Book Disrespect?

ReneeannMarch 7, 2002

I went up to get my 3 year old Son from the nap that he wasn't taking (that is a whole other subject), and found a library book on the floor next to his bed. He had ripped out all of the pages. I just about flipped! I asked him why he did it and he gave me his standard answer of "because I did." ! I gave him a time out, but I am still seething. We have talked with him several times about the importance of taking care of books and he has never done anything like this before. I just cannot figure out what to do about it. Do I just pay for it and be done with it or what? I could really use some advice.

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First of all, I wouldn't leave a library book in his room where he can get to it because of this. At least if it was your own, it would be no big deal. You will have to pay for the book no matter what. I would somehow figure out a punishment so maybe your son knows what he did really wasn't right. Maybe you could make him have to tell the librarian that he ripped the book and apologize? Maybe take away library priviledges for a week or so? It's all up to you. But I think if you ignore it and act like it's no big deal, he may think it's okay to do that and continue doing it.

Also, this probably has something to do with the wonderful 3 year old stage! I'm seeing more of it each day the closer we are to that 3rd birthday. My DS is doing things he never did before and things he knows he is not allowed to do. He'll make messes or hit you and then laugh this devilish laugh. We've been letting him know how much this hurts us (I was majorly fed up last week because of a lot of stuff going on and I was really tired and I started crying the one time he made a huge mess.) So now I see him kind of get this look on his face and then he starts to apologize and keeps saying, "I sorry, Mommy." I think it's just that they are learning why Mommy and Daddy say no instead of just knowing they aren't supposed to do it. It's like they test you and then find out why made the rule in the first place.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2002 at 8:38AM
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I agree with taking him to the library to apologize.

I think he may be a little too young to understand the cost involved. But how about this for a quick brainstorm.

Maybe you could say, "Mommy has to pay the library for the broken book. And you have to pay Mommy back. No TV for a week." And when he asks for TV time, tell him his TV time is going to pay Mommy back. The reminders help. The no TV doesn't have to actually last a week. This age won't understand the concept of 7 days. But make sure it lasts long enough for him to get several reminders of the fact that he's paying you back for having to pay for the book.

Also - maybe call the librarian ahead of time. I bet your child is not the first to do this. Maybe they have some ideas on how to handle the situation, discipline-wise, since they've probably been thru it before.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2002 at 9:35AM
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I don't quite agree with the TV punishment. 3-year olds don't really make the connection there. And a week is like FOREVER to a 3-year old.

You can take him to the library to apologize; it's a good idea. 3-year olds understand what it means to say they're sorry. But you're responsible for the books that you check out. You should pay the library for the book he destroyed.

I have a 3-year old (and 3 older children), so I must say I've been through this a few times. 3-year olds don't know that it's wrong to tear out pages in books until they do it-and someone tells them it's inappropriate.

Do you have the books with cardboard pages? Give your 3-year old those kind for a while and explain why. Say, "I'll read you books with these paper pages, but you can only have hard page books in your room." Then, a couple days later, try ONE soft page book in his room on nap time. Tell him if he takes care of it, you will give him another. He'll learn. He was probably just quite caught up in the moment~the tearing sound, the pages flying off the bed, the entertainment of it all- lol! To be a child again!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2002 at 4:41PM
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Thanks for the laugh Wild Chicken! I have every intention of paying for the book that got destroyed, I just didn't know how to make DS realize that what he did was wrong, even if he wasn't being intentionally malicious (sp). Thanks for the advice everyone. R

    Bookmark   March 8, 2002 at 5:05PM
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A three year old will usually realize what they did was 'bad' (and therefore 'wrong' in adult terms but they are not capable of much more complicated awareness than right/wrong in this area). He will see your reaction. He will then 'know' and be aware that he did something that upset you.

The big limitation in making sure they are aware or realize is that they often don't have a reliable short term memory. He may not know what he was thinking at the time. He might remember what he was feeling but that too is dicey and cannot be counted upon. You can think back to that whole day to kind of get your adultness working for the both of you. Was it a hard day for him? Did he seem upset at any time before he was left alone with the book? (If he's not normally and generally sort of 'destructive' with objects then there was probably some 'reason' he had that outburst in that particular way.)

The adult part of the incident is to pay for the book and talk to the librarian. You can also walk through how to give an apology as and when appropriate with your son (he can go and apologize to the librarian too). I would talk to the library people first though so they can be prepared and you don't catch them off guard. It can be very helpful for them to get a 'heads up' so that they know what's coming.

The child part may be lost in terms of time past and because of the developmental stage. No practical short term memory is good for being able to 'get past' things and for being able to be distracted. It's not so good for remembering even 5-10 minutes later what it was that drove some seemingly impulsive action.

The trick, if there is one to getting at what he may remember is to be able to acheive calm in yourself (especially when seething). Then as soon as you can after the incident you can think to yourself about what situations he had, from his point of view before the incident happened. That can give you valuable clues about what he might have been thinking or feeling. Get some child-level books about emotions and anger and things like that to read with him. The long term project is to help him to verbalize what he is feeling so that you can respond or help him respond to what he is feeling in ways that don't involve problematic acting out. (It's easier and probably more effective to start with the feelings, and identification and how to manage.)

3 year olds tend to be more driven by the power of their own raw emotions such as they are, and 'in the moment' in a kind of impulsive way (and that is normal for their age and stage); whatever drove him it was probably a passing thing unless this kind of behavior seems to have become a pattern and he probably has no clue why he did it even 5-10 minutes after he did it

P.S. Three year olds are usually very very emotional and usually don't have names for everything they feel, and even when they can name some they still might not be able to talk about what they feel in an abstract way. If you really value books, and he knows that; and if you made him do something or ignored some need he felt he had (and maybe he tried to express with his 3 year old degree of finesse and knowledge of 'appropriateness') he might then tear up a book in his anger. It's a 'safe' target in that direct anger at an adult is usually much more risky personally and he probably has that ingrained already. Or, he might not even have been angry. It could have been a curiosity about how the pages were attached (especially if they seemed to be torn out in the same way). Maybe he had a curiosity about something else and tore the pages. Maybe he tried to read like you and couldn't and that caused an intense frustration with and ager at the book itself. There are a whole world of possibilities but they are going to be limited by 3 year old thinking and feeling patterns which are inherent in your son at this time.

P.P.S. This page address and site is mainly devoted to anger, but it's got good parent and child management tips.

--be careful with things that encourage any kind of venting action or thinking (punching pillows for example) because it turns out that for a lot of people, venting becomes or feels self-reinforcing and can actually increase their anger.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2002 at 11:52AM
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That age doesn't understand "value" or "respect" If he is allowed to tear or cut up magazines, then he most likely doesn't see the difference. Make sure he understands that he must ask permission to destroy something, be it book, Toy, magazine or whatever. Tell him that library books are given special care because they don't belong to him. Other people's things are "special" and require special handling.

That's one of Life's Lessons that have to be repeated over and over and over. "If it is not yours, then you can't treat it any way you want to." I can think of a lot of adults that haven't learned that one yet. LOL

Yep, I think an apology to the librarian is in order.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2002 at 10:18AM
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Wild Chicken,

I just used TV as an example. Putting something that the child likes to do or play with, in timeout really worked with my DD from 3 on. She 'got it'. I suggested it as a strategy because it did work for us.

And I know the 'week' is not feasible at that age. They don't understand time passing. (I thought I mentioned that). But it just needs to be long enough so that they get a couple of reminders as to 'why' the toy or whatever is on restriction, to give them a chance to 'connect'.

It really did work with my DD. And 3 is old enough to understand how to respect toys, etc. My DD would get a hand-me-down book with crayon in it, and as early as 3, would say, "Who colored here? That's a no-no." She takes good care of her toys, also, and respects them.

One thing I have learned, is never conclude that any age is 'too young to understand'. My DD and her peers constantly amaze and surprise me at what they really have been able to understand.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2002 at 9:21AM
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I'm 52 years old and still remember a couple of things I did when I was 3 and how I felt. I took a open diaper pin I found on a dresser and drew a BIG, BIG picture on the TV screen, then tried to rub it off and it wouldn't rub off. I remember thinking "This isn't good, it won't erase off." We all watched TV thru that 'picture' for a long time. I also took a little pair of scissors and sat in the closet and cut little squares out of the bottom of my mother's dresses. I then picked up the squares and tried to push them back into the cut area on the dress, but they wouldn't go back. I also tried to give 4 kittens a bath in a tall pail full of water. I remember my mother yelling at me, from the window above me, but she just wouldn't understand that I was ONLY giving them a bath! I remember my dad caught me first and rescued the kittens and gave me a few well remembered smacks on my bottom, and as I was getting up, my mother came out and I was back down on the ground getting another spanking from my mother for not stopping and pulling them out when she ordered me to from the window. What I remember the most about these events, is actually not understanding that some actions are not reversible. You see an eraser, erase pencil from paper, etc. As your child gets older, he'll learn, no matter what you make of the incident. It is also best dealt with at the moment and quickly, as with the book, I'd be inclined to say "Oh, poor book, look it's broken now and won't go back together and it's not even mommy's book. It belongs to the library." I'd have him go with me to the library to appologize. Keep in mind at that age, you want to teach and praise good behavior, not punish bad behavior when they don't understand alot of what goes on. It takes alot of repeating, too, for things to sink in. Keep in mind please, that a 3 year old is only trying to learn how to get along, they really are not capable of being deliberatly bad at this age. You might try checking out some child behavior books at the library. They helped me alot with my daughter and grandchildren growing up. Brazelton is esp. good at the younger ages.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2002 at 10:26AM
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I am really interested in all of your responses, because my 2 year/10 mo DD can be beautiful & loving to books for weeks on end, and then I'll find the back cover of a book ripped off.

I try to make the consequence relate to the "crime"...since she tore the cover off of a book, I put her books in time out. she likes to sleep w/ books and read them at bedtime, but those were the ones we put in time out.

Good luck. I have 4 children, all different temperments, and #2 (the DD we're discussing) is a piece of work. I'm a good mom, I work at being fair and logical w/ discipline, but this one makes me nuts! LOL!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2002 at 4:26PM
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