Sticks and Swords are OK. Really.

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Photo by lorenkerns
Photo by lorenkerns

It’s a question every parent-of-boys has to deal with, sooner or later: Do you let your boys play with guns? How about swords? Sticks-as-swords and -guns?

Four boys into this parenting gig, I’ve come to the conclusion that weapons play is OK. (And research tends to back me up.) There are a lot of parents, though, that are still deeply uncomfortable with the idea of weapons play, and that can make for some uncomfortable moments, especially in public places. While I’m completely comfortable with my kids chasing one another with sticks, other parents, uh, aren’t. Their glares and sidelong glances suggest that they think I’m raising serial killers or something.

But boys don’t see toy weapons the way we do.

Consider this anecdote from a fellow mom:

I breathed in and out for a few minutes today on a park bench while watching Amelia and Trygg play. Another little boy and Trygg were playing “swords” with some sticks they found. The other little boy was sad because he only had one stick and Trygg had two. Trygg put one of his sticks on the ground, broke his other stick in half and gave it to the other little boy so they could each have two, and the battle continued.

Let that sink in for a moment. If that mom, or the other parent, had interfered in the boys’ play, the boys would have missed an important opportunity to demonstrate compassion, empathy and generosity.

So often, adults focus on play’s outside appearances. If kids are playing with weapons, they conclude that the play must therefore be an expression of violence, because in the adult world, weapons signify violence. But kids are playing. They’re experimenting with objects and roles, using their imagination and learning how to relate to other people.

Trygg’s mom used to be opposed to weapons play. Parenting her boys, though, inspired her to reconsider her position:

I used to be one of those moms that tried to teach my boys not to shoot guns and be violent and such. When they were biting their graham crackers and pb&j sandwiches into gun shapes and shooting at each other at the kitchen table, I decided to rethink the whole thing. My older son  loves all things military. I now tell him, if there is a war, I feel confident knowing there will be a soldier like you to protect me. He is older now and may not peruse the military, but if he does, I want him to know he has my full support to be what he feels called to be and do what God has gifted him to do.

Interesting perspective, eh?

Christine Gross-Loh, author of Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, expresses a similar perspective in her fascinating article, Keeping Kids From Toy Guns: How One Mother Changes Her Mind.

Take a look and tell me what you think. Do you let your boys play with guns? Do you think that Americans are overly and unnecessarily worried about weapons play, or do you think that it’s a good idea to steer kids away from weapons play?

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