How do I get my four year old to stop shooting us with his hand? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 25 Old 07-30-2003, 01:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How in the world do I stop my 4 year old son from shooting us with his "hand" gun all day long?!?!?!?
The constant shooting noises coming from his mouth while pointing his hand at me and his sister is driving me
His sister, who is only 21 months old, is doing now too. Everything he does she mimics. Can you imagine your 21 month old daughter pointing her finger at you and making shooting noises while calling you a mean poopy head?!?!?

He does it when he's angry, something doesn't go his way or his sister bugs him. I don't know where he got this crap from, probably preschool, but I hate guns and this is one thing that I can't stand.

I've sat him down and talked to him about what a gun is and what it can do to people so he's not in the dark about that anymore. I've told him how it makes me feel when he does it but nothing seems to work. At this point I'm thinking its out of habit, he can't stop it and can't control it because of how often he does it?

How in the world do I break him of this?

Thanks
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#2 of 25 Old 07-30-2003, 02:03 AM
 
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You have three main choices.

1. absolutely forbid it and make htere be unpleasurable consequences for disobeying. since he is acting socially unexceptable I would remove my child from social interaction by sending them to their room until they decided to act in a socially appropriate way.

2. ignore it and hope that by giving it no response he will get bored and stop doing it. so it far it sounds like this "gun" has had a lot of power in your lives. his sister has started, your going crazy and prehaps giving him extra attention.

3. direct him to more appropriate gun play. hide his stuffed animals and let him be a hunter. eithier hunting for food or pretend he is a vet or researcher and has to shoot animals with tranquilizers to make them well (there has got to be a movie about this) or make some pretend targets for him to shoot at. If he really gets into the target practice thing you could get him a dart board (saftey tip of course, or vecro target game or something of that sort) and hopefully he will be so wrapped up in the target thing he will forget about his gun obsession. the most important thing is that he learns we don't shoot people with guns.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#3 of 25 Old 07-30-2003, 02:57 PM
 
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Lawrence Cohen, in his book Playful Parenting, has a great idea for this.

Turn it into a "love gun". Say "oh no, you've got the love gun - it makes anyone you shoot fall instantly in love with you!" then when he shoots you, fall all over him in pretend adoration. i bet he'll love it!

the author goes into more detail about the feelings behind this behaviour, you might be interested to read it. but i think that suggestion might help diffuse the situation and turn negativity into a way to play with your child.

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#4 of 25 Old 07-30-2003, 04:14 PM
 
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I never allowed the whole gun thing either but other kids and t.v. played there part. I mean there is BUZZ LIGHTYEAR and WOODY in TOYSTORY. There are guns or something involvng shooting everywhere you can't escape it. However I had to draw the line. No guns at people. We would be at church and my son Cedric now 4 as of 8/23/99 would hold up his lasor or gun "hand" at people behind us. Mostly he growls like a monster or dinosaur or something loud to introduce himself to people. The noises all bother me ALL THE TIME!!! Too much loud between him and my 6 month old son scream playing I won't be able to hear soon. I would suggest letting him play guns with his toys and to the wall but the minute he points it at a person he is warned then if he does it again spank him or gound him from something he likes. If he does it to you out of anger that is unexceptable behaivor towards authority and needs to be stopped in th same manner. I don't mean to tell you how to discipline him. However you choose to deal with the issues I think you have to gain a little control so you don't go crazy during the day and let him know the rights and wrongs and what is acceptable and whats not. Its one thing to play but to do it out of anger should be nipped in the bud before it turns worse. The longer an acting out goes on it will either go wawy or get worse. Watch his different stages because he will try all sorts of things and the answer is not always the same with every act. Be consistant in whatever you do once you do what feels right to you! Hopefully that helped a little!
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#5 of 25 Old 07-31-2003, 02:10 AM
 
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I just have to say i love the love gun idea. that is awsome!!

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#6 of 25 Old 07-31-2003, 02:18 AM
 
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you could take it away from him...

NAH, i guess that wouldn't work!

(sorry no advice, i like the love gun idea though!)

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#7 of 25 Old 07-31-2003, 10:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh I LOVE the 'love gun' response!!! That is the cutest! Thanks, I'll probably try that first. Thank you all for the advice, its helped alot. Now I actually have hope

Thanks!
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#8 of 25 Old 07-31-2003, 12:09 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Christicha
but the minute he points it at a person he is warned then if he does it again spank him or gound him from something he likes. If he does it to you out of anger that is unexceptable behaivor towards authority and needs to be stopped in th same manner.
I think acknowledging the child's anger and then directing him to more appropriate ways of expressing that anger (verbalizing it, for example) would be a more productive approach.
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#9 of 25 Old 07-31-2003, 09:47 PM
 
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I'd ignore it. My dd did this for awhile. At first we made the mistake of paying(negative) attention to her, and it only encouraged it. Once we started ignoring it completely, it vanished in days.
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#10 of 25 Old 08-01-2003, 03:40 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Christicha
[B]I would suggest letting him play guns with his toys and to the wall but the minute he points it at a person he is warned then if he does it again spank him or gound him from something he likes.
I have to respectfully disagree. I don't think either of those responses addresses the underlying issues behind a child who likes to "shoot" at people.

Quote:
If he does it to you out of anger that is unexceptable behaivor towards authority and needs to be stopped in th same manner.
You mean if he's acting out in anger he should be responded to in anger? That doesn't really make sense to me. If you know the child is angry, why not help him by acknowledging his anger, letting him know that it's okay to be angry, but teach him acceptable and healthy ways to deal with anger.


Quote:
Its one thing to play but to do it out of anger should be nipped in the bud before it turns worse. The longer an acting out goes on it will either go wawy or get worse.
Again, I don't see how your suggestions of spanking and grounding do anything to address the problem of the child not understanding how to deal with anger.

Quote:
Watch his different stages because he will try all sorts of things....
Or maybe he's just a young child who is new to this whole "emotion thing" and needs help learning how to process and express his emotions in a healthy way.

The "love gun" approach not only turns annoying behaviour into fun (and funny!) play, but it's a way to connect with your child when he needs you and your help but does not know a healthy way to ask for that. Instead he engages in behaviour that gets attention (albeit negative attention) and expresses his mood (but it's not a good way to express it) when what he's really saying is "help! I'm feeling bad inside and I don't know what to do about it". Again, the author goes into this in more detail, but in short the child is feeling emotions that he is unable to process and find closure in. Turning the gun play into Fun play allows him to process through the anger into laughter, release, and happiness. This teaches him something about the process of getting through anger.

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#11 of 25 Old 08-01-2003, 04:41 AM
 
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I really do apologize for offending everyone about the spanking and grounding issue. I say it more harshly then i really mean it. For me spanking my son is tapping him on the hand or leg. Litterally tapping . . . but only after i have tried other aproaches. I mean I do believe in spanking but not how extreme some people can be. Working at a daycare for 2 1/2 yrs. gave me a lot of insight into different responses of kids to different methods of discipline. At our "christian daycare" we used "redirection" all the time. That is great for kids but when they still don't respond because they are use to acting certain ways and dont know other ways to act i believe that for some children spanking them or taking something away is the only thing that gets across. I dont think it has to be a negative thing. I treat my son as if he is an adult in that i ask him if he knows what he is doing or why, or why mommy doesn't want him to do that. I need him to actually understand. I treat him with respect as a person because all kids and people should be but he also is my child and needs to know that there is a consequence to his actions whatever that may be. My son doesn't always take me seriously until I have to spank him or take away a movie for a little while or no playing with toys for a little while and we talk about why he can't have those priveledges and why he cant act certain ways. It seems to help me.
I really wasnt considering age I guess more just venting because i was stressed at my kids being so loud and me not feeling good. You can all relate to those days I'm sure. I don't like when I offend people so again I apologize for the way I went about my views. Parenting is a trial and error, keep trying til you get things right, learning process and its great to know that you can come to MDC for support. The love gun thing sounded great i was just curious as to what other peoples responses would be if he does it to them and they dont know the whole love gun thing. What are the boundries about what is okay and how do you know when enough is enough. I try my hardest not to ever respond to him out of anger. If I feel overwhlemed or overloaded then I try to gather myself before I speak to him. Parenting isn't always easy. I also didn't pay attention to the title of this forum. I am new to MDC and I was just browsing around. I don't like to leave a bad impression of myself with anyone so I just ask that you don't think bad of me my opinions are just a little different I guess. I hope you find what works best for you and your son and I will try to write what I mean a little better next time
Big Hugs and I am sorry
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and Camron:binky

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#12 of 25 Old 08-01-2003, 02:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, my love gun update, lol. Well its kinda working, but now he's saying that he has a love gun on one hand and a shooting dead gun on the other, now isn't that wonderful! lol. But I'm still keeping at it and seems to be working somewhat. I'm not giving up, he's not getting the response he wants from me anymore so its going to fizzle out some time I'm sure.

Update you later!

Thanks!
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#13 of 25 Old 08-01-2003, 03:34 PM
 
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I've sat him down and talked to him about what a gun is and what it can do to people so he's not in the dark about that anymore.
I think on a certain level he must be still in the dark because of his age. No matter how well you explained it, I don't think a 4-year-old can understand what it would really mean to shoot someone. I read somewhere else that kids don't really know what death is until they are 9, if they have not dealt with the death of someone they know. If he has never seen or held a real gun, or watched a lot of violent movies, then finger-guns and "bang bang" probably are on the same level as "You're it" and "Ha ha, I got you."
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#14 of 25 Old 08-01-2003, 05:17 PM
 
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Ummm...this might be considered a bit harsh and, for obvious equipment-related reasons, not appropriate for everyone:

I come from a hunting family. We never had guns as toys and "playing guns" was not encouraged. I remember vividly when one kid was really going overboard on the "shooting" thing and pissing off quite a few people. I think he was five at the time. This phase ended when another (older) cousin took the little one along when he had to put a horse down. He explained that a gun was a tool and he was now going to use it. And when the little kid started to get the drift of what was going to happen, he started to try and run off. My older cousin made him stay and he saw what actually a gun can do. My aunt had to spend a few interrupted nights with the little guy; but, he eventually accepted his lesson and never played "shooting" again.
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#15 of 25 Old 08-02-2003, 03:51 PM
 
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I was goping to suggest that but was scared to . Nothing is deterant like seeing what kinda horrors guns can cause.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#16 of 25 Old 08-06-2003, 11:32 AM
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What about acting a bit, pretending his 'gun' hits you. You can pretend dead for a bit, then after a while tell him you were just pretending, and that pretend is ok, but guns for real hurt for real.
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#17 of 25 Old 08-07-2003, 03:10 AM
 
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Christicha, please don't feel so bad. I'm afraid I was sort of using your post as an example of what we try to convey here on the Gentle Discipline forum. You took it very well and that shows real heart. Sorry if I was hard on you!

I think that you bring up some things that many people out there also believe to be true, until someone puts it in a different perspective. I know that is true for me - I was spanked as a child and always used to say that I would spank my children if I had to b/c you cannot always reason with a child. I never bothered to take that further and ask myself why (b/c they don't develop reasoning skills for a while) and what it was I hoped to achieve by spanking (ending the behaviour rather than addressing its causes). Thankfully, I have asked alot of questions since then and learned alot.

Anyways, you are a real trooper and obviously very sweet and I'm sorry I was hard on you!

edited to add: I really don't think pretending to get "shot" by the gun is a humane way to treat kids about the consequences of guns. I cannot imagine the trauma to a child who thought, even for a few terrifying moments, that he had done something like that to his own mother. i sorta see what you're saying, leonor, but in thinking about it more I'm sure you can see how traumatic this would be for a child.

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#18 of 25 Old 08-07-2003, 10:41 AM
 
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Thank you, that made me feel better to know I am not seen as a horrible person. And thanks for your kind words. I am always learning new things as a mommy, wife, daughter, and person. Every experience makes you who you are and can make you a better person because of the constant change and learning we go through.

Love and Hugs
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#19 of 25 Old 08-07-2003, 01:50 PM
 
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OK, I'm a day late & a dollar short, but I had to think about this for a while.

We have a 4yo too, and he did some shooting until we told him 10,000 times (or was it 10 billion?) that we don't allow guns in our house and shooting doesnt solve the problem anyway.

I really dislike the idea of pretending it is a love gun because it belittles the child's anger. The anger is real, the feelings are there, and making it seem like some cute harmless thing is not really dealing with the child's feelings. I felt that that approach makes it harmless for the grownup by manipulating the situation in a very sophisticated way, that makes the child more helpless.

Yes, your child will get mad at you. But what you are describing is more a symptom and a way to show anger than it is a real description of a real problem. Why is your son so angry, have you talked about that to him? Do you ask him why he wants to shoot things? I realize it is tough with 4yo but sometimes when you get a quiet mommy-moment you can get a chance to listen and convey what is so bad about guns.

Also there is a sort of special thing about guns for little kids who are being raised non-violently - they feel it is a secret nasty thing that upsets the grownups, and they are trying to find out more about it.
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#20 of 25 Old 08-08-2003, 01:06 AM
 
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emmalala: your point about addressing the anger is "bang on" (ha ha, bad pun). Actually, the "love gun" method does help to address that. The author (Lawrence Cohen) goes into a fair amount of detail describing how the process works, and how "playing" with your child helps him to process his feelings, even when the feelings are serious and the play results in laughter and silliness. I can't really explain it here without writing a book (I"m not good at being succinct, lol) but it is in there!

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#21 of 25 Old 08-08-2003, 08:29 AM
 
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Piglet, I am really relieved to hear that there is more to it than the brief summary of the method. That really shocked me!!

But I still think it would be better to help the child get to where he can talk about it. I can see it would be really easy to just "disarm" the child and leave it at that, and then the child has been manipulated and not given any greater understanding of the feelings that brought the whole thing up. I really hate to see adults powertrip on kids, we are already powerful enough and need to use the power so carefully...

The feelings are so real and at 4yo, just having someone around who can use words to help identify all that swirling emotional stuff, is a big help. Because I get angry myself and am still learning ways to handle it, I think about this a lot. I feel I owe it to my kids to take them seriously and give them what help I can.

This is probably pretty incoherent and I want you to know I am not talking against what's been said by other moms
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#22 of 25 Old 08-10-2003, 03:05 PM
 
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ITA, emmaline!

I got out the book to see what he said. For one thing, the "love gun" routine helps to establish a connection. It sets up an environment that says "you're safe to feel the way you feel". Instead of being punished or criticized for trying to express himself, he's engaged in play. The shooting stuff is a way of trying to establish a connection, but the child doesn't understand that it just annoys the adults and pushes them away. He gets the attention he wants, but it's negative attention. This then makes him feel disconnected and having to deal with his feelings alone.

The "love gun" game relaxed the child by allowing him to disseminate his energy with laughter, emotional energy that's positive, and a better mood. THEN you and the child can talk about what's bothering him. It's all about establishing a connection with the child, using play and fun as the catalyst. If the connection isn't there first, you can talk until you are blue in the face and not get very far.

The author stresses that the "love gun" approach is for aggressive play issues. He says the parents should be on the lookout for situations where the shooting stuff is in direct response to a situation (like the child was just told off for taking his baby sister's toy away, for example, and now he's trying to shoot you), in which case it would not be appropriate to use the "love gun" game. He says it's very important to see the reaction to the "love gun": if the child appears to be humiliated by it, the game must stop. He also said it's especially true for girls, who are often taught that it is not okay for them to express anger.

He gives alot of pointers about how to tell which situation you are in, and lists various responses the child might make and how to deal with that.

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#23 of 25 Old 08-10-2003, 09:20 PM
 
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Thank you Piglet, for looking it up and giving me the full story!! But I have to admit I'm not emmaline - just a long-time lurker who occasionally rustles the bushes...

One thing I did notice with our 4yo is after he got through that whole shooty thing, he suddenly became very open and affectionate, verbally and physically, in ways he had not been for quite a while.
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#24 of 25 Old 08-11-2003, 02:58 AM
 
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Ooops!

Not only did I double post, but I got your name wrong...sorry!!

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#25 of 25 Old 08-13-2003, 08:45 PM
 
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My son also likes to shoot things with his laser. At one point it was a "gun", but we just kept saying guns are not allowed in our home. WE don't play that way in our family. Then one day, he play shot me. I said "What did you just do?" (dumb question), and he made up something and basically lied about it. I decided that I would rather him play pretend guns than lie to me. So, I told him that if he wanted to play that way, it was better than lying to me. I focused on the lying and decided that I would rather him be honest and he obviously didn't feel he could be honest with me. I also told him that if he played that way with me, I was leaving the room because I don't like guns and I feel uncomfortable when he plays that way.

I think he had a short lived fascination with guns. No matter how hard we try, he still sees it. I guess if we didn't watch any TV. He clearly knows how we feel about it and has started to say these things to other kids he sees playing with guns. I posted some time ago how he went up to a mom in the dollar store and told her how she shouldn't buy her child that toy gun. He suggested some art supplies would be a much better choice. She was visably PO'ed by being repremanded by a 4 year old. Too funny.

I guess my suggestion would be not to make a big deal about it. Ds also did it when he wanted our attention. He got into saying really gross and morbid things for a while. "I wish you were dead mommy." He would then say "did you hear me?" I focused on what was making him angry and ignored the actual words. I did tell him that those words hurt my feelings.

Kind of on the same topic:
I was a new LLL leader hosting my first meeting. There were all of these new mommies holding their sweet little newborns. A toddler was drinking water from a sippy cup and the other 4 year old said "She's drinking blood" (in a very sinister voice) and my darling answered "she's gonna die". Very uncomfortable moment. All of these moms looked at us like we were the worst moms on earth. We talked aftewards about how morbid things our 4 year olds were saying and decided that it was just a phase or something.

I guess my point is that I think kids try on different things to see how they fit. When they don't mesh with their "family values" (did I just use that phrase?), then they discard them. If you make it clear how you feel, then you have done your job.
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