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“Bossy” and Destructive Behavior

My child walks around like he owns the place and he destroys everything!  How can I teach him to respect things that don’t belong to him?”


  • kids-playing-on-matTypically, children will learn to respect and “be careful” with their own toys first, before learning to respect others’ things.
  • Talk about some things that are very important to you (favorite jewelry, fragile china, makeup, books).  Talk about how you would feel if he did something to harm your things.  See if he can describe feelings that someone might feel if their things were broken.
  • Encourage your child to talk about his “prized possessions,” and how he may feel if these were harmed (e.g., torn, broken, defaced, lost).
  • Draw pictures of a child holding a favorite toy that has been harmed (e.g., A teddy bear that has been ripped and the child holding it is crying). Talk about what happened, how the child is feeling, and why it is wrong to hurt someone else’s things.
  • Give your child a chance to play with some of your possessions while being supervised.  If he is willfully destructive you may choose to remove the object.  If he needs help, you may show him how to use the object, and then praise him for using the object with respect.
  • Make sure that your child knows what is acceptable to “borrow” and play with appropriately, and what items are not acceptable in any situation (e.g., expensive, fragile, valuable property that belongs to others). Remind him to always ask when unsure if something can be “borrowed”.