Children break toys occasionally. Some children break toys accidentally or by using them incorrectly. Other children break toys through carelessness. To really destroy a toy, however, takes some planning. Children have several reasons for destroying toys, ranging from a desire to see what makes them work to rage. Helping the child manage this behavior puts him on the road to self-control.
Confront the problem. Pediatrician William Sears at AskDrSears.com encourages parents to use natural consequences whenever possible. This allows the child to feel the full effect of her behavior. Show the child the results of her destruction. Pick up the pieces of the toy. Show the child how the toy doesn’t fit together anymore or how it doesn’t work. If the child cries after seeing the results of her actions, sincerely tell the child that you are sad, too.
Help the child make restitution. If possible, work with the child to repair the toy. If the child has torn books or a cloth toy, help him tape the pages together or sew the pieces with him watching. It is important for him to see that destruction takes a few seconds, but repair takes much longer. In some cases, the toy will be beyond repair. The University of Michigan warns parents to inspect broken toys carefully to ensure that no pieces pose a choking hazard. If the toy has pieces small enough to cause choking or has sharp pieces, it must be discarded. In this case, work with the child to replace the broken toy. This could include using the child’s money to replace the broken toy. If the toy is expensive, help the child earn the money with extra chores or tasks.
Allow the child to feel the long-term consequences of her behavior. Don’t rush out and buy new toys or books. Instead, let the child work with the repaired toys or do without. This teaches the lesson to be more careful every time she plays or is tempted to lose her temper.
Give the child attention when she is following directions. According to Jennifer Pendley, the co-director for the Division of Behavioral Health at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, writing at KidsHealth.org, some children act out inappropriately for attention. Parents can head this behavior off by spending positive time with children. This can be as special as going to the zoo or a museum, or as simple as turning off the radio and talking to your child on the way to school.
If your child is consistently destructive, discuss the behavior with your pediatrician.