Destructive Behavior

Destructive behaviors are deliberately damaging, destroying, or misusing someone else’s property. Children may do this for a number of reasons: a need for excitement; to impress their friends; out of frustration or anger; to get even with someone; as an act of rebellion.


  1. Discuss with students the importance of respecting personal property: (a) how they come to own belongings; (b) which of their possessions are important to them; (c) how they take care of their important possessions, and how they should take care of other people’s important belongings; (d) how they would feel if someone broke something of theirs, either on purpose or by accident.
  2. Encourage children to take pride in their school by asking them to go on litter hunts, paint murals and decorate the hallways, make a school banner, think of a school name and cheer, and make suggestions on school improvements.
  3. Set up a group contingency whereby each time a group member destroys someone else’s property, his team loses a point. The team at the end of the week with the most points wins a prize.


  1. Make the child replace the item he has destroyed, along with giving an apology to its owner. If it is a part of school property, the child must help put it back to its original form by painting, sanding, washing desks and walls, cleaning, or picking up garbage.
  2. If children are operating in gangs, try to channel the gang’s energy into more constructive outlets such as building a clubhouse, or helping younger children with team sports.
  3. Set up a student court where other children decide on penalties for destructive behavior. Although children can learn a lot about how our judicial system works from this activity, it must be supervised to ensure they don’t hand out unreasonable penalties.


  1. For children who enjoy doodling or engraving into their desks, cover their desktop with newspaper. If the newspaper is unmarked in two days they can have their shiny desktop back (Dreikurs, 1968).
  2. If possible, require the student to use the item which he broke (Rogers, 1987).