What to do about a fascination with gun play
By Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell
I feel for you and wish there were a simple answer. Many children seem to have this obsession. I have seen a little boy having a graham cracker snack at school carefully eat out a piece from the bottom and one side, then hook his finger around the remainder and announce proudly, “Look at my gun.” And if children don’t come by the fascination naturally, the media—even seemingly innocuous old westerns with icon stars—force feed them until they succumb. It is a sad commentary on our culture.

But my perception that we live in a sick culture, as far as guns are concerned, is of no help to you. So let me say that the first thing you have to do is to make absolutely certain there are no real loaded guns he might be able to get hold of in your house. Don’t assume that “way up on a closet shelf” is out of reach of a determined 5-year-old.

Secondly, and perhaps paradoxically, I would let him have a toy gun and set rigid limits about when and where he may play with it. And the first restriction would be that he may not play with it around any other children. Perhaps, once it is no longer forbidden fruit, he might lose interest in gun play. Also, I would try subtly to prevent his association with the boy who got him started in his obsession. But don’t be too hostile to the other boy; the interest may well have bloomed in him without the other boy’s help. You didn’t mention his father’s attitude toward the gun play. He may be getting reinforcement for his interest without your awareness. Finally, do everything you can to help him develop another over-riding interest (sports, music, etc.). Good luck.