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advice? 5 yo "ruining" sibs artwork

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I need some suggestions for handling a situation with my kids.

Please help me come up with some ideas for how to get my 5 yr old to stop "ruining" her siblings artwork.

They all enjoy coloring and doing other types of artwork. We have lots of paper and other supplies to work with. But the kids sometimes fight over things like who gets to color a certain picture or paint a figure or whatever.

My 5 yr old doesn't seem to grasp boundaries when it comes to her siblings' work. If she wants to color/paint/cut/whatever on one of the older kids projects, she just does it, often leaving the original project a mess (in the eyes of her siblings anyway).

This is very upsetting to the other kids, who complain that she "ruins" everything. I don't think the 5 yr old is trying to be mean or wreck things. She just sees something she likes and wants to color it or cut it out or whatever it is she's interested in doing.

When one of the older kids has a project they have worked hard on, they get very angry when little sister leaves her mark on their artwork. Recent examples include coloring some parts of a big color poster than one child was creating or painting a model horse that belonged to a sibling. The older child didn't like what her sister had done and declared it ruined.

This morning, we discovered that little sister had used markers to color a picture on the reverse side of a self-portrait that the older sister had done in pencil. Since the colored markers showed through the paper and were visible on the portrait side, my older daughter was in tears. We've been through this so many times, I don't know how to teach the younger one to respect the other's work.

I have talked to the younger daughter about not doing anything to her siblings projects. I have insisted that she apologize. I have replaced things for the older kids and/or had the little one give something of hers to the older child in return. I have made sure that the kids have plenty of supplies to go around and have tried designating certain supplies to each kid. But still, she does this.

So... any great suggestions on how to handle this situation? As I said, I think the little one is not intentionally trying to "ruin" things. But I think she does things on impulse and doesn't consider that it will upset her siblings.

I have promised my older daughter that I will take some other action to address this situation. I can understand why she was sad and angry that her self-portrait was ruined. But she suggests things like "take away her markers for a year" and such, which I just don't think are appropriate or will be effective. (Not to mention that I am not going to let one child dictate to me how to discipline another child... but I digress...)

Suggestions much appreciated, TIA.

Ellen
post #2 of 37
Well, I actually don't think your daughter's idea is a bad one. Not the year part, of course, but it does seem that your 5yo dd has shown many, many times that she is not responsible enough to have unrestricted, unsupervised access to art supplies. Would it be possible to put the art supplies away so that she can not get them without supervision?
post #3 of 37
Is your 5 yo dd the baby of the family?

And, at 5 I think she absolutely does have an understanding that drawing on her siblings art really bothers them and in fact ruins the work.

Like the PP said I really would ensure that she does not have unrestricted access to the art supplies.
post #4 of 37
Is there a way to have their artwork out of the reach of their little sister?
post #5 of 37
I would put them where the 5YO cannot get them. We've done that. My 5YO can get to the art supplies, but my 3YO cannot get to most of them. She did the same thing - just mad scribbling on anything she could find. We put away all art supplies so that she has to ask for them. Then we've slowly started leaving some things out for her to have free access to use. She still cannot have markers or stickers unless we get them, but she now can have crayons.

Your dd has shown that she's not capable of impulse control or respecting boundaries, and it's only fair to put things out of reach. Your older children, too, will need to put things out of her reach. I would get a shelf or designate a cabinet and make them responsible for putting away their projects.
post #6 of 37
Unsupervised art doesn't work here for similar reasons. We keep stuff out of the way and the kids have to ask to get it out. Once they are done then it goes away again, it's not always easy since they are never done at the same time but it has helped.

We do have an easel out with chalks which they can get to without asking and they both often use that. We do get some "he rubbed out my picture" arguments but for the most part they accept that chalk drawings are pretty temporary and it doesn't bother them as much.

Another thing we have done is give DD a box in her room where she can keep her special drawings. She knows that things left around outside the box are likely to get recycled by me. I would like to make a space in both there rooms where they can display their art, I'm thinking about either a clothes line or magnetic board but haven;t got round to either yet.
post #7 of 37
First, I need to understand why you put quotes around the word ruin over and over. The five year old DID ruin her sisters' artwork. She ruined it. It isn't "ruined" - which insinuates that it is fine and your older children are overreacting. Whether five year old was trying to be mean and wreck it or not doesn't change the fact that it is wrecked. And at five, I absolutely think she knows what she is doing.

If I took your favorite coat and cut the arms off it 'cause I thought it would be fun to see what it looked like as a vest, would it be "ruined"? Would you be mad? Would I have access to scissors and your closet - day after day after day - to continue to "ruin" the rest of your clothes?

And assuming that 1) your 5 year old is normally functioning, and 2) you have made it clear (not "I wish you wouldn't do that; sister doesn't like it" but CLEAR as a bell - so the child knows that you are angry - yes, ruining her sister's self-portrait at age FIVE, not two which would be understandable as "not grasping boundaries", is angry-worthy) then the five year old is knowingly/purposefully doing this for the attention and/or reaction. She sure has a lot of power to get mom's attention and to make sisters yell and cry - all she has to do is color or cut on something of theirs.

Taking away the 5 year old's access - ALL access - to every art supply in the house seems like a perfectly reasonable consequence to me. Why not? Your older child had a good idea; don't disregard it because she doesn't get to discipline her sister. Someone has to.

Letting the five year old continue to ruin her sisters' art is going down a path that does nothing for their sibling relationships now or in the future. A five year old is most certainly old enough to know better.
post #8 of 37
What Kristen said.

Especially the part about the future of their relationships. I've been here. You can't underestimate the damage that can be done by resentments fed by unrelenting injustices.

At 5 y.o. your daughter is definitely old enough to know better. But ultimately it does not matter what her intentions are, you have to stop this now. Perhaps your 5 y.o. doesn't really respect your other children's art work because you don't entirely either.
post #9 of 37
I have to agree with the PPs who said that at five, a neurotypical child is capable of understanding the boundary-- don't touch your sibling's stuff-- and capable of restraining the impulse. If she was two or three, I'd feel differently. But I have a 5 year old, and I know she's able to understand "don't touch what doesn't belong to you." A five year old is not a baby.

I also think that if you don't set clear boundaries, and enforce them, you're setting yourself up for some resentment from your older children. Yes, it's important for them to be patient with a younger sibling, but this is a child old enough to understand, and asking them to tolerate this is not fair. The older child feels disrespected, and the younger child isn't learning the basic social skills she needs to learn to peacefully coexist with other children.

So I would sit the child down, and make it clear-- clear as a bell, like the PP said-- that if it happens again, ever, even once, for any reason, that there will be consequences. Decide ahead of time what those will be. I think removing the 5 year old's access to art and craft supplies for a period of time is fair and reasonable. Of course not a year-- but perhaps a week? Ten days? Lay this out clearly for her. Then when it happens, stick to what you said. See the consequence through. Your older children will feel as if you've upheld their rights, and the younger child will maybe learn a bit about what happens when you push somebody's patience too far, which is an important lesson to learn.
post #10 of 37
I have to agree with the above posters. Your 5yo knows she should not and is fully old enough to not touch her siblings artwork. My 25 mo old would not know better but even my 3.5 would know better. I think you are just making excuses for her behaviour which will just make your older children resentful and your younger dd keep doing it. I ouwld restrict her art access for several weeks till she can prove trustworthy in leaving her siblings artwork alone/
post #11 of 37
I agree with pp's. I have a very creative, sometimes impulsive almost 4 year old dd and she DOES know better. My ds and dd share a room and their desks face each other but they know not to touch each other spaces unless invited. At first it was a rule mainly for the older's benefit (baby ruined my stuff, etc) but as dd has gotten older and building up her own collection of important things she appreciates it as well. I do agree that the key to healthy sibling relations is boundaries and mutual respect and that starts at a very young age.
ETA; if one of my kids overstepped their boundaries and ruined something they were not supposed to touch, they most certainly would have been punished accordingly to their age and the offense committed.
post #12 of 37
I agree with everyone else. A five year old knows better. I also agree that it's time to keep the art supplies out of reach. At this point the pay off of doing whatever she wants apparently outweighs the consequences of an upset sibling.

My four year old is an only, but she and I both enjoy a lot of arty messy things. She is now old enough that she doesn't mess with my stuff or misuse her own but we still keep the art and craft supplies out of reach (mostly out of habit and because it's tidy. If we don't clean up behind ourselves every time, it doesn't take long till we're swimming in thread and finger paints) unless she asks for them and then I supervise (which usually means she sits and does her thing and I take the opportunity to work on one of my on-going projects at the same time).
post #13 of 37
I don't know about this. I have a 5.5 year old and I would say she understands many things, but doesn't always have impulse control. I am not saying that I totally disagree with the PP's, some sort of consequences do need to be put into place, but I don't think statements like 'she absolutely can control herself, and she is capable of respecting boundaries' are accurate. She obviously can't. Maybe she should by some standard, but I would say that my dd is in the throws of learning about boundaries and yes, some impulse control things too.

Why can't the other children's artwork always be put up? Some restriction to art supplies is necessary and again, consequences after clear communication of boundaries.

But give the kid a break for goodness sake.
post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenlunatic View Post
I don't know about this. I have a 5.5 year old and I would say she understands many things, but doesn't always have impulse control. I am not saying that I totally disagree with the PP's, some sort of consequences do need to be put into place, but I don't think statements like 'she absolutely can control herself, and she is capable of respecting boundaries' are accurate. She obviously can't. Maybe she should by some standard, but I would say that my dd is in the throws of learning about boundaries and yes, some impulse control things too.

Why can't the other children's artwork always be put up? Some restriction to art supplies is necessary and again, consequences after clear communication of boundaries.

But give the kid a break for goodness sake.
To be honest, it doesn't really matter if she has the impulse control and isn't using it or doesn't have it. Either way, the most straightforward solution is to put the art supplies away and help the older children remember to clear their things away when they're done - although it would well and truly suck to work hard on something and not be able to display it.
post #15 of 37
Moved to The Childhood Years
post #16 of 37
In regards to cutting her a break- it looks like she's had quite a few breaks with this. She's had a lot of warnings and talks, and nothing changes. I think her losing art supplies unless directly supervised it reasonable until she is old enough or mature enough to respect other peoples' work.
post #17 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirsten View Post
First, I need to understand why you put quotes around the word ruin over and over. The five year old DID ruin her sisters' artwork. She ruined it. It isn't "ruined" - which insinuates that it is fine and your older children are overreacting. Whether five year old was trying to be mean and wreck it or not doesn't change the fact that it is wrecked. And at five, I absolutely think she knows what she is doing.
All of this. I definitely picked up an underlying tone that you feel the older children are over reacting and should be more tolerant. I disagree, and frankly don't understand why they shouldn't be able to preserve something they worked hard on. What if that self portrait had been a school project? What if your DH had a poster chart he was working on for a presentation at work and she did this to that? Regardless, other people's work has value, at least to them, and it shouldn't be dismissed so cavalierly. Other than breeding resentment at you and little sister because little sister can obviously do what she wants (in their eyes), it will quickly get to the point of why bother for the older children. What your 5 yr old is doing IS ruining the projects of her older siblings.

My dd is just under 5.5 yrs old. She's a wonderfully expressive, artistic free spirit who is impulsive. Not only is there no way I'd allow her to continue to destroy her brother's projects, but she also knows fully well that that is unacceptable behaviour. I think it took maybe 2-3 times of removing art utensils, not allowing her to paint, and explaining why her actions required an apology for this lesson to be learned. You don't say if your dd is in school or not, but I can guarantee that in kindy that behaviour will NOT be tolerated. Nor should it. I'm sorry but I can definitely see why your older children are unhappy. Restricting access to her art supplies and having the older children have a special place out of her reach to stow their projects are all good suggestions. And honestly, teaching a child about boundries is something that will only serve them positively in the future.
post #18 of 37
Thread Starter 
Wow, I had no idea this topic would generate so much and so strong a response. I appreciate everyone's input. Looking at the responses, I was surprised by the reaction. But then I went back and read my original post and I realize I didn't explain the situation very well. I presented this situation out of context, looking for general ideas, but then I read the replies and realized I should have presented it with more of our current context.

When I posted I was feeling frustrated and I don't think I explained the nature of the situation very adequately.

I do appreciate the ideas to deal with this in the long run, but more immediately, I need ideas for our specific current situation.

*************************************************

We are currently living at my mother's house due to a divorce situation. We left home unexpectedly a couple weeks ago when the situation at home became volatile and I had to file a restraining order. This was followed by some other legal actions and ultimately I will be able to move my family back to our own home in a little over a week. But for now, it's four kids and me sharing a house with my mom who is in a wheelchair recovering from surgery.

As you can imagine, it's difficult to keep the kids' things in any semblence of order. And the kids are edgier than usual and bored. The only personal items they have are a few clothes and toys I stuffed into bags when I left and a few things I picked up at the store. All 5 of us are sharing one bedroom. What art supplies we have are in a big plastic bin in the kitchen and are communal. So it's not possible to keep everything separate. It's also pretty hard, imo, to decide which of the multitude of papers stacked together is really a treasured masterpiece and which is one of many scribblings destined for the recycle bin.

As I said, my 5 yr old has done things like this before. And I agree that kids at her age should have an understanding and respect for boundaries and personal property. Clearly I need to address the problem further with her. But the older kids don't necessarily put their stuff up or indicate which things are special. So I don't think it's always obvious for the 5 yr old.

Even when we are in our own home, we have a lot of basic art supplies which the kids are allowed to use at the kitchen table. The stash of art stuff is mostly communal. They make a LOT of pictures, most of which are forgotten immediately. I encourage the kids not to waste supplies; so drawing on the back side of a used sheet of paper isn't always a crime, nor is using part of a paper to cut out something or finishing a coloring book page that someone else started, but left unfinished. That's why I put quotation marks around the word "ruin". Today's conflict was over a pencil drawing of a face, done on plain white computer printer paper. There were three similar pictures. The littlest child drew a different picture on the back of the paper using marker which showed through to the other side.

Should she have known better or not? Probably. But then again the reaction from her sister seemed a bit extreme for the circumstances. She does have a tendency to react very strongly to perceived wrongs against her. When she feels hurt, she is very unforgiving and tends to lash out at others. So I'm trying to walk a fine line here. I want to hold the younger child accountable for damaging the drawing and to teach her something. But I also want the older daughter to be more understanding and forgiving. This morning, she refused to accept any apologies from her sister, even when her sister was crying. My older daughter's insistence that her little sister be punished severely was a bit disturbing.

So that's my dilemma. I think my 5 yr old should be able to use some good judgement and know when she should leave some things alone. But at the same time, the bigger kids should be more responsible about setting apart those things which are important to them and personal. I'd like for them to be able to see that they also have some responsibility. I would also like for my younger daughter to feel and express sincere apologies and for my older daughter to be less vindictive and more able to forgive. Everyone here can learn something from the situation and can take a role in preventing future occurrances.

************************************************** ***
So, that is my specific question. Can anyone suggest a consequence that would be meaningful and instructive? Taking away art supplies temporarily was about the only thing I could think of. But I'm not sure it gets the point across very well and it takes away one of few constructive activities my kids can do at the moment.

I have some more ideas for how to prevent future problems like this. But what I really need is a good lesson suitable for this instance.

Any ideas?
post #19 of 37
Wow Mama you all have a lot going on. I think, knowing more background, I would simply do the best I can to prevent the occurance for now.

Maybe you could give each child a large folder that they could put the important stuff in. This is paper or art that is not to be reused or drawn on in any way. Also, have one large folder for paper or art that can be reused and make sure each folder is clearly marked. That seems like an easy solution for your current living conditions.

And I do wonder that perhaps your older daughter's reaction is her attempt to exert control over some facet of her life when right now things must seem chaotic and hard to understand. Sometimes when people are in tough situations, the so called "little" things that normally would be tolerated become big things.

Your daughter is living in someone else's home and has probably witnessed the stress you are under so her art work becomes even more personal and meaningful to her.

I wish you all the best with your personal life as well-I can only imagine how difficult everything is right now.
post #20 of 37
Thread Starter 
Thanks Betsyj. I think you are right about dd#2 being more sensitive due to the circumstances and feeling the need to try to control something. I know the kids are struggling too.

I like the idea of folders. That would be simple enough to do and still fit into our craft supply box. I think maybe when we get back home I will try taking one of my scrapbooking storage units (has little shelves with boxes to store stuff) and assign one shelf to each kid to keep their personal stuff in. Then there won't be any mistaking ownership of items. The big kids can put things up in their rooms too, once they have rooms again.

I still don't know what to do as a consequence for dd#4. Maybe no markers, but she can still use crayons? Somehow that seems like it won't have any impact. Maybe I should just establish a rule requiring her to ask for permission before using any art supplies?
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