Skip to main content

Destroys Property

What to do:

Self-talk. Say to yourself, "What I think about my child's breaking his toys is upsetting me, but I can get my thoughts under control. I'll just tell myself that it's not that big of a deal. It is important to me that my child learns how to take care of his things but he doesn't know it's important-or the value of his toys, clothes or things that belong to others unless I teach him."

Empathy. Ask yourself, "How would I feel if I wanted to write on the refrigerator and tear up magazines? I'd think that it would be fun if I didn't know that it would damage them! Well, that's how my child feels. I can understand."

Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to be careful with clothes, toys or other things and how important it is."

Make a Rule and Supervise Play. By being there, you (or another adult) can guide your child's play into more gentle activities and stop him from destroying things before he does by accident or because he is mad. Make a rule about clothes and coloring, for example. Tell your child: The rule is that clothes are hung up and coloring is done at the table only.

Then show your child the hangers to hang up his clothes and help him hang them up together (and then ask him to do so by himself, once he learns), instead of putting them on the floor where he can step on them; give him paper and crayons to draw on at the table, so he won't draw on the table itself and destroy it.

Praise Taking Care of Toys. Say, "You are taking such good care of that toy by carefully pulling the string on the talking doggy and gently putting the doll in the dollhouse. These toys will last a long time because you are being careful and gentle with them.

Use Grandma's Rule. When your child makes a mess, use Grandma's Rule to get the crayon cleaned off the wall. Say, "When you have scrubbed the crayon off, then you may go back to playing again."

Teach Your Child to Practice Empathy. Kindly in a calm voice ask your child these questions: "How do you think your sister felt when you ripped up her homework? How would you feel if she ripped up something of yours? You wouldn't like it, right?" Tell your child that it's good to take care of other people's property by being gentle with it or by not touching it, just like we would want them to take care of ours."

Use Reprimands. Say, for example, "Stop tearing the book," and tell her why it was wrong by saying, "We want to keep our books nice so we can read them." Then tell her what she could have done instead. Say, "Books are for reading. Let's read the book." These statements don't remind her of the unacceptable behavior but teach her the acceptable one. Her destroying the book reminds you that she doesn't know what is valuable and what is not. So be sure to keep items out of her reach that you don't want accidentally destroyed.

Remove Breakable Items That You Don't Want To Take A Chance On Being Destroyed. To prevent a special vase or glass bowl from landing on the floor by accident when your child is running after your dog, for example, make sure you put it in a safe place where it cannot be broken by a young child on the move!

Keep things that your child can tear or cut in a special box. Help your child know what is okay to cut up-in order to practice cutting-and what paper is okay to draw on-in order to practice drawing. Say, "This box of paper is okay for you to use at the table. If you want to draw or cut, ask me for the markers and scissors." Than praise his doing so by saying, "Thank you or asking me before you cut, drew or ripped the paper. That is what it means to be careful."

Take Your Child to Calm Time. If you've given your child a reprimand and she destroys property again, repeat the reprimand and take her to Calm Time to calm down and take a break from doing behavior you told her not to do. When she's calm, you can talk with her about the rule about taking care of clothes, toys, etc. Tell her to think about how to take care of things rather than damaging them by asking her to repeat the rule. Then give her a big hug! You are working together to learn how to take care of things-an important lesson for life.

What not to do:

Don't Overreact. If your child breaks something, don't throw a tantrum yourself. You may be disappointed, but your anger tells her that you care more for your things than for your child.

Don't Confuse by Destroying Things You Said Not To Destroy. For example, telling her to not color on your magazines and then letting her cut pictures out of the same magazines will be confusing. Instead, explain the difference between old and new, and tell her to ask if what she wants to color or cut is old or new. When she says, "old", tell her that she is right and lead her to the box of old magazines that are okay to destroy.

Don't Replace Broken Toys. If your child deliberately breaks one of his toys, don't replace it. If he knows that a new one will magically appear, he won't learn to take care of the toys he has.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.