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Aggressive Play - Where to draw the line and how to enforce it

I had asked him to go put the toy away, if he didn't want his little brother playing with it.  He disappeared up the stairs...  The next second, it seemed, he was back at the base of the stairs, shooting his playmate in the face point blank, with a lego "missile launcher".  At first, I could hardly believe my eyes and then I started with the questions.  How could you do that?  What were you thinking?  Look how hurt he is!  Did you apologize?  And it hits me... we just had this conversation 10 minutes prior to that.  And about 20 minutes before that too.  To me, the rules are very clear:  It's never OK to hurt somebody.  But why does this rule seem so "flexible" in his mind?

Needless to say, instead of the soft line approach with "shooting" toys, it's going to become a hard one.  Honestly I have no idea where that lego set came from or why it had guns in it, but somehow my boy has a honing device onto such toys and can find them anywhere (even when they don't exist!). 

Aggressiveplay

But beyond that, it's apparent that I'm not "Getting through".  I feel like partially, because I'm a different gender, I just don't "get" the aggressive play.  Why do we need to be SO loud, go SO fast, and hit SO hard ALL of the time?  I just don't understand it.  Add to that the fact that people are getting hurt and it seems to make perfect sense:  Quiet down, slow down, don't hit.  How many times do I have to repeat myself, exactly?  In excess of a thousand times, is that right?  What's the range of normal, here, and should I be concerned that we are outside of it?

Now that younger brother is starting to catch on to this "aggressive" play, it seems like the occurrences have increased exponentially.  So I wonder, how do you "make sense" of this?  Is there one magical book?  Some redirection that actually WORKS?  Some behavior modification regime that will get through?  I'm at my wit's end and I want to know where to go from here.... help?

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Oh I can soooo relate to this! My boys are 6 and 16 months and I feel like a referee most of the time. I often wonder, is my oldest teaching my youngest to be aggressive? My youngest now throws things at my older boy (books, cars, hard objects) and thinks it's funny. When my older boy gets upset about it I say to him, "where do you think he learned that?" When my son does something physically aggressive to my toddler I say to him "you are teaching him to do this and he will do it back to you. You have to show him to be nice and gentle. He wants to do everything that you do so be a great big brother and show him how to be gentle." Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. Depends on the day. I will just keep on talking them through this and hope that they will get it someday. In the meantime, if something really bad happens (like the Leggo incident) I separate them and usually have the older one go to his room for quiet play for a while. I know it's exhausting maddening at the same time; hang in there!! Please know you are not alone as I am sure there are many moms with 2 or more boys who are going through the exact same thing.

I'm not sure if I have any answers, but this documentary helped me -- it talked about how some violent play can be actually important for boys as a means of getting control of their imaginations and bodies (within reason, of course -- hurting others is never ok). It also showed how violent play does not necessarily result in a violent child or adult.

And as for the guns, my husband was raised with a strict no gun policy, so he ended up just turning sticks into guns, pillows into bombs, etc. It turned out ok, as he is now one of the most peaceful guys I know....

There's a link on this page that also provides a lot of other resources...

http://www.pbs.org/opb/raisingcain/


I loved that PBS show. Very good info. There's a companion book as well by the same title.

I know some folks will disagree with my thinking on this, but I really do believe boys are wired differently than girls. Not better or worse, just different. They do have a different energy level and it needs to be appreciated and channelled, not just calmed. They do need alot of focus on emotional development, but they approach it very differently than girls.

I didn't get it for a long time, and also felt very intimidated by it. Addressing it like I wanted to, like a girl would, frankly, wasn't working for me. My husband kept coming back with the "they're boys" response, and it would frustrate me so much! But, he's right. Now that I can embrace it, we all get along better. Hurting people isn't okay in our house, so we have some pretty clear social boundaries around that, meaning, if you're hitting/kicking/hurting, whatever, you can't be with people for a bit. But I also have a firm belief in sending them out back to dig a hole (ride a bike, run, etc) when they just have too much energy for the house! It really does cut down on conflicts between my two boys if they're outdoors and I'm not nagging for them to stop running/jumping/yelling, you name it.

As for guns, I'm with Kristin on a total ban being pretty unsuccessful. I can't take their fingers from them, no matter how hard I try! We have a rule that pretend guns are for shooting pretend things. We cannot use pretend guns for shooting at real people, animals, etc. When that happens, it's treated like any other toy that isn't being played with safely. At the same time, when we play, I'm modeling appropriate play with the weapons. The playmobil police have guns because real police have guns; hunters have guns to hunt, that sort of thing.

This episode of Speaking of Faith talks a little about it, too, in the context of the purpose of unstructured play time.

http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/play/

Tracy, I hear you on boys and girls being wired differently. Before I had a boy, such a thought would raise my feminist hackles. It's all in how you raise them, I naively thought. Boy was I wrong....

In Stanley Greenspan's book The Challenging Child he talked about how acting out aggressive feelings in play is a developmental step towards being able to separate emotions from actions. Its important we set limits about it and teach our values, but kids need room to express this part of them.

When my little boy becomes a t-rex and starts biting and scratching at me I encourage him to "eat" a toy instead of mommy, but I don't stop the game.

We only have one boy, 19 months and he is full of crazy aggressive emotions that NEED an outlet. His latest one is to run around and hit walls, floors, doors, furniture, sometimes his sister, as hard and loudly as he can. I think that he likes the noise it makes and how it makes him feel to use all of his strength. Some of the big rules we have in our house is that you may NOT be destructive of anyones things or hit one another. No exceptions. So when I notice he needs to be crazy, I give him a task to be crazy at and even show him myself how crazy I want him to be. My boy likes to see me be crazy as example and I think it helps him to get all that energy out. We used to use the pound-a-peg toy for this. Lately it isn't working so I am looking for a new solution. I am thinking of getting a small hammer, one that is blunt on both ends, and some boards or fire wood and just letting him beat the crap out of them. It will be an outside toy, even if it's just on the deck, and an extremely supervised activity! As he gets older, we'll add nails and let him have at it.

Something I also do is to show him his strength is a positive and for good. When he is mean aggressive I say something like "God made you strong to protect and guard and look out for your sister/friends/mama & daddy." The phrase can be adapted in any way you want. The goal is to play up his strength and remind him of how strong he really is and how proud we are that he is strong. What boy doesn't want to be super strong and a protector? So far it seems to work for us. : )

I hope you can find a good solution for you and feel better about this soon.

I recently finished reading the book "Playful Parenting" by Leonard Cohen. He has some interesting takes on all this. I'm still pondering his ideas (I have a 3-year-old boy who is very chill so far, so I have the luxury of some time on this one), but I was surprised to find myself going from feeling completely against any aggressive play to considering taking on his ideas about how to incorporate safe roughhousing into play with children (girls and boys alike). He asserts that such play allows kids the opportunity to sort through aggressive feelings in themselves and others, and argues that if we don't allow them to do so in play, they will do so in real life, instead. He sets some ground rules for such play and suggests that parents should participate to keep the play safe and enjoyable for all. And he throws out some ideas for how to incorporate your own values into such play (e.g., allowing magical weapons but not toy guns). Anyhow, you might check out the book for some food for thought on finding acceptable ways for your little guys to explore aggressive feelings and what to do with them. Good luck--all that can't be easy, and I'm sure a book seems a lot more "magic" until one has to translate it to real life . . . but I have had some early successes using his strategies for other parenting challenges, so I'm hoping he'll be a good resource more generally.

Tracy, I very much agree with your assessment of the wiring difference (at least in most cases). My 3-year old boy's #1 favorite thing in the world is aggresive wrestling-like play with my husband. I can't say I get it since I was raised in a family of three daughters. But regardless of my own inability to relate, my son's thirst for this kind of play is real and came very early.

My son is only 3, and I was part of a 3 girl family and all my cousins but one that I played with were girls. So, I thought that I would not be able to relate to a son, because I heard so much about this wiring thing. However, my son has no aggressive tendencies, and is much gentler and less aggressive than his girl cousins. I think it is not a matter of wiring. My friend said her little boy, on his 5th birthday, out of 15 presents, received 14 guns of one sort or another. I can guarantee that no girl would get this ratio of gun gifts. Previous poster mentions aggressive wrestling - - most men I've seen just don't grab their daughter and wrestle aggressively. I think in the case of guns, boys/kids see something that when pointed, is supposed to have something come out of it, and enjoy the action/reaction. Perhaps the enjoyment of wrestling starts from the kid learning that this is an intimate one on one interaction that he gets from his father. I think either could be replaced, and the aggressiveness not fostered. The agressive behavior in my neices is manifested differently, but if given guns and wrestling as examples of acceptable activities, I'm sure they would have gone with it. The problems with guns and physical force is that they are not good ways of playing/interacting as an adult. And as an adult, men have high testosterone, which does contribute to aggressive behavior.

I don't know if I'll have to deal with it or not. But, I would maybe look into Waldorf principles for aggressive-tendency children. And I would try to find activities that cultivate compassion and relating to others. Difficult to find, but that's where I would start. Recently my son got a play sword, and had no idea what it did besides touch things he pointed it at, so we called it a wand, and went from there.

When my son changed daycares, he was the victim of a lot of aggressive behavior by other kids. My one thing was just to have him be able to get confidence out of it, not learning to be aggressive in return.

I'm glad to hear a few others are like-minded. I do want to clarify that I don't say that as "all boys are one way or another" or that it's an excuse for dreadful behavior. I just believe it needs to inform how I parent them.

Wonderful thoughts here!

Yes, boys and girls are 'wired differently'...over 100 differences have been discovered so far!

So, how do we appreciate the exuberance of boys? Realizing where it comes from, that it is innate, is important. And its up to us to help them channel it. I don't believe anyone has mentioned testosterone yet...its what drives males...one-ups-man-ship, aggressive play, energy, impulsiveness, all come from testosterone...and we want them to have all those qualities...just maybe not in our living rooms!

I teach a workshop called Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best! and its coming up this Saturday, October 3rd from 9:30 - 12:30. From theory to practical skills - you'll understand 'why boys will be boys' and how to adjust your parenting and his environment so that he can be his best!

http://www.parenting-advice-from-mom.com/language-of-parenting-classes.html

My boys are 7, 5 and 1 1/2. We've recently worked our way through the gun and aggressive play situations.

Basically, they are allowed to play with their lightsabers and lego guns and whatever gun they fashion out of their toast at breakfast (I kid you not), but they can't shoot people who aren't also playing. No "weapons" at school or on the playground. No actual physical contact. And if they ever come across a real gun, tell an adult immediately.

I can't say I've had to take a real hard-line approach, as the (older) boys are fairly reasonable children. But at the same time, when one of them does get hurt because they are playing like maniacs, they get very little sympathy from me. If they are both acting like fools, it is just a matter of luck regarding who is going to get hurt or not--they are both equally responsible, regardless of who gets injured.

What Pam said is sooo true: "Tracy, I hear you on boys and girls being wired differently. Before I had a boy, such a thought would raise my feminist hackles. It's all in how you raise them, I naively thought. Boy was I wrong...." I never thought I would have let my kids run around shooting each other. Now I worry that forcing them to curb their "aggressive tendencies" (such a horrible phrase to use about young boys) will make it more difficult to self-regulate these tendencies when they are adults. The best I can do is teach them an appropriate way to get the crazies out.

Oh, what totally perfect timing for this discussion! I've got 2 boys ages 2 and almost 5 who have recently started to really enjoy playing together, and (as a result?) it seems like their play is all of a sudden much more aggressive. One of my 2 year old's first words was "gun" which just horrified me!

My 5 year old is obsessed with "good guys vs. bad guys" scenarios, pretending to be a policeman so that he can shoot the bad guy and lock him up in jail, etc. As much as it drives me crazy, I've also heard that this type of play is very developmentally appropriate for boys his age, as they need ways to sort of categorize things into "good and bad". We have similar boundaries as what's been mentioned already--never shoot or aim a gun at a person who's not playing the game with you, the other friends have to want to be playing the same game, and we never hurt/destroy living things.

We try to be moderate in our approach to most things in life and this issue falls in line with that strategy too, although as a mama (and a girl?) sometimes their physical, aggressive play just really drives me nuts! No question in my mind that boys and girls are so different so I try to embrace their ways, knowing that at their core, these are very kind loving boys that I have.

I have two boys (2 and 4) and two girls (3 and 6).

I would just give them lots of appropriate ways to channel their aggressive energies, like punching bags and gloves, (huge hit around here!), water guns with targets (cans, etc.), martial arts classes, sports, family exercise time (we do a crazy routine in the garage 3x/week), etc.

Also, anytime they use any kind of toy to hurt someone else that toy gets put away for the rest of the day, and then our usual routine of apologizing (sincerely) and doing a chesed (kindness) for the other person like getting them a special toy or blanket.

As a Jew I WANT my children to grow up knowing how to defend themselves. I WANT them to know (as appropriate to their ages) that there really are bad guys who hate us for no reason. How else to explain the guards and extra police protection we have to have at every special holiday service? OY!

I will say that our two usually loving children were getting pretty physical with each other towards the end of summer but things are improving at home now that school is back in session and they're together less. But that behavior still comes out.

I think it's time for us to check out Raising Cain. Our 5 year old sweet-natured son is finally building bravery which sometimes means experimenting - what happens if I take something, push someone, etc. Throw in his sensory processing issues and high level of giftedness (low common sense) and it's so complicated that it makes my head spin. We definitely need some resources to get through this so I'll start there.

Thanks for bringing this up!

I am not sure it's hardwired, either. More likely, it's a combination of factors. I have two girls and a boy. My oldest (a girl) is the most aggressive out of the three. I have to be very creative to give her outlets so that she doesn't act on her more aggressive tendencies. We do a lot of classes, and we stay out of the house as much as we can on non school days. If we are at home, she gets bored, and starts throwing, hitting, poking, pushing, and plain doing anything she can to get a rise out of me, her brother and her sister.

My son is extremely gentle, great at sharing, and shows genuine concern for others when they are hurt. He is the sweetest thing.

My younger daughter (my son's twin) is trending towards her sister's behavior, but we are handling it better this second time around. She is also much more girly than her sister, though, too. She likes dresses and fairies, and all the girly things that my oldest has never cared for.

I think it's a combination of environment, genetics, hormones, etc.

As for how to deal with it...Our pediatrician recently told us that older daughter has found a role in our family that is working for her (bully, etc), and it's basically our job to make it not work for her. So, when she's acting like that, immediately separate the kids, take away the toys in question, etc. It's the same stuff I was doing, but now we are being really consistent, which I am afraid to admit is somewhat new. With three little ones, I used to take the path of leas resistance for lots if things. Not any more.

Having grown up in a household of women only, the boy thing has been difficult for me. Our boys are 8 and 5. Both of them are sweet, funny and very affectionate and loving boys. But, yes they can get very aggressive and it drives me to distraction. I feel like I am constantly intervening so that they won't seriously injure each other. My husband who grew up with a brother always tells me to ignore it. I know I should maybe ignore some of their loud and distracting actions but his advice just makes me even more irritated. I can't ignore it when they hurt one another. When they do get too physical and someone is crying because they got scratched or kicked I make sure they take a time out and then we talk about it and they need to apologize. Anyway it is helpful to read all of the above posts for other ideas because I don't know half the time if I am handling things in the right way. It has gotten better since they are in school and they are both in Kung Fu which really does help them to channel some of their energy and also to learn when it is appropriate to defend yourself and what to do.

I feel like saying that boys are different and have a different energy than girls leads people to accept behavior that is unacceptable--hurting people, hurting animals, damaging property. I also question how true it is. My four-year-old daughter loves roughhousing (she calls it "Grinch play"). So does my son. It'd not about the gender so much as it is the personality. I see other parents shrug off very aggressive, hurtful behavior as just "They're boys, what do you expect?" If my daughter were backstabbing, forming cliques, and sneering at other girls, I wouldn't excuse that because she's a girl and that's stereotypical girl behavior.

Here are the rules we set up for my son with aggressive play, mostly dealing with toys. If he used a toy weapon on a person or animal, which meant hitting with a sword or shooting at with a bow and arrow or a gun or even aiming with a bow that had an arrow loaded, he lost the toy for the rest of the day. If he did it again, he lost that toy for a week. If he did it a third time, he lost that toy forever. It took only one time of a dramatic, throw-the-sword-in-the-trash event for him to learn that we meant it. He was two and a half at the time. He's 10 now. We haven't had to follow through on that threat again.

For aggression with bodies, it's different, but the bottom line is that you don't get to be with other people when you treat them badly, whether that's with words or bodies. So the kids have to have a timeout and we go over that rule again. For my daughter, who often refuses to stay in her room when she's in trouble, sometimes she has to stay on the back porch. But that separation is really key.

All kids need lots of healthy outlets for their energy--probably more than they get today. Lots and lots of exercise and chances to jump around and climb and run. Opportunities to build things and knock them down and build them again. For most cases, I think kids who are acting wild and hurting others incidentally just need more exercise. It's crazy to expect kids to use "indoor voices" all the time. If they are having trouble using an indoor voice, send them outside and let them yell. If they are running around and bouncing off the walls, send them outside or help them jump in the house in a safe way. For kids who are hurting others on purpose, I would first look at the input they get from their environment. What is being modeled to them from siblings, parents, books, TV, games, game card? What can you change? It's too much to expect a kid to actively change a pattern of behavior when they don't see anything wrong with it in the first place. The adult has to structure the situation differently--different toys, different models, different consequences.

And as a final note. We don't have a no-weapons-household. We have toy swords and lots of armor and bows and arrows. But I do think there's a difference between kids turning sticks into guns and kids being provided with realistic toy guns. The first depends on their initiation and their imagination. The second is handed to them--it's essentially a suggestion from an adult that this is a fun and acceptable thing to play with. So yes, kids will still act out battles of some kind between good guys and bad guys and those battles often involve weapons, but that doesn't mean the parents need to be arms dealers.

As a mom of an active 3 year year old boy and a new baby boy, I am just learning how to properly harness my oldest sons "aggressiveness" in a positive manner. I do believe that it has a lot to do with the child's personality because not all boys possess the craziness that my son and many other boys have.

I am glad this post was written because I was truly starting to feel like my son was the only boy in Portland that had this sort of aggressive energy. I feel like so many parents that I meet on the playground don't allow their boys to be boys. I get awful looks when my son picks up a stick and starts shooting it or pretends its a Light Saber. Trust me, neither I or my husband showed him this its just something he has figured out. We have made a rule that he can't shoot others unless they are also playing, but very few parents allow their kids to play.

Boys will be boys and if they aren't hurting someone on purpose why can't we just let them play?

I would also recommend "Killing Monsters - Why Children Need Fantasy, Superheroes and Make-Believe Violence" by Gerard Jones.

Love the topic! Always have a synchronicity with UM and my current challenge! Love to hear folks leaning towards allowing their boys to be who they are...and still setting good boundaries. Couple of ideas that have worked with my two guys...instead of a "time out" I will sometimes make them run up and down the stairs 10x or so--it shifts the energy and they are usually laughing by the end. Also, we have clear rules around weapon play--toy weapons, any kind, are "shooters" and can shoot out a variety of things--fire, water,etc. Real guns are guns and they are capable of taking away a life. It gets repeated a lot, but my hope is there is a distinction that is being learned.

I am also having issues lately with too much aggression with my three year old, who is a girl! I definitely see what the moms of boys are talking about as far as boy being somewhat more high energy and 'aggressive', but my daughter is ramping it up lately as well, and a lot of the aggression is directed at me. It is nice to hear people discuss it as a natural behavior because I have been very upset by it and have been trying to just stop it when I can. So, some creative suggestions as far as how to let her express this side of herself in an appropriate way are very helpful.

Would just like to chime in here that GIRLS also need an outlet for this kind of fantasy! I remember when I was growing up gravitating to Cheetara, She-Ra, Princess Leia, Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman because they were bad-ass ladies, fighting the good fight and saving the day rather than being rescued. I look at the programing aimed at my five year-old daughter and it's no wonder she's watching the Clone Wars and Harry Potter. Frankly, I'd far prefer her saving the galaxy from the Dark Side in her games than pretending to be Hannah Montana or a Cheetah Girl (ugh). Anything actually aimed at girls is all about "mean girls" and "nice girls" (witches and princesses=same difference).

It seems to me after reading these posts that what we are actually talking about here are two separate types of play; fantasy violence (i.e. acting out a good guy/bad guy scenario with or without pretend weapons) and rough-housing/physical aggression (tackling little sibling for fun, frustration, boredom, etc.). These things are two very different things in my book and while the bottom line is the same (hurting is never okay) the intent generally isn't and the response shouldn't be either. If two children are playing light saber with sticks and someone gets poked, the injury is accidental. Just because the kids are pretending to be violent, does not make their intentions hurtful. On the other hand, if big sibling punches little sibling because he/she took a toy or to get a rise out of mom, well, then that's a different issue. At the end of the day, fantasy play is a healthy way to process concepts of "good" and "bad", fear, aggression, bravery, and feeling small and powerless in a big world. Hurting others for attention or entertainment, on the other hand, is never appropriate and children need help from their parents to find more appropriate ways to get what they need.

One of the things I got out of the aforementioned book, Raising Cain, is the notion that some of the needs of boys are not being recognized and met by society and therefore they are at higher risk of things like depression, suicide, incarceration, etc, as they get older. So, for example, schools have increased the expectation that kids be able to sit in their desks for longer periods of time, at earlier ages, and boys in particular are struggling as they so desperately need the outlet of recess and that time is being chipped away. Also, research would show us that boys have as intense emotions as girls yet we don't cultivate it in the same way we do for girls. So, when we see someone crying we tend to talk with girls about it more than we do with boys. That kind of thing.

To me, those things show us where biology and society might collide. Boys and girls have different hormones driving them, and then we respond to them with cultural expectations. It's a disaster waiting to happen if we don't pay attention to it. I firmly believe in the idea that "boys will be boys" but I cringe when I see that notion selling boys short and giving us a pass on cultivating the more "feminine" aspects of their potential. I don't always succeed at this, but I try to always keep in mind their physicality (is that a word?!) and their emotional development. I bring in emotions when I can, but in the heat of the moment, I act instead of talk. I figure it works better with my husband and other men in my life, it probably will work best with my sons as well!

It sounds like the original poster has a child who is crossing a certain line with aggressive play. I have two boys and they are pretty aggressively physical, but not always hostile. Wresting with your brother: aggresssive. Shooting your brother in the face with a lego toy: hostile. It takes time and practice (and patience!) for both children and parents to recognize when something crosses that line. Is the older boy facing big changes (school? friends?) and doesn't know how to let out his feelings so they're manifested in behavior? Or is he just needing to let off steam?

If all else fails, for the time being, I'm also a big advocate of outdoor play for boys. Run em as much as you can. Have em join a sports team. Channel that physical energy somewhere else, then they might well be ready to be quiet down and slow down.

I have a very energetic 4 year old, who is both loving/sensitive and aggressive/focused on the good vs bad guys. He has also been exliring the world of "weapons" in the form of bark chips, Lego blocks and sticks. One approach that has worked for us (borrowed from the "Layful Parenting" book) is to pretend that the weapons shoot good things like "hugs", "kisses" and "tickles." When he pretends to "shoot" us, he has to tell us what he is "shooting." we act accordingly and grab the "hug" as it lands on our shoulder or giggle and squirm when the tickle finds it's target. As for energy level, I agree with other posters. I think our accepted lifestyle in the urban environment is too sedentary and we were biologically programmed to move around more, be more active. Our kids, whether they are boys or girls are following their biological impulses abs not the socialogical norm of their adult parents. some where in the muddle is probably the healthiest.

hmmm....
really? you let him 'shoot' hugs/kisses/tickles? This just seems like a perfect example of how kids are given too much freedom to be inappropriately expressive, or how parents find a way to normalize behaviors that really just shouldn't be acceptable.
The bottom line is, your child shouldn't be 'shooting' anything at you, or anyone else for that matter. Limits need to be set, and that behavior should not be tolerated. period.

still scratching my head.....REALLY? Do you have children? My daughter who is not into guns shoots me Spider Man webs that contain love potion all the time. She see boys on the playground doing this and wants to be a part but in her own way.

Just seems a little black and white...life is not that simple. FYI people shoot basketballs and all the time.

When did the thought become the crime? I hate toy guns as much as the next mom, but seriously, pretending is not doing. I think saying "boys will be boys" when they start throwing punches is ridiculous, but the agreed upon standard is that it's okay to shoot loving things, well that's fine. At the end of the day, it's about respecting boundaries. If the parents have said, I don't like it when you pretend to hurt me with a gun, but we can pretend that we have a tickle blaster and the child respects that request, then great. Besides, children (or adults for that matter) that are not allowed to explore ideas freely (notice, I said ideas, not actions), are only that much more intrigued by them. Limits are good. Intolerance never is.

I've read this post and the responses with interest, as my son and both daughters have gone through phases of imaginary play with various weapons - swords, guns, spider web shooters, magic wands, etc.

I think many of our responses as adults come tainted with the reality of danger. With a child's imaginary play, the use of weapons is simply an exploration like turning over every rock to find a roly-poly bug. They want to know more, to use their imagination, and they do this through playing. We're there to guide them, but we can't let fear get in the way. Education and safety guidance, but not fear!

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