My son has a friend (let’s call him M.) who plays lots of gun and fighting games with his dad. M.’s behaviour can be quite violent at times and Big Boy has been replicating some actions and phrases that terrify me (like pointing his fingers at someone immitating a gun and shouting ‘Die!’).
Part of me is so distressed by it that I want to never let my son play with M. again. But I know that this is not a solution. We can’t shelter our children from everything and sooner or later Big Boy will have to face peer pressure when I am not there to influence his choice. It is my reponsibility to teach him to make the right decisions for himself and I can’t do that by running away.
Some situations are pretty straightforward and Big Boy is coping just fine. Once I overheard the following conversation between the two boys.
‘Let’s hit Little Monkey’ (M.)
‘No.’ (Big Boy)
‘Because it hurts.’
Violent pretend games are another matter. When I tell him that guns hurt and kill people Big Boy responds, ‘It’s not real. We are just pretending.’ True, but games are how children learn. What they practice today in play may very well become what they find acceptable in real life tomorrow.
It is very hard to explain this to a 4-year-old. So far the most effective answer I have come up with is this, ‘M. plays guns because he doesn’t know that there are better games. Maybe next time you can show him and you can play firemen, doctors or teachers. You can build houses, cook meals, fly airplanes…’ (at this stage Big Boy usually joins and starts adding his own favourite games).
But sooner or later the question comes up again. ‘Why does M. have guns and I can’t have any?’
How do you discourage violent games?