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Llowellen July 26, 2013

Our 3-year old has deliberately broken 2 TV's in less than 3 months (to the tune of more than $1500, not that it matters).

What can we do? The first time seemed out of curiosity he banged a toy against the screen, like he would bang it on the wall. The consequences were he had no TV for almost three months while we worked to replace it. We spent the time talking about it and trying to remain positive and make a learning opportunity.

The new TV hasn't been in a place for even a week. Today he was told to wait a minute, I couldn't play immediately as I was helping his younger sister. In a moment of tantrum he threw a toy and destroyed the new TV.

Advice? Should I confiscate favorite toys? For how long? I have tried time out - but he refuses to remain in time out. I don't want to restrain him in place and if I close his bedroom door on him he will tear the place apart and potentially put himself in danger.

Just don't know what to do.

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MagnetMom July 27, 2013

Boy this is a tough one Llowellen.

I'd really like to say that at three, I'm not sure he has the ability to really understand the consequences of his actions. Smash the TV because he's mad? Sure. But I don't know if any pediatrician or child psychologist would go so far as he understands what he was doing to connect with the consequence. As for the $1500 for two TVs, he really can't have much concept of that.

When you say he destroys everything in his room, however, we get to another issue with rage. If he destroys everything in his room if he's put in time out, that's an issue. I've known friends who allowed the kids to do that, and stripped the room down to nothing but the mattress.

Talk to your pediatrician and try to get to the bottom of it before he can possibly hurt his siblings or you. Being angry is ok, but destroying stuff--even when he doesn't understand what he's doing--is not.


TeacherParent July 28, 2013

The first time seems an accident. A 3 yr. old doesn't automatically know that banging a toy on a tv screen will break the screen. He could have been banging that toy on almost anything - as you said he could have been banging it on a wall.

The second time might be a coincidence... He threw the toy but did he mean to break the television? If he actually meant to break the television - because he now knows it can break - and because he was angry - then that's a different matter entirely that has to lead to another questions like - does have often have such tantrums? Does he often get so angry at a simple delay such as you being busy with your other child? Does he often show anger and show it by throwing things?

If he does, then breaking the tv is a part of his overall behavior pattern and there's no quick fix for that but fortunately he's young and his behavior patterns shouldn't be set in stone yet. Some children though seem to be born with temper issues and tantrum issues - it's important to know whether he's always met simple frustration with anger and throwing things or whether this is new or even an isolated event.

That both of these incidents resulted in the tv being broken is very frustrating. But a 3 year old is young enough to be confused as to what is the real culprit and it's possible that he thinks the tv is responsible for his punishment. "If the tv hadn't broken when I banged the toy, I wouldn't be in trouble and therefore it's the tv that did something wrong."

3 year olds do not have logical thinking patterns yet. If he often throws things and things that can hurt other people as well as the tv, then I'd say he can't have them and that can be explained to him - though it might make him only angrier. There are lots of soft toys that can't hurt anything as well as ones that break tvs when thrown. You could give him one of his favorite hard toys even day for a 1/2 hour and lengthen that time a bit every day if he does not throw the toy or bang it against anything.

If he's one of the rare children who just come to the world angry, then it's not possible to punish that anger away. If this is truly an angry child, no punishment will make him less angry. If he though responds to any frustration with anger, that can be 'retrained' but it takes time. "there's nothing to be angry about, instead of being angry and throwing something, count to ten with me, John." Deep breaths, counting to ten - even young children can be encouraged to respond to their anger productively rather than destructively.


mistyjaqulyn August 16, 2013

Have you gotten his hearing and eyes checked lately? He could be acting out because he is not hearing or seeing properly. Children (most) do not act in such ways unless they can not communicate properly.

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