Misguided Parenting Advice

On The High Road is a discussion about this article on parenting by clinical psychologist Dr. Ruth Peters. The general advice in the article, dealing with setting limits for your child's social activities, is reasonable if a bit more risk-averse than I care for. Of interest to the High Road crowd, naturally, is that the first scenario Dr. Peters presents concerns playing with toy guns:
Your six-year-old son wants to play with the kid down the block who appears to be a ballistics expert. He always seems to be in the front yard shooting cans with his BB gun, owns three (count them, three) fake hand grenades and brags that his father has rifles in the house. You have a standing family rule for all of your kids that guns, even toy ones, are off-limits. Your child, who has recently become interested in all things military, accuses you of being unfair.
When my brother and I were young, our parents forbid toy guns in the house, and also did not let us watch violent movies. So far as we can tell, we were in a completely gun-free environment—until my brother and I started constructing weapons out of Legos, at which point our parents conceded defeat. My mother is convinced that affinity for guns is genetic.

I tend to be skeptical of bans on toy guns; while parents are free to have such bans, I suspect that they will be ineffective.
What to do? First, be sure that you’ve listened to your son’s entire argument, and if there’s room for compromise, do it. Perhaps you can allow his friend to come to your house to play with your son’s toys and games — it may turn out that the lure is not really the play weapons, but his buddy’s fun presence.
Um, no.

When I was six, we would play with other kids specifically to get our hands on their toys. Which is why few kids ever wanted to come to our house, since we didn't have a game console, high-powered computer, swimming pool, et cetera. If this hypothetical six-year-old really wanted his friend's company, he would have invited him over to the parent's house to begin with.
Many families do not allow their children to play with toy weapons, as the parents believe that these toys are “gateways” to the real McCoy…
Uh-huh. Right. If I had to make a guess, I would say the opposite: most kids with toy guns end up getting bored with them in a few months or years; and some families who own guns do not allow their children to have toy guns, believing that they teach bad safety habits. The parents just start their kids right away on the real thing.
Ask the boy's mom or dad if they possess a gun and how it is stored. If you feel even the least bit uncomfortable with the answer — don’t allow your child to visit their home.
It's one thing if the parents leave their guns around within reach of their children, or store the guns inside their liquor closet or something as bad. But I suspect that the target audience of this article would feel "the least bit uncomfortable" with the mere presence of guns, thanks in no small part to articles such as this one that demonize all guns and gunowners. Many gunowners complain that their children are stigmatized by other parents, who refuse to let their children come play simply because somewhere in the house is a self-aware, malicious, devious firearm just itching to crawl over to some innocent children and pull its own trigger at them.

My broader problem with this piece is Dr. Peters's assumption that good parents keep their homes gun-free. Violence is an ugly thing, but so is passivity in the face of evil. Some parents prefer to discourage the former, some the latter—and some do both, for there is nothing contradictory about a disciplined approach to violence. But Dr. Peters seems to believe that violence is the greatest of evils, no matter what its form. Such an attitude is acceptable for the usual business of society, but fails catastrophically in times of danger and upheaval. In such times, the warrior must once again come to the fore. And those who train their children to be warriors should not be given the brand of shame by a society that increasingly places the burden of its defense on them.

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