My Boys Break Everything!

Updated on February 22, 2009
C.S. asks from Columbia, SC
19 answers

Hello ladies! I am angry this morning and looking for the "voice of reason". I have two children and a husband who keep me very busy. My current challenge is that my 11 year old breaks my "things" and I am not sure what to do about it. The most recent incident was this morning. I had a ceramic teapot sitting on the counter because I was planning to give it to a friend. When I went into the kitchen this morning the ceramic notch that keeps the lid on was broken off. I was furious since I have had this teapot for years and now that I wanted to pass it on to a collector friend it is BROKEN! When I asked my boys (hubby and son) which was the guilty party, my son said casually "Oh, I think it got broken off because I couldn't figure out how to get the lid off--but you can just glue it back, no big deal". ARGH!!! I wanted to scream, but hadn't had my coffee and didn't have the energy.

Here is the dilemma and what bothers me the most: 1. Why did he feel the need to touch it? 2. Why would he force the lid off of a teapot that he wasn't using? 3. How do I handle the situation since he obviously feels no remorse? Do I make him pay me for the teapot? Do I punish him in some other way? Do I just say "accidents happen" and move on? I must say that this is something that happens often in the house, he will break something that doesn't belong to him and then just make a comment like "Oh, you can just buy a new one" -- you know, like the money grows on trees attitude.

Help, please!

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So What Happened?

I got a lot of great input from my fellow mamasource moms -- Thank You all for taking the time to respond. My husband I decided that my son will have to do chores this weekend to "pay" for the teapot he broke.

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answers from Savannah on

I have not had this experience yet with my boys, but when I was a child my parents taught me not to break things by having to work to buy a replacement and it worked real well for me. I was 8 years old at the time and my mom made me do extra jobs and would pay me a quarter a job. It felt like I slaved a way for a long time before I paid off my debt. I was very careful not to do that again!

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answers from Atlanta on

Okay. The problem here is that your son didn't come to you IMMEDIATELY when it broke and tell you AND the "c'est la vie" attitude. I suggest implementing a "if you own up immediately the trouble you get is ten times less than if you wait" policy. And to hopefully turn around the "you can buy another one" attitude, make him somehow financially (at least partially) responsible for the fix/damage. I don't know if that means deducting allowance or taking a portion of the cost from his savings or making him earn the money doing chores -- you can figure that out -- but, somehow, make HIM feel the pinch. We live in such a consumer attitude society. "throw-away, replace, upgrade, spend, spend, spend" It's our culture. It kills me that my daughter tells me we need this or that thing just because she saw a commercial for it on t.v.

Also, get Dad on board!

I'm sorry to hear about the teapot. That's really sad...



answers from Atlanta on

How about making him do chores to earn the money to replace it, or have him sell some of his things to get the money. Maybe he will learn to not touch things that aren't his, be more careful, and that money has to be earned.



answers from Atlanta on

I love the love and logic way to parent. It teaches the kids responsibility by us, as parents, not yelling, etc., and throwing a bunch of empathy and sadness their way and asking *them* how *they* are going to handle it. This is what I would do:

(With great empathy) "Oh, this is so sad, my favorite teapot, how are you going to pay for it?"

(son, no clue) "I don't know."

(mom) "Well, let me know as soon as you can and if you need any suggestions, just come to me and I'll be glad to offer some." (then walk away)

This won't work if it's done in sarcastically, etc. Now, what if he doesn't come to you later on? You can 'remind' him by taking something of his away and getting rid of it. Nintendo DS, bike, etc. When he comes to you and says 'mom, someone stole my bike!" You can say with GREAT empathy and sadness, "Oh, this is so sad for you. Do you remember when you broke my teapot? Well, I needed to fix it, replace the value, etc., (whatever you decide to say) and your bike was able to pay for it.

Will he be angry? Sure! But don't get sucked into an argument. If he keeps trying to argue with you about it, excuses, etc., just keep saying, like a broken record with love, "I love you too much to argue with you about it." It might take 5 or so times before he walks off.

Anyway, there are many other ways to handle it, but this is just one way. I love Love and Logic!



answers from Macon on

I would inform them that from now on, they will pay for the items. Either in time spent without tv and "toys" plus money. No buying them items except for school (paper, pencils, etc). No new clothes either (except shoes). Teach them the value of things, money.



answers from Atlanta on

Some of this is curiousity-checking everything out. However, there have to be consequences when they do break something. It sounds like they are getting too much stuff (however maybe not) and think they don't have to work for anything-this is unfortunately typical of many kids now. Take something away from him and make him "work" to "pay" for it. this can be simply doing extra tasks around the house or doing yardwork for a neighbor. If things get worse with him having no remorse, seek professional help.



answers from Myrtle Beach on

I have one of those boys too. I like to make him do chores around the house- really yucky ones like scrubbing toilets and pulling weeds and scooping doggy poop- to earn the money to pay me back. His incidents seem fewer and farther between when there is a consequence for his action. My son even breaks his own toys frequently and then wants them replaced- no way.



answers from Atlanta on

This must be so frustrating for you! I am sorry you are dealing with this. I don't have a magic bullet answer for you or really even any experience with this issue, but I would like to encourage you to deal with this issue immediately. In other words, I think that something important is happening here, and I don't think you should just figure "kids break things" and move on. It sounds, from your description, like this happens OFTEN and that your son does not show REMORSE about it. That says to me, that the breaking of things is his way of trying to communicate something that he either doesn't cognitively understand or doesn't know how to communicate.

What is the situation in your home regarding how your son gets new toys? Does he have to save for them? Does he get things often or not often? Do you buy him what he wants or only on special occassions? What is the situation regarding how you and your husband buy things for yourself? Is there any descrepancy between how it's done for the adults vs. your son? Does he feel like he gets too much and therefore doesn't value things or does he feel like he doesn't get enough and therefore breaks your things in anger (and it could be anger that he doesn't recognize).

His response sounds "passive aggressive". Like he's trying to be hurtful without looking like he's trying to be hurtful.

I think I would consider the questions raised above and see if there is any insight there to be gained. Then I would consider setting some rules, everytime he breaks something you take away something of his AND/OR for every specific length of time he goes WITHOUT breaking something, he gains a reward.

The thing that makes me feel there is something important going on here is the lack of concern he has about it being broken.

I hope my thoughts are of some help. I really applaud you for not losing your cool over this and I am sure it is really frustrating to you.

Good luck!!


answers from Phoenix on

I would say to your son, "Oh I am sorry your curiosity broke this tea pot. Don't worry, I will be thinking of a way you can replace it's value to me. Then later I would tell him that he can do whatever that you need done (something significant) and if he does it great, if he doesn't do it within the time frame you give him, 48 hours, etc., explain that you will have to take something of his and sell it to make up for the tea pots worth. Even if you have to sell his ipod or whatever, if he doesn't take you seriously, go ahead and sell it and get the money for the tea pot. then he will have to figure out how to replace whatever you sold. You will only have to do this once or twice, until he completely believes you. Do not do this with anger. Do it very matter of fact and with great love. He needs to understand that when he destroys something, it is HIS responsibility. When he does understand the consequences of breaking things, he will no longer break them. If there are no consequences, he will continue to break them, why should he care?
Don't punish, simply be fair. He breaks something, he replaces it, or works off the value. Do it all with great love and empathy. Explain we all break things sometimes, but we are also responsible when we break them.
D. B., author of Greatness & Children Learn the Rules, Entitled to Fail, Endowed to Succeed: America's Journey Back to Greatness, and The ABCs of Raising an Entitled Child



answers from Spartanburg on

Children never have the opportunity to develop empathy until they experience loss. I agree with most posters- you should either take away something VERY important to him, or make him earn money to replace it. My son, personally, wouldn't mind working to earn money to replace it, and I doubt it would stop him from doing it again. Plus, children need to learn that some things in life are just really hard to replace- like if that teapot was an antique! Boys are so hands-on, and you should explain that you understand that, but he also has to think about how he would feel if someone was "rough" with his stuff. PLUS, empathy would have caused him to come tell you as soon as it happened. The fact that he let you discover it on your own is a character trait that needs to be disciplined out of him (again, not punishment). If you've never heard of the program "Love and Logic", I think it would be an excellent resource for this type of personality. We use it on my son and it works so much better than lectures or anything else. You're delivery real-world life lessons to him, and you're not allowing him to be angry at you, you're making him get angry at the choice he made and therefore change the behavior. The biggest key is that you have to deliver discipline with empathy- not pushover, but empathy, which kids will model. When you do anything out of revenge, or "I'm gonna show you!", then kids get so stuck on defending themselves that they can't learn. So, what Love & Logic would tell you to do is say this, "Son, this is so sad. I really wanted to give this teapot to my friend, but now it's broken and its not worth what it was before. And now I don't have anything to give her, and I don't have the money to go get a new one. I need to find something here that I could give her. And even though this might be hard for you, I think I should give her one of your special things. So would you like me to give her (A) toy, or (B) toy (you've GOT to pick 2 things that are dear to him, and both things have to be stuff YOU don't mind giving away)." If he tries to argue with you, don't let him. Just keep saying, that wasn't a choice. Your choices are A toy or B toy. Remember to keep empathy in your voice the whole time, not sass or revenge (or he'll eventually model that!). By bringing him back to the 2 choices that HE must make, you're taking the focus or anger he might feel at you and making him accept the "choice" or responsibility for his actions. If he doesn't choose within an acceptable time, you must make the choice for him. Do whatever you do swiftly and without any other emotions than empathy. Do whatever you'd like with the toy, but make sure it's gone from his access for at least a year or until you see that he's learned his lesson. Or just give it away all together. You can find more resources like this at
Good luck! Remember- you don't want his wife putting up with an unempathetic, careless and selfish husband! Discipline it out of him now!




answers from Savannah on

Hi there,
I think it's time for you to teach your son not to bother things that don't belong to him. He needs to learn that if he does and something gets broken, that he will be responsible for it. After giving up his allowance to pay for a couple of things, I feel sure he won't be tempted to bother your things as much.



answers from Atlanta on

He is old enough to pay a good consequence for his carelessness and thoughtlessness. This isn't punishment; it's discipline. It isn't being too hard on him; it's helping him to develop a sense of responsibility. So, out of LOVE FOR HIM, and to help him, you could tell him, "1. your carelessness caused me to have pain. I liked that teapot and wanted to give it to my friend, and now it is broken and that hurts me. 2. Yes, it can be glued back together (if it can be), but it is now not worth what it was worth before you broke it. 3. Because I love you and want you to learn a valuable lesson here, you must replace this teapot, not just "fix" it. 4. Your time to (fill in the blank -- play with friends, watch TV, be on the phone) is over for now until you have replaced the teapot." Then you have to place a value on it monetarily and once he has earned (via extra chores and little jobs for neighbors maybe) enough to replace the teapot, make him participate in finding the new one, as well. This teaches him that money doesn't automatically cure all problems. It wasn't the monetary value that was important; it was the connection you felt to the teapot that cannot be replaced, but at least he can help find a new one for you. Unfortunately by the time they are 11, it is difficult to teach them to care, but you must try by letting him know how upset you are over this teapot and other things that belong to you. Oh yes, while all this is going on, be sure to ask him what of his belongings is he going to give to you to hold as collateral until he has paid you back, and it must be something that you know he treasures. Then if he does not cooperate in working this off, then you sell his "collateral" to pay for it. This teaches him what it's like to be an adult and this is your ultimate goal, to raise him to be responsible and know every action he ever does has consequences for good or for bad. Be sure you handle all of this with a loving attitude, but be firm and stick to the plan.



answers from Spartanburg on

I think that your boys do not respect you. When my six year old breaks something--really on accident--he is remorseful.

Do you go to church? I think sometimes the answer for my kids with matters of faith, and respect and dignity of the human condition is found at church...but that does not mean that works for everyone.

Who is the 'boss' in your household? My husband has been clear with my three boys from the start that they do not cross their mother who is the ruler of the house. The parents are in this parenting thing together and we work to raise these children together. But you do not try and divide the parents.

Does you husband have the attitude that when something is broken it can just be replaced? That attitude comes from somewhere. I would also look into Dave Ramsey for Kids...because part of the problem in this country right now is that we did not follow, often our Granparents example of how to manage money. Money does not go on trees and you have to learn how to make it and keep it if your life will be worth anything at all.

I would most definitely charge your son the replacement cost. Does he get an allowance? Do you make him work around the house to get that allowance? Is he part of the greater team of family or are you all always on your own.

I would suggest that you try reading a book called, "Love and Logic" it will be in the parenting section of the bookstore. There are several versions for different age kids. Also, I would not allow this child to have possessions when he does not respect yours. Try the book....try and see if it is totally different than what you have been doing. And then try it.
good luck with your boys!



answers from Atlanta on

Kids seem to be clumsy--at least mine do, especially my 11 1/2 year old!
Here's the thing though: children need to understand how to respect personal property! If you went into your son's room and "accidentally" destroyed or ruined one of his prize possessions, you can bet he would be upset with you!
If your son gets an allowance, I definitely would require him to make payments on the broken item. Also, your question is fair: why is he touching your important possessions in the first place? Make it clear to both your children that "messing" with your personal items without permission will have consequences (payments, grounded, give up one of their prized possessions temporarily).
I believe in teaching children to respect other people's property and their own property. Also, how does your husband feel about this situation? Hopefully, he will join you in educating your kids in this area.
Good luck!



answers from Spartanburg on

I know the feeling. Three years ago, my husband and I went to the grocery store, leaving our 16 year old daughter and her best friend in charge of our 8 year old daughter and 3 year old son. When we returned 45 minutes later, our 16 yr.old said "I put all the pieces in a zip-lock and laid them on the table next to it." "It" what "It"? Well the "It" was a large Majolica urn of pomegranates. Our son had thrown something at the 8 yr. old and hit the urn instead. I took a second to calm myself, thinking back on how I had saved up for so long to be able to purchase the piece and now some how I was going to have to figure out how to put it back together. I finally found the glue and put my hand on the back of the chair in front of my porcelain patient. I suddenly realized the chair was a lot lighter than I had remembered and that was because I was only holding the broken off back rest in my hand. Apparently our 8 yr. old daughter knocked over the chair not once, but twice in the 45 minutes we were gone.
They have gotten better thru the years, but we still have an occasional mishap.
If yours keep it up, you could always get them a job with a wrecking crew. LOL
Good luck!



answers from Atlanta on

I believe that your son should definitely be punished for this in order to learn his lesson and the value of other people's things. He needs to be taught through restitution that when something is broken that he must work to repay it for the damage. You should have him do a certain number of chores in order for him to earn the money needed to either fix the teapot or replace it. You determine the "value" as the parent. For example, even if it may not cost a lot to fix the teapot, he should still be required to do a certain amount of yard work (or whatever you choose) based on the value of the action and the teapot. He'll soon learn that money does not grow on trees and will be more respectful. Good luck and God Bless!



answers from Atlanta on

Whenever my son breaks something of mine (the latest was part of the chandelier) and it wasn't an accident...i.e. was throwing the ball in the house after repeatedly asking him not to, something of his gets broken. With the hammer, by ME. Then, HE must throw away all the pieces.

And that toy is NOT replaced. Make it something of value or else you will not get your point across.

Good Luck!



answers from Macon on

It sounds as if your son is acting out to get your attention. For the last 11 years he has been the only child in your household and did not have to share the attention of either of his parents. Now unconsciously both parents probably spend more time and energy with the baby. He more than likely feels a little lost and has found that he receives attention when he does things that he knows will upset you. Children will seek attention when needed whether it ispositive or negative. Try spending more one on one time with him. Carve out special days just for him. You must be consistent with this.

Also, I would say that you should have him work off the money to pay for the itmes that he breaks intentionally. He has to learn that money doesn't grow on trees in the backyard and that me has to respect others personal property. If you allow him to take the money from his savings or allowance the lesson will not be as affective. Ensure that the work he does his labor intensive. However, you must be consistent with spending extra quality time with him.

Hope this helps. My son did the same thing when my daughter was born. I found that doing things that only involved him and I really worked. He realized that he was still special to me and no one had replaced him....



answers from Atlanta on

Question... has this been happening a long time or just since the baby was born.

sounds to me to be a cry for attention.
I had a friend who was number 5 child out of 8 who would steal for attention.

He is old enough to be involved with your life and to sit down and talk about what would make him happy.

just a suggestion.

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