Expert Q&A: Discipline, Depression, ADHD, and More

Michele Borba, EdD, the author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know: Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids, answers behavioral questions from parents struggling with children ages 6 through 8. The internationally renowned educator and award-winning author is a advisory board member.

No Respect for Toys and Clothes

Q. My 8-year-old stepdaughter shows no respect for her toys or her clothes. She leaves them lying everywhere in her room. When we tell her to clean up, which is daily, she just shoves things everywhere...not caring if they will get broken, or damaged, or put where they belong.

She has been shown how to clean her room. She knows what's expected of her. We even got her some clear plastic tubs to help with organization. My thought is to take most of her toys and clothes away (she has lots of clothes -- we could go three weeks without doing her keeps buying her clothes). If she only has a few things to play with and a limited amount of clothes, wouldn't she take better care of them?

Because this is my stepdaughter, who came into my life a month before she turned 6, and she has severe behavioral problems, it gets confusing what is normal kid behavior and what are her issues. -- naturechild1

A. I'm reading your note and applaud your perspective. I think you've answered yourself. If she has no respect for things, then you take the military action technique: boot camp. Start removing things. When she shows you she can respect her property, she can earn them back. She needs to know you do mean business. This might be harder for you than her -- but on the other hand if she doesn't have much to pick up, it may be a lot easier. The trick is putting things away so she can't get them.

My girlfriend had a great gimmick. She came to the same conclusion as you. Her son had to choose which things mattered most. Everything else was put away in storage bins in the garage. Second, to keep the things that mattered most, he knew he had to take care of them or they'd be put away as well. She also "rotated toys" -- brought new ones in and put others away. It took a while, but eventually her son got it. Best news -- he grew up and is a respectful young man.

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