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Why do children destroy toys on purpose?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
One of my tribe gals has 2 boys ages 2 and 5. They break their toys on purpose, usually demolishing them after mom explains what will happen if they do. This happens all the time.

My ds, 5 1/2, doesn't do this. He likes to demolish and bang stuff but he only does it with things that aren't his non-durable toys.

We have another friend whose son is somewhere in between.

I am just wondering why this is. My tribe gal pal lets her kids watch Star Wars and other stuff with some violence but most of their viewing (tapes and DVDs only) is pretty tame.

We only have ds watch educational, gentler stories and some animal shows with a small bit of gore.

Does this really have an impact or is it hard wired into each kid?

Just wondering...
post #2 of 11
My kids are all soo different from each other on different ends of that. I think it just depends on the child. My 5 year old loves to smash stuff. Seriously! He loves to see things break and and hear the loud clattering and cracking of it. (course he has SID as well though). Its not that he likes being destructive, its just a curiousity of cause and effect and gets a kick out of the noise and stimulation. My other 2 are NOT like that at all and they were all raised the same way.

MIL once told me DH used to drop his toys off the top step to see them break.. When asked why he would say "I want to see whats inside". He still is curious like this. I came home years ago to find our first computer in peices all over my living room.. I asked him what he was doing "I wanted to see how it worked". *sigh* I think some kids (and adults) are just like this.

BTW my DS is less distructive of his toys if I give him things he CAN be distructive with. We have a rubber mallet and save pop cans and let him line them up or stack them on the kitchen floor (or cement patio or basement floor) and smash them. He gets a kick out of it and once he gets it out of his system he's less liekly to smash anything else. (BTW we have most channels that show more violent cartoons blocked on our TV so I know its not that)
post #3 of 11
My DS is 3, he does not watch any violent show or movies at all. He is an occasional toy smasher. Sometimes he just wants to bang his toys around and use the toy for something other than what it is made for. (EX: a few days ago he decided to use a toy from his train table to stand on - it broke) I see it as him being creative and being too young to forsee the concequences of his actions. When it broke, he seemed upset so I know he was not intending to break the toy. I guess that is the difference. If a child is intentionally trying to break a toy I would guess that he/she is looking for some attention. Bad attention is better than no attention at all.

Or it could be a child re-enacting something he/she saw on a violent TV show. Young children have a hard time differentiating between reality and fiction when it comes to TV, so if it is ok for someone to do it on TV then they assume it is ok for them to do it too.
post #4 of 11
I think all kids have different ways of experimenting with their power. Children need to test out how much they can change their environment. What kind of changes are permanent? What kind of changes are loud? What kind of changes will get me in trouble? What kind of changes make mom upset?

My dd is experimenting with both growling/shrieking and with ignoring me when I talk to her. I would say it's a similar behavior. She's trying out the different ways that she can "break" me, change my behavior, change the course of a routine, change the amount of attention I'll give her, etc.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Even when my son was 2 or 3 he would become upset when a toy broke, often not because he was rough but the toy might have been cheaply made. He would always ask us to try to fix it with glue, tape etc.

My friend's son destroyed my son's magnadoodle on purpose while they were visiting us from out of town. He did it when no one was around after everyone had been using it. He was 4 1/2 at the time. He had to buy a replacement. This is the same boy who loves model trains and is very careful with them.

It's odd to me because my son is the never-sit-still, talk all the time, kind of kid and his friend is much less wound up, seemingly relaxed and unflappable. Yet he gouged the heck out of the magna doodle and pounded another toy into little pieces.

Still wondering...I get the cause and effect thing when they are 2-3 but by 4-5, most kids I know have some clue about what will happen if they destroy one of their own toys.
post #6 of 11
My kids, ages 4.25 and 22 months, have never broken a toy on purpose, other than an occasional crayon.

Personally (and I am by no means an expert on child psychology), I would be disturbed if my children repededly broke toys. I would think a 5 year old would have the restraint not to break toys all the time. I would probably not buy new toys, if I were that mother, until they stopped destroying them.
post #7 of 11
Why do children destroy toys on purpose?
Because they can.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Last week my friend told the boys that there will be no new toys until...(I can't remember when) I think it's birthdays or something. She is puzzled because she tends to head things off at the pass and give the guys things that are ok to bang on or rip apart. When her eldest was just one he was a thrower. His reaction to whatever wasn't going his way was to throw things. My son is more verbal...SO VERBAL!

I know when my son is playing with others and the gang starts banging on stuff things can get out of control if we don't watch to make sure whatever it is can take the hitting. My son tends to hammer things around the house inappropriately, even after my guiding him to the OK things to hammer. If he does this, the toy goes away for a bit. I also try to give him alternatives and he tries to remember what they are.

Ruthla - I know kids do some things on purpose because they can. I have found there is usually something going on with them when they do this. My nephew, now 18 and a freshman in college, is THE KINDEST, NICEST, most polite young man and was this way as a child. But, on rare occasions, when no one was watching, he would be destructive. It was always in response to something and my sister would usually figure it out and talk with him about it while they cleaned up or repaired whatever it was. She was so patient with him and her daughter who tended to to be more explosive. They are both now 2 of my favorite young people and are very mature for their age.

I tend to let my son explore on his own and I do not plan much for him yet. He discovers so much more when I don't facilitate. He is very curious and is always trying out things. My friend tends to have her little guys involved in an activity. She is so creative and they are always doing cool science experiments and playing games. But then they break a favorite toy and she tosses it into the garbage, good-bye!
post #9 of 11
Even at age 4 and 5 many kids dont know how to properly show emotions either. Some kids take longer to verbalize thier feelings and learn proper ways to handle them. Frustration is a HUGE HUGE HUGE feeling that troubles alot of kids who havent figured out how to comunicate thier feelings yet.

Mom told him he cant do something he really wanted to do.. he's frustrated and angry and doesnt know the proper way to express it.

Another child is playing with a toy and its frustrating to wait turns.

Another child is simply there or someone is looking at them. They dont feel in a social mood and cant grasp thier own irritibility and get frustrated with it.

I'm not saying its ok for a child to act like this because they dont know how to express themselves, I'm saying thats a possibility of underlaying cause. Approaching this differently can help. If my DS is frustrated and I tell him to "Stop" or "Dont break that, what did I tell you about that?" , thats not helping and will get me no where. If I say "Andy I can see you're frustrated, its ok to be mad, but lets be mad like this instead." And I usually defuse the situation by being silly (stomping and jumping around with a grouchy face) or if he's very serious looking we talk about whats really on his mind. (all depends on what the situation is)

Kids generally arent "bad" or trying to misbehave. We simply need to decode them. And yes its still perfectly normal for 4 and 5 year olds to have troubles with this, heck its still normal for adults to have issues expressing emotions.
post #10 of 11
Do they have too many toys? Maybe they don't value the ones they have because they know they'll just get another one soon. Or maybe it's displaced anger and frustration? Or maybe that's just how they are.

My dd is pretty careful with her toys because she doesn't have a lot of them anymore. The delicate ones are ones she has waited a long time to get.
post #11 of 11
My dd is gentle with her toys and really treasures them. My ds is a little wild--age? Typical boy behavior? I don't know.
An xfriend of mine has a son, who at three, actually set the house on fire on purpose. When we were together, I watched her scream at her son and call him horrible names. She told him he was totally worthless. Yes, in front of a playgroup. I have also watched another mom slap her son hard (leaving a mark) because her one son was hitting the other son. My kids squabble now and then, but never hit each other. I no longer associate with this playgroup anymore--and these are really upscale well-to-do community members--not criminals. But their kids kind of worry me.
Any connection? I don't know. But I do know this--if these types of things are chalked up to "kid behavior" now--and they very well could be kid behavior--at some point in time the parents have to understand that not all kids act like that and that at some point, if the behavior continues, they need to do something--maybe actually take actions to help them understand how to deal with their frustration (if that's what it is)--or how to channel their issues in a more appropriate way (like leave the room if frustrated with a toy instead of ruining it). You know: OK Johnny, I see that you are frustrated with your car, but let's try walking away from it instead of destroying it, so that when you feel more calm, you will still have it. Good job, you did it! Afterall, isn't that what parents are supposed to do?
Oh, and don't discount modeling--because I think kids learn by what is modeled in the house--which is my whole point of this post.
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