Wanted: Your Parental Two Cents

Help! 

This is a touchy subject.  I wouldn’t be broaching the subject if I wasn’t at my wit’s end.  The whole thing embarrasses me… and Daddy-O.  Apparently, though, it doesn’t embarrass the one person it should!  Frankly, I just do not know what to do about my oldest son.

He steals.  He takes little things from stores – things he can fit in his pockets unnoticed like lip balm or those stupid silly bands.  He pockets small objects, toys mostly, from his cousins – though he is always quick to proclaim innocence and ulterior action.  I believe he pilfers erasers and pencils, etc. from the school book fair but can’t actually confirm it.  And, most recently, he has taken candy from a friend.

This has been going on in various manifestations since he was 3 years old.  The week before his 3rd birthday we went to the party store to buy stuff for his birthday party.  He asked for a mylar balloon.  I said no.  When I put him into his car seat I noticed something sticking out from the pocket of his sweatpants.  He had stuffed them full of latex balloons.  I immediately marched him in to the store and made him return them to the cashier and confess (in front of a long line of customers).  The cashier was embarrassed and dismissive.  “It’s not a big deal”, she said to me in front of Ben.  I stridently disagreed, took my son home and spanked his bottom (with my hand, thank you very much overly-concerned-about-corpal-punishment people). 

A couple of years later he took some lip balm from the local surf shop.  Then went out of his way to show me the item as soon as Daddy-O brought him home.  Busted by his own bragging.  He’s cute but not the brightest bulb in the pack.  Off he went with Daddy-O; back to the surf shop.  We asked that the owner call the police.  (There had been other incidents here and there that I just can’t remember now.)  The owner refused but did give a very appropriate lecture on the distrust for a petty thief and how they will be followed every time they enter a store.  We also made him pay for the item as well as return it.  Hit him in his pocketbook, so to speak. 

Fast forward to the last few months.  I suspect, though cannot prove, that he pilfered copious amounts of pencils and erasers from the book fair at school.  I can’t prove it because he says he bought them.  And he does have money from time to time.  And I don’t keep an inventory of what he has in the art supply category.  So I looked at him suspiciously and asked the question and raised my eyebrow at his response then let it go.  I dropped the ball, I guess.  Perhaps I should have followed up with the school… but I work and I’m busy and gah… that just seems like so. much. trouble….  and maybe a little bit I didn’t really want to know anyway.  sigh.   Same thing with those ridiculous silly bands all the kids are wearing these days.  Daddy-O bought him one pack.  One pack.  Next thing I know he has about 300,000 of them on his arms.  Where are they coming from?  Traded them at school.  Bought them at the market.  Blah, blah.  Again, no proof.  No pudding.  No trust. 

At Christmas time, he lifted a few flies from the Fly Shop in Redding.  I caught him pretty quickly when my Mom-Radar was activated by his suspicious behavior when I walked in the room.  He received a nice and appropriate bare-bottomed spanking and, again, he was taken to the store and forced to confess and return the items. 

Then last night he took a roll of Lifesavers from his buddy.  Stupid Lifesavers! And from a friend!  He’s losing his electronics through the weekend.  He’ll go over tonight and have to look his friend in the eye and tell him he took something from him.  The thing is, I don’t think it’s the first time he’s taken something from friends.  There is a suspicious PS2 game at our house when we never had a PS2.  He says his friend at Nana’s house gave it to him.  I don’t believe him any more.  On the other hand, why would he steal a game for a system we didn’t even have? 

So here is where you come in.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t seem to get anyone to call the police on him.  Obviously, talking to him and shaming him in front of the merchants isn’t working.  He’s getting to that transitional age where things cease to be “stages” and become traits set in stone.  It’s a dangerous, messed up path he’s on.  I have a few ideas gathered from friends over the years of dealing with this.  Most are pretty harsh, which I like.  I feel like it’s going to take a rather large shock to break this cycle.  Here are some of my ideas.  I welcome beg for your feedback and suggestions.

Solution #1:  AN EYE FOR AN EYE.  Take away something of his each and every time he takes something from someone else.  Perhaps give said item to the victim as a form of restitution. 

My thoughts:  All for it, except I am usually the one buying his stuff so I’m really hurting myself.  Him, too, of course.  It’s hard for me to agree to giving away items I’ve worked hard to buy. 

Solution #2:  CAN’T TOUCH THIS.  Make him walk with his hands behind his back whenever he’s in a store/at friend’s house.  Stop him before leaving and publicly search his pockets.

My thoughts:  This one is going to happen regardless but I just don’t think it’s enough. 

Solution #3:  HUMILIATION.  My old sitter suggested this one.  When she had the same problem with her daughter she made a sign that said, “My name is _____ and I am a thief!”  She then had her march in front of the victimized store (I think it was a grocery store) for 30 minutes during rush hour.

My thoughts:  I really, really like this one.  I just don’t know what to do about location.  March up and down in front of his friend’s house?  Or maybe location isn’t the important thing…  Maybe in front of the grocery store for maximum exposure… 

Solution #4:  FORE WARNED IS FORE ARMED.  Make him (or us, perhaps) announce to store managers or parents upon his arrival that he is a thief and bears watching. 

My thoughts:  Nice.  But equally as humiliating for Daddy-O and I.  Don’t know if I’m that strong for the long haul.

Solution #5:  HUMILIATION TAKE TWO.  Make him a t-shirt to be worn either to school for a day or out and about on errands that says roughly the same thing as Solution #3. 

My thoughts:  Schools may deem this abusive.  And I do have concerns about alienating all his friends. 

Now it’s time for YOUR thoughts.  Please, please help. 

Note:  Drive-by’s wishing to only snark at my parenting skills without helpful advice are not welcome and can kiss my, well, you know. 

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13 Responses

  1. No snarking, but much sympathy headed your way. When my dog steals something, it’s usually just a wrestling match to get it back (completely slimed, of course) and since this is the limit of my parental experience with younger ages, I really can’t offer much in the way of suggestions. But I can say that I have been repeatedly and profoundly impressed by the amount of thought and care you put into finding the best way to deal with the issues that come up with both of your boys. You are a good mother, Stell – and you and Daddy-O make a good team. Hang in there!

  2. I don’t have much of a suggestion either…but I own a store where people are often stealing things. I would call the police for you….
    There were 2 little boys once, 1 was really a good kid, the other…not so much….they were gone before I noticed other stuff was too. But I called the police and they had a good talking to. I think the one kid will remember that for a long long long time. The other…was probably just practice.

    Anywho….have you asked him why he takes things? That might give you more ideas if you can get a straight answer.
    I like taking things away. You can really strip his world…that might get his attention.

    • I have stripped his world. But all we get when we ask why he does it is a shoulder shrug. I’ve made an appointment with our family counselor for next week. Perhaps HE can get to the bottom of the “why”…

      • You sound like you’re completely on top of it. I’ve thought about this all day….it’s just…. hard. :)

  3. In this case punishment doesn’t seem to be the answer so the root of the behavior is somewhere else. I think he does it to get attention – negative or positive – it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees himself as odd man out in the family. I am not saying you don’t give him attention because I am sure that you do.

    I would look for a counselor. I think he has something to talk about, something he wants to say.

  4. Good luck to you all today. Hope you get some good answers. :)

  5. You know Stella, I have to say I agree with the person who might think this is a ploy for attention. I know how it goes and I am sure you spend lots of time with Ben, but I also know what I am going through with my son, Colton, since Wyatt was born. I have had to put myself in check many many times because Wyatt needs this or Wyatt needs that or Wyatt has hit an increbible milestone of rolling across the floor. I see how it is affecting Colton. That and the simple fact is that I have a total of 4 children at home who need me in different varying ways. But in reality when Wyatt needs something…no matter what it is, I am quick to run to him (for obvious reasons). At times my running may be running away from Colton and running to Wyatt. I could go on and on about this, becuase it is a struggle I have daily. Colton was the shining star the cutest the most adorable and here comes Wyatt,,,typical but times a thousand because of Wyatt’s blindness. I am sure, again, that Ben gets plenty of your undivided attention, but maybe he is looking for more. For whatever reason I truly believe he is just trying to get a rise out of you…bad or good it gives him the center stage for those fleeting moments. It is all about him for that time. I have seen and read and you are an incredible involved parent…so I know this isn’t going to be a life of crime for your little guy..I think this to shall pass with time. I have a neice that has ADHD and out of 6 of my children 2 have ADD…for some reason my neice was the same way. I believe from what I viewed over time…that the mind of a child with ADHD is one of those who does things and doesn’t think about the repercussions. It was almost as if my neice just couldn’t get it. I will say it didn’t take her long after becoming a teen and getting caught shoplifting once or twice and having to go to court etc. etc. and she quickly saw that that wasn’t the life she wanted. So maybe you should take a trip to the local police station and make friends with a cop or 2 and have them in your back pocket for the next time a situation arises.
    Sorry to ramble on, but I so understand what you are going through. More than you know.

  6. We had a neighbor boy who was a compulsive stealer. When we first moved into this house several years ago, my young (at the time) son was anxious to show his new friend all the baseball cards he had collected. So my son brought out folder album he keeps them in…. then my son went back into our house to get something else. By the time he got back outside, his new neighbor friend was gone & my son’s folder album was sitting on the picnic table…. with about half a dozen cards missing from inside. My son came & found me, frantic that his most treasured cards were gone. I precariously went to the new neighbor’s house & calmly told the mom what had happened. She called her son to the door & sure enough, he had taken the cards… and promptly gave them all back to me, after his mother threatened him with bodily harm. After he was out of earshot again, his mom explained how this type of thing had been a “problem” with the boy since he was little…. and that he was seeing a psychologist for it & was also on medication.

    So I don’t think ridiculing your son or punishing him in any way is going to fix this. It will only make things worse. Get your son in to see a doctor & then perhaps on medication. With both therapy & pharmaceuticals, perhaps this can be straightened around before your son moves on to the big stuff.

    Good luck. I’ll pray.

    • Andrea – We’re hoping we’ve gotten a handle on the whole thing… brought a family councelor in on it plus the school and school’s DARE officer. Good timing because he took a bunch of stuff that week from the book fair at school and got busted by the principal.

      Long story short: intervention by the sherrif, principal and family + being busted by someone outside the family + restitution required (at my suggestion) for the school + trust discussions with councelor = (hopefully) a fully reformed boy. Or at least one with a “clean slate” at this point in time.

  7. Hate to say it, but he needs to talk with someone other than you or Mike. There is a reason he’s doing this. You just haven’t figured out what it is yet. He’s got a lot on his plate for a little guy. Take him to a child psychiatrist or at the very least a psychologist. You may also want to try positive reinforcement. Setting up a chart and every time he doesn’t steal, (verified by search and seize process by Mom and Dad,) he gets a sticker on chart. Ten stickers in a row and gets date with mom or dad, his choice. Just my two cents. Good luck!

  8. Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post.
    Many thanks for providing these details.

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