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Kids Break Stuff

QUESTION: Tanya in Canada is calling because her 11-year-old daughter broke a plasma TV at a birthday party. Should they pay for this TV? Dave tells Tanya what he’d do.

ANSWER: I think how this is resolved is depending on whether my kid goes on that property again. Your daughter won’t know this kid by the time she’s in college—I’ll tell you that. It’s not going to change her life much. I would do one of two things in our situation. I guess Sharon and I would have to pray about it and talk about it.

We would just write a check and pay for it and just not worry about it. That would be one thing and just not think anything more about it, but I probably would really monitor my kid being over there anymore because the next time she breaks something, it could be a Ming Dynasty vase or something. I just have no idea with these people what I’m going to be liable for next.

The other thing is if that kid’s over there playing at your house and she breaks her arm, you know you’ve got to pay for everything. You’ve kind of got to think about how these people are acting regardless of how this goes down.

To be overly generous, we might just write a check and buy the TV. That would be one thing. The other possibility, if you don’t want to go that route, would require that you just call them up and say, “Hey, guys, we’d like to have a cup of coffee and talk through this. We don’t want to be turkeys or anything. We’re just kind of wondering how we get the whole thing. The kids were misbehaving while in your house, and there are three kids involved. We’re willing to do whatever. We’re not worried about it, but we just wanted to talk it through with you face-to-face instead of just making a $900 decision over the telephone.” Then just see how their spirits are and how they act and react. That’s going to determine how much interaction we have going forward as well and how much interaction my daughter has with their kid going forward.

I might do that just to try to be able to figure out how I want my kid’s involvement with them. Our kids have done a lot of stuff, and a lot of kids have done stuff in our house. I’m like you. I’ve never called anybody and asked them to pay for stuff that was broken in our house. You break your arm on somebody else’s trampoline, it’s because you broke your freaking arm. You don’t turn around and sue them. We had a trampoline in the backyard, and those things are freaking dangerous. One of the neighborhood kids broke his arm, and the parents were very cool. This was many years ago, but they just said, “Hey, the idiot fell off a trampoline. We took him to the hospital and fixed his arm. Every kid does that.” We couldn’t pay them. They wouldn’t let us. We had another case where a kid got hurt at the lake. It was a pretty bad thing, and we really did want to help that family. We weren’t in any way liable. We just wanted to and were in a position to. That was almost kind of a quasi-generous thing rather than a liability thing.

The way I always look at this, and maybe I’m wrong, but to me the spirit of the way people approach things concerns me more than the money. You’ve got the money. You make $90,000. If you want to write the check, write the check. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. If you’re going to deal with it, deal with it in person though. Don’t make a phone call or write a letter or something like that. They’re just around the corner. Call them and have a cup of coffee with them and just sit down and go, “I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page—how this happened. We’re not trying to be turkeys. We’ll give you the money. We just want to know where your head is on this.” See if they start backpedaling a little bit, and then you kind of know who you’re dealing with going forward.

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