“Why can’t we watch that?”
“Why can’t I get that gun toy?”
These are frequent questions at our house, and the answer is almost always, “because we don’t watch violence or play with fighting toys in our family.” My kids don’t own any weapons beyond little plastic swords, and I am vigilant to the point of ridiculous about what movies and tv shows they watch. If it’s violent, vulgar, or has characters using abusive language with each other, we don’t watch it. No exceptions.
I know compared to a lot of other moms, I’m over the top with this, but I also know my boys are at that age where they’re prone to picking up every bad thing they see. It takes no imagination whatsoever to pretend your toys are fighting or shooting each other; it takes a lot more to figure out something positive for your action figures to do. Raising boys who like super heroes and robots, it is hard to keep stick to my no-violence policy when buying toys in aisles filled with lazer-gun-toting robots and action figures who are made to fight. But it’s not impossible.
It doesn’t come up much when we’re at home. As they scroll through shows on Netflix, they generally ask before watching a new one. If something comes on and there is violence in it, N will usually call out, “Mama, we’re not supposed to be watching this! There’s lots of fighting in it!” And I’m good with that. Regardless of the message marketers and toy makers are sending little boys in particular, violence isn’t a kind of fun play. Pretending to beat the crap out of someone with your toy nunchucks isn’t silly, and shooting at someone with anything, even a Nerf gun, doesn’t fly in our house.
Unfortunately, my kids don’t live in a bubble where my parenting choices are the only thing they’re exposed to. When they’re at friends’ houses, playgrounds, and even sometimes family gatherings, I know tvs will be tuned to Ninja Turtles or Spongebob. Toy guns are just about everywhere, and so are action figures equipped with them. Inevitably, when we have a play date with another little boy, mine come home and ask why we can’t have army toys or pretend guns. Even though they know what I will say.
I’m not judging other parents whose kids play with toy weapons or watch Ninja Turtles. I’m pretty sure I’d have no friends left if I didn’t let my kids play at houses where toy guns existed. And I honestly don’t’ care what other people’s kids are playing with. But mine know those things don’t come into our home. Even if their friends think they’re cool (which means they must be, right?!). Because guns should never be toys in my opinion, and repeating “shut up, you idiot” to your brother after you heard it on a tv show is hurtful, not funny. Hopefully, by the time they are old enough for movies with violence or tv shows with inappropriate language, they’ll have heard my mantra about our house enough times that they’ll recognize verbal and physical violence as such.