Punching holes in the wall. Breaking and throwing things. Smashing your car’s windshield. Most of us never expect to face these behaviors from our children, but it happens all too often with defiant children and teens.

We see many kids who purposely destroy family property out of anger or for spiteful, vengeful reasons. And when it happens, the parents naturally feel a variety of hurtful and negative emotions.

It feels like a punch in the stomach. First comes the shock. How can my child be doing this to me? Anger, resentment, and guilt follow. What did I do wrong for my child to end up like this?

Why do kids destroy property? And what should we do about it?

Why Some Kids Resort to Destructive Behaviors

The fact is, most kids destroy property as a way of coping. They cannot cope with their frustrations and extreme feelings, and destroying property is a release of sorts. It makes them feel better, if only for a while.

But it is a terrible way to cope. It will lead to terrible consequences down the road as your child reaches adulthood. And it needs to be taken very seriously.

First, though, what leads them to this extreme place?

Destructive Behaviors and Low Frustration Tolerance

Children are generally known for having a low tolerance for frustration. They want things to go their way. When something happens that’s unexpected, disappointing, or requires the use of coping skills, many children have a difficult time handling such situations effectively. Some older children and teens still engage in tantrum behaviors long past the age we might expect. Why?

Most often, they don’t yet have the skills to handle the stress they’re experiencing. Physically releasing that energy helps them relieve their distress for the moment—even though it’s unpleasant for everyone around them. This is particularly true for children with an underlying condition such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Asperger’s Syndrome, or a mood disorder.

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The father of a 10-year-old diagnosed with ADHD once shared with me:

“My child has a very hard time when plans change. If we were going to the movies and we have to cancel because the road conditions are bad, she’ll start throwing her things around the room. She knows that’s not going to change the situation, but she just gets so angry when she’s disappointed that she explodes.”

Destructive Behaviors as Intimidation

Sometimes destructive behavior serves a different purpose: intimidation. A child may learn that by breaking things, punching holes in the wall, and behaving violently, they can frighten a parent into doing what they want.

One adolescent shared in therapy, “I know how to get ungrounded. I just start throwing things around the living room, and my mom tells me to get out of the house.”

Intimidating parents and family members may also give a child who’s feeling powerless a sense of control. It’s important to note that teens and older children who destroy property as part of an overall pattern of violating the rights of others (stealing, destruction, violence, breaking the law) have moved beyond oppositional defiant disorder and into what psychologists call conduct disorder. (Please see the links at the end of this article for more information on ODD and conduct disorder.)

Parents Are a Child or Teen’s Outlet for Venting

Ever have a bad day and come home and picked an argument with a “safe person?” By safe, we mean someone who you know is not likely to reject you for your behavior, such as a spouse. Think about it, we often say things to our “safe” loved ones that would get us fired if we said those same things to a boss.

Our kids feel and do the same thing. When your child feels miserable, they probably won’t share that with the neighbor. They’re going to choose you because they know you love them and won’t reject them.

And with adolescents, things can escalate quickly. Before you know it, your child starts releasing their feelings physically, not just verbally.

Sneaky Destructive Behaviors

Often, the most frustrating situation is when a child behaves in a passive-aggressive or sneaky manner. They may break things out of revenge for the anger they’re feeling toward a parent.

You may find something of yours broken, perhaps something particularly sentimental or valuable. And you know your child did it, but you can’t prove it. Your child will deny until there’s no breath left in their body that they’re responsible. Yet your gut tells you they’re getting even for something they’re not willing or able to share with you.

Related content: Passive-Aggressive Child Behavior

What Can I Do About My Child’s Destructive Behavior?

It’s a good idea to wait until your child has calmed down before giving them the consequences.

Don’t say to your child, “Well, I hope you liked that vase you just broke because that just became your Christmas present!” That will likely escalate the situation and may lead to more destruction. Instead, wait it out, and when things are calmer, let them know how they will make amends for the damages.

Below are some ideas for consequences and how to approach the conversation.

Make Sure Your Child Knows the Rules

Tell your child that destroying property is not acceptable, not in your home, and not in the rest of the world either. Be clear in your expectations and what the consequences will be if your child does destroy your property. Be very clear that frustration is not an excuse for destroying property.

Suggest Alternative Behaviors

Talk with your child during a calm moment about things they can do instead of breaking things when they get upset and frustrated. If they need to release some physical energy, what are some non-destructive activities they can engage in? How can they learn some more effective ways to cope with their emotions?

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One mom told us her 12-year-old daughter has a trampoline she jumps on to release pent-up energy. Another parent bought his child stress balls to squeeze when he’s feeling as if he’s going to lose control. The child was able to use these at school as well.

You can also let your child know they can count in their head until the negative feeling goes away. This will help them realize that, eventually, the feeling of frustration and anger does start to alleviate on its own, even if they don’t act on it. Your child can also use journaling, music, drawing, clay, or any other non-destructive activity they might be interested in to release feelings.

Determine if Natural Consequences Are Enough

Some children break their own things when they’re upset or angry. If your child gets angry, throws their phone, and it breaks, the natural consequence is that they no longer have a phone. Don’t buy them a new one. We call this a natural consequence, and it’s one of the best opportunities for your child to learn that their behavior matters.

Related content: How to Give Kids Consequences That Work

Hold Your Child Accountable

No matter the reason for your child’s behavior, they need to be held accountable. If your teenager puts a hole in the wall that costs $100 to fix, how will you get that money back? You may offer opportunities for them to “work it off” around the house through chores.

If your child is genuinely remorseful for their behavior, they’ll be willing to work it off. If not, you’ll need to use more creative ways of recouping that money.

How much do you usually spend on school clothes at the mall? $200? Well, if your child isn’t willing to work off their debt, you may choose to give them $100 for their clothes instead. They’ll still get clothes, but maybe from a less expensive store. Wearing no-name jeans might make them uncomfortable enough to stop and think before they break things again in the future.

Take a minute to identify in what ways—even small ways—you spend money on your child. Think of things that aren’t necessities. Remember, there’s a difference between needs and wants. Your child needs to eat. But they want McDonald’s. As their parent, you’re obligated to provide them with food, but you’re not obligated to pay for McDonald’s. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home is sufficient.

When To Involve the Police

You will likely respond to your child’s destructive behavior based on several factors: your child’s age, the extent of damage that was done, and the frequency of your child’s destructive behavior. You may even choose to make a police report if the destruction of your property is severe enough or frequent enough.

What if your 12-year-old gets angry and breaks a lamp in the house? You may decide it’s sufficient to have him bring his lunch to school (rather than pay for hot lunches) until the object he broke is paid for.

But what if your 15-year-old smashes your car windshield, causing thousands of dollars in damage? You may decide it warrants a police report. And it may be something that requires such a report for insurance purposes.

Whether you involve the police is a decision only you can make as a parent. The benefit of making a report is that you’re starting a paper trail even if your child isn’t charged. This paper trail is necessary if your child does end up in the court system and you need written proof to back up your claims and get them the services they may need.

Suppose your child is at a point where they’re enraged, breaking things left and right, and they appear to be escalating to the point of being a danger to themselves or others. In that case, calling the police is appropriate as a safety precaution.

When in doubt, ask yourself, “What would I do if this was a neighbor’s kid?” If your neighbor’s 11-year-old-son causes minor damage to your property, and it’s the first offense, you might try to work something out with his parents. But what about for more serious issues? At what point would you consider the damage severe enough to make a police report? And how do you think a neighbor would respond to your child if they exhibited the same level of property damage while at their home?

Related content: When to Call the Police on Your Child

Consequences Are a Learning Opportunity

Try to think of property destruction as a learning opportunity. Your job as a parent is to prepare your child for adult life. For adults, if you destroy property, there are consequences. Sometimes those consequences are financial and sometimes legal. You want to respond to your child’s destructive behavior in a way that leaves no doubt about what they will experience should they engage in this behavior outside your home.

One parent shared his reluctance to give consequences for his child’s destructive behavior:

“She was just really upset when she kicked a hole in the wall. She felt terrible afterward.”

Maybe so, and it’s okay if your child appears to have remorse for their actions, but they still must be held accountable. In her adult life, if that same young lady is in front of the judge after smashing in her ex-boyfriend’s taillights and says, “I’m really sorry, Your Honor. I was just so upset,” it’s not going to save her from consequences.

Keep Your Own Emotions in Check

Parents often feel angry—even furious—when their child damages their property. That’s completely understandable. Property destruction is a personal violation, and it hurts to have a child treat something with such little respect that we’ve worked hard for. Nevertheless, remind yourself that this is about your child’s poor coping and not about you personally. Doing so will make you respond more effectively. And it will make you feel better.

One mom told me:

“I think I got so angry because while I watched my son kick a hole in the front door. I was thinking, ‘I’m going to have to pay for that.’ But I found that I became less angry once I made up my mind that I would hold him accountable for anything he purposely destroyed. It dawned on me that I could make him pay for things by controlling the money I usually chose to spend on him. As a result, I responded more calmly because I knew he would be held accountable. And, once he learned that he would pay for the damages, it only took a few times for him to choose to handle things differently.”

Remember, if you don’t hold your child responsible for their behavior, you’re not doing them any favors as they prepare for the real world. Holding your child responsible for damages to your property is done out of love and respect. The bottom line is that you are teaching healthy limits and boundaries when you hold them accountable.

Be Persistent and Patient

Put these suggestions into practice today, but be patient. Your child will need time and practice to improve their coping skills. So, as best you can, calmly and persistently hold your child accountable. These things can take time, but the effort is worth it.

Related Content:
When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse”

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Notes and References

About and

Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner are the co-creators of The ODD Lifeline® for parents of Oppositional, Defiant kids, and Life Over the Influence™, a program that helps families struggling with substance abuse issues (both programs are included in The Total Transformation® Online Package). Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are also the co-creators of their first children's book, Daisy: The True Story of an Amazing 3-Legged Chinchilla, which teaches the value of embracing differences and was the winner of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Children's Storybook Cover Design Award.

Comments (54)
  • Nichelle
    In ca , 14 y daughter runs away, fights everyone , steals , lies , dies not go to school . Disrespectful , breaks windows doors and my laptop for work . I can’t afford the damages and police on ca do not take them and in ca I cannotMore force her in a program but fir her not attending school thry can charge me I need help
  • Stressed God Mother/ sister

    I see most of the comments that parent are the root of teaching children. I was one of the children with all negative actions you can think of. I grew up with best of all things but did not care just gave me power to do more I know mom will bail me out. I am 45 years old 3 children when one of my kids began with problems. I got on my knees asked for forgiveness for what I put my mother threw. Then got help every place every person friend finally his school sports pushing giving him the opportunity to make his choice and see what will happen examples teachers helping anything

    look for help scream if you have 2. Someone will listen don't give up.

    My son is 18 about to graduate football player holding 2 after school jobs it was a gift of love I never gave up or loose my mind.

    My Godson is now in similar situation. Just as someone helped me I will help him don't give advice that it starts from parent we don't know the back end of story this is a happy story positive for me to share and I want to pay forward pray for my Godson cause he needs help thank you.

  • Losing it..

    I have 3 daughters. One 16 year old, a 14 year old, and an 8 year old. My oldest and I went through some situations where she was destroying my things when she would not get her way. She was skipping school and stealing money from me. We were in counseling. She was diagnosed with ODD She ran away a few times and refused to be reprimanded. Time and maturity and she realized she has a problem with identifying her feelings and controlling her emotions when she gets upset. Psychiatrists think she has DMDD which is a more extreme case of ODD.

    Now my middle child is worse. She shoplifts. She curses out anyone in an authoritative role. She runs away and comes back anytime she wants. She was not attending school for 2 years. She plays with fire and cuts and digs at her face where she has little red cherry bump. I fear she will eventually get an infection there. She has been caught shoplifting multiple times and has spent time in a juvenile detention center, but it doesn’t stop her. She continues to shoplift. When she doesn’t get her way she destroys my things, becomes very aggressive and nasty, and wants to resolve it in a physical altercation. When she was evaluated they said she had extreme anger issues but didn’t diagnose anything.

    On the weekends she disappears but won’t say where she is and will show up in the home on a Sunday or Monday night. She doesn’t follow curfew. She takes everyone’s things but will have a fit if her make- up was left open, and on the floor which is unsanitary, and gets thrown way. Her clothes and hair can be found all over the house. She terrorizes her sisters when she is bored until they get angry enough to fight her and then she hurts them. You can’t walk away because she will follow you all over until she upsets you.

    If I touch her she will want to fight. She has tried to punch me in my face, and when she could not she threatened to spit in my face. But instead she spit on the window in front of the kitchen counter. She goes through all of my closets and draws looking for I do not know what. I had but a dead bolt lock on my bedroom door and she or her friend kicked the door in. If she gets out of hand and I call the police she will be gone before they arrive. I do not know where she is when she runs away and can imagine the horrors that can happen to her when she doesn’t come home. However, she seems to have little concern for me. She is suppose to be in a program but she constantly runs away from there too. I am at my wits end. I am at a loss of what else to do. I haven’t found a punishment that sticks. Now she is sneaking boys in the apartment when I am sleep at night…Ugh!

    • Hope
      I am here reading articles because I have a young one who is being more destructive. I could classify her as ODD but the classification does not solve the problem. I am here to be encouraged. Everything says stick to it. Be firm and do what you say. There areMore several things that are out of our control. We do our best and trust in God. Divine intervention is the only way because we cannot do this in our own power. I will pray for you, please pray for my family as well.
  • Brandy T

    My nearly 10 year old step daughter and mother in law have recently moved in with us. She has autism, adhd, ocd and bi-polar according to my mother in law. I’ve known her since she was 9 months old and noticed she was special then.

    She uses destruction of personal items as “punishment” for upsetting her. Last night it was an item that my mother in law had crocheted for her, tonight a headband that I had given her the day before. Simply because I told her she couldn’t have ice cream because we had already had spice cake for dessert right after dinner...

    Her grandmother (who raised her) is obviously very afraid of her and has let her do anything that she wants. Because of this she’s very stubborn, bossy, demanding, destructive and sneaky. I love her and when she’s getting her way she’s a ray of sunshine. I just don’t know what to do to nip this retaliation behavior in the bud.

    Her paternal grandfather has the same retaliation habits, his are quite violent and he’s currently institutionalized. I’m worried she’s on the same path.


  • Erin
    I have a very defiant and destructive 16 year old son. He has oppositional defiant disorder and I honestly don't know what to do anymore. Medication, therapy, positive reinforcement, appropriate consequences, coping skills have done NOTHING. Tonight, my son came home from VA. I sent him there to stay withMore his grandpa for a week because things are getting out of control with my son's behavior and I don't have many options. Well anyway, not even an hour after I picked him up from the airport and he already started acting up for several reasons. One was because I told him it was time to go to bed and he needed to get off his phone because tomorrow is his first day back at school. Telling me to shut up and saying I can't make him go. He is also angry because he has a cast on his arm from a skateboard injury to his elbow and the cast isn't coming off for another couple days. But he wants it off NOW. He knows this is not an option, but blew up anyway. I told him I understood his frustration but he has to wait until the appointment to get it off. After that, things escalated and I told him to get his butt outside until he calms down because I will not allow him to be disrespectful and destructive in the home. Unacceptable. Now he's taken off.
  • Rob
    It seems my experience goes beyond childhood and into adulthood. My now ex wife exibitied the same destructive behaviour during our marriage, throwing things such as candlesticks, furniture, kicking holes in drywall (small sample). My comment is offered to point out that such destructive behavior in children if left uncheckedMore will I believe, manifest itself in their adulthood as well.
  • Tina
    I have 15 years old boy who use drugs and alcohol he breaks and damaged the property to get money and to drive him anywhere he asked even not safe . I did not drive him a few time he broke my car. Ones I called police and they tookMore him to the hospital and they kept him over night they thought he has mental problems. Next day when he examined by Dr and they send him home. Since that he's been using more drug and not coming home often. He said he can't forget and for give us we did this. I feel so bad and don't know what to do most of time.
    • Trust your gut
      You did what you had to do. They will not understand what it is to be an adult until they become one.
  • Ashley R

    My 12 year old was heading out with his friend after school so I told him don't forget your keys because I'm going to go pick your sister up at daycare and might not be here when you get back-So he went and grab his keys

    When my husband and I got home we didn't even notice the door was broken But the next morning it was falling apart I was scared and thought something had happened I never thought when we asked him he would end up saying "well my key didn't work" so he decided to push the door down?! And broke it?! And says but he didn't think it was going to break. I couldn't believe what I was hearing because my son is a fairly level tween- gets into trouble at times but I couldn't get through my head he did something like this.

    The KEY he used all the time just magically stopped working ?!? NO i was so upset I told him if maybe he took the time to pay attention to what he was doing and open the door instead of talking to his friends or whatever he was doing he probably would have been able to open the door without a problem without having to push it down.

    I'm still so angry and think he should have a punishment - but nothing like this has ever happened so I'm a little lost and wanted some ideas.

    • See above
      It looks like the article offered some good ideas. My daughter just dented our stove. She is going to pay for it from mowing the lawn, painting or sacrificing things I would have paid for like ice cream or clothing etc.
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      It’s normal to be angry and upset when you discover that your child has seriously damaged property through carelessness. You’re not alone in feeling this way. I would recommend taking some time to calm down before you address this with him further, though, because strong emotions like angerMore tend to impact how effectively you can set limits and discuss issues with your child. Once you are calm, I recommend having a problem-solving conversation with your son about what was going on, and other steps he could have taken instead of breaking the door. As mentioned in the article above, I also encourage you to enforce the natural consequence of your son being responsible for the cost of replacing the door. I recognize what a tough situation this must be for you, and I hope you will write back and let us know how things work out. Take care.
  • The 14-year-old is now threatening to run away or leave because he doesn't want to be here, he has lost his phone. What do I do next if he leaves?
    I have a 12-year-old boy, who has a tantrum cries and screams because he is losing his phone and computer for not doing his homework. The 14-year-old decides he will not allow his little brother to lay down with him which we asked so the other guy could come downMore tells me no. He intern loses his phone which becomes a wrestle to get then he screams curses profanities and then punches a hole in my wall after breaking a art project he made. This behavior is because they've lost their phones for not following rules. Did I go overboard by taking the phones in following through with their consequences? The 14-year-old is now threatening to run away or leave because he doesn't want to be here, he has lost his phone. What do I do next if he leaves?
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I hear you. It’s pretty common for kids to escalate when consequences are enforced, so you’re not alone in dealing with this type of situation. In general, I do not recommend giving kids consequences in the moment, or trying to wrestle things away from kids when emotions areMore running high, mainly because it often causes things to escalate even more. It tends to be more effective when consequences are enforced after things have calmed down, as explained in How to Get Your Child to Listen: 9 Secrets to Giving Effective Consequences. Please let us know if you have additional questions; take care.
  • Linsey
    Please help my 17 year old id out of control on drugs wants money kicks off smashes things up goes for me and my husband even his sister and brother if he cant get his own way
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s behavior toward you and other family members, and I’m glad that you are reaching out for support. Substance use and abusive behavior are issues no parent envisions addressing with their child, so when they occur, it can be quite frightening andMore confusing. As outlined in the article above, it can be helpful to take some time, and determine what your boundaries are, and what you are willing to do if they are violated. Then, you can communicate these to your son during a relatively calm, sober time. You can find more tips on how to do this in My Child Is Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol—What Should I Do? and Is It Time to Call the Police on Your Child? Assaultive Behavior, Verbal or Physical Abuse, Drugs and Crime. I recognize how challenging this must be for you right now, and I wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
  • Askiab
    My sister-in-law is 17.  She is out of control and my mother-in-law doesn't know what to do. Following a meeting with juvenile officers and signing a contract that she would follow house rules, she turned around and took her sister's car without permission and drove it all night (without aMore license) until the gas ran out, then called her brother to come fix the problem! My mother in law has tried everything. Should the police be called during future incidents like this, because she responds to no punishments. Nothing. She ran away for three weeks, told no one where she was, and came back one night like everything was normal. She can't be kicked out of the house because of her age.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Askiab We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story.  I hear how concerned you are about your sister-in-law’s behavior, and how much you want to help your mother-in-law. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in theMore advice and suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. It may be helpful to look into local resources to help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues. The 211 National Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services available in your area such as counselors, support groups, kinship services as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto http://www.211.org. We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
      • Askiab
        RebeccaW_ParentalSupport Askiab Thank you!!
  • Rob
    There's nothing here about the parent needing to instrospect. Perhaps the parent isn't always right... perhaps a pattern of treatment or insensitivity is the root cause, and the anger and destructive pattern is a way to verbalize what the child is unable to verbalize their resistance to neglect or improperMore punishment. It's not always the child that has to be held accountable... it's sometimes the parent. And sometimes the child is owed a heartfelt apology.
    • Example
      Can you share your personal example of this?
    • Ms lilly
      I mean all parents don't not there kids
    • Ms lilly
      That is not true at all you can't speak for all children because I give all my kids a good life that does not stop them from getting mad or destroying stuff they will get mad at one of there boyfriend or a frien or teacher and willMore destroy my property it's not how there raise all parents don't not there kids when was going to school we got woopings we turned out great I am a teacher and I went to college people want to blame everything except that 18 year old or 21 year old child they choose to do the things they do cause they want to and the can get away with it and then there so quick to say a parent caused them to do it by the way they were raised not true my kids had good child hood
  • Distraught Mom

    Our 8 year old son is exhibiting rage filled behavior. He flies off the handle at the word No or even when I ask him to get his shoes on so we can leave. He doesn't know if we're going to Disney World or the grocery store but it doesn't matter. Only once he caught himself and said, "oh, we're going to X (something he wanted to do) why am I acting like this?". It was shocking to hear his realization and to see that he can stop himself. That has only happened once though :(

    He goes ballistic screaming, name calling, making up songs "Mommy sucks, Mommy's crappy, Mommy's so fat and ugly, etc", overturning his twin bed, end tables and our couch, throwing things without thinking of the damage done to our home or how it could harm his 2 younger siblings.

    He continually throws his bedding at bedtime. Tonight he threw it at me while shouting Mommy sucks so I declared it bedtime without any of his covers or pillows since they had been thrown at me. When my husband got home he decided that was abusive behavior and actually said he was fearful of hypothermia in our temperature controlled home ??. I saw that as a natural consequence and one he would relate back to his behavior and feel like my husband coming home to undermine my authority with my son is part of our bigger issue. He's more concerned with being his friend than his parent and doesn't see the effects like I do since I stay at home.

    We're starting counseling in a week, but I'm fearful of the week ahead because he makes threats and I'm fearful of the exposure my younger two are getting to this. My middle tells his older brother to be nice to Mama. I hate sending him to his room as if he were being punished just to protect him from harm and the verbal abuse I sustain at the hands of my older son. Help!

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Distraught Mom 

      I’m so sorry to hear about the behavior you are experiencing

      with your 8 year old son, and I’m glad that you are reaching out for support

      both here and locally with counseling.  Having someone who is able to

      observe and directly interact with your son can be helpful in creating a plan

      to change patterns within your family, as well as how to hold your son

      accountable for his behavior.  In the meantime, as pointed out in the

      article above, I encourage you to set clear rules around throwing things and

      destroying property, as well as talking with him during a calm time about other

      more appropriate strategies he might use.  I hear your concern about how

      this is affecting your younger children as well.  It can be useful to

      create https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-lost-children-when-behavior-problems-traumatize-siblings/ for your other children to follow if your 8 year old is acting

      out in an abusive or destructive way.  I hope that you will write back and

      let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.

  • Marg
    It really seems like blind rage, with no self-understanding of why she did it. When the parent has little to no leverage; we don't own or can afford t.v. or gaming systems, no iPods, etc. and the only clothes we can afford to buy are low end and 2nd hand,More never brand name, the only option is trying to have her repair the door or the hole in the wall, but most times it is irreparable, by anyone.I feel like I am forever, reasoning, negotiating, almost begging for her to fix her wrongs, or to do chores, but it can turn bad quickly, because she refuses to cooperate with anything with a resounding NO and then the increased defiance, tantrums and blind rage set in again, even when it is about simply eating sitting down for a meal. The worst is when she can overpower me and cause real physical damage. I walk on eggshells constantly, even if she seems to be in a good mood, any little thing can turn that around so fast, I don't even know what happened.
  • loritbo69
    So my son is 18 in 3 wks. He has ADHD. ODD. He got his car one day. He never came home. He didn't pay me for his firsy phone payment. He blew out 2 new times at 2am this morning. He shuts his phone off so I can notMore talk to him. I just got us a place a week ago after looking for 8 mths. I wanted to teach him how to be on his own. His dad completly checked out. He is an alcoholic. I wanted so much to help him. But over and over he screws things up. I yry to encourage him. I have always given in to him. But I told him today. Be at my house when I get out of work today. I packed all gis belongings up and brought to his fathers this morning. Since he wouldn't turn his phone on last nigjt and didn't make his first payment. I shut his phone off tbis morning and am taking it back tonight. His dad bought two new tires this morning and he owes his dad for that too. Take on the two cars we already bought in two years. He so in debt now and 3 wks from 18. He needs stability in his life. That is me. I just don't know what to do anymore. I talk til I am blue in the face. He never gets it. What do I do now? Should I let him stay or send him back to his dad? I am lost...frustrated and so hurt by his actions
    • Marissa EP



      for reaching out to Empowering Parents with your question. Parenting young

      adults can certainly be a challenge, as they want all the privileges of being

      an adult without all the responsibilities. Because he is going to be 18 soon,

      you will no longer be responsible for meeting his needs or paying for things

      like cell phones or vehicles. Those are privileges to be earned by following

      rules, if you choose to provide them. As far as letting him stay or sending him

      back to his dad’s, there really is no right or wrong answer. You have to look

      at where you have control, and that is do you allow him to stay with you or

      not. If you do allow him to stay, it is reasonable to set forth some

      expectations for him to follow, in order to continue living with you. If he

      chooses not to follow them, he may decide to go stay with dad, or find

      someplace else altogether. That will be your son’s choice to make. Megan

      Devine, Empowering Parents author, has some ideas and suggestions around living

      with an adult child, as well as a free, printable living agreement you can find


      Best wishes for a positive resolution with your son.

  • amida1098


    I have 2 boys, for the past few months I've been noticing furniture cut, my dresser and a host of other items. I'm not sure who's doing it & it's truly upsetting me. I took all the knives out the kitchen and the cutting still continue. I recently spoke to them and let them know how whom ever is doing this need to stop and I wanted to move on and forgave them just to see a few day later someone was stabbing holes in the wall. Can you please help to Handel this situation w/o pulling my hair?

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      I hear you.  It can be so frustrating to see your

      belongings being damaged, and even more so when you do not know who is causing

      it.  Because you are unsure which of your boys is doing the cutting, I

      would not recommend giving either of them consequences for this, or holding

      both of them accountable.  This is because if you gave a consequence to

      one of your kids who is not damaging items, it could cause a lot of resentment

      and damage to your relationship. Instead, I recommend focusing on where you

      have control.  Limiting access to knives and other sharp objects, as well

      as talking with each of them about your expectations, are both effective steps

      to take.  You might also consider increasing the level of supervision they

      have within the house, or possibly https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-talk-to-police-when-your-child-is-physically-abusive/ depending on the level of destruction and their ages as

      noted in the above article.  I recognize how difficult this must be, and I

      hope you will write back and let us know how things are going.  Take care.

  • TJ

    I have an 18 year old step son that lives with his Father.  Me and his mother are happily married and live together.  Not too long ago he came to our house when we were gone for the weekend and partied quite a bit. When we came home at  6 PM after our weekend away him and one of his friends were sleeping in the rec room.  They were hung over when they woke up.

    While we were away he decided to use my classic muscle car as a punching bag and put three nice dents in it.  I had to get to the point of calling the police before he would admit what he did.

    He had his mother in tears for to days.  we did not call police but told him he had to leave and would not be permitted back into the house.  We are changing the locks.  And, he must pay for the damage.  He is supposed to go into the service in October so calling police would have ruined that plan.  Any help on this would be appreciated.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      I’m sorry to hear about your experience with your

      stepson.  At this point, it sounds like you have done most of the steps

      that we recommend in this situation, such as not allowing him in your home

      unsupervised, and holding him accountable for the damage to your car.  I

      also understand your concerns about calling the police, and how that might

      impact his future.  Involving law enforcement is not an easy decision, and

      ultimately, it is up to each parent whether to take this step.  One

      additional step you and his mother might take is to talk with your stepson

      about what happened now that it is calm, and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior-i-cant-solve-problems/

      some other choices he could have made instead.  Please be sure to write

      back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • KimFarry
    For one thing and I live in a progressive town, Calling the police about property damage by my teenage daughter got me handcuffed and interrogated by the police for suspected abuse. When they figured this wasn't the case. They then said, 'This is a she-said-he said' situation. We don't whatMore happened, who did what, to what, or each other. You want to seek damages file at the courthouse or file for a restraining order. And, even if I wanted her to leave that would be even a more difficult case. The system and enablers seem to first-think you had it coming. In fact, she continued to damage my house and if I objected, she said, she would call the police. You figure.
  • A mother that is fed up
    What to do my daughter is 12 yrs old and she put a hole in the wall threw something at the TV and broke it she screams beats on her little sister fights steals lies and I'm just so overwhelmed and don't know what to do I just want toMore pull my hair out I'm sad confused and don't understand why she is doing this ... I need help don't know what to do
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      A mother that is fed up  

      It’s understandable

      that you might be feeling overwhelmed and confused right now with your

      daughter, and I’m glad that you are here reaching out for support. 

      Sometimes, it can be more useful to https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/in-over-your-head-how-to-improve-your-childs-behavior-and-regain-control-as-a-parent/ of the most challenging behaviors at one time, rather

      than trying to address everything at once.  Based on what you have

      written, I encourage you to begin with the property destruction and her abusive

      behavior toward her sister.  In addition to what is written above, you

      might find our article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-odd-child-is-physically-abusive-to-siblings-and-parents-help/ useful as you

      move forward.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are

      going.  Take care.

  • worried mom671
    I never thought anything at first until I notice my daughter would just lock herself in the bedroom she shares with her children's father when ever they have some kind of disagreement or big argument. Her kids can be knocking on there door but no respond or she will yellMore thru the door hold on cause I am doing something or I am cleaning my room. Then I notice that why is it that she spends so much time in her room cleaning and when her door opens I either see papers all over that had been ripped apart, clean cloths scattered all over the floor with spilled drinks, the bed and sheets will be on the floor. What really made me more worried was finding my daughters purse out side her window and when I picked it up and open it there were spilled milk and cereal all over her purse and in it were her important papers for her job, passports for her kids, birth certificate and other stuff that she has in her purse. When I question her about it she told me that her children is father would destroy her stuffs like her drivers licence, her ID cards, there health cards that I notice she has been getting the same mail for already like four months. He will also damage there car. I mean anything and everything that he feels my daughter needs. Just sometime last week, they had gone some where then suddenly we heard the car, I saw him come in the house then like seconds later he walks out and we hear the car just taking off like he was in a rush which he had the three baby girls in the car too, suddenly the smoke alarm goes off and we see smoke coming from some where by there room and the rest room on there side, sure enough we found the brand new roll of tissue in the restroom trash can burning, and then we found paper towel burning in her room. He comes back home and brings the girls in for they had fallen asleep then we hear him leave again..short time later the smoke alarm in there room goes off, my daughter is sleeping (and she is a very heavy sleeper) and does not hear it but we do so he doesn't notice that I had gone to the back door and I see him ducking down when my other daughter opened there room to check what made the smoke alarm go off and it is because he had opened the bedroom window burned something to make it smokey. He even damaged the bedroom window and walls in the bedroom. I am worried because I find or see my daughter with red puffy eyes almost every day now and she seems like she is in a daze or lost that sometimes she will not come out to see if her kids are fine or even to make them eat..luckily my youngest daughter is around and takes care of the kids. She almost always makes excuses for him that oh he got mad cause I made him mad or it was her fault. I am getting tired of this for I feel my daughter will soon either loose her mind or go in to depression. What can I do for her.
  • Rm

    My brother had these problems since he's been in diapers and most of the time his anger is focused at me. He gets mad at my parents too but his words are directed at me for the most part and I've tried to walk away but he follows. I'm the devils advocate in my family and whenever I say something "wrong" he threatens my life. He's in 8th grade and I'm in 9th grade. I'm here because I'm tired and my parents aren't doing enough. Both of us are highly competitive so when we start fighting I'm not about to give up my pride to curb my tongue. 

    I'm sick and tired of explaining to friends why they can't come over. I'm tired of having to puzzle out whether he's lying about caring about me or wanting to kill me. I hate how I have to be there for every tantrum because I was given the responsibility of keeping my mom and younger sister safe. I'm fine with the responsibility but I shouldn't have to keep them safe from my brother who is as strong as me, much stronger then my mom or sister. 

     The thing I hate the the most is after he cools down. He doesn't remember the next day and I'm stuck wondering if I should act normal and mess around as usual or avoid him. He never remembers. He forgot the time he punched me in the face, he forgot he hit my mom, he forgot how he pushed me down. He always forgets and right after he hits us he yells that we don't care about him and that he should run away as if we're the guilty ones. 

     He goes to a therapist that I went to for past depression but she only seeks to temporarily avoid the problem with joining clubs and sports which makes everything harder on us because of the money and time we lose. 

     It feels like I'm complaining and at this point I don't care because I'm tired. I'm not even through highschool and I already feel old. Helpful advice is appreciated. Thanks.

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      I’m sorry to hear you have had to deal with so much anger

      and aggression from your younger brother. While our site is focused on helping

      parents, there is a website you may not be aware of that is focused on helping

      adolescents, teens, and young adults. http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/Pages/home.aspx

      offers help and support several different ways, through online support, by

      phone at 1-800-448-3000, as well as e-mail, text, and chat.  I encourage

      you to visit their site to see what they have to offer. Good luck to you and

      your family moving forward. Take care.

  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    I am sorry you are having to deal with such https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/child-behavior-problems/abusive-violent-behavior/. It makes sense that you would be considering calling

    the police and unfortunate that, in doing so, you may end up incurring negative

    consequences for yourself. This is a difficult dilemma that no parent should

    have to face. Ultimately, only you and your wife can determine whether or not

    calling the police is going to be a viable option for you. There might be another option, though. Many communities

    have programs that enable to courts to step

    in and help you set and maintain a culture of accountability in your home.

    These programs are usually referred to as CHINS (child in need of services) or

    PINS (person in need of services). A parent usually has to petition the court

    for this type of program. You could contact your local clerk of courts or the

    juvenile justice division of your local police department to find out if this

    would be a possibility. It might also be of benefit to find out if there are

    any support services within your community that could help you gain back

    control in your home. The 211 Helpline would be able to give you information on

    services such as parent support groups, respite care, counseling services, and

    other programs. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling

    1-800-273-6222. You can also find them online at http://www.211.org/.

    Good luck to you and your family moving forward. Take care.

  • Sandy P
    I am having so much trouble with my 17 year old; he has made a lot of poor decisions in the last 4 years. He has a pending legal case now and i am paying an attorney more than 10000 to help; however, some times he decides to go schoolMore others not. He is a good young boy when he wants to but other days he is like a monster destroying things at home when i say NO. Today he decided not to go to school and i talked to him about the consequences with the probation officer. He got so mad that he started to destroy everything at home. I was about to call the police when he ran. Then he texted me that he was going to accept the pled and he would be gone for three years. My family and my other son told me to let him if he decided that let him pay the consequences. I am so overwhelmed i always wanted all the best and i wish one day he regrets everything that he has done in bad way for his life and ours so he can start fresh. I dont know what to do.
  • cryingmum

    My almost 18 year old daughter is making me cry inside and outside, I'm so upset and would appreciate some advice.  She is an A student, high achiever, has a boyfriend, and is pushing the limits of independance. We don't let her have her boyfriend stay overnight at our house as we have two other younger kids and we don't like the example it sets. We do let her stay over at her boyfriends, on weekends only, he lives at home with his parents, is 20, and the only child there at home. My daughter has coping problems when things don't go her way. The other day as she got out of my car, she kicked it, leaving a small dent and scratches. Night before last she had a melt down when we told her she couldn't go out to a night club to have an all nighter with her 4 girlfriends after a party we were all at. She almost jumped out of the car, screaming, swearing and cussing like a devil! We had to stop the car, she walked off into the streets, on her phone, swearing her head off at me, not caring who was in ear shot.  She eventually got back in the car, but continued yelling and swearing and even kicking the seat I was in. I was so distraught, my husband insisted she stop abusing me like that, she stopped kicking the seat and swearing for a moment, then the words kept flying.  I had to go to this party pretending everything was okay, I was dying inside. My daughter was so rude to me in front of people, it wasn't until the end of the night as she went to the night club with her frineds that she hugged me and told me she loved me. Another lot of parents drove the girls there, she stayed out all night, drinking, I picked her up at the train early and of course she was hung over. She slept and seemed okay. Yesterday her boyfriend couldn't pick her up, she insisted I had to drive her there and pick her up in the morning by 6am as he had to work (he lives 45 minutes away) and I said no. She had a complete melt down. Swearing, crying, yellilng, and took off.

    I drove down and picked her up and said I'd drive her to the train, then she hopped in and went hysterical at me. I stopped, asked what was happening, she was totally the worst ever, then she jumped out the car and took off on foot again to the train. My husband is away working, I asked him to check later she'd arrived. She had luckily. I felt like my stomach is in pieces, so disrespected, I'm at a loss at what to do. This morning I noticed a hall stand was moved and pictures of the family on it, I thought Oh she must have done that, how nice, only to get closer and see a huge foot had gone through the wall. Yes a wall had been kicked in. I'm broken. Please help.

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      I am so sorry you are having to

      face such difficult behaviors from your daughter. It’s no wonder you’re upset.

      One thing we find to be effective is focusing on where you have the most

      control, namely how you respond to your daughter when she becomes verbally

      abusive or damages property.  For example, you may find it more productive

      in the moment to set the limit and walk away when she starts cursing or acting

      out. Even of you are in the car, you can still set the limit and disengage from any interactions.

      You can say to your daughter something like “That behavior isn’t going to

      change my mind.” and then walk away of you are able or stop talking to her if

      you’re not. You could even stop the show by pulling the car over and letting

      her know that you will not start driving again until the behavior stops. It’s

      also going to be very, very important that if you tell your daughter “No” you

      don’t change your mind and let her do something because she acts out. Quite

      frankly, you need to say what you mean and mean what you say, as James Lehman

      explains in the article No Means No: 7 Tips to Teach Your Child to Accept ‘No’ for an Answer. The reason

      your daughter does what she does is because it works for her. She has learned

      that if she acts

      out enough, you will change your mind. I understand that in the moment you are

      only wanting the bad behavior to stop. Unfortunately when you give in and

      change your mind, you’re reinforcing the very behavior you’re trying to stop. I

      hope this information is helpful. We appreciate you writing in and sharing your

      story. Take care.

  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    What a challenging situation. I can only imagine how

    stressful this behavior must be for you. After all, your daughter could hurt

    herself and may also be putting others in harm’s way by breaking glass. From

    how you describe your daughter’s behavior, it doesn’t seem as though she does

    these things when she’s upset or out of anger. It may be beneficial to make an

    appointment with her doctor or primary care provider. S/he would be able to

    discuss your concerns and would be in the best position to determine if further

    evaluation would be necessary. This also could help rule out any underlying

    issue that may be compelling your daughter’s behavior. We appreciate you

    writing in and wish you the best of luck moving forward. Take care.

  • Lisa
    I have a nineteen year old son.when he turned 18 he quit school and got a full time job. He threatened me physically and I calmly told him he had crossed the line and he had to leave or I charges. He knew I was not kidding. His friend cameMore and he packed up and moved out. He then became roommates with some people. He had to pay rent, insurance and do chores. )( ya baby). He was out for about seven months. He came to visit often. He also became depressed and would just come over. I was apprehensive because I thought it was a ploy for pity to move back in I waited until I felt he was dangerously losing hope. I asked if he wanted to move back in. The couple he was roommates with was fighting and drinking. He did move back in and his attitude has completely changed. He has more respect for me than ever in his entire life. He is happy now too. I do pray he will go back to school.
  • aamazin
    Within the last couple months I have noticed that my 11 year old daughter has become destructive to our home. She does not pick the paint or put holes in the dry wall in her room only the common areas of the house. When asked why she doesMore it her response is it was already there or she doesn't know or she is attracted to it. As parents, we (myself, my husband, and her biological father) are constantly asking her if it is a cry for attention or if someone is messing with her but that doesn't seem to help. Even after getting her phone,fieldtrips, and TV privileges revoked I am still seeing new holes. Her father thinks she needs to be evaluated but I am not sure if she is just trying to recreate a strange addiction and use it as an excuse to destroy the house. Not sure what else to do. She is aware that any additional money she gets will be used to fix the walls. I have always stressed thr importance of taking care of her belongings and that of others so trying to understand these occurrences is difficult. Please provide some insight.
    • Marissa EP


      Thanks for writing in with your

      question. It can be frustrating and upsetting to witness changes like

      you describe, in your child. As James Lehman, author of the Total

      Transformation program says, kids behave in certain ways because they

      lack the skill to solve the problem in a more effective way. Instead

      of asking “why” questions, which can allow for her to make

      excuses for her behavior, you might try asking “what” questions.

      For example, you might ask, “What was going on for you just before

      you put a hole in the wall?” Whatever her response is, you can have

      a problem solving conversation about what she can do different next

      time that is a more acceptable behavior. As Kim and Marney talk about

      in the above article, your daughter should be responsible for paying

      for the cost of repairing any damage she does. You can do this by

      taking any incoming money she might receive, but it might be more

      effective and meaningful to have her “earn” the money. You might

      give her the opportunity to do tasks around the house that are above

      and beyond normal expectations, such as yard work, washing the car,

      or helping to clean out the garage. By doing this, you might “pay”

      her a certain dollar amount per chore, and the money would be put

      towards repairs. As a way to motivate her, you can withhold a

      privilege until the money is earned or the damage is fixed. We would

      not recommend taking away things like field trips, birthdays or

      holidays- all things that cannot be earned back- because she will

      lose her motivation to change, and it could create additional

      resentment. I hope this is helpful in addressing your daughter's

      behavior. Please let us know if you have any more questions.

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


    I understand your worries about your son’s behavior, as it

    sounds quite concerning.  One step I recommend is taking statements about

    killing himself seriously.  Even if he is not currently in therapy, I

    strongly encourage you to develop a plan for how you can respond to keep him

    safe if he is talking about killing himself.  You might find the http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ useful in developing your plan.  You can reach them by

    calling 1-800-273-8255(TALK) or using the chat option available on their

    website.  I also encourage you to continue calling the police if your son

    is damaging property, making threats, or engaging in unsafe/illegal

    behavior.  You might find it helpful to talk with the police during a calm

    time, and work with them to develop a response which holds your son accountable

    for his behavior.  We also have a free downloadable police intervention

    worksheet you can use which many parents have found helpful: http://www.empoweringparents.com/how-to-talk-to-police-when-your-child-is-physically-abusive.php.  I understand

    that, in light of everything going on, it’s normal to put yourself and your own

    needs on hold.  Despite this, I encourage you to make sure that you are

    taking care of yourself during this time as well. Self-care is an often

    overlooked, yet critically important, part of effective parenting.  Your

    self-care plan can be anything you wish, from taking a walk when you’re feeling

    overwhelmed to using http://www.211.org/

    such as a counselor or support group.  I recognize how difficult this

    situation is for you, and I hope that you will stay in touch and let us know

    how things are going.  Take care.

  • Amy0087
    I wonder about my 7-yo stepson who is not motivated by reward or punishment. He has lost everything except a roof, school uniforms, food, companionship from family, and hygiene. The destruction continues. I am pushing his biological parents to seek long term counseling.
    • NickyRevv
      Why did the step mom not get a response?
      • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


        Thank you for your question. We receive many comments on

        Empowering Parents over the course of a day. Unfortunately, our coaches are not

        able to respond to every question and/or comment that is posted.

  • Lori Sorrentino
    I have a granddaughter that is 3, she is the only girl and the youngest. Her mom is the main source of income. Father is always playing games on Xbox with the boys. Anyway, she has speech delay and now very aggressive. Holes in the walls and justMore destroys everything, even gifts she receives. Speech therapist said she would outgrow issue of delayed speech and. hasn't . She is constantly moving always has to be touching or doing something that may cause her to be in trouble. they have to lock the doors at night because she roams around at night. Can you help?
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      Lori Sorrentino

      I can hear your concern. It can be tough to know what response would

      be best for such acting out behaviors in a child so young. It may be helpful to

      find someone in your local area who is available to work directly with your

      granddaughter and her family. A good place to start might be with her

      pediatrician or primary care provider. S/he would be able to assess your

      granddaughter and possibly rule out any underlying issues that might be having

      an adverse effect on her behavior. S/he may also be able torefer your granddaughter for

      further evaluation if that is deemed necessary.

      While we do have several articles by Dr. Joan Simeo Munson that give tips on

      addressing acting out behavior in young children, the tools and techniques

      discussed on Empowering Parents are aimed at children who are five and older. Some

      techniques would not be effective for a child this young. You can find a list

      of Dr. Joan’s articles here: Articles by http://www.empoweringparents.com/author.php?auth=Dr.-Joan-Simeo-Munson. You might also consider finding out

      what types of community supports are available for your granddaughter and her

      family. The 211 Helpline can give you information on resources such as support

      groups, developmental counselors, family counselors, as well as other outreach

      services. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222.

      You can also find them online at http://www.211.org/. We wish you and your

      family the best of luck as you work through these challenges. Be sure to check

      back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • My friend's has tried everything to make their child accountable for the damages their child has done in the home, they even went through behavioral health services, counselors in the home and mental health but it's not working, what else can we do ? Please help

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      I’m sorry to hear that your friend
      continues to struggle with holding his/her child accountable. It can be so
      difficult to watch people we care about suffer, especially when it is at the
      hand of their child. It’s understandable you would want to help your friend
      come up with a solution to thisMore issue. We are a bit limited in the coaching or
      suggestion we are able to offer. Our website is geared toward helping people
      who are in a direct parenting role develop more effective ways of addressing
      the acting out behavior they are dealing with so it is not within our scope to
      offer advice via a third party. It may be helpful to share some of our
      available articles with your friend. Two in particular that may be beneficial are
       When to Call the Police on Your Child & How to Talk to the Police When Your Child is Physically Abusive. We appreciate you reaching out for help with what sounds like a troubling
      situation. Take care.

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