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Ask Denene: Destructive Habits

Q: My daughter rips her books and breaks crayons. How can I teach her to respect her property?

My girls broke, ate, and abused enough books and crayons to fill a forest and two wax museums. It's what toddlers do -- because paper makes a cool sound when you rip it and you actually have more crayons when you break them into tiny pieces.

This, of course, doesn't mean it's okay. To make our collection last longer, I bought those chunky, hard-to-break crayons. And I kept their special books on a shelf, bringing them down only for supervised reading, and filled their toy chest with cheap used books they liked. And when I'd catch them being destructive, I'd explain to them that it was unacceptable and distract them with something else. Eventually they let their books, crayons, and toys live happily ever after.