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.