This is why we can’t have nice things
Is it just inevitable that children will break things?
If you Google phrases like “why my children break things” or “destructive children”, you’ll find hundreds and hundreds of parenting forums with people at the end of their rope, trying to find a solution to this problem. The advice is always the same “give them a time-out”, “take their toys away” or “make them take responsibility”.

But one thing you will not find anywhere is a way to completely stop it from happening and there is a reason for this. Children break things. They break cheap things and expensive things. They break toys and crockery and electronics and regardless of how well disciplined they are, or how badly you react when it happens. It’s a fact of life.

There’s an obvious reason for this. Small children seldom intend to break the thing they’re playing with. When they pick that glass up in their chubby hands, they are just as shocked as you are when it slips from their fingers. Similarly, when a little girl sticks her finger all the way into a lipstick tube and watches it melt out of the sides, it’s merely interesting. She doesn’t realise that her Mommy will have to go to work looking like a ghost and then make an extra trip and spend extra money at the cosmetics counter.

There is also the issue of impulse control. It takes time for children to learn that it is unacceptable to throw things, simply drop them on the floor or step all over them. It takes years of repeating yourself (sometimes at great volume) to drive the point home. Although most parents come to terms with this and learn quickly to keep their prized possessions locked in cupboards or hidden in their sock drawers, there is the prevailing problem that all parents face. When your kids break other people’s things.

There is nothing more humiliating than discovering that your tot has rammed 3 disks into your friend’s DVD player and jammed it. There’s the loud scolding in front of your hosts, the demand that they apologise, the profuse apologies and the inevitable offering to repair the damage or buy a whole new one.

More horrific still, is the thought of your child breaking some priceless artefact. And, heaven help you, there will be friends who keep porcelain knick knacks, inherited from their grandmothers within easy reach. The best one can hope to do is visit with bags of toys and books, keep them outside and try not to get distracted for so long that they get bored and go exploring. Better yet, fostering friendships with other parents whose homes are already baby-proofed is probably your best bet.

Is there any way to curb their enthusiasm?

Whatever your solution to the problem, it is comforting to know that ALL parents face it. Practical ways to mitigate your plight are to remove temptation as far as possible. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Bolt your television high up on the wall, invest in a cheap DVD player, make copies of your existing movies and music or store them on an external hard-drive. Keep keys, ID books, phones and wallets on hooks and high shelves. Invest in cheaper sunglasses and crockery and keep the good stuff packed far away.

When your home is full of things children can’t touch or risk breaking, you create unnecessary stress for yourself, and your offspring. Nobody wants to yell all day and nobody wants to be yelled at either. For all their force of destruction, it helps to remember that it’s their home too, and unfair to fill it with things they’re scared to touch or play with.

Kids need to be taught to leave your stuff alone, but because they are only capable of certain things at certain ages, it’s a combination of first putting it away, then giving them things they can handle and drop, then giving them something to hold, then telling them to leave other things alone etc. a child of 10 should leave your priceless vase alone but when they were 3 or 6 you put it up on a high shelf.

Have you managed to get your toddlers to not be destructive?

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