Hopefully you can too! Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I don't think you overreacted, you did the right thing, especially with some of the boys being much older than your child.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

The cardinal rule of guns is that we don't aim them at animals or people. *Even* if they are pretend.

My son is interested in guns and we've decided to allow a foam disc shooter and he saved up his allowance for a bow and arrow. Even if the arrow has a suction cup on it, if it hits me (or anyone else) it goes away for the day. If we are still being unsafe with it, it goes away for longer.

I think you can limit the play to what you feel comfortable with, personally. Here's a piece of writing on the subject by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim which I found very helpful in regard to *why* kids are attracted to guns and giving good guidance for gun play (as well as how to respond to it):

Page three has the thoughts pertaining to gun play specifically, however, the entire article is well worth the time reading.

Lastly, my son is five and our rule is that while we might allow some violent play while at home alone, he understands that many of our friends and their families do not allow it, so he is not to start it up when with them. (The parents who have no problem with this have already made it clear....) He knows that if his weapons come out during playdates, they will go away for a week. We are trying to teach him that this needs to be a way of playing that feels good for everyone.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I am not a gun fan but my husband is. My rule for my son was "never aim a gun (toy or not) at someone unless it is a water gun that is filled with water (and never in the face). If it is empty, it's just a toy gun again and shouldn't be aimed at anyone. Some toy guns are very realistic looking so I never wanted to have him think it was fake and accidentally shoot someone nor someone think a fake gun was real and get shot because of it. He was taught to respect the real thing.

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answers from Dallas on

When my son was younger, I always told myself "no gun play". I quickly realized it's normal play for boys, but up to me to differentiate play vs. real life. I want my son to get to partake in the nerf wars and pretend gun play, and not be an outcast. He has 6 female cousins, so any type of boy interaction is great for him. After all, when I was a child, we played cops and robbers and learned right from wrong through my parents. It isn't something my son is really into a lot, but when boys get together at a bday party or a play date, it's something that might come up (btw, my son is 7).

I'm not going to say you overreacted because as parents, we tend to act quickly out of what our heart tells us at the moment. But as we look back at it, think about ourselves as kids, and think about our responsibility as parents, we then think about how we could have gone about it differently. Maybe with, "Hey, I'm ok with you playing guns, but this is what I want it to look like at my house." Then after the play is over, use it as an opportunity to teach your son about gun safety in your home and if they ever find a real gun at a friend's house.

I don't allow gun video games because they are just too realistic - but we do have our share of nerf guns. Even my nieces like to shoot some spongey darts every once in a while.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I don't like guns either, but light sabers, swords, etc. are just as violent as used in movies or historically. I am a teacher of young children and I've studied a lot about boys and literacy. What I've learned is that boys are drawn to action while girls are drawn to narrative. Boys have more testosterone and that affects how they experience the world. In looking back at documentation of human history, violent battles (often depicted as good versus evil) have existed since the beginning of time. Boys are also drawn to superheros who act out the good conquers evil scenario over and over again. That kind of play (and reading and writing) allows boys to battle safely. Our current culture did not create violence.
That being said, I don't buy my son play guns (although he does own water guns and, frankly, a gun is a gun), but he does play guns when he visits some of his friends. I don't freak out. Everytime he brings it up, I just remind him that real guns are very dangerous. Real guns hurt people. I tell him he should never, ever touch a real gun. If I found out a neighbor had a real gun, I wouldn't let him play there ever.
I think it's reasonable to not allow gun play on your property or in your home. Your son just wants to play like all the other boys. It's fun. If you don't want him to play like that, you should explain to him why. Unfortunately it will probably make him want it more and will make it this mysterious thing that he wants to do, but you don't want him to.
You are being a good parent by asking the question and thinking about it and whatever decision you make will be the right one because you have given it consideration.

Oh, I also often limit my six-year-olds play with older kids. He's just not ready for some of their play or language. Even though all he ever wants to do is follow the big boys around and do exactly what they do.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I have a five year old boy, and I totally understand where you are coming from. I think if you don't want to allow gun play in your own home, that's perfectly fine. I think you are in for a tough time if you think you can forbid your son from playing games like that completely. Depending on your child's personality, outlawing it may make it more attractive.

At your son's age, I personally would try to be a little more moderate in my views. Have some common sense rules in place for what you would like to see if/when he does engage in gun play (e.g., no shooting at a person). You might also want to have thoughtful conversations with your son about why you personally don't like shooting games.

We don't have toy guns in our home. I hate the argument that you might as well get them a gun because they'll turn anything, like their fingers or Legos, into a gun. If that's what my son wants to do, fine. At least when they do that, they are using their imagination and those toys can be used for other things as well. If you get a child a toy gun, that's pretty much all it will ever be. However, he does play shooting games (both video and with toy weapons) at his friends' houses. The video games are either the Lego Star Wars game or the Toy Story carnival games.

As others will tell you, it's futile to hope that we can keep it away from them forever. Objecting to that sort of play at friends' houses denies me the opportunity to speak thoughtfully about guns and my feelings about them, potentially insults the parenting of friends who do allow that sort of play with their children, and unnecessarily puts my child in the position of an outsider with his friends. Freaking out about it will do you no good, because you cut off that line of communication altogether if you are too rigid.

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answers from Sacramento on

I was against guns with my kids. I remember my son playing at preschool and not knowing how to play good guy bad guy and shooting games and being afraid when kids played that way and there was no supervision. (Don't get me started on his preschool...)

He was just too little then... but in kindergarten and now going into 2nd grade he's all about guns and fighting and lasers and swords. And he will make weapons out of anything. Eating breakfast... look Mom my toast looks like a gun, look at my lego gun, Mom; sticks, play doh whatever...

We have strict rules about weapons. You can only play with people who agree to play. We only shoot water guns or play guns at people who are playing. (No nerf guns at the head, air guns, paintball etc..) No aiming at people or animals who are not part of the game. No hitting or poking people with sticks or light sabers. Hitting together is ok as long as they are kept low and away from faces. the game is over when anyone breaks the rules or says they want to stop.

It is a normal part of boys to want to play this way and it's not a bad thing. Here's an article that talks about it and there are lots of others ...

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answers from College Station on

I would have freaked out too. I have three boys and one of the standing rules is that darts and play guns are only pointed at the pretend "bad guys"; I suggest a window or tree to aim at with "there's the bad guy (villain)!".

You are lucky in that you are getting compliance with the older boys - their example will make more of an impression than all the rules you tell them to follow.



answers from Victoria on

we own guns and did growing up too. the rule is the same even if there werent any guns in our house. never ever point a gun at yourself or another person. even toy guns. you do not aim guns at people.

my husband hunts, and is in law inforcement. the neighbors and kids are aware that real guns are in our house. they are locked away and all saftey requirements. but what about that single mom who keeps a gun in her nightstand. what about them being allowed to roam free in the house. what happens when my son sees a real gun sitting there. will he remember the rule. never touch a real gun....never point any type of gun at a person. these rules have stuck well with me and growing up i knew what to do if and when i saw a gun at a friends house. teach your kids gun saftey and at 6 your son should know what to do with them if he comes across one and how to play...what to shoot (animals, trees, target practice) but never ever people. even if its cops and robbers. you take the criminal down in the safest matter possible. comands, pepper spray, tazor, release the dog. its fun for boys to play protective or powerful games. but there is a proper way too when they can still have boy fun. if you a no play gun zone he still needs to know what to do and how to play with others while they do there own thing.



answers from College Station on

Yes, you are over reacting. I have 3 boys and its all about war games and try as I might, there is not a darned thing I can do about it. My Dad and MIL are like you- they wont hear of it in their houses. Fine. Its their house, their rules. But at my house its fine.
Take away the toy guns and they will start hitting each other with sticks. Trust me on this. That is so much more dangerous than a toy gun.
Let your boy be a boy.


answers from Beaumont on

It is fun for boys to play this, but I would think that your son is too little to be playing with 6th graders anyway. I would not want them pointing and shooting at him like he was some kind of target because he was little.
If it comes up with kids his own age I would let him but not with big kids. I know too many 6th graders and they are too mature for him.

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