By Marli Naidoo
There is always that one child who breaks his friends’ toys, dismantles his own possessions and tries to pull apart every shrub when he walks in the veld. What does one do if that child is yours?
The traditional solution is punishment so that your child can associate it with his behaviour and react better next time. But does this solve the problem or does it only teach your child to express his overpowering emotions in another negative way or to repress them?
Some children are inclined to break things because it gives them power over the object and makes them feel in control. These children have a desire to feel like individuals in a world where they are instructed what to do and when to do it and how to do it. An imbalance develops if the desire for power is contradicted by its absence. To restore this balance children will grasp at any chance to have control over something.
You can help your child break this cycle of destruction by allowing him to control certain aspects of his life. Give him the responsibility to take care of his room or homework himself. Do not intervene if he makes a mess of it and let him handle the consequences himself.
Remember that things are not going to improve overnight. He is going to make many mistakes. It takes time to break old habits.
There are children, however, who don’t break things because they crave power but because they are struggling to process unpleasant inner emotions. In such cases they are trying to control tangible items because they cannot control what is going on inside them.
In this case, too, punishment is not going to solve the problem. These children need your help to learn self-control.
Children learn self-control when you give them affectionate guidance. Their first desire is connection. They must feel that you support them and want to help, and that they do not have to work through their negative emotions on their own.
When your child has calmed down you can talk about what it was that upset him so much. Show him that you want to help him and do not dismiss his feelings as unimportant and insignificant. Discuss better ways in which he could have expressed his emotions in this specific situation.
If possible, help him repair what he broke or clean up where he messed. If it cannot be repaired he can use his pocket money to replace it.
Make sure that your child understands that it is normal to feel overwhelmed and angry at times but that it does not mean that he may break things.
Help him to control external causes. Is he being bullied at school or do you as parents regularly fight in his presence? Is he frustrated by his siblings? These are factors that could have a negative effect on your child and cause a lot of overwhelming emotions in him.
Create a safe and supporting environment for your child where he can develop and bloom.
Dr. Risikof: https://www.doctorrishikof.com/why-is-it-fun-for-kids-to-destroy-and-break-things/
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201703/what-if-your-child-chooses-do-wrong