- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006

A while back, the boys from next door (ages 6 and 8) began inviting my 5-year-old son to play good guys/bad guys and “war” with them. Initially the games were simple with toy guns and lots of “I killed you,” “You’re dead” and so on.

I let the games continue, but tried to teach my son appropriate ways to play, such as not pointing a toy gun at people who aren’t playing the game. The neighbor boys do not have any such rules and my son thinks this is unfair. He is now asking for a more realistic toy gun and I’m concerned he’s becoming obsessed with violence and killing.

Should I not allow him to play these games any longer and/or try to discourage his playing with these boys?

A: Allowing boys to play “army” or “good guys/bad guys” does not, in and of itself, lead to later antisocial, much less homicidal, behavior. I agree it is rude to point a toy gun at someone who is not playing the game, and I agree you should enforce this rule even if the other boys’ parents do not.

As for your son becoming “obsessed,” children often tend to become fixated on things they sense make their parents anxious. I suspect you are becoming a bit obsessed about your son’s toy gun “obsession,” and that one obsession is now fueling the other. If you can force yourself to adopt a more relaxed, “let boys be boys” attitude toward this gunplay, it will run its course in due time.

Now, should the boys next door become cruel to animals or smaller children or if they still seem obsessed with guns and killing three years from now, I would recommend putting some brakes on the relationship, but for the time being, I think this is fairly harmless.

By the way, when I was 8 or 9, “army” was all I ever played for a time, during which my friends and I “killed” one another daily, sometimes more than once a day, which proves that God has not stopped performing miracles.

Q: When our son turned 2 my husband and I converted his crib to a toddler bed. Since then he has refused to stay in his bed, even his room, so we installed a childproof gate.

At bedtime, we go through our usual routine, after which I put him in his bed and read to him for a while. When I leave, he stands at the gate and cries for a few minutes and then all is quiet. When I check on him later, I always find him curled up asleep in the “big blue chair” that we have rocked him in since birth. I pick him up and put him back to bed.

Why does he prefer to sleep in his chair rather than his bed? Am I doing the right thing putting him in his bed or should I leave him in the chair and let him figure this out for himself?

A: One of my alter egos, Herr Doktor Zigmond Fraud, has generously offered to answer your question:

“Isn’t zis obvious?” the good doctor says, “Zis poor young boy prefers sleepink in ze blue chair because blue is ze color of ze sky. Ven he curls up in ze blue chair, he imagines zat he is a bird, flyink avay from his parents’ tyranny tovard a state of frrrreedom and perfect bliss. And zat is ze final vurd on ze subject.”

Thank you, Doktor Fraud. Now, here’s my take, for what it’s worth: You’re describing what is known as “transitional behavior,” or behavior that makes a transition — in this case, from crib to bed — easier for a child to deal with. This too will pass.

With the exception of beginning to worry about things that deserve not a second thought, you’re doing fine. Keep putting your son in his bed, keep closing the gate, keep walking away when he cries, and keep moving him from the blue chair to his bed after he is asleep.

Take your choice: Ze Doktor or me?

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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