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9-year-old carved antique dresser

Posted by on Mar. 22, 2013 at 2:29 PM
  • 21 Replies

Hey all,

I have a 9-year-old stepdaughter who has been displaying some self-control issues, and in such, blatantly defying my instruction.

SD had a poor-quality dresser in her room for several years, and over time it began to fall apart to where it wasn't very safe or functional.  Rather than buying her a new dresser, I have an antique handmade dresser that has been in my family for generations that I was willing to let her use.

Her grandpa gave her a flatscreen TV this past Xmas (groan), so we brought in my dresser and threw out the old one upon setting up the TV.  Once it was all set up, I got her full attention and told her that we needed to talk about something very important.  I explained that the dresser means a lot to me, that it has been in my family for many, many years, and that I was trusted to take good care of it.  I told her that I was trusting her in sharing the responsibility of taking care of it by letting her use it in her room, but that the dresser still was mine and that she is NOT to draw on it, carve on it, unscrew the handles, or otherwise mess with it.  I said it is only for putting away her clothes and for the TV to sit upon.  I asked if she understood me and she said yes, and then I asked her to repeat the gist of what I had just told her, which she did.  I told her that there would be a big problem if she marked up the dresser and she said that she understood.

Now, I made a big deal about it, because she has carved on/witten on/unscrewed other furniture in the past.  As far as I know DH has never shelled out any consequences for her destructive behavior (his parenting style is too laid-back IMHO).  DH and I have been together for a little over 2.5 years, and in that time, he has gotten better about telling her NO and ensuring that she conducts herself more responsibly.  From what I understand, through my observation and through conversations with his relatives, discipline used to be a basically nonexistant and SD was out of control when she was much younger, meaning very frequent tantrums until she got exactly what she wanted.

Wouldn't you know, two weeks ago I found a pair of kid's scissors on the dresser with squiggles, lines, and her name carved in several places.  As she is at her mom's house M-F during the school year, I was unable to confront her that day and implement a consequence.  Livid, I texted DH and said that her behavior was completely unacceptable to me, and that we need to intercept it because I take the matter very seriously.  Not only is it about the dresser, it is about respect of the belongings of others and of herself, and about following instruction/rules.  He said that we would have a serious talk with her.  I removed the scissors and any other sharp object from her room immediately.

Of course, the next weekend (last weekend), he and I both had to work and had other commitments and plans that kept us busy the whole weekend, and I failed to even remember to bring it up.  Yesterday, as I was putting laundry away, I found another pair of larger scissors from a kitchen drawer downstairs sitting on the dresser and some ADDITIONAL carvings.  Her name again, and "WOLF" next to a Lego werewolf she had set up on the dresser, and more lines and squiggles.  I texted DH again and proposed that we ground her from TV/computer/any electronic device over the weekend as a punishment, because that is what would prove a point to her, as those are unfortunately her favorite pastimes.  She has plenty of toys, books, art supplies to keep her busy, as well as a bike, scooter, rollerskates, and skateboard.  He never replied to my texts regarding the matter, and he was asleep when I got home from work last night, then we both had to work this morning.

Today I texted him and asked if his silence meant that he agrees with me.  He said, "Yeah... We will have [our niece] this weekend."  Our niece is a 15-year-old with Muscular Dystrophy.  She is confined to a wheelchair and stays on the main level when she spends the weekend over, and SD's bedroom is on the second floor.  SD loves spending time with her, though, and we make beds for them on the couches when she's here.  So it would be difficult to ground her from electronics this weekend without unfairly subjecting our niece to the same.  That's when I had a "let the punishment fit the crime" idea.

SD typically gets a $2/week allowance from DH and isn't held to any kind of standard of chore completion or anything for it.  My idea was to call several antique refurbishing businesses in the area to get an idea of about how much it costs to refinish a dresser.  Once I have an average figure, I will sit SD down soon after she gets here tonight.  We will discuss what she did and why it was wrong, and that her allowance will go to me until she pays for the sanding and refinishing of the dresser.  I will explain that she can do chores around the house to earn a little extra towards that so that the debt is paid off sooner.  If this happens again, the dresser is coming OUT of her room and she can watch TV on the floor and keep her clothes in boxes.

I feel that this is appropriate punishment, but I would like some feedback because I'm pretty new at this and I don't want to seem horribly unreasonable.  I am also concerned about DH sticking to this.  She has been grounded from TV at her mom's house for the combination of bad grades, fighting with her half sister, and lying.  She asked DH to please be consistent and carry over the grounding through the weekend, but he had her watching TV from the moment they got home throughout the whole weekend.  He gives in and buys her little toys and knick-knacks and junk food often when out doing errands over the weekends, though I have discouraged the frequency of this because she doesn't take care of her toys, and will play with her new items very short amount of time before putting them away and never pulling them out again. What good is giving her an allowance if he buys her other things in addition and she never has to save up for what she wants... she doesn't understand the value of money, and frankly, it isn't doing anyone any favors by giving in to her begging and whining.  Again, he and I have different parenting styles (I have more of a backbone).

Anyway, I digress.  My plan is to withhold her allowance and other various money DH would spend on trivial items she asks for when we're out, and to give her an opportunity to earn further money for the "fund" by doing age-appropriate chores, of which I will post with corresponding value ranging from $.50 - $1.  The way I see it, and 9.5 years old, she should be helping out and cleaning up after herself anyway.  And she is definitely capable of understanding our conversation about not destroying my dresser when we put it in her room.  

We do not have any issues with our relationship, otherwise.  She is a very loving and affectionate girl, she often tells me that she loves me, we are terribly goofy together, and she has even called me "mama" a few times (her mom is "mommy") without any kind of coaxing or encouragement to do so.  I am usual very easygoing, but I have put my foot down with her plenty of times before when she has misbehaved. I don't believe, though, that I have ever laid out an actual punishment as such.

The last thing I want is for DH's extremely relaxed attitude to have a negative impact as she's getting older.  His kind of approach (or lack thereof) will have her walking all over him and desrtuctive/defiant tendencies will only worsen and manifest in other ways if nothing is done starting with this incident.  He said, "if you don't trust her with the dresser, just take it out of her room."  Well, we don't really have anywhere else to put it, as a my sewing/crafts desk is now where the dresser used to be, and also I reiterated to him that it is about more than just a material object- it is about the behavior surrounding it, discouraging future similar behavior, teaching her something from this, and laying down boundaries.  He agreed that my proposal is suitable to the situation.

*update* I called several antique refurbishing businesses in the area, explained the type of dresser and the damage, and was quoted anywhere from $200+ on sanding and refinishing.  I think that is an extreme amount to require that she "repay" and will set the amount to be collected closer to $50 or so (quite generous I think), as honestly, we don't have the money to spend on  restoring the dresser any time in soon... and I know that DH will not refrain from spending money on the little things she just "has" to have in the time that it would take to amass $200, sigh.

Thoughts?  Tips?  Thanks!!

by on Mar. 22, 2013 at 2:29 PM
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by Member on Mar. 23, 2013 at 7:21 AM

I'm just curious though; Why can't your neice and SD find things to do that aren't electronic? SD can bring toys down to her OR you and DH can carry the chair up to SD's room. I think you should do a combination of both punishments seeing as you only have her on weekends and seeing as DH does go back on punishments. I know a lot of disabled kids and most of the time they prefer to play real games (depending on the severity - can she talk? can she understand games like scrabble or monopoly?) than sit in front of a screen all day. Defietely go with the electronic's ban and actually let the girls have fun without using electronics; take them shopping, to get their nails done; I'm sure your neice would love it, and I'm sure SD would completely forget about electronics if she was so distracted :) just a suggestion

by Gold Member on Mar. 23, 2013 at 7:29 AM
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honestly, the dresser woulda been outta the room the first time, and the tv would have been on the floor and clothes in boxes, and that's what you should do NOW..don't you want your dresser ruined even more out of anger from her??

by on Mar. 23, 2013 at 7:48 AM
Remove the dresser. When she finds it is gone give her a firm and calm explanation. Her warning was when you first put it in her room, you asked that she take care of it and she did not. I would also take the television just to drive home the fact that failure to comply with house rules and standdards is punishable and she will lose privelages. I would not return the television until she showed me she can be trusted with something of value. Just my opinion, hope it helps.
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by Ruby Member on Mar. 23, 2013 at 8:29 AM
The tv and dresser would be out. What 9 yo needs a tv in their room????? I never allowed that.
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by on Mar. 23, 2013 at 10:47 AM
I agree! What 9 year old needs their own TV??? And since you knew she was destructive, it's your fault this happened. She obviously wasn't going to miraculously become responsible, so you set her up to fail. And why is this kid allowed around sharp objects?? Use your head, and lock them up.

Quoting atlmom2:

The tv and dresser would be out. What 9 yo needs a tv in their room????? I never allowed that.

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by on Mar. 23, 2013 at 10:58 AM
I like the idea of having the punishment fit the crime and think you're being very reasonable. Since the dresser was the tv stand, I think the tv should be put away until the debt is paid (which will hopefully give her modivation to work harder to pay it off sooner). GL, hope it all works out!
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by on Mar. 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Who puts an antique family piece in the room of a child to begin with? Especially one that has a history of marking up furniture. 

by Barb on Mar. 23, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Buy a cheap dresser, maybe even an unfinished one- and let her stain and finish it herself. Then if she messes with it, it will be her problem. About your dresser, I applaud what you tried to do- to show that you trusted her enough with an item that you valued. For her to cut it up let you down. Don't make her pay for repairs, but don't trust her either. She seems to be destructive. Maybe you could get her some wood that she could carve on if she feels drawn toward this activity.

by Barb on Mar. 23, 2013 at 11:11 AM

About the debt, that is a lot for a 9 year old. And when the punishment is far beyond the child's ability, then the punishment loses effectiveness. I think ample punishment in this case is that she has lost your trust.

by Member on Mar. 23, 2013 at 11:14 AM

You should have went to Goodwill or another consignment store and got a dresser that no one gave a crap about.

Also she needs some real and consistent punishment from y'all.

Quoting ChancesMommy07:

Who puts an antique family piece in the room of a child to begin with? Especially one that has a history of marking up furniture. 

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