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To request that a child repairs or replaces something they broke?

(155 Posts)
PiousPrat Wed 31-Aug-11 13:05:24

I'll keep this as brief as I can. Quick background, we (DS1, DS2 and I) have just moved in with DP in an area he has lived in for a while but we are new to. We don't really know anyone round here. DS2 has made a few new friends. One of these friends is 15, so 5 years older than DS2, and has some sort of SEN.

This older child, who I will call J for clarity, doesn't seem to have the greatest home life, he often mentions not being able to play football in the garages at the end of the road if his step dad is home. Several of the other local kids seem to taunt him if he is out on his own.

J was round yesterday playing with DS2 in the garden. I had had to say J couldn't come in to play as we are still living in amongst the chaos of moving boxes so there really isn't the space. Our BBQ is stored by the side door which is where J was waiting if DS2 came in for anything. After the DC had gone to bed last night, DP went out the side door for a fag and came back in to say that the shelf at the front of the BBQ was hanging off and that must have been what DS2 meant when he had overheard him asking J earlier if he had fixed it.

The BBQ was new this year and has only been used twice and is now trashed. I spoke to DS2 about it this morning and he said that J had tried to sit on the shelf while waiting for him. I know the shelf can take DS2's weight as I have sat him on it before (he is small for 10 and undergoing assessment to see if there is a medical reason for it) so ido believe him when he says it was J sitting on it that broke it.

Obviously I read DS2 the riot act about respect for things and the importance of owning up when something has broken, rather than leave people to later discover their possessions are trashed and have told him that because he knew it was broken and didn't say anything, he is now responsible for either helping J fix it or paying half towards a replacement.

My dilemma comes in what to do about J's half. I know where he lives so can go round and speak to his parents, or I can speak to him when he inevitably calls round again later,but I'm not sure of which way would be best. If I speak to him, I can imagine him being worried about telling his parents due to the issues with his step dad and I don't want to cause him undue worry, but don't think he should dodge his responsibilities either. If I go round, I still run the risk of getting J into trouble for what was an accident as well as the worry of going round to a strangers house, in an area I am new to and is a bit...deprived and so £40 for his share of the damage would be considered a lot of money, while I am 38 weeks pregnant.

I don't feel I can just let it go, as it isn't so much about the actual damage as the cover up of it and I feel it is an important lesson for DS2 (as well as J) that if you break something of someone else's, you own up and try to make good on it. DP can't go round (even though at 6'2" and a rugby player build I would feel more confident sending him than lugging my 5'4" bloated self round) as he is self employed, so doing masses of extra work this week to free himself up for being at home from next week when DS3 arrives. By the time he gets home at night it is too antisocial an hour to go door knocking and I don't think it would get things off to a good start.

AIBU to expect J to stump up for at least half of a replacement if I suspect that it would get him into a disproportionate amount of trouble for it, or that his family might struggle to afford it?

GypsyMoth Wed 31-Aug-11 13:10:52

He's a child, where would he get money from? Claim on your home insurance or just let it go.

And a ten year old and fifteen year old? Are you sure it's a good fit in friendship terms?

HerHissyness Wed 31-Aug-11 13:13:00

If your DS can cover his half, but the other lad can't, then perhaps the boys ought to be given the opportunity to work the cost off. If they can - between them - find out where to get it repaired, get a cost and work out ways that the pair of them can work together to raise that money to fix it. Either by Gardening, washing cars for you and for neighbours, helping you with chores etc.

You'll have to speak to the boy's parents, and explain that while you recognise it was an accident, you wish to show them that when things are broken, they cost money to replace and it needs to come from hard work.

freybean Wed 31-Aug-11 13:13:56

i would just let it go

you didn't see j break it so you don't know if it was him iyswim

Ormirian Wed 31-Aug-11 13:15:17

It wasn't a 'cover up'. It was just children being scared of your reaction. It's what children tend to do. How on earth is he going to pay £40? And it sounds like his step-father would make life difficult for him.

Just leave it. Claim on household insurance and maybe have a word with him about it - tell him that if something like that happens it's best to come clean straight away.

giyadas Wed 31-Aug-11 13:17:43

I agree with getting them to do chores to make up for it, but going by what you've said about his home life, I wouldn't tell his parents.

mummymccar Wed 31-Aug-11 13:18:23

I agree with ILoveTiffany - where would he get the money from? It sounds like this could cause serious problems for him at home and I think you know this (hence your apprehension to go round). Kids break things and it sounds like it was an accident. Your DP said he overheard your DS asking whether he had fixed it yet so it sounds like this kid was trying to fix the damage he'd done. Yes he should have told you straight away, but so should've your DS. Try to put yourself in the kid's shoes - he was probably embarassed, upset and too terrified to tell you. If you'd seen him do it then you could have a word but you didn't so I think you just need to leave this.

LIZS Wed 31-Aug-11 13:19:11

Surely you could just order a new shelf ? If dp can't make any time to pop round, take a note round or make a call then it can't be that important to him . Agree even taking account of SEN a five year gap is probably too great to be an ideal friendship.

RedHelenB Wed 31-Aug-11 13:19:31

agree with freybean but why on earth did you sit your son on the shelf!!

Mishy1234 Wed 31-Aug-11 13:21:04

Definitely let it go. It was an accident. These things happen.

PiousPrat Wed 31-Aug-11 13:21:04

To be honest, I dont think where he gets the money from is my concern. He broke it,he should make good on it. I am already only asking for half of the replacement cost as DS2 has paid for half since he didn't own up to it happening.

Home insurance isn't a practical option as it is an £80 BBQ so not worth itin terms of excess and increased premiums. Besides which, why should it be my responsibility to replace something that someone else's child broke? If I have to replace it, I will have to ban J from coming around again as I can't afford to keep replacing things and he won't have learnt the importance of owning up to accidents.

As I explained in my OP, J has SEN so is perhaps more 'on a level' with my 10 year old than his peers. DS1 has SN so DS2 is quite used to and accepting of people being a bit different, so I don't think that is really the issue. I mainly mentioned the age difference as a way of illustrating that difference in size and that it is far more likely that the shelf broke from J's weight than DS2's.

RedHelenB Wed 31-Aug-11 13:21:42

Just want to add, one of my reclining sofas got damaged after dd2's freiedns were putting it up & down. DD2 knew they weren't to do it & I was cross with her for not telling me what they were up to!

Pagwatch Wed 31-Aug-11 13:22:41

Good grief, really?

He is a child. He was allowed to play at your house. He didn't break it deliberately. It was an accident.

Ds1 had a group of friends over, they were playing the piano and one of then sat on the edge of the dining table. It is a pedestal table and it cracked.

It was an accident. I would never dream of asking him to pay.

I would only ever seek anything at all from someone who was an adult and who did it deliberately

Don't invite people to be on your premises if you won't accept that shit happens

Litotes Wed 31-Aug-11 13:23:10

This sounds like an accident, not deliberate damage to your property, and so, tbh, I would not be asking for money from this boy.
What you choose to do with your son is for you to decide, but I think I would only be saying to both boys that it is important that they feel able to tell you if something gets broken.

I really would not be making a big deal of it.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 31-Aug-11 13:24:33

I think that it would be unreasonable to ask for the money. Accidents happen, kids damage stuff. I'm sure you'd be able to get a new shelf rather than need a new BBQ.

Maybe if you hadn't sat your DS on it earlier he might have said to J not to sit on it before it got broken. But as he'd already sat on it and it had been fine he probably wouldnt have thought anything of it when his friend sat on it.

schobe Wed 31-Aug-11 13:24:33

Omg, he didn't do it deliberately, it was an accident. Surely if it's just a broken shelf, you could cobble it back together?

LIZS Wed 31-Aug-11 13:24:46

But you don't know if your ds demonstrated/said how he could sit on it then friend just copied. dd is light for her age(just 10) but I would n't expect our similarly priced bbq to stand her weight.

FabbyChic Wed 31-Aug-11 13:24:55

I agree with others, leave it and claim off the household insurance.

I'd not expect a child to pay for the repair anyway, and I would certainly not go to see his parents if the step-father is a tyrant, would you want the kid to get a beating for an accident? I'd hate to be responsible for that.

Ormirian Wed 31-Aug-11 13:24:55

But 'only' half is £40. Quite a lot to a 15 yr old from a deprived area (I assume that means they aren't loaded). And if you want the money you have to be concerned where it comes from - if he hasn't got it, he hasn't got it. What are you going to do? Take him to the small claim's court?
Even if you are right in principle, the reality is he probably won't be able to find the money.

mummymccar Wed 31-Aug-11 13:25:22

Just a thought - depending on how bad his SEN is, could he have seen DS sitting on the shelf with no consequence and not understood that the consequences could be different for him due to his weight?

I'm a bit shocked you would even consider making him pay towards it. You have no proof at all that he did it and even if he did, it was an accident. He's only just met you so not surprising that he didn't come and 'fess up. He's highly unlikely to have the money himself is he.

mummymccar Wed 31-Aug-11 13:27:10

Jeez you lot are fast, three other people said my point in same time it took me to write it out!

crazygracieuk Wed 31-Aug-11 13:27:52

Did your ds mention to J that the BBQ took his weight? Maybe J sat on it because he thought he'd be ok too.

I wouldn't talk to the parents. The SF could say "Prove it" and you'd only have your son's say so.

I wouldn't ask J for the money either. If he hasn't got savings, he could end up getting the money by dubious means like stealing from his parents then they would be shouting at you.

The only solution is to get J to do some chores to make up for things.

Mitmoo Wed 31-Aug-11 13:28:24

They are children, they didn't break it on purpose which would be different. You let your son sit on it, so you are saying it is ok to sit on. The child with SN just followed what your son was allowed to do.

There is no way I'd ask my son to pay for someone elses accident nor for the other child too regardless of how rich or poor they are. If you invite other children into your garden and stuff gets accidently gets broken that's the risk you assume.

If they deliberately break something that's a different matter altogether, but I don't punish "accidents" only "on purposes".

defineme Wed 31-Aug-11 13:29:33

Just leave it.
You'd set a precedent by sitting your son on the shelf.
A child with sen,even if he is 15, wouldn't understand why they couldn't sit on when your son has.
Not owning up is down to how he's been parented-if he's scared of being hit/whatever then he won't own up.
Your son was probably hiding it out of loyalty to his friend.

If you go round and ask his parents for £40 you are insane-not a good way to start off in a new place.

Whether he is a good fit as a friend is a different matter. The kids on our road all hang out and range from 6 to 12, but I don't let them in the house-far too many/too messy and I end up feeding them all-no one else does either! I let them in the garden, but if I get a sniff of bad behaviour it's everyone out-have chucked them out for swearing.

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