My son likes breaking things, ripping things, crushing food on the ground, and basically anything destructive. I know ripping paper is a yuck release and most of the time I’m aware that this behavior is a result of being tired, bored, etc. However, we do want to teach him to value his belongings, the belongings of others, and order/cleanliness of our home. Do you have some suggestions on how to help cut down on the destruction?
@ngodino918 Yes, that's an important lesson to teach!
It's wise that you recognize what is causing this behavior. And both tiredness and boredom can certainly lead to destructive behavior. When kids (and adults) are tired, there's a negative energy inside, and destroying things often matches how they're feeling so it "feels good" in that moment. In addition, when kids are bored, they'll crave stimulation/engagement. Destroying things -- and seeing a reaction from parents -- is certainly meeting a need for stimulation. (Other reasons that some kids are destructive is that they're genuinely curious about what will happen and/or it gives them a sense of power.) So ultimately, he's meeting his needs... albeit in an unhealthy and unacceptable way. (These are reasons for behavior but not excuses!)
So what do to? First, help him meet his needs in another way. You can teach him to identify his feeling and associate that feeling with a more responsible behavior. For example, I taught lots of kids who were bored to identify the "ants in their pants" (the feeling of boredom) and then associate that feeling with moving their bodies -- jumping on a trampoline (there are small indoor ones you can use!) or building a fort out of pillows or making up a new crazy dance to show Mom and Dad.
So in the moment if he's destroying something you'd connect an correct: "We do not hurt the things in our home. I can tell you need to move your body. Can you run to the wall and back 5 times? I'll count!"
If you can figure out if he's seeking stimulation or genuinely curious or craving power, these are needs that can be met more proactively so he doesn't crave to being destructive in the moment. (Let me know if you want to talk more about that.)
A lot of parents will also ask about a consequence for this type of behavior. I would certainly remove him from a situation if he's destroying something, because in that moment he's in Yuck. And if you as a family feel the need to punish, that's your call. I just also encourage you to teach tools (how to deal with the ants his pants) as well.
Because he has no very little control at his age, it may take time for him to change his behavior. For that reason, I also encourage you to do a lot of modeling of apologizing and making reparations ("I'm sorry I did that. Is there any way I can make that better?") so that at least he can act appropriately if he does do something wrong.