difficult child's stealing has reached a whole new level - HELP!?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by tessaturtle, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. tessaturtle

    tessaturtle New Member

    difficult child escalated with his stealing by opening SO's wallet yesterday and taking $20 from it. difficult child did this while SO was outside working on his car on his day off from work. difficult child was the only one in the house and decided to help himself! We discovered the theft only after he and daughter were picked up by their bio-mom, SO's ex, for their weekend with her - so SO texted difficult child, who at first pretended as if he didn't know what SO was talking about. In between, SO was trying to text & call the ex to have her get the $ back from difficult child. SO got difficult child to confess via texting. Once we finally got a hold of the ex, she at first didn't believe until SO told her about the texted confession - she then said "oh my god...that's not good." Yay she gets it :/

    She texted later to let us know that she got the $ back from difficult child. She also said she hopes SO is thinking up a good consequence since, she reported, difficult child didn't care that he got caught or that he took the $ and showed no remorse at all. I texted her back that we have noticed that before, this is nothing new to us, and that he appears to have no empathy for people. She said she is disturbed by this (welcome to the club) - but good news is that for the moment, she now sees the reality of difficult child.

    difficult child has stolen before - for years - from little toys from peers at school or after-school programs/camps, to money from peers, his sister, and my mother. He is the king of denial and even when its obvious, he will spin so many stories he can't keep a single on straight (I think he really believes the lies he tells). We have called the local pd on him before for various things, including the stealing $ from his sister, but they have done little to nothing. He is very disrespectful to the police officers who do come over and seems to have no respectful fear of them as most kids would. Of course he has been grounded before for these types of things too.

    Going through his dad's wallet to purposefully take money hits a whole new lever. We are hurt, angry, stunned, etc. Now we have to decide what would be the appropriate consequence - we can't just ignore it, we can't go overboard (as much as we feel we want to, but that's the anger), but it definitely needs much more than a grounding for a few days....And of course this comes after he got so many things for Christmas and before CHristmas (signed up for the school snowboarding program, new skateboard & helmet, new video games, video camera, etc.)

    Any thoughts? ANyone been through the same thing? PLease help bring perspective to us...
  2. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello. I'm sorry this has happened and can imagine how distressing it is.
    Is there any chance your boy is taking drugs? Why did he steal the money do you think?
    I would imagine you have to get him to "earn" the money back by doing work around the house, for example, but the problem obviously goes beyond punishment. He needs to understand that stealing is wrong and unacceptable and it sounds like at the moment he is unable/unwilling to see that and that consequences aren't helping him see that. Does he see a psychiatrist or therapist? This is surely something to take to them if so.
    Stealing has many causes. Stealing from a wallet... it's rather obvious, isn't it, and if he is of normal intelligence he would have realised he would most likely get caught. Did he in fact want to be caught? I am just stabbing in the dark here but... there seems to be something more than meets the eye here.
    Others will have good advice and suggestions. These are just a few thoughts.
  3. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    Are you sure you aren't talking about MY son?

    Yep.....we've been in your shoes. Money, clothes, food, video games, movies, home decor.....and all of THAT was just from INSIDE our home. He has stolen from our friends, our family, kids at school and even HIS friends. I have advice but it will take work and you ALL have to be on the same page.

    1. Invest in some good deadbolts. Unfortunately these do not go on outer doors of your home. These go on the inside doors. First one goes on your bedroom door and anything of interest to your difficult child is locked in there.....at ALL times. husband is outside working on his car? If he doesn't have his wallet in his pocket, it is locked in your room. If you aren't physically carrying your purse......it is locked in your room. I don't care if you are only in the next room, that door is LOCKED. Keys are kept seperate from your normal key chains and are on your person at ALL TIMES. If you need to keep a spare somewhere, be VERY VERY CAREFUL where you keep it. NO ONE else can know where it is....NO ONE.

    2. A natural consequence of difficult child stealing is that he is ALWAYS within sight of you, husband or a responsible (and on the same page) ADULT. No ifs, ands, or buts. And I do mean ALWAYS.

    3. Depending on how bad the stealing gets, you may have to scale down the items in your home that are acessible to anyone. There were times I couldn't even leave knick-knack items out or they would disappear or be taken apart.

    4. Another form of discipline....and this one REALLY takes some effort and a very secure area, is to strip your difficult child's room of EVERYTHING. He gets his clothes, a mattress, blanket and possibly a pillow. That's IT. If you're really in a giving mood.....he can have his door but everything else is gone. It would be up to you as to how he would earn items back but you HAVE to be consistent. You also have to have some place to store the rest of his stuff where he can not get to it.

    5. All outbuildings, sheds, garage, etc. are kept locked and secure AT ALL TIMES. Not only can these areas be storage for you but they can also act as hiding places for stolen property.

    6. Be aware of what is in your home/outbuildings, etc. and also what is in your neighborhood. We had a vacant house next door for awhile. Turns out, the garage was where our difficult child had stashed some stolen items.

    Obviously, some of these ideas would need to be adjusted to fit individual situations but I can give more advice if needed. Our difficult child.....and I'm not telling you this to scare you, this is just our life......is now in prison for three felony counts of burglary because he kept the attitude of "If I want it, I'm taking it". He too is Bipolar, ODD, ADHD and more I"m sure. The combination of little to no impulse control and the entitlement issues of BiPolar (BP) make for a dangerous beast who lives within our kids and takes what he wants and doesn't care.

    If counseling isn't an option for your difficult child.....although I would try it if you haven't already.....you may want to go yourselves. It not only gives you an outlet for your own frustrations and concerns but can also help bring you both (or all) together on the same page of what is going on and what needs to be done.

    I feel for you....I've been there.
  4. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    Oh and also.....any rooms that are locked inside your home need to be secure. Our difficult child once broke into our room by removing the window AC unit because I didn't think to secure the window so it didn't open even more. Imagine that you live in a high crime area and secure accordingly. It hoovers but with a sticky fingered difficult child, it's a necessity.

    And if it's not feasible to install a lock on your daughter's door, you may have to keep her precious items in your room or in a secure area.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2011
  5. tessaturtle

    tessaturtle New Member

    Thank you for the responses so far :) TO answer a few questions raised:
    No chance he is taking drugs - not only have we not seen any of the other signs of that, we have always either caught the money before he spent it and in the few times we didn't, we saw what he spent it on (uses it to go buy food, drinks, fishing lures - all of which he has PLENTY of at home). He most definitely gets a "high" off spending money, whether he needs the items he buys or not. In fact he was acting quite giddy before he got picked up by his mom last night - which helped connect the dots once we realized the $ was missing. We do know that this is very typical of bipolar (getting a happy high with money).

    Locking things up - SO has mentioned this many times and so have I...usually we say it to each other and to him as "it really stinks to feel like we have to lock everything up if we leave the room or house..." YOu offer good suggestions that we may have to look into now.

    Taking everything out of his room - this has been recommended to us before both by his previous therapist and the officers - we have done close to that before - will def consider it all the way this time

    Therapy? Oh god yes, he has been seen by professionals since he was 4 or 5 years old, after he stabbed his mother in the leg with a pen when she told him "no". He was with one place for 8 years and we switched him when he reached the teen years because it seemed to have hit a wall with them. He sees a psychologist now every 2 weeks and goes to the best children's hospital in the state for his medications given by a psychiatrist. His new psychologist (going on 2 years now) is the one who added conduct disorder to his diagnosis.

    Prison -sorry to hear that about your son :( We have already discussed that amongst ourselves and his psychologist that if nobody can reach him, then he is most likely going to end up in jail if he continues this behavior. Also, I don't know how much more can be done aboutreaching someone if they don't have empathy or a conscience...?
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    wow, he has some serious problems. I'm sorry. When a child shows no remorse, perhaps that is the scariest part of all this. I do have a question: Was his very early life chaotic in any way? Was his birth hard, was he sick, did he have surgery, is he adopted, was he transferred from one caregiver to another? Is your husband is biological father and, if not, is his biological father similar to him? Is sister badly affected by this? How does she deal with it?

    Although you say he is not using drugs now, be careful...he has the type of personality that could be attracted to menacing kids and could do this later on. Stealing is a huge red flag for drugs...so are lowering grades and hanging around with kids who are not particularly the best. I hope he does not go there.

    One last question: How was his early development?

    We are all here to support you through these difficult times. We have all gone through "stuff" or are going through it now.
  7. compassion

    compassion Member

    Oh yes, I have been dealing with this every day. One thing I try is to have her repay the money. She gets an allowance and I will take some off each day until it is repaid. This is also a brameter of how unstable she is. Like last night she got into the car and took all of her medications: it is hostage taking behavior to hold ransom. We are talking months of medications,so offered her cash to get them back. It worked. There is tons of power and control stuff. It is exhasuting. We have also found that hard as we try to secure stuff she somehow repeatedly outsmarts us. This week she has hacked into electronic accounts and so far we have foiled every attempt but it is extremely time consuming. What Star shared about locking stuff down is important and we do our best but I live in a home not a jail or treatment center. I also try to reinforce give money for stuff like going to meetings, school, p-doctor and t-doctor and give coupons (not cash) for fun activites like moives and bowling. Detatchment is a huge tool. Honesty is so important for me but I do beleive this is part of her illnesses. P-doctor says it is largely her conduct disorder. Safety plan and protecting self I find and acceptance. No way can I have any cash sitting out,it is the impulsivity,esp. when she is not stable. I am not even carrying around one dollar bills for my Al-anon meetings. I am now sleeping on my money, cell phones. We are locking doors at all times. I do beleive it is illness and not badness. Do my bestto rienforce the pistive and prosocial one day at a time. Never give up hope. I try to celebrate the baby steps and stqay postive through the frustarting behavior.
  8. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I see a disconnect... and there may be more than one possible explanation, but you need to find out the root...
    It could be a mental-health issue - I don't have direct experience with that, just know its out there.

    It could also be a relationship issue - insecure attachment, doesn't really trust anybody in his life, is looking to "take" what ever he can get, to try to "survive"... This one is serious, Attachment issues can start when they are very young - or, a child with fairly secure attachment can become detached, due to experiences... anything from abuse (that you may not know about... such as at daycare or school or a friends house), to major difficulties at school that are being labelled as "attitude" and "behavior" issues but really are not (there's lots of disorders and disabilities that are often missed)...

    Its definitely a major problem.
    Need to fight it on two frongs - take all steps possible to prevent it from happening, and then try to get to the bottom of it, because the only long-term solution is to get to the bottom of it all.
  9. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Is there any chance that your police dept or jail has a beyond scared straight program? I would contact them and ask them about that.

    Other than that, you can charge him if you so wish. You can also make him work off the money or items he steals with hard labor at double the price he stole. Say he stole the $20...make him work off $40 in chores at $5 per hour in either digging holes or hauling bricks back and forth across the yard. Make it something that is uncomfortable for him and something he wont like to do and he will remember. We used carrying firewood. Cory and Jamie moved firewood from one location to the other back and forth.
  10. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    Janet's ideas are good too but of course.....that's assuming the person is willing. My son was sooooooo stubborn that the only way I could have made him do something he didn't want to do was to physicall move his body for him. Literally.

    Other people have also tried "stealing" from the difficult child. However, this is sometimes dangerous because once the difficult child realizes he has been stolen from, the mushroom cloud can be seen for miiiiiiiiles. Also, a lot of our kids just don't make the connection and it does no good.

    You may not make an impact on your difficult child as for right/wrong and you may have to live behind locked doors in your own home until he's out of the house. Unfortunately, with a difficult child in the house, it's necessary. My difficult child had his own place before he went to jail and then prison. In the time since he originally moved out.....it has been WONDERFUL in our house. I can't tell you when we last locked our bedroom door. I can buy anything I want and not worry about it disappearing. We can leave our Wii hooked up (gasp) ALL THE TIME now!

    People with easy child's probably won't ever understand but if I have ANYTHING to say about it, difficult child will NEVER live here again. EV-VER. I put my time in behind locked doors and I'm not about to do it again. I'm sorry you are only at the beginning of that life.
  11. tessaturtle

    tessaturtle New Member

    All good questions, I'll try to answer:
    Yes, husband/SO is difficult child's biological father and there are no apparent mental health issues on his side of the family. Bio-mom's is a different story, she exhibits many symptoms of bipolar but will not admit she has it, her sister and one brother has it, her grandmother and her uncle have it, and her own bio-mom abandoned her at the age of 5 or 6. From birth to about 3 they (husband,biomom, and difficult child) husband worked out at sea during the day and when he came home at night, he took care of difficult child while biomom went to bartend and typically would not come home until 2-3 in the morning. Close friends at that time (worked with husband) and who remain our close friends told me that biomom did not pay much attention to difficult child and he would resort to climbing up doors and such to get attention. At age 3-4 husband was away with the merchant marines, they were back in the states. At age 4, his younger sister, daughter, was born, husband came home due to significant medical complications with daughter. She had a trach tube until she turned about 3 - difficult child's therapists have stated that he developed intense jealousy of her at that time and has never gotten over it (he has stated and admitted that he hates her to this day - not in the normal sibling love/hate relationship). Bio-mom has had a history of 'pawning' off the kids to various relatives and friends to watch them during her time with them- she also has a very unstable housing history and employment history - thus the reason we took them in full-time 5 years ago.

    daughter is extremely resilient and has perfect grades and is very helpful, active, etc. We recognize that she probably expects herself to be too perfect to compensate for watching us deal with her brother, but we make sure she has plenty of extra curricular activities available and opportunities to get away. Her teachers have said she is "gifted" and they provide extra academic work to keep her interested and at her level. She has quirks, almost like an aspie and doesn't get jokes/sarcasm, but it works for her :)

    difficult child goes to a specialized day school - and he had IEP's since he was school age. He does have learning disabilities along with his emotional handicap. He says he has friends, but in reality he only has one kid who hangs out with him. He also just recently stopped wetting the bed (once the guanfacine/tenex and buspar were discontinued, his bedwetting stopped). We do recogznize that he is extremely vulnerable to bad influences and also predators as he has no friends and he has had no problem in the past with asking strangers for car rides and going into strangers homes to use the phone.

    sorry this response was so long! There were some great questions though! Oh and as far as working things off, we have tried that in the past and difficult child just will not lift a finger!
  12. Methuselah

    Methuselah New Member

    Hi Tessaturtle, although all my difficult children steal, it is my difficult child 2 I consider a true thief. She has stolen as long as she has been a part of our family. If she sees something she wants, she feels she has the right the take it. It isn't compulsive or impulsive, as she is very patient in timing the steal to lessen the chance of her getting caught. She will still from anyone or anywhere--family, friends, students, teachers, the congregation at church, etc.. Doesn't matter who, it matters what. Nothing changes her behavior. Never has and never will, because she feels NO guilt, NO remorse, NO shame. Never, ever has. When she gets caught, she doesn't learn stealing is wrong; she learns stealing it THAT WAY is wrong. She just hones her skills. And she is very, very good, so she rarely gets caught. She will charm you with one hand and steal with the other. If she is caught, she is very, very good at creating a very, very believable story or lie about who and why she has the stolen good. I've spent forever policing her and protecting her from others. It's exhausting.

    I keep my purse in a safe and my PCs have lock-boxes to keep their valuables locked up tightly. We police everywhere she goes, as she is never alone. To us, to let her go anywhere by herself is like allowing a pedophile to go to the park--we're just asking for trouble.

    I wish I could give you advice. When I hear someone has a child who steals, I always ask "Are they able to hold themselves accountable? Do they feel badly/guilty/shameful for stealing?" difficult child 2 deson't feel badly at all. After she steals from someone, she is able to chat with them as if, instead of stealing from them, she had made some charitable contribution in their behalf. It is bizarre, bafffling and exhausting. I'm interested in reading more of this thread.
  13. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Ok...there was a reason I asked about early years being chaotic.

    Kids without consciences often have had serious lack of attachment in their very early years and learned not to trust anyone but themselves, thus they develop attachment disorders which look like "I take care of myself and forget you! I don't care about you! If I don't look out for me...who will?" Even a great deal of love does not cure this...it requires a lot of intensive therapy with a therapist who truly understands attachment issues. And most don't. I'm not sure, of course, if this child is acting out due to lack of attachment, but it is possible. I am going to post a link about attachment disorders. The kids are about THE most difficult kids that exist because they don't feel that the world is a safe place or that anybody except them will make sure they are ok...and they have little respect for the rights of others. Here are links both explaining attachment issues and to a book about it that I feel is a good one:

    Reactive attachment disorder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Amazon.com: Attachment, Trauma, and Healing: Understanding and Treating Attachment Disorder in Children and Families (9780878687091): Terry M. Levy, Michael Orlans: Books

    Good luck. See if this rings a bell.
  14. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi there, sorry for you and really sorry for difficult child... sounds like he is a hurt kid. I agree with MWM, sounds like attachment problems are a big part of the mix. From the being passed around, to having a sib who needed extra attention, to mental health issues from mom that may have made her not be able to respond to her baby appropriately for the first few years, and dad being deployed. radkids.org is another site as well as attach-china.org which is not only for kids who are adopted...just started that way.

    Glad you found this group. Sounds like you will be able to relate to us as much as we can to you! Hope you can find some answers and support.
  15. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Kanga is a lot like this. For the last couple of years, the tdocs have explained that there is little hope that she will develop the internal motivation to be good so they are trying to get her to buy into an external structure that will motivate her to be good (positives: get a job, have people like her; negatives: get fired, get arrested). Kanga sees it as a game and they are trying to restructure her thinking so that winning the game means meeting societal norms and getting the social and material rewards rather than just taking what she wants or doing what she wants so that she gets the material stuff but not the social rewards.
  16. Methuselah

    Methuselah New Member

    JJJ, the problem with the external motivator theory is, with kids like Kanga and my difficult children, they figure a way to get around the external motivator and still get what they want. They move from out right stealing to conning someone out of their possessions. It is a way for them to save face but still get what they want. It ends up being another dishonest way for them to "have their cake and eat it, too". My difficult children, especially difficult child 2, are master cons. They figured out early you are less likely to get in trouble if you can con someone into giving you the item then stealing it outright. When you are sweet, pretty and polite, it seems to be true. :-(
  17. tessaturtle

    tessaturtle New Member

    @ Methusela - your first post def describes our difficult child to a tee - no guilt remorse, and will talk sweet nothings to you as if nothing ever happened. Your second post in relation to what JJJ posted, rings true for our difficult child as well - I can't tell you how many school try the whole prizes for rewards for good behavior thing until they finally get what we tell them - doesn't work with him - he is incredibly smart in that way that he will do wha tyou want at that moment to get the little trinket, come home and then either throw it away or put it in the giveaway bag (for salvation army or goodwilll) and then return to bad behavior the next day.

    @ MWM, thanks for the info - I definitely know the sites, and have pretty thorough knowledge of attachment issues through my work - I work in the "system" and unfortunately know all to well through our foster kids and abuse/neglect kids how difficult attachment issues are. THankfully (or not) due to this knowledge I have raised the question with difficult child's therapists and husband that he may have attachment issues on top of his bipolar.

    @Buddy - thanks for the welcome, although I have technically been here since 2007, but just do not get the time/opportunity to post and/or respond as much as I would like due to a very busy household! :)
  18. tessaturtle

    tessaturtle New Member

    Oh, also an update - husband/SO called our local PD and updated them on difficult child's latest (they know him quite well - both the good and the bad - jeckyl and hyde?!) And they asked us to type up a statement, photograph the texted confession, and that they felt (and agreed with us) that they will most likely petition him. While we are not thrilled to be entering the Court arena with him - this is the only logical next step for us to access more services that he currently can't get. On our end, we gave him 2 weeks complete groundation (no friends, no priveleges - ie electronics, bike, skateboard) and then after 2 weeks he can hang with friends (he only has one) but he has the rest of the month off from the electronics, skateboards, etc. - his prized possessions). He also knows that the police want to petition him - he must think we are bluffing because he seems COMPLETELY unfazed by any of it.
  19. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    Mine thought that way. Right up until the day when he found himself in jail facing SERIOUS time and Mom and Dad couldn't do anything about it.