How to Tell Your Parents That You Broke Something

Honest confession is best when you break something.
... Steve Baccon/Photodisc/Getty Images

Honesty is the best policy for most parent-child relationships, so if you've broken something valuable, the best approach is to gather your courage and speak to your parents as soon as possible. Although you can't undo the damage that was done, you can prevent the situation from becoming worse. If you truthfully explain to your parents exactly what happened, they'll be more likely to accept the situation and move forward.

Prepare yourself for the conversation by deciding in advance what you will say and how you'll say it. Consider having a friend role play with you so you can rehearse what you'll say.

Choose a good time to speak to your parents. Don't interrupt them if they're in the middle of something important. Try to approach them when they seem to be in a good mood, but don't wait too long. You'll want your parents to learn about the broken item from you, not from someone else or by seeing the damage first. The KidsHealth website suggests asking your parents for permission before you start speaking. For example, you could say, "I have something I need to talk to you about; do you have some time now?"

Recognize that taking responsibility for your actions is the mature thing to do. Although your parents will probably be disappointed that something was broken, they are likely to appreciate the maturity you demonstrate by stepping up to tell them about it.

Start the conversation by reminding them they taught you to value honesty and that you're telling them about the breakage because you want to be honest with them. All parents want their children to be honest, so this approach is likely to soften their hearts toward you.

Understand your parents' point of view. If you've damaged things before, they'll be more worried about what seems to be an ongoing pattern of destructive or careless behavior. And even if you haven't broken things in the past, they have a right to be upset if you've damaged something important to them or to your family.

Explain exactly what happened. Don't be evasive. If your parents feel you're leaving out parts of the story, they might be more upset than if they see you're being honest about the circumstances. This means accepting responsibility for your error in judgment. For example, you might say, " I know I should have been more careful when I was putting on my coat, but I swung my arms too wide and bumped the vase on the table."

Show remorse. Your parents will be reassured if they can see that you regret the mistake you made and are likely to never repeat it. Parents want to trust their children. If you show them how sorry you are, they will know you're unlikely to do it again. For example, if you loaned an expensive camera to your friend who dropped it, tell your parents you will not allow friends to borrow valuable items in the future.

Imagine what your parents might say in response to the bad news and be the one to say it first. For example, if you think they might say, "You are so irresponsible," say, "I know it was so irresponsible of me" before they have the chance. The Huffington Post reminds us that parents are usually predictable, so you might be able to anticipate what they're going to say. If you verbalize what they're thinking, it helps them know you understand their feelings.

Offer to make restitution. If you have your own money, discuss a payment plan. If you don't work, suggest doing additional chores for your parents to help compensate them for the financial loss.

Be a good listener. Your parents will have things they want to say in response. Stop talking and let them vent if they need to. Accept the lecture as part of the consequences they might impose. Taking responsibility for your actions means accepting the consequences with good grace.

  • If your parents tend to over react whenever you do something wrong and you feel threatened, confide in a school counselor or family doctor for professional advice. Family counseling might be necessary.

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.