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On behalf of a friend... what to do when a child destroys expensive property of another?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

So... yesterday at church I noticed a friend who is very much into natural parenting and gentle discipline looking very upset and distracted.  I asked what was up.  

 

Her 9-year-old daughter did something Saturday that was... highly inappropriate and she's not sure at all what to do, if she handled the situation correctly, and overall embarrassed.

 

Her daughter, while visiting her relatives, cut up her cousin's wedding dress.  

 

The wedding is in three weeks, my friend has no idea where she will get the money to replace the dress.  As for her daughter, Friend really isn't sure what to do with her.  She confesses she did lose it and yell at her daughter.  She's not sure what the natural consequence is other than everyone being upset.

 

She says her daughter is just being defiant about the whole thing.  Apparently daughter says she did it because she has never liked this particular cousin.  

 

I don't know nearly enough about gentle discipline, and Friend is looking for any advice she can get.  What exactly do you do in this kind of situation?

post #2 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Backroads View Post
 

So... yesterday at church I noticed a friend who is very much into natural parenting and gentle discipline looking very upset and distracted.  I asked what was up.  

 

Her 9-year-old daughter did something Saturday that was... highly inappropriate and she's not sure at all what to do, if she handled the situation correctly, and overall embarrassed.

 

First, it's great that your friend has a friend like you to talk about this with. I think it's so hard when we're feeling embarrassed to discuss things, but so important. I'll be thinking of your friend and sending support.

 

Here are my initial thoughts:

 

First about the dress itself:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Backroads View Post
The wedding is in three weeks, my friend has no idea where she will get the money to replace the dress.  ...  She's not sure what the natural consequence is other than everyone being upset.

 

I think one natural consequence would be for her daughter to assist in paying for the dress. This can be by having her daughter pick out clothing, toys, and books that can be sold to provide money to pay for the replacement dress. While it may be difficult to cover all of the cost of a wedding dress through the sale of her daughter's items, it would make an impact on the daughter as a natural consequence of destroying another person's item.

 

And about the bigger picture:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Backroads View Post
Apparently daughter says she did it because she has never liked this particular cousin.  

 

One of my philosophies is to ask myself "What need is my child trying to meet through this behavior? How can I help my child meet the need in a different way?" So I would recommend that your friend explore these issues. Her daughter doesn't like this particular cousin. Can her daughter explain further? Does she feel like her parents aren't hearing her when she says that she doesn't like the cousin or is uncomfortable? How else could the daughter have let her parents know about this issue? I don't at all support the daughter's behavior, but my gut instinct in reading your message is that there may be more going on than first meets the eye. It's possible that the cousin has hurt the child or (or someone else in the cousin's house/life has hurt the child and the cousin didn't protect her). It's possible that the daughter is uncomfortable spending time with cousin for other reasons (she is hungry because there isn't food she's comfortable eating at the cousin's house, the cousin talks about things the daughter doesn't understand, etc.). It's possible that the daughter is being defiant to her mother about the wedding dress incident because she's hurting and angry and feeling like that even after cutting up a wedding dress, her mom doesn't see how hurt and upset she (the daughter is). None of those would support the daughter's cutting of the dress, but understanding what the daughter is feeling and experiencing might help your friend help her daughter figure out what she (the daughter) can do differently in the future and how your friend support her daughter.

 

Wishing your friend and her daughter the best!

post #3 of 11

Wow.

 

If I were the parent of said 9 year old, I would arrange a meeting with the dress owner, pronto, check book in hand.  If the dress was repairable, I would pay.  Otherwise, I would give her the replacement value of the dress.  As per where to get the money, debt is an option.  If this went to court, she would be liable for the whole amount, so might as well just bite the bullet. 

 

As per the daughter, I am at a loss.  I do think she should have to work off the cost of the debt.  The problem with big debts and kids is that it will often take them forever to work off the deb  - i.e at 10$ and hour for a $3000 dress, we are talking 300 hours of work.  It could easily be a year.  Perhaps only working off half in this instance?  9 is a tricky age - for an under 7, such a long punishment would be inappropriate, for a 12 plus, working off the whole amount seems very just, but a 9 year old seems to require something in between..

 

I would strongly consider professional help for the child as well.  Counseling, anger management, impulse control…...


Edited by kathymuggle - 9/2/13 at 8:45am
post #4 of 11

I agree with exploring the source of the daughter's resentment towards her cousin. Also with discussing with her appropriate and inappropriate ways to vent your anger. 

 

The parent will have to pay replacement cost of the dress for sure (how do you even get a wedding dress 3 weeks before a wedding?) but I think the daughter's working-off of her debt should perhaps be directed towards her cousin... spending a certain number of Saturdays helping the cousin dig up her garden or paint her house or whatever. 

post #5 of 11

I don't have much to say of help really. I think she is lucky to have a friend like you.

 

I am not sure that any of us can really give helpful advice secondhand here. The only thing I think anyone could say is "oh that's normal, yes, they do that.". But its not common behaviour. IME. For a 9 year old to cut up a wedding dress, or deliberately destroy another's expensive property, is outwith my experience (my older kids are 10 and 8). Its also not really a quick, angry thing. My 10 year old has an awful, quick, temper and I could just about imagine he might break something, half by accident, in sheer extreme fury (though he never has-but I can see how it could happen). But cutting up a dress - and it sounds like its beyond repair? - takes some time. So it sounds as though she was not in the grip of anger but perhaps it was a little more meditated.

 

I'd see it as so unusual that I think it needs some investigation. If one of my kids did something like this I actually don't know what I'd do because it would be very situation specific , and also very kid specific. Say if my middle child did something like this. Now she just doesn't have an angry temper that gets directed at others. I literally cannot imagine her doing that. Don't get me wrong-she's not perfect. But it would be such atypical behaviour from her that my assumption would be that something big-and I mean, big,and concerning- had happened that I didn't know about. So one big question for me would be, is this behaviour in or out of character?

 

9 year olds are complex, as another poster said. But this is very unusual. Its the kind of extreme, premediated behaviour you might associate with very jealous siblings, yet I assume there is a significant age gap?

post #6 of 11
I agree with PPs who say that this is a really big and unusual thing for a kid that age to do. It is so unusual I'd be worried about what was going on in that kid's life and I'd arrange for some counseling. Kids that age can control impulses and know better than to destory something as important as a wedding dress, and I would be more distressed by my child exhibiting the behavior than I would be over the cost of the dress.

Parents are legally responsible for the actions of their minor children, so the expense would be mind and I'd pay it. But I would be really worried about my kid if she had done something so unusual and destructuve. Does this child do other really destructive things? It's a big red flag.
post #7 of 11

I would pay for the dress immediately, then deal with the child later.   But, first the cousin.

 

I agree with the poster who said that the child should sell as much of her own things as possible to pay for it.  I would go for my daughter's bike and electronics first because those would get the most money the fastest.  

 

It's possible that this mom's idea of "gentle discipline" is really "no discipline".  Discipline and handling her responsibility are two different things.  

 

I am SOOOO glad this child was able to say why she did it, and I really really hope her reason for doing it didn't make anybody angry, because in the long run, you want a teenager who isn't afraid to talk about scary things to  her parents.  In the big picture, the fact that this child was willing to say why she did it is a pretty big deal.  Even if it sounds bratty.  

post #8 of 11
I would pay for the dress, get a sitter or put my DD on daycare while I attend the wedding and the reception, and get a good family counselor. The destruction of property alone would make me question what was triggering rage in my DD but a lack of remorse on top of that would make it clear to me that we need help with our relationship.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Indeed, I had to wonder what would prompt a 9-year-old to do that!  Apparently the bride is 18, so still an age gap.  I only know what I've been told.  I am quite curious to know more details.  But I also don't want to pry.

post #10 of 11

morediscipline, I've removed your post as it violated Mothering's User Agreement and the forum guidelines for Gentle Discipline; please look for a PM from me. fillyjonk, I've removed your post it discussed morediscipline's post. If anyone has questions, please PM me, but do not post to the thread to discuss the removed posts.

 

And, now, back to the original question. OP, any update? Anyone else have suggestions for the original poster?

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

Yes, update.

 

I was given further details in a chat the other day.

 

The dress, apparently, wasn't as totally destroyed as I was given the impression, so a seamstress was able to replace the ruined part of the skirt.  My friend still isn't sure what led her daughter to do this, but she has some reason to believe it was part of a group dare with mob mentality and all that after some fight with the cousin.  Some sort of big family meeting has occurred.  My friend paid for the seamstress' time--not a huge, huge amount, but enough to affect family fun money, which was the expendable part of the budget.  The daughter will be working it off, and is aware of how it affected family events for a few weeks.

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