Q.Once, when I was about 9, I was upstairs in my room practicing to be a cave man when I grew up, throwing spears at my stuffed Dalmatian (who eventually sustained a fatal neck wound) and, in a moment of ineptitude, speared the window instead. The cost of the new glass came from a combination of allowance and extra household chores, and I learned something about replacing windows by supervising my father when he put in the new one.
But what about the etiquette of damage to property outside the family -- the neighbor who gets a fly ball through a large plate glass window? Is it the same as for adult damage -- two offers to make the damage good, followed by a nosegay if both are refused? (The nosegay would probably take the form of offering to mop up or do other chores in the damaged house.)
A.Not exactly. When a child hits a fly ball through someone else's window, there are two damaged parties who need to be satisfied. One is the property owner, who is all too likely to consider that children are unlikely to have enough money to buy windows, and may be more of a nuisance than a help in doing chores. Depending on whether that person played softball as a child, he is therefore apt to extract only a friendly promise to play farther away from his house, or to satisfy himself with a snarl at parents who are so careless as to have children who have accidents.
The other damaged party therefore consists of the parents, who should be less easy to placate. It's not their window, but it's their child. In addition to salvaging their own neighborhood reputation, they must teach the child that someone has to pay for damage, no matter how excusable, and that the perpetrator is the appropriate one. They must therefore insist and direct the sort of restitution you describe your parents having required, in the hope that the child does not, in fact, grow up to be a cave man.