Thumbnail image of: Behavior Diary: Illustration

Damaging or Destroying Property

Touching Things That Shouldn’t Be Touched

  1. Examples

    Stereo, television, plants, breakables, valuables.

  2. The rule

    “Don’t touch the stereo, because it is only for grownups. Ask me for help if you want it turned on.”

  3. Discipline technique

    Mainly, childproof the environment. Put away valuable or dangerous objects, use gates, and lock doors to make certain areas off limits. For objects that can’t be removed, use clear verbal disapproval. If this fails, use temporary time-out.

  4. Caution

    Much of this exploratory behavior is normal and helps your child develop mental and physical skills. In general, encourage this normal curiosity. Allow your child to explore some closets and shelves. For example, give your child a drawer of his own in the kitchen where he can keep some utensils you no longer use. As he gets older, teach your child to explore objects with his eyes rather than his hands.

  5. Praise

    Praise your child for asking you to turn on the television or stereo.

Deliberately Damaging or Destroying Property

  1. Imitators

    Some children take toys or other objects apart out of curiosity. Sometimes children break things accidentally. Since people are more important than property, these children need sympathy, not punishment.

  2. The rule

    “Don’t break things, because they cost money and/or are hard to fix.”

  3. Discipline technique

    Use the time-out technique. This means immediately isolating a child in a boring place for a few minutes when she or he misbehaves. In addition, use logical consequences. If the object belongs to the child, don’t replace it. If the object is yours and your child is over age 6, have him or her pay for part of it out of allowance money.

  4. Praise

    Praise your child for taking good care of your possessions and his or her own possessions.

  5. Model

    Show care in handling other people’s belongings.

Jumping on Furniture

  1. The rule

    “Don’t jump on the furniture or bed, because you might break it or get hurt.”

  2. Discipline technique

    Redirect your child to some other play – if possible, one that involves jumping.

  3. Praise

    Praise your child for playing in the bedroom without jumping on the bed.

Drawing on the Walls

  1. The rule

    “Don’t put any marks on the walls, because it’s hard to get them clean.”

  2. Discipline technique

    Use logical consequences. Have your child clean up the mess he or she has caused. Also, you should temporarily remove the privilege of using paints, crayons, or markers.

  3. Praise

    Praise your child for drawing on paper.

Breaking or Throwing Toys

  1. The rule

    “Don’t break toys, because they cost money. Don’t throw toys, because you might break something in the house.”

  2. Discipline technique

    Logical consequences:

    • If the toy is not broken, put it away for 2 days. Return the toy to the child after that time in order to teach proper behavior.
    • If the toy is broken, delay repair for at least 2 days. Teach that things can’t be fixed until you have some free time.
    • If the toy can’t be repaired, either don’t replace it or have your child use his or her own money to replace it.
  3. Praise

    Praise your child for taking good care of possessions.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2007-08-28
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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