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Teaching Emotional Etiquette: When Your Child Breaks Things

When your child breaks something, you have a few options. It first comes down to the cause of it; was it done in anger or while walking with a stack of plates towards the dishwasher? A broken piece of valuables, maybe something as simple as your favorite cup, can turn up after an argument and your gut feeling will tell you who it was - while your child will deny any guilt until they’re blue. 

Clear Communication

If your child has broken something during an argument or a hole has been punched through the wall, it’s important to not feed the fire with more anger. Destructive behavior is often an attempt to gain or regain power, and meeting this with anger will not solve the problem. Rather be clear about your expectations, and explain that destroying property is not alright at home or anywhere else - and it will get consequences.


When she grows up, your child will need to replace anything she breaks - even if it’s an accident, so you might as well get her used to this consequence at home. When the fire has cooled down, explain to her that she needs to replace what she broke. This article is a part of the Building Character series and gives in-depth advice to parents on teaching responsibility.

You might receive mixed reactions to this; if she regrets what she did, she’ll willingly help around the house and do extra chores to make up for the damage, or she might blankly refuse it. Give her the numbers of what she owes you, and explain that this will come out of allowances and other things she does for fun so that you can repair it. With a broken window, for example, you need to look at getting it replaced right away - window renewals by Andersen window replacement is a good option, or find a way to fix it temporarily for the time being. 

It’s the difference between needs and wants - you’ll never deprive your child of something she needs, but if she is refusing to replace it by putting in extra work, you can make it back by cutting down on shopping trips and expensive clothes. 

Alternative Outlets

Everyone needs an outlet for extra energy and especially children. Not only because they tend to have more energy than we do - but also because they’re not always as good at handling frustration. A fight with a friend or a teacher might lead them to take it out on a ‘safe’ person, which is usually you, or to passive aggressively break something. Alternative outlets mean that, when emotions are bubbling, they have an alternative; either destructive behavior or going on the trampoline for fifteen minutes. If you’ve communicated your expectations clearly, and they’re not too keen on replacing what they break, you’ll see them jumping their frustration away in no time. 

Sure, it’s natural to feel a bit upset when something breaks, especially when it’s done on purpose as a passive-aggressive way of getting back at you. Although spillage or damage to something is bound to make most of us annoyed, it’s important to take a step back as a parent and consider your reaction. It will make your relationship better - and even mend it if you’re going through a rough phase.

1 comment

  1. Great advice. I'm starting to have small issues with my 5 year old throwing things when he gets upset and he's in turn broken a few things. I'm never sure how to approach it.


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