How to Raise Gun-Free Boys

When my husband and I first started talking about having children almost two decades ago, one of our concerns was the pervasive violence in our culture. Seeing boys barely old enough to write their names pretending to blow one another up was troubling, and we decided our kids were going to be different. We didn’t buy in to gender stereotypes. Kids are blank slates. We were going to raise our boys to be peaceful. We’re seventeen years into this parenting gig. Twelve of those years have been spent raising boys, and I’ve worked with hundreds of children aged preschool to high school, so I do have at least some experience when I offer this advice.

To raise gun-free boys:

  1. Teach them new meanings to common behaviors. Children naturally extend thumb and forefinger. Teach them it’s an “L” for “Love.” If that doesn’t work, I recommend gluing their thumbs and forefingers together.
  2. Monitor their television consumption. Weapons are everywhere on TV today, so screen time must be regulated. I recommend no more than fifteen minutes a day in ten second intervals. Choose shows carefully. We limit our boys to Thigh Master infomercials and reruns of Care Bears.
  3. Monitor their video games. Violence in video games is ubiquitous. Studies have shown that video games can skew perceptions of what is acceptable behavior.Β  Minecraft was shown the door, for example, when our boys began punching actual trees.Β  Stick with Reader Rabbit.
  4. Choose good playmates. Kids are easily influenced by their peers. I suggest never letting them play with actual children. A mirror is a reasonable substitute. Animals, preferably those without opposable thumbs, are a decent choice. Store mannequins are also acceptable.
  5. Choose toys carefully. No Nerf guns, of course.Β  I also recommend never letting them touch things that may to their eyes look like a gun. These items include, but are not limited to: coat-hangers, Lego bricks, sticks, high heeled shoes, kitchen implements, brooms, and, interestingly, a Thigh Master.
  6. Aim for early orthodontics. Namely headgear. If their lips can’t meet, they can’t make shooting noises. Little known fact – Little Willy Wonka didn’t have dental issues – his dad got tired of hearing him say “Pow! Pow! Pow!”
They can's say "POW!" if their lips don't meet. Use physiology to your advantage!

Use physiology to your advantage! Studies show kids in such headgear are also happier, too. They’re always smiling.



Stay tuned for the next in the series : Teaching kids that passing gas is a natural act, not a comedy routine.



62 thoughts on “How to Raise Gun-Free Boys

  1. Ha ha ha I love it never let them play with other kids. I was having a problem with one boy then realised school has boys just like this one. So instead of trying to avoid him I have started to teach my son that I won’t tolerate such behaviour. Um let’s see who is cooler mom or bud. Not sure at this stage

  2. I think I have an advantage in our household as in The UK guns are illegal unless you’re a farmer or in the police!

  3. Thanks, I needed this. I have a blog draft about toy guns in the the works. I needed a good slap around the head about the whole thing. Again. Cheers!

      • Same as yours, basically. It occurred to me that I had no issue with them having light sabers or ancient maces (!!) but I held out on the guns. I still will not allow realistic looking guns, I try to stick to the Nerf stuff. Those however, generally get taken away on a regular basis because my oldest (10) can’t seem to abide by my request that he not point them in people’s faces, which is one of the things that makes me cringe and ponder if I made the right decision in backing down.

  4. As a new naΓ―ve mom, I intentionally avoided using the word “gun” with my two year old son, thinking this would shelter him from the concept. Ha! The label didn’t matter. He dubbed his sticks “shooters” and went right on using them without anyone having introduced him to the concept.

  5. Oh no darling, all you need is that little sign I saw on the door to the dentists the other day, a gun with a diagonal line through it. You can hang it in the bathroom so he can study it. Squidge will understand immediately and all your worries will be over! c

  6. If there is one thing I take home from my own parenting experiences it’s: Nothing ever turns out the way you planned it. Come to think of it, that basically goes for anything I ever did. Bummer!

  7. Ahah thats quite good πŸ™‚
    However I’m going to be that annoying person who kind of disagrees…
    I don’t think having too many restrictions on a child is that good… I mean yes guns are bad and little children shouldn’t be pretending to blow each other up, but wasn’t that a part of everyones childhood? Playing silly little games on the street? And we’ve all turned out pretty great πŸ™‚

    Although the orthodontist idea is funny πŸ™‚

  8. When I first read the title, I thought “Yeah, good luck with that”. Love the article though! Guns and boys just seem to go genetically together, no matter how hard people fight it. My nephew is more of a cars and trucks boy (but even then, it came completely naturally to him). Our one rule for guns is to never point them at people. Doesn’t matter if it’s a water gun and you’re aiming at my leg. Just no.

  9. Hilarious, Heather. Thanks for the chuckle. I will now always come to you with advice on how to deal with the lil ‘uns.

    BTW, any of your techniques working so far? πŸ™‚

  10. BC. This was delightful. I raised two girls but, as you know, have a grandson. He is so different from his mother and aunt. He thinks differently and for the life of me, I can’t figure out where his mind is going. I shall keep your wonderful advice for parenting boys and pass it along to my daughter. Cheers!

  11. Quite a post Charmaine, I wish you lots of luck in your endeavours to ‘disarm’ the boys. In the 1950’s in England I was the Wyatt Earp of my street as a kid, cap guns were my friends. Then along came Ivanhoe and there wasn’t a kid in the street who didn’t nick his mum’s colander and wear it on their head. They didn’t stop the pain from being whacked with a wooden sword though. I learnt at a young age that you don’t point guns at people, however it never stopped young lads from beating the bejasus out of each other in the name of Knights Templar. I could go on about Robin Hood and the necessity of watching which street you wandered into. Otherwise you stood a good chance of being the target for several dozen bamboo arrows. πŸ™‚

      • From my vague recollections the parameters slipped away the farther you played away from home. πŸ™‚ Then again they were the days when kids stayed well away from the house, otherwise you found yourself having to do something.

  12. I smiled all the way through the post, but at the same time, am saddened by the gender-typing. While boys seem naturally more active, and possibly more aggressive, and there MAY be studies that support this, the more-male interest in guns appears society-driven. When I was young, in my both my homes–Chicago and New York–we girls played with guns equally with the boys. We used our fingers when young, or broken sticks. We also used pea shooters, which really hurt–bad when you got hit, but quite rewarding when you hit someone else! Bigger kids, like 5-year-olds, got cap guns. Niiice. We had games of war, of cowboy and indian, and of spies. We girls also used and played with knives equally, including mumbledy-peg.

    It is the many things, including the backlash against feminism predicted by Susan Faludi and endorsed by advertisers (who can sell twice as much product thereby) that has brought us to this boys-go-for-guns-girls-not-so-much pass as much as by nature, I think. Stream Nova’s “The Pinks and the Blues” to see how fathers unconsciously steer their boy and girl babies toward what they consider gender-appropriate toys right from the get-go.

  13. I agree to what you have written.We need to spread this gun free culture,where people live happily as in a family,where differences are sought by talking.I am doing my bit too,by propogating humanity……..

  14. Another fact: you cannot bite your nails when you wear braces or headgear! You cannot bite into apples or any other type of fruit either, but that can be easily remedied by providing a knife & hoping they don’t cut off an important part of their anatomy.

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