Destructive behavior

Deliberately damaging, destroying, or misusing someone else’s property are destructive behaviors. Children may do this for a number of reasons: excitement, impress friends; frustration or anger; get even with someone, act of rebellion.

o Discuss with children how important it is to respect other peoples’ property. Bring up topics like (a) how they come to own belongings; (b) which of their possessions they would never want to lose; (c) how they take care of their special belongings, and how they should take care of other peoples’ valuables; (d) how they would feel if someone broke something of theirs, by accident or on purpose.

o Encourage children to take pride in their school. Some ways you can do this is by letting children paint murals and decorate the hallways, or make a school banner and cheer. I always found a winning team in some sport was a sure ticket to boosting a school’s self-esteem. Children and adults for that matter want to identify with winners.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but children who don’t respect other people’s property usually don’t respect their own or even themselves. Taking pride in your school starts with taking pride in yourself, and I don’t think you can have one without the other.

o Set up a group contingency whereby each time a group member wrecks someone else’s things, his team loses a point. The team with the most points at the end of the day (or week) wins.

o Make children replace the item they ruined, along with saying, “I’m sorry,” to its owner. If it involves school property, children must help put it back to its original form. This may mean painting, sanding, washing desks or walls, cleaning, or picking up garbage.

o If children are operating in gangs, try to channel the gang’s energy into more constructive outlets such as building a clubhouse, or helping younger children with team sports.

o Set up a student court where other children decide on the penalties for destructive behavior. This gives children an illuminating look inside our judicial system; just make sure their sentences warrant the crimes–kids can be surprisingly punitive.

o For children who enjoy doodling or engraving on their desks, try covering their desktop with newspaper. An unmarked desk after two days gives them back their shiny desktop.