Many people in today’s urban centres live in flats where due to lack of space, parking yards and playgrounds are one and the same thing. It is common to find children playing with stones, sand, nails or neglected wires where the cars are parked.
Sometimes the kids use cars as their blackboards or drawing books. So what would you do if you found a neighbour’s child scratching your car, as recently happened to one lady? As this lady walked towards her car one Sunday afternoon, she found a child doodling on her bonnet while being cheered on by his friends. Mortified and seething with anger, the lady walked to the child’s house and after explaining the issue to his mother, the mother nonchalantly asked the lady: "So now what do you want me to do?" That response clearly tells a lot about the parenting style of that mother!
So in case it was you who found your car being scratched by a neighbour’s child, what would you do?
Would you politely tell the child to stop his activity on your car and then proceed with your journey? Or would you give the child a small talk about respecting other people’s property? Maybe you would whip out your belt and strike the child? Pinch and pull their ears perhaps? Or would you give the parents a piece of your mind about how ill-mannered their child is? Maybe you would seek audience with the parents and ask them to bear the repair costs for your car, after getting a quotation from a garage? Or, because the act may be classified as ‘malicious damage to property’, would you threaten the child’s parents with police action should they refuse to undertake the repair costs for your car courtesy of their child?
Now, what if the shoe was on the other side, where it was your child who had scratched your neighbour’s car (and there is evidence for this). What would you do?
Would you dismiss the neighbour and tell him to next time keep a closer eye on his property? Or would you accept responsibility for the damages and work out a plan on how to get the neighbour’s car fixed? Or would you tell him to sort it out with insurance or his lawyers — whichever suits him?
Whatever action you chose in either of the scenarios, it is important to note that your reaction would be an example to your children about how to manage anger and disappointment, how to resolve conflict and how to relate with neighbours. If you react negatively and engage in scuffles or confrontations with either the accused child or his parents, then don’t be surprised if your child displays similar behaviour in school or in the neighbourhood.
Again, if your child is the one who has damaged a neighbour’s property, take advantage of the opportunity to teach him about accepting responsibility, and the need for respect for other people’s property. Should you accept to pay for the damages, involve your child by giving them ‘paid’ chores that are not part of their usual responsibilities such as washing the car, where his ‘salary’ goes towards the repair costs. He will learn to be more responsible.
As they grow, it is important to ingrain in the children a sense of respect and responsibility about other people’s property from an early age. And not only that, it is also important to let them know the value of being responsible for their own property.
However, mistakes do happen and sometimes the children forget and do wrong, such as scribbling on a neighbour’s car with a sharp stone. When this happens, it is important to take an approach that will help the child learn invaluable lessons from your reaction. Make sure it’s a good lesson they will learn, and not a negative one that they themselves might copy.
The writer is an award-winning motherhood blogger. Follow her on mummytales.com