MBFLP 260 – Accident-Prone Kids

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

A reader asked, “What can you do about accident-prone kids who always seem to be breaking things?”


“Uh oh …”

We’ve all heard the dreadful sound from the next room – or the sharp crash of breaking glass – or the muffled whump in another part of the house. All kids will have moments of clumsiness, carelessness, or foolishness, that result in something getting broken or someone getting hurt – that’s just normal childhood. But some kids seem to leave a path of destruction in their wake – what do you do about them?

Let’s say up front that we’re not talking about kids who are suffering from trauma, illness, or developmental conditions that lead to destructive behavior – that’s a different situation altogether. We have friends who deal with these things on a daily basis, and they are walking a different path.

But what about your average, healthy, otherwise normal kid who you’d think would know better? How do you deal with them?

First thing …

One of our basic rules of parenting is Don’t Freak Out. We don’t respond at our best when we leap to reaction. It may help to remind ourselves that this world is not our ultimate home and all its things are passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31). All our stuff is actually God’s stuff, and we are just stewards and managers of it for Him (Psalm 24:1).

That’s not easy advice, but it’s true – right? Take a breath, and pray for perspective.

Next step, Triage the situation. Not only answering the question, “What just broke here?” but rather, “Why did something just happen?”

We find there are three basic profiles – (continued … )

Three scenarios

  1. The angry child who acts from rage or malice. This is the one who intentionally hurts someone or damages something, or the one who fails to control his temper and lashes out blindly. This is upsetting but it’s rooted in clear sinful behavior, and you can respond along those lines. Repentance and restitution are the goals here.
  2. The truly innocent child. This one honestly didn’t intend any trouble, and wasn’t inviting it by foolish or careless behavior. In other words, they aren’t to blame – something they did may have triggered a problem, but they didn’t cause it by neglect or malice.  He needs to express sympathy and concern, and even apologize; you may need to convince him that an apology isn’t always an admission of guilt! We try to see this as a multi-victim event – both the one who was injured, and the one who stumbled and caused it. Mercy is our first reaction, and then training in responsibility – if you knock it over, you need to pick it up, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.
  3. The careless child. This is the child who loses school books, forgets to close the gate, or leaves his brother’s bike out in the rain. They aren’t malicious but they are inattentive! It’s important to remember that irresponsible behavior is not the same as rebellion – our response needs to be different. Irresponsibility should bring natural consequences – like replacing a lost book with his own money. It’s appropriate to use these events to remind them to concentrate and pay attention (even while we privately admit they aren’t very good at this at the moment).

And then …

Once we understand what’s motivated the incident, we can respond in a way that will be just and will protect our relationship with the child. Our children are not cookies, so a cookie-cutter approach won’t respect their individual needs, fears, weaknesses, and strengths!

If you have a middle school student and you’re wondering why they are the way they are (you know what we mean), check out our book No Longer Little: Parenting Tweens with Grace and Hope. You can find it on our website here.