I tried to be that mom with my first son. I did not buy or promote toy weapons. And at about the age of three, he found a stick that worked well enough as a gun. So I told him to "shoot the lizards" on the ground and not point it at people. And then he was around other little boys, who battle played, and I found myself fighting an uphill battle–myself against the innate behavior of boys.
We have two now. Two boys out of four children and our second boy is just as, if not more, animated than the first with light-sabers, swords, legos, star war figures and playmobil.
He lives and breathes battle play. Our two boys battle each other, cousins, and friends willing to join in battle.
And this kind of play, I've concluded, is healthy.
Because we can't change the make-up of our boys, but we can train them according to their make-up.
There is no doubt that boys were built to be warriors–when they can create their own weapon out of sticks without ever being exposed to one. Therefore, eliminating toy weapons is not the answer. But rather how we train them is key.
Here are five points we use for training our boys in the way of battle play:
1) We teach them what it means to be a hero.
Heroes fight for something greater than themselves and are willing to give up their own life for the greater good. On a smaller scale, we train our children to put others first and to give up their own comforts for the sake of another.
2) We teach them what it takes to be courageous.
Courage is not simply doing right when it is easy, but rather doing right when it is the most difficult to do. My children are realizing that this is near to impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit. Yes, they must pray for courage.
3) We teach them that they were created to be warriors in a real life spiritual battle.
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The Spirit cannot reside where sin does and so our children, our boys, are faced with this battle every single day. They must choose to gain their strength for this battle from Christ and the Word they have hidden in their hearts. (For more on children fighting a spiritual battle, check out this post: How a Child Crushes a Lie)
4) We read like crazy great books that display courage, heroism, defending the weak, and fighting for good.
In the face of real life difficulty, our boys have the opportunity to identify with a character in a great story who felt lonely in choosing right, who felt scared in pressing forward and who found courage to act in the face of that fear.
Why is story so important? Because our children can see the lasting affects of those choices, within the characters they identify with, in which good prevails in the end. (If you're not reading aloud already, check out this post: 8 Reasons to Read Aloud to Your Children)
5) We use our home as training ground.
The little brothers and younger sisters are examples for looking after and protecting the weak. With my younger boy being only eighteen months older than his younger sister, there are a multitude of opportunities to train his little heart to look after her, to bear with her, and to do what it is right in the face of frustration and difficulty. And I teach this to my daughters, too.
And they fail time and time again. But that is how they are learning, too. These are the teachable moments. It's up to us to give them that vision of what they're fighting for. (For further reading about giving boys a vision for their future, check out this post: How to Train Our Boys to Be Men At Four)
I see it in differing contexts just how these children do look after one another, in spite of their collision of difficulties at home. Our training is not futile even when it feels like it is. Hearts and minds are being molded for greatness, in the image of God, as we persevere.
When we use battle and warrior-talk in the training of our boys, we're speaking their language. We're penetrating their hearts.
And no doubt, what happens within the hearts of these boys in this home will manifest itself within their world.
So no, we don't take away weapons nor do we train boys against their natural grain. Our boys were created to be warriors! Rather, we train them for the battle so that they have no doubt who they are fighting, why they are fighting and what their battle is worth.
Because some things in life are worth fighting for.
Some suggested read aloud books on courage and heroism–just to name a few:
Saint George and the Dragon
Tales of King Arthur and the Round Table
The Children's Book of Heroes
The Wind and the Willows
The Tale of Despereaux
Chronicles of Narnia
Lord of the Rings Series
Swiss Family Robinson
The Red Wall Series (just embarking on these)
Missionary Stories with the Millers
Also, don't dismiss biographies, life of saints and bible stories of heroes.
What great books can you add to this list? I'd love to know!