My Child Is Out of Control

Richard has a 10-year-old daughter who burned Dave's book because she hates the fact that her parents live by Dave's principles and tell her no. How should they handle this?

QUESTION: Richard in Idaho has a 10-year-old daughter who burned Dave’s book because she hates the fact that her parents live by Dave’s principles and tell her no. How should they handle this? Dave doesn’t think it’s a money issue but an out-of-control child issue. He then offers some tips to Richard.

ANSWER: I think it’s more of a parenting question than it is a financial question, and it’s nothing personal aimed at me. I think you’ve just got a child who’s out of control. If one of my children burned something that was a possession of mine, there’d be something burning on them. It’s not got anything to do with it being my book, and it’s really not even got anything to do with her finances or the dollhouse. It’s got to do with this child being an absolute out-of-control brat. What are you going to do as a dad in that situation?

She could’ve burnt the house down. She’s 10. I won’t allow a 10-year-old to build a fire in the fireplace while we’re all outside doing something else. If I’d looked up and just seen a fire coming out of the chimney, we’d have had an issue. But then when I find out she’s destroyed my property because she’s having a temper fit—I’m old school, dude. That ain’t going to play.

It’s not got anything to do with finances. It’s got to do with the child’s out of control. What are you going to do?

If my son took my power drill that I like and threw it in the creek, he would’ve gotten the same thing she got and got to pay for the drill. Punishment, instruction and consequences. I think you’re on track.

The thing is she needs to hear real loud and clear this hasn’t got anything to do with what the book says or who wrote the book. This is not a Dave Ramsey problem. This is not a financial problem. This is a child destroying your property problem. That’s what she needs to get out of this. Just pretend like it was another item that she destroyed—say she took a pair of your wife’s shoes and decided to run them into a shredder or something because she was mad. It’s the same thing. She gets to feel the pain of this several different ways so that this lesson is thoroughly learned.

That’s the way I would look at it, but I would be very careful to disassociate this event from the actual contents of the book. That doesn’t matter. What really matters here is the child’s spirit. That is not something that can stand because the next thing you know, it’s going to be she’s tearing up some neighbor’s something because the neighbor made her mad. That’s what I would be concerned with as a dad—not the financial issue. The financial issue of her replacing what she tore up is a good lesson. I’d take that out of her dollhouse money, and I’m a little weird as a parent giving her a big, nice gift right after that, too, for her birthday, but you can think about that. I don’t want to be too harsh. The big deal here is the child just has to learn her boundaries, and that kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated. Some punishment, some instruction, and some financial retribution—that’s probably what would’ve happened at the Ramsey house. It would’ve been very direct and very swift too.