How to Discipline Children Who is Destroying Property


The line between destructive and creative play is not drawn for preschoolers until parents etch it in stone for them. So before your child reaches his first birthday, draw the line by telling (and showing) him what he can and cannot paint, tear up, or take apart. This will prevent your budding artist from doing unintentional damage to his and others’ property. Consistently teach your child to be proud of and to care for his things, and let his creative juices flow in appropriate ways such as on drawing paper (not wallpaper) or with a take-apart play phone (not your real phone).

Preventing the Problem

Provide toys that are strong enough to be investigated but not destroyed.

It’s natural for preschoolers to try to take apart and put together toys that lend themselves to this kind of activity (as well as ones that don’t). In order to stimulate the kind of creative play you want to encourage, fill your child’s play area with toys he can do something with (like stacking toys, push-button games, and so on) instead of ones that just sit there Bee stuffed animals).

Discipline Children

Give him plenty of things to wear and tear.

Provide lots of old clothes and materials for papier-mache, dress-up, painting, or other activities, so your preschooler won’t substitute new or valuable items for his play projects.

Communicate specific rules about caring for and playing with toys.

Young children don’t innately know the value of things or how to play with everything appropriately, so teach them, for example, to use crayons on coloring books instead of newspapers and novels. Say, “Your coloring book is the only thing you can color on with crayons. Nothing else is for crayons.” With regard to other destructive behavior, say, “Books are not for tearing. If you want to tear, ask me and I’ll give you something.” Or, “This wax apple does not come apart and cannot be eaten like a real one. If you’d like to eat an apple, please ask me and I’ll give you one.”

Supervise your child’s play and be consistent.

Don’t confuse your child and make him test the legal waters over and over by letting him destroy something he shouldn’t. He won’t know what to expect and won’t understand when you destroy his fun by reprimanding him for a no-no that was formerly a yes-yes.

Remind him about caring.

Increase your chances of keeping destruction to a minimum by letting your child know when he’s taking wonderful care of his toys. This reminds him of the rule, helps him feel good about himself, and makes him proud of his possessions.

Solving the Problem

What to Do

Overcorrect the mess.

If your child is over two years old, teach him to take care of his things by having him help clean up the messes he makes. For example, if he writes on the wall, he must clean up not only the writing but all the walls in the room. This overcorrection of the problem gives your child a sense of ownership and caring. (It also teaches him how to clean walls!)

Use reprimands.

If your child is under two years old, briefly reprimand him (tell him what he did wrong, why it was wrong, and what he should have done instead) to help him understand why he’s been taken away from his fun.

Put your child in Time Out.

If you’ve given your child a reprimand and he destroys property again, repeat the reprimand and put him in Time Out.

What Not to Do

Don’t overreact.

If your child breaks something, don’t throw a tantrum yourself. Your anger communicates the idea that you care more for your things than your child. Make sure your degree of disappointment over something being destroyed isn’t out of proportion to what happened.

Don’t overly punish.

Just because your child damaged something valuable to you doesn’t give you permission to damage your child. Rather than putting him in jail, put the valuable item away until he’s old enough to understand the value.

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About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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