DYNACII's Life Coach
January 13, 2015
My son likes to start fires. I am scared; what should I do?

Dear Life Coach,

My eight-year-old son has been playing with matches and he started a fire twice in the last six months. This is scary. What if he burns the house down? How do I get him to stop?{{more}}

Scared Mom (SM)

Dear SM,

You are scared your son will burn the house down because he has been setting fires.

Your Situation:

Here are some factors that have contributed to your present situation: pyromania – definition, causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. I will address these briefly:

Definition of Pyromania

Pyromania refers to a persistent and uncontrollable urge to set a fire, which brings relief or satisfaction after the act is committed. Many young fire-setters may not be suffering from pyromania, but may just be experimenting with something that appears to be fascinating and exciting.

Causes of Pyromania

Some of the causes of pyromania include factors such as the individual’s temperament, parental psychopathology, neurochemical imbalance, a lack of a father figure present, personal issues, legal issues, attention seeking, being bullied, social isolation, revenge, antisocial traits, delinquency, abnormal cravings for power and social prestige, stress, neglect, sexual abuse, and observing the inappropriate use of fire by adults in order to relieve stress.

What to Do:

Remove all Potential Fire Creating Implements

Children are curious about the world and love to explore and experiment. They love the beauty of flames and they think it is magic, the way it lights the world. They will therefore strike matches. They will also roll a lighter in order to see it light up. Every potential fire creating implement in and around the house must therefore be put out of reach and locked away at all times.

Determine the Cause of Pyromania

Talk with your son to determine his level of understanding concerning the dangers of playing with matches and other fire-creating implements. Very young children or children with developmental delays or cognitive deficits may not understand the dangers of fire and may be allured by the beauty of the flames. Some children may also set fires due to anger and a desire to take revenge for being wronged, as a way of seeking attention, or from observing the behaviour of other individuals.

Educate your Son about Fire Safety

Therefore you should teach your child about the dangers of fire and let him know your expectations – to not play with matches or other items that can cause a fire.

Reduce Stress

Trauma caused by exposure to incidences of domestic violence, sexual, physical and emotional child abuse, being bullied, and loss of loved ones can result in high levels of stress in children. Figure out the potential trauma creating situation in your child’s life, then seek to correct that situation. Do everything in your power to keep your son safe and calm in order to reduce his stress level.

Be Vigilant

Children who are prone to fire setting must be monitored at all times. This means that your son should be supervised by you or another responsible adult who is able to provide him with safe activities at all times.

Parent Training

Attend training in fire-prevention and safety, so that you are fully aware of all the issues involved in fire prevention and safety in order to adequately monitor your son. Check with your local fire department for more information.

Seek Treatment

Pyromania or fire-setting behaviour may be treated with Cognitive Behavioral, and other forms of therapy, as well as medication. You should therefore take your son for an assessment by a medical doctor and a therapist as the prognosis in children is generally good.

SM, it is truly a concerning situation, but there is hope, once your son gets the treatment he needs.

Life Coach


Need help with relationship and other problems? Ask DYNACII’s Life Coach. Email your questions to [email protected] To chat with the Life Coach, visit: http://www.dynacinternational.com. Dynamic Action Center International Inc. (DYNACII) a non-governmental organization committed to social and spiritual empowerment.