Dear Dr. Bill,
We’ve read about how innocent “play” can be for young boys who pretend to be cops and robbers or soldiers — and we agree. However, our 12-year-old grandson and his friends like to shoot at one another with real plastic BB’s from air guns. They also play with paintball guns, and the whole point is pulling the trigger in hopes of hitting someone! We’re wondering if this kind of behavior could ever develop into a wrong attitude — especially if these kids were ever to get their hands on real weapons. Do you think we should talk to our daughter and son-in-law about this?
There are two sides to this issue. First of all, boys are naturally drawn to games like cops and robbers and playing “army.” It's just the way they are wired. Also, God has wired boys to be more competitive, more action-oriented, and more aggressive than girls. Toy guns can be a part of that play, and I don't believe there is anything wrong with them. My brother and I played with toy guns when I was growing up, and neither of us ended up committing violent crimes or going to Alcatraz.
That being said, play that is dangerous, destructive, or mean-spirited is an entirely different story. Based on your description, it sounds like that’s what’s going on with your grandson and his friends. It’s likely that their behavior is directly linked to the TV shows and movies their parents allow them to watch.
It’s up to your son and daughter in law to provide your grandson with clear moral guidance and to be diligent about the type of media they allow him to view or listen to. I’d suggest you lovingly express your concerns to them.
One thing you can do is let your grandson know that when he’s at your house, target shooting is fine, but shooting at others is off-limits. Remind him that God loves and treasures every human being, and that the Bible tells us never to act in ways that are evil or cruel.
Thanks for writing Betty. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.