Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Malika, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I am worried. J is stealing things and lying about it. We were in a pharmacy today and there was a great queue of people, took ages to get served. J was running around touching things, getting scolded by the staff. Then he was playing with a tape measure. When I had finally been served, the assistant (who really was not very sympathetic) made a big thing about where was the tape measure, where had he put it, etc? I asked J, he said (convincingly) he didn't know. In the end we just left, leaving the woman huffing and puffing and looking for the tape measure... I had a funny feeling so I insisted on seeing J's pockets once inside the car. Lo and behold, he had it... I got really angry. He just cannot do this, he has to learn it is wrong, a boundary that cannot be crossed! He then got very upset, throwing himself on me, saying Sorry, Sorry! I turned the car round and though it was hard to do, went back inside with him and gave the tape measure back - I wanted him to do it by himself but he would not. On the way back I was equally angry and he started crying, sobbing. I made him promise he will not do it again... but will he? I don't know what is driving this but I am honestly scared that this is going to just escalate and soon he won't be six years old and sweet and innocent but it'll be the police and god knows what...
  2. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    Calm sense in getting ahead here. Lots of little kids's very common. They see something they want - they take it.

    You did the right thing by making him return it to the store and apologize.

    That MAY be enough to prevent future stealing.

    on the other hand - if it is an "impulse control" issue...the stealing may continue. Next time you are shopping - keep him close to you, remind him not to touch, and check his pockets BEFORE you get to the register.
  3. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Malika... this is "normal". As in... lots of kids this age go through this. This does not point to a life of crime.

    You did the absolute right thing.
    You have to be really watchful, and nail him every time... and HE has to take it back and make it right, every single time.
    Repeat ad nauseum. When he learns that he never gets to keep anything he "takes", the message WILL get through. But it takes lots of repetitive work for both of you.
  4. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    This is a fairly normal stage of development with kids with impulsiveness. I want, I take. You have to make him take anything back to whoever he gets it from as soon as you find it and make HIM own up to stealing it. You dont make his apologies for him, he has to do it and it will stick with him a whole lot longer. Also make sure the people in the stores know not to tell him its okay and he can keep whatever it is because he is so cute. That just makes things far worse.
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Try not to project the future or you'll drive yourself nuts. Take it one day at a time and journal. From experience I strongly encourage you to make him return the item and apologize in person. Some adults will just acknowledge his apology but don't be surprised if one or two give a consequence. With one of the children he was told not to return to that store until a year had passed. Sigh. It is not fun to stand aside and let your little child face the music. on the other hand it is an important life lesson because Moms having fewer and fewer opportunities to intervene as the years go by. Hugs DDD
  6. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I'm glad you took it back, just wish you could have gotten him to go with you. If this is the first instance I wouldn;t be overly concerned but if this has happened before it would cause me to give pause. My difficult child did steal when she was young a few times and I made her go back with me to return it and apologize. She is still stealing and in fact was arrested two months ago for shoplifting. In my heart I believe she will steal all her life. I have no faith that even with the arrest and community service she has to do and the record she now has that she has learned her lesson. I believe there is something in her genes that causes her to have different values than the rest of our family. She has stolen from us many times and the only reason she doesn;t any longer is because she no longer lives here. But I wouldn't ever trust her alone with anything of value.

    I don't say this to cause you alarm, but you adopted your difficult child also and there are genetic properties at work here that even the best of parenting cannot overcome. I truly hope it is a phase but I would watch him crefully.

    My easy child is a kindergarten teacher and for the past two weeks she has had things in her classroom go missing. Mostly it was big bags of candy that she bought with her own money as rewards for the kids. Finally yesterday she found out it was one of her students who always went last in the dismissal line. He had a $12 bag of M&M's in his bookbag that she had behind her desk. He has an older brother and when the principal asked him if he knew he was taking it he said well he wondered where he was getting all this stuff. She asked him if their mother knew and he said yes and that she told him he better stop before he gets caught. Not stop because it was wrong or make him give it back, but stop before he gets caught. And sadly this young child will probably continue stealing all his life.

    Stealing is so much against my values that it made me very upset when I found out difficult child was stealing. I did everything I could to teach her that was wrong but I couldn't.
  7. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    The difficulty is that at this point, at six years and a week old, J really is innocence personified. I talked to him this evening, saying conversationally, "Do you know why it's wrong to steal things, J?" and he just looked genuinely interested and curious and considered for a few moments. Then he said brightly, "No, Mummy, why?" It's obviously meaningless to talk about him being like a mini-criminal at this stage. And equally obviously, given all I know about how things turn out for some difficult children, I'm concerned that this behaviour will not stop.
    I behaved in the moment as best I knew how, getting angry. But I actually don't think this is a helpful response. He was just scared and perplexed by my anger. It must be an impulsiveness problem - and actually so many things J does I don't really understand, I think why the hexx did he do that, and it's the mystery of his impulses which create all this chaos all the time. Well, mini-chaos, relative chaos. He is genuinely sorry afterwards - but really sorry because he has displeased me not because he truly understands he has done something wrong. I think... I suspect... he is actually much younger than his chronological age in terms of this sort of thing - maybe around four? Of course society is not going to understand any of that and so I do have to be really vigilant. He does need to understand, simply, that he is not allowed to steal.
    Interestingly, my ex-husband's young brother, who is actually a really good man at heart who got caught up in alcohol and drug addiction, has just been released from a two year term in prison for stealing, causing much grief and shame to the very religious family. J knows about this and has visited him in prison. So we've talked about that somewhat and I've explained that this happened when his uncle was much younger and when he did a very silly thing that he is now sorry for (which is actually quite true).
  8. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Malika, in that age it really is very common. Even more common with kids with impulsivity issues. In my experience these things start around 4 and, if there are no other problems, die down before around age ten. I would be worried if kid does it all the time, but few times at that age, I think it is quite normal. And yes, you take them to give it back and apologise. Not fun for anyone but it does usually help and kids only do it few times. Both of my kids did it, curiously, if I remember correctly, easy child more times than difficult child, maybe because he had more friends, visited them and had more situations where he was tempted (it most often was a toy from the friend and he denied and claimed he found it.) Also several kids stole my kids' toys. When dealt appropriately it seemed to be something kids did few times (often in rather short period), then stop it and maybe have a other similar period again few years older, that often also including shoplifting. I don't know any of these kids (well except my difficult child) would had had problems with stealing later. And with my difficult child the dynamics have been very different in later situations.
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    J should know it's wrong to steal. He is old enough. He may not understand why, but he knows he shouldn't do it...or else something IS wrong with him. Do you think he may be playing you by acting like he doesn't get it? He is obviously bright.

    When my two boys (remember, Scott was in our family once) were around six, they both stole Star Wars figures from Walmart. They claimed they "found" them. Yay, right. I marched them back to the store and made them tell a security guard what they had done and apologize. They were terrified. The security guard was at least 6'6. He took them for a tour of the store, showing them all the surveillance cameras and said that next time he'd had to call the police. He was nice, but he was also tough.

    As far as I know, they got the picture. I never saw any stray items in the house again. I would say taking something at six one time is a normal thing to try to get away with. Even twice or three times. If it persists, then I would consider it a problem. For now, I would just watch him.

    I know a lot of kids who ended up stealing things when older and getting into big trouble for it. It all depends on their own values and their peers and drugs can play a part as well. For now, just deal with the present :)
  10. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    Oh my. What if.... what if J found this tape measure to amuse himself in this tediously long line and what if, like so many other trinkets or fidgets he pocketed it (without malicious intent) simply to hold onto it while he fidgeted with the next thing? Was he really aware that the line was progressing, you were being helped and he would be immediately accused of taking something? What if at just six, he didn't know how to answer where the tape measure was without being able to assess if he would be in trouble for playing with it or holding? What if he played with it, absent-mindedly pocketed it, was accused of stealing and needed to protect himself from whatever the admission of that accusation might bring and now he's branded a potential criminal simply because his innocent perspective wasn't taken?
  11. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I believe stealing once may be age appropriate. Twice is not and any more than that is a concern. I don't believe that it is normal for kids to steal and if they do they feel so guilty about it that when they are caught they never do it again. on the other hand some kids do not have the same moral compass. Like I said before I think any parent should be concerned when their child steals. If caught and it never happens again you can sigh a sigh of relief. If it is recurring it does not help to convince yourself that all kids do it at that age.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2012
  12. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    I was the absolute poster child for easy child kids, yet I walked out of a store with something once. I had no intention of stealing it, I just didn't process that we were leaving and I needed to put it back.

    One time -- not a big deal. Pattern of behavior (4 or more times) -- big deal.

    Eeyore can only go into stores with us right next to him and a pocket check before we leave -- he just cannot help himself.
  13. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Yes JJJ I agree. My easy child stole a small plastic animal from her preschool when she was 4. She felt so guilty she showed me when she got home. I asked her if she took it and she confessed, cried and I took her back to school to retrun it and apologize. She is now 26 and she just told me tonight that she will never ever forget that as long as she lives.

    My difficult child steals and lies about it and doesn't feel the least bit sorry except that she got caught. She knows which stores use sensors and which ones will prosecute. I guess she messed up this last time when she got arrested. I have no doubt she will steal again.

    Both raised by the same parents in the same house under the same rules.
  14. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Working with our favorite therapist... we were told that there are three types of kids when it comes to stealing - not just two. Some get caught once and it's the end of it. Some never learn. But some... will go through a spell, and it could be a couple of years. If they are caught consistently and handled consistently (never able to keep what was stolen, for starters), some kids do eventually catch on. So, even if it is a pattern, it is worth continuing to deal with it, especially through the early school years.
  15. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Oh, no worries, if ever this happens again, I will certainly deal with it :) No way I could see my child stealing something and take no action. I'm really not sure how to judge this one. I think a child of six not really understanding it is wrong to steal from shops is proof more of innocence than of corruption - it is hard to explain this and I know many people will disagree! Most people who steal must know it is wrong but just don't care, or care about something else more. It is definitely something J has a tendency to do - there was a time when he was about three when he took a packet of chewing gum from a store and of course the same happened, I took him back and made him say sorry before giving it back. I am concerned about it. But I think I cannot write it off - despite my fear :) - as meaning that it is now set in stone that J is going to become an irredeemable thief and criminal. I imagine that how it is handled from now on, if there is another incident, will be significant. Sometimes I think that, with children of certain pyschologies, getting angry and being really heavy duty about this sort of thing makes them very convinced that they are bad and it increases the behaviour, out of anger and low self-esteem. But he needs to understand, he really needs to understand, that it is against moral codes and legal codes...
    I've just asked him why he put it in his pocket and he said it was because he wanted to measure things at school...
  16. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    And THAT is a hint for what he needs to do with his birthday money... he needs to buy himself a tape measure.
    Teach him how to REALLY get the stuff he wants.
  17. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Jamie, my now cop, stole a lollipop from a store when he was about 4. I figured it was bound to happen eventually and told him he had to go into the store and tell the people what he had done. Now this lollipop hand already been licked so taking it back was useless but I had taken it from him when I saw it. He did have a piggy bank with small change he collected around the house. He had practically no concept of money at the time except it was "monies" but I did make him take some of that change with him which made him quite upset and we went to the store and he had to hand it over. I had to stand behind him so that the store manager would actually take the money and be stern with him because it was such a small item. I mean really, they give lollipops out at the banks and he figured if he saw them out on the shelf that he could take just one. That was a hard one to explain to him.

    Well he finally got the picture and he was very upset with himself because he always wanted to be the cop in cops and robbers. He basically always knew what he wanted to be.
  18. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yeah, but it's all in the moment with him, IC. He wanted a tape measure in that second, in that moment - he doesn't really want one and he doesn't want one now. Besides, we already have two at home... I just feel like he is immature in some ways, though bright in others. I agree that normally a child of six would have got it that stealing is wrong; he really doesn't seem to understand that clearly yet. I feel like his really clearly comprehending that is going to be delayed. Oh - and J has wanted to be a policeman since the age of about two!
  19. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    You wouldn't be the first parent to have a nice police officer have a little chat with your child about stealing if you decided to go that route, either. It really is common in that age group, as I'm sure many cops who have done this little chat could tell you.
  20. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yes, funnily enough, HaoZi, I am thinking of doing exactly that! Getting a uniformed policeman - if I can find a nice one, all the ones I have encountered here have seemed rather scarily unsympathetic! - to have a chat with J. That way, he simply cannot say he does not know.