please help!!! 7 year old destroyed guest room!

cearabAugust 23, 2010

OMG: My 7 year old niece has destroyed a beautiful guest room in my house. Let me back it up by saying that she is a real pigpen and her room at my sister's looks like a swamp. She wrote all over her white furniture at her house with magic markers and destroyed that. My sister did not react to this the way our mother would have. She is matter of fact about it, though our mother would have ripped out every hair on our heads if we ever did what this little one did.

Anyway, in the interest of being a good aunt, I filled a chest up with dolls, books, coloring books, crayons, stickers, etc, to keep my niece entertained when she comes to my house. She's staying over, and I went upstairs with her to the guest room and I am just sick about what she has done. My comforter, sheets, and blanket are covered with too many stains to count from crayons and markers. Honestly, I don't know where she found the markers, but she removed them from the outside covering somehow and must have squeezed the ink from them onto the sheets and bedding. She even found some creme eye shadow of mine and that is also rubbed in. My beautiful Karastan ivory wool area rug is covered with at least 50 stains of varying sizes and colors from green, red, blue, brown. It literally looked like the room had been vandalized, with papers torn and hundreds of broken crayons everywhere, ground into the rug and on the bedding. I am heartsick over this, sick to my stomach. I cannot afford to replace anything right now since I am currently unemployed.

I have very nice things that I have always saved up to purchase, rather than just buying something cheap. This bedding set came from Neiman Marcus, and though over 10 years old, is (was) in excellent condition. I have all the matching pillows, bed skirt, etc to go with it.

I don't even know where to begin to clean up. I will not be able to do anything until Wed due to a previous appt tomorrow. Please, if anyone has suggestions as to what to do, can you please advise? The rug is ivory color wool, with a Celtic pattern woven into it. The sheets and blanket are cotton, and the sheets and comforter are patterned, so I cannot bleach. The crayons were Crayola and Dollar store brand. There was also a paint set that she dug her fingers into and on the bed. I just want to cry about this...and probably will. HELP!!

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Begin by getting that child either some help or some discipline. That sounds like something a 2YO would do, not a 7YO. I would make sure her parents knew about this (and hopefully offered to reimburse you)

Seriously, this IS NOT normal behavior.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 12:00AM
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I just wanted to pipe in to say first how sorry I am about your guest room. I have been in your position more times than I can count and I know only too well the sickening feeling of horror and despair that comes over you on discovering such a sight.

That said, there is definitely a more worrying component here. I truly would urge you to speak to your sister in as non-judgmental a way as you can muster (believe me, I know it could be difficult) to see if perhaps there are any problems she'd like to discuss. Without knowing anything at all, there is a possibility that there is more at work here than just wild behavior. It certainly could be a discipline matter, and I don't know what state your niece was in when the damage was done (boredom, anxious, just impulsive?) But the fact that your niece is so young and managed to do that much damage in so short a time, and at YOUR house as opposed to just her own, is a bit of a red flag to me.

The only reason I say this is because my own son has some difficulties (ADHD among many other things, possibly a mood disorder) for which he is now seeing a therapist. However, getting to therapy has been a long time in coming and we as a family spent many, many years hiding our "secret" of a very out-of-control, verbally abusive child who was alternately sweet as pie one minute, then raging and destroying property -- both purposefully as well as impulsively -- the next. He has cracked two laptop screens, broken his iPod on purpose, gouged holes in walls, broken nearly 10 TV remotes, jammed pencils into tables and leather furniture, broken countless glasses, dropped a phone into the toilet (when he was two!), drew on my faux-painted walls, and so on. We estimate that he has destroyed well over $50k worth of property in his little 11 year old lifetime so far. While he generally saved the property destruction for our own home, many children are less discriminate and destroy property elsewhere, too.

I am sure that the situation with your niece is probably no where near as dire, but there is a warning sign there. If your sister isn't concerned about the behavior, she should be, if for no other reason than to start intervening in what may have started as a discipline or attention problem but could blossom into something more serious if left unchecked. She may desperately need some help and be too embarrassed or possibly even too unaware to ask for it.

Again, I am so terribly sorry about your beautiful room. In my case, I have had to deal with it so many times that I've learned to remain ridiculously calm (usually, not always!), take a deep breath and go somewhere else to gather myself together, and even wait a couple of days to decide how I might go about fixing things. I'm sure you'll find some good tips here on various stain removal, etc. It won't be perfect, but you will be able to clean most of it up. Good luck to you, and also to your sister.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 2:15AM
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Do you know if the markers and crayons are the washable ones. If they are they should wash out. If they're not then you have a problem.

I agree that this is not normal behaviour for a 7 year old. Your sister is asking for trouble if she doesn't give that child some disapline. I think she is crying out for it. Children need disapline to know their boundries and even more to know they are loved. What is she going to do when her child is arrested for defacing someone's property when she is older.

I would do more than make sure her parents knew. I would make sure the child knew and I'd explain just why she is not welcome to stay in your house until she learns better behaviour.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 2:18AM
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Well, thank you all for your advice and sympathy. I have climbed down off the ledge, but am still very angry. I should explain that this damage did not occur in just one day. My guest room is on the second floor of my house, and I rarely go up there, as I live alone. My cat is the only one who likes to hang out upstairs where it's nice and quiet:-)) I have been watching my niece during the day for the last week and a half (one overnight), so I'm not actually sure when this happened. Shame on me I suppose for not going upstairs every day to check out the room, but every day at the end of the day I question her about whether or not she has put away all her toys, and I always get a yes. My mom was a real taskmaster, and we did what she said. I guess I just assume that this child would be more considerate at my house than she is at her house. Stupid, I suppose. Clearly there is a discipline problem, because this is not a mean child. She's just a slob, but then again, my sister was as well at that age. For me, as a single person, my guest rooms are always neat and tidy since they are only used when someone sleeps over. I simply dust and vacuum every two weeks, since it doesn't get dirty.
Onto the cleaning advice, should I just was the sheets in regular detergent like Tide? The white Ralph Lauren cotton blanket has red stains, not sure if they are crayon or not. Should I use Spray and Wash or something different? And the rug, I do have a Bissel rug shampooer. Should I pretreat this before shampooing? As I said, it is wool. I do have a good spot cleaner that I have used in the past on my Lr rug called Spot Shot.
I'd appreciate any cleaning advice or thoughts you have as I don't want to make this situation worse than it already is.
While I was writing this, she came downstairs with a big smile on her face and a 'good morning' for me. She is adorable, but I explained to her that I was very angry with her and that this was my house and she cannot treat it the way she treats her house. I asked her why she did what she did and she repeated what she said last night. "I don't know". UGH!!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 8:59AM
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In defense of your niece, you should never have put crayons, markers, stickers etc... for use in a bedroom.

My kids know that art supplies are only to be used at the kitchen counter -- not while sitting on the couch, not in bed, not even on the carpeted floor.

It is very easy for kids to stray "off the page" when coloring. Now, if should did it on purpose, that is another story.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 9:10AM
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Oh I'm so sorry. Sounds like everything is just plain ruined and that girl is definitely disturbed. How awful for all of you! You, her parents, especially the girl herself. She needs councelling, you don't need cleaning tips. My condolences.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 10:16AM
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I'm not minimizing the distress you are feeling, but to synthesize your cleaning issues:

1. Comforter, cotton sheets, and cotton blanket stained with crayons and markers, eye shadow, and finger paint.

Check the tag to see what fabric the comforter is made of.

I would get on the telephone or internet and see what the manufacturers recommend for removal - Crayola, the magic marker company, eye shadow company, and the finger paint company. Most of them should have 800 numbers you can call.

Read the attached article that explains that different stains need different cleaning approaches. Some products will take out oil based stains, others won't. Sometimes washing will set a stain, so you would do well to have a plan before you just throw the sheets in the washer. (And when you do, don't put them in the dryer. Let they air dry so you can look them over for remaining stains before they get set by the dryer heat.)

2. Karastan ivory wool area rug is covered with multi color stains from crayons.

I would definitely use the Spot Shot on the area rug. Test for color-fastness if you haven't used the SS on this carpet before. I cleaned an entire area rug with Spot Shot once. You may not even need to use the rug shampooer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stain removers

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 10:17AM
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Wow it took me a moment to register this information  IÂm a complete neat freak and this mess probably would have sent me to the Hospital (no joke).

I have a seven year old and cannot fathom him making such a mess. Agree with previous posters  not normal behaviour. I canÂt imagine itÂs just a discipline issue  I would think at seven you know what is proper and not proper behaviour  sheÂs not a two year old.

Anyhow, agree TOTALLY with Graywings  you must have a plan before you forge forward. Stains are a tricky thing. Laundry really boils down to chemistry. What will remove the stain and suspend it in water to be removed.

I have had good luck with oxygen bleach for stain removal but not all stains.

Unless all these items were washable (markers, crayons, etc  ) - I would prepare for the worst. It sounds insurmountable  IÂm feeling sick just thinking about tackling it.

Take it piece by piece but first figure out the best removal strategy for each stain.

I personally would only trust a carpet professional to clean the rug  and not a cheap one  one that has the proper equipment/know how to fix it. I once had an entire bottle of red wine spill on a cream carpet. I called in the pros and they got it clean.

Good luck  keep us posted with your progress.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 11:39AM
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I have read with interest what some of you have said about this child and I totally disagree. This child is not disturbed or mantal in any way.

When I first read this I thought the damage was done in a short while. Now I learn this happened over days and you never once went to check on this child. You left the child to her own devices in a bedroom for hours and days on end and never even went to check on her.I think you got exactly what you fostered.

What this child is doing is crying out for attention and if she can't get it the right way she has chose to get it the wrong way.

Any parent who does not give boundries to a child, is in my mind neglecting that child, and if you did the same you neglected her. There is more to raising a child or babysitting than being in the same house as that child. A child needs stimulation and teaching and so much more.

I don't feel sorry for you or your sister. The one I feel sorry for is the child!!!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 12:33PM
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If you knew the child was a slob in the 1st place, why did you give her crayons, marker, and a paint set? Duh. I would have given her books, dolls, or even some legos she could have tossed around the room so she could feel 'at home'. She could not have made that much of a mess in 5 minutes, so where were you?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 1:23PM
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You are unemployed and worried about a bed set? You should be worried about finding a job so you can buy a new bed set. But I digress...

We have a 21 mo old and we have to take precautions like hiding his crayons and stuff and only bring them out while you supervise so you can stop them from causing damage. The min you turn away they will go to the wall, bed, furniture, etc and start their art projects. It's unfortunate but you have to watch kids like a hawk or take away any potential items they could use to hurt property or themselves.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 1:35AM
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This is beyond "slob", which is just clutter ... this was deliberate destruction.

When your sister comes to pick up the child - which I hope is soon - I recommend that you pack up and send ALL the damaged items with the child and tell the sister to take care of it by replacing or cleaning them to get them back to the original condition. It doesn't matter which she does, but you want them fixed or replaced.

And yes, that child and her parents need some counseling to find out why the destructive "acting out" is happening.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 8:45AM
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Your sister sounds like she rebelled against your mother, "the taskmaster" by becoming a 180 of her. I see that in my old children (although boys) in that they are both pigs. My oldest son has a beautiful brand new home and seriously has no clue how to present his home to visitors. Dog turds sitting on pee pads for days. I don't care if I'm his mother, that is just gross.

Anyway, you need a stern conversation with your sister and your niece at the same time the next time they come over. You need to take them to the room, show them the damage and ask that this never happens again. You cannot throw this in your sister's lap now because you failed to properly supervise a known little piggie. Your sister should offer to replace the items but I have a guess that she won't so you are basically stuck.

When we were small, my mother took us to homes where the homeowners offered to pick up all their knick knacks, etc so they wouldn't be damaged. My mother would stop them and explain "This is your home and my children will respect it." And, we did. Your sister has done the opposite but surely doesn't care cuz she does not want to spend the energy applying the same rules in her own home.

It's really a shame that parents no longer teach manners and respect to their children. This is an epidemic in this country...lazy, disrespectful and rude children and young adults. It is the parents that are to blame. God forgive me for any failures I have done with my own kids.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 1:25PM
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I wouldn't give even a responsible 7 year old markers, stickers, and crayons to be used unsupervised!

Sorry, but as bad as your niece's behavior was, and it was bad, you should have been supervising the use of potentially damaging things. Especially since you already knew she was a "pigpen", and therefore potentially destructive.

Make the sister and the child do the cleaning and replacing of property if at all possible.

But you do have some of the blame here, too.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 10:01PM
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graywings has good information for cleaning up the mess.

Spot Shot (aerosol) is a powerful solvent. I've removed crayon from the leather seats, plastic/ vinyl, and carpet of a used car we bought. For an ivory wool rug, I would carefully test an inconspicuous area for colorfastness first.

For the crayon, marker, and paint on fabric bedding, possibilities are
- hydrogen peroxide or Oxi Clean recommended dilution (FULLY dissolved) -- but this seems to work best on organic colored stains, and marker is certainly not organic
- citrus solvent like Goo Gone
- Spot Shot (might be easiest to just try this first)
- Oops -- this powerful solvent mixture of naphtha, toluene, xylene, and ethyl alcohol will remove crayon and marker. I just mention the others because as a principle it's best to try gentler, less toxic cleaners first.

ALWAYS test an inconspicuous spot first.

Clorox bleach is another possibility. I had always assumed it couldn't be used on colors or prints, but many are colorfast. Always dilute Clorox as recommended, and always test first. Sometimes bleaching will fade the print a little bit, but sometimes uniform fading is preferable to stains or dirt that can't be removed any other way.

If this were my bedding, I would carefully test each thing I listed, just because I'm a bit cleaning-obsessed and it would be interesting to learn what works. You might find one product works gentlest, while another works faster but fades the print a bit...and you could choose what's most important to you.

I personally would not put anything precious, hard to clean, or unprotected in a guest room. An ivory wool rug, no way. Guests who are conscious of how nice, expensive, and hard to clean it is, won't be able to relax. Guests who aren't conscious of it may wreck it. Lose-lose. For my guest room, I plan to put a Smartstrand bound remnant or maybe Flor carpet tile (the high-traffic, washable fibers, with some extra tiles for replacement). For sheets, I have nice (400 tc pima cotton), but not precious, white sheets that I will bleach if necessary. This is where you want Costco, not Neiman Marcus. The first time my sheet set was used, they got stains from castor oil that they are using to treat a scar on my niece's face that's healing from stitches. They bandage it, but some oil obviously leaked onto the sheets. Stuff like this is unavoidable, so you just need to be able to clean it aggressively. The bed also needs a waterproof protector because young kids and senior adults can have accidents. Etc.

When my nieces and nephews visit, I tell them the rules of the house. It's my house so I can have whatever rules I want. And I supervise them. They can't use any writing implements without supervision. Then, it's at the kitchen table with butcher paper down. I don't have or give them any toys that could make a mess, destroy anything, or annoy me (noise). They can't run in the house, or stand, climb, or jump on furniture. (I had to enforce that last one with my 5 yo nephew repeatedly.) My sister probably doesn't have the same rules or enforce them in her own home, and maybe thinks I am uptight, but she does support my rules.

Lest I be only the taskmaster aunt, I play with the kids as much as I can. I have found that spending time playing with them is probably the most memorable and appreciated fun you can give them. Close runner up is to make my world's best pancakes, chocolate cake, and other treats for them. When they heard I was coming to visit them, the 4 yo exclaimed, "Yay, Aunt S___ will make us pancakes!"

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 10:26AM
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For what it's worth, my brother was a holy terror when crayons were around. From about age 2 to age 5, anytime he was alone with crayons, he drew on the walls. He was always getting yelled at, so much so, that once my sister drew on the wall with crayon, figuring little brother would get blamed. But she signed her name to the drawing, on the wall. Today, my brother is a 52 year old professor of Art History. So the little girl may not be so incorrigible!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 11:41AM
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Many many years ago, my nieces and nephew drew on their sofa with a sharpie!!!! TUFF STUFF by STP for car upholstery took it off!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 5:01PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I just wanted to offer support for the OP for this unhappy situation. She already recognizes what she might have done differently. Hindsight is always 20/20. I hope you won't be too hard on yourself. There are usually reasons why we do things. If you are inexperienced at having children in the house, some of the precautions a person would take, may not have occurred to you. There probably was a reason why you didn't go upstairs to check on her often. Maybe you have a problem with stairs.

I would be upset too. It sounds like you spent some time and money to put together a very nice guest room. It is a smart choice to create one in your home. To always be able to have family and friends spend time with you is a real priority. I hope you can salvage some of the items that were damaged. If not, I hope you will find a way to pull the room together again in a way that makes you feel happy with it again until you are in a position to replace things.

I remember the first time one of my sister's children stayed over our house for the night and it didn't go well. I didn't have children at the time, being the younger sister. I would have been able to handle it SO much better after I had my own children and some experience. I really didn't have a clue. [g] It did create lingering unhappy feelings on all sides. I wish I had made more effort and more quickly too, to put it behind me and really 'make up' with my niece and my sister. We did put it behind us but, I wish I had given my sister more understanding and acceptance. She was a good Mom and I had no idea at the time, how challenging being a Mom is. And my situation was not nearly as bad as this one is for you. It will be hard for all of you to get past this, but I hope after a little time, that you and your sister can come to an understanding.

As for the child. I don't think conclusions can be drawn from this incident about whether there is a serious problem with the child or not. It might simply be ineffective parenting, or it could be a naturally challenging child, and can't say how much the circumstances of no supervision and access to problematic materials played a role. If she is an only child that spends a lot of time alone, maybe she needs other children to play with and a positive outlet for her energies. She definitely sounds like she would appreciate some kind of 'art' class or hobby. [g] Keeping a child busy with acceptable activities and positive reinforcement makes all the difference. Not to suggest more consistent discipline wouldn't help. Your niece and your sister's parenting is really too complicated an issue for anyone to offer an opinion based on information about one incident, is all I am trying to say.

Boy, nothing is easy is it? Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 4:59AM
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Just out of curiosity...what was the kid's reaction when you saw the havoc she had wrought?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 3:28AM
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Ooo, so sorry for the marker-ed up room. I hate even more the tension these dilemmas create in families. I was in my 30's when I had my children, and I can remember what it was like, not being a mom and having a clean house! I sure do miss the clean house. That said, I have found the washable markers do wash out for me. I also find ammonia works on pencil lead marks.
Also, have you heard of color wonder markers and paper? The markers "only" mark on the special paper. I use to keep a bag of these in the car, for when we went places, so my kids would not stain up other peoples stuff. I still would keep their use at a counter or table, because I don't trust them 100%.
I think I would take pictures of the room too, just in case.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 2:14AM
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If I were the OP, I'd give the ruined items to my sister and expect her to buy me replacements or clean them herself or pay for the cleaning to be done. Why should the OP have to go through the time and trouble to try to repair the damage her niece has done? And it might give the sister a wake-up call that her daughter is at the very least, costing her money and time.

This is not normal 7 year old behavior. I have had 7 year old nieces and while they might have had an accident and gotten marker on a piece of clothing, say, they would never have destroyed a room to the extent that this young girl has done.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 8:44AM
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