Thursday, May 6, 2010


Okay parents. What is the theraputic parenting response for stealing money? Calvin took money this week, I think about 12 dollars and I noticed it gone after he got on the bus. Then I called the school and left a message for a teacher to call me. They just called and he is at the book fair trying to buy books for other kids with all his riches and he bought freezies yesterday for his friend D.

He is so busted. The staff busted him and told him that I knew. The support worker just called and said the look of remorse on his face was instant. She thinks he is afraid of what is going to happen when he gets home... nothing like a little fear to scare you into behaving. I did let them know that if he starts to have trouble to call me and I would come and get them because there is no reason for them to have to pick up the pieces.

Now I am a little to emotional and frankly far to biased because I stole as a kid all the time, from anyone and everyone, I know how he feels and I understand why he did it but I do not want to let him off the hook nor do I want to over react.

So what should we do about it...

PS I am thinking that I will let Fudge spend that same amount of money on anything he wants.... is that to mean or would it send the right message?


Diana said...

You've actually set up a GREAT opportunity for healing here for both of you. While he's at school today, make a list of all the reasons you stole stuff as a kid. Answer the questions

Why did I do it
What was driving it
What were you trying to communicate by doing it?
Why didn't you stop
What underlying need wasn't being met in my life at the time?
How did I feel when I was stealing stuff
Did stealing meet that need or did it just leave me more empty?
Did I get punished for it?
How did I feel when I got punished for stealing
Was the punishment effective?
How did I feel AFTER I stole stuff?

Be brutally honest in those answers yourself. If you are truly honest, they will likely hurt...a lot! Give yourself permission for it to hurt.

Now, when you've done with all that, make a list of healthier ways you could have had your needs met and what you wish someone else would have done when you stole stuff. What could they have done that would have made me not need to steal anymore?

Whew! Once you've done that, now look at your son. Why do you think he did what he did? Stay focused on why he did it and what you think he thought the payoff for him will be. What did he want to accomplish by this?

Did he want a book...or does he want friends and is trying to buy them?

Was he thinking about stealing as a bad choice...or was he afraid he would be the only kid at school that wasn't buying books at the book fair?

I'm willing to bet that whatever the reasons were that he did it, it wasn't about money and it wasn't about the books.

How do you most effectively deal with it, then? Look first at what need he was trying to meet and address that. Use your own scripts of what you wish someone would have done or seen or heard by your own cleptic behavior and then let your son know you heard his message and that you are willing to fill his need in a more healthy way.

If you don't see it right off the bat, keep digging until you find what is really driving that need. Most likely, when you really get to the roots of what is driving him, you will see stress, overwhelm, shame and fear. Fear won't ever drive him to behave in positive ways. It will do just the opposite.


waldenbunch said...

Great response from Diana. My only additional thought is about restitution. He should have to work to pay you back that money. And letting him serve you in some way to make up for all your worrying and time (foot massage, doing one of your chores, etc.) I really hate the stealing aspect because it becomes a trust issue for me. But getting to the source of it should help.

Elly said...

I'm not a parent and haven't had to deal with this situation, but I don't like the dragging Fudge into the conflict. What if this makes him uncomfortable, or makes Calvin resent him?

Charmingjessie said...

We recently had a stealing situation at my house. My stepson stole a video game belonging to my friend's son who has special needs and stays with us sometimes. I had to play the b*tch card with this one. He does chores around the house everytime he is here to earn money to put toward a new game. And when he got all A's this six weeks, instead of us buying him a new video game, he had to go pick out a new game for the boy that he stole from and hand deliver it. He still owes us around $20 for the rest of the game. Until he pays it back, he's not allowed to play video games at our house. I bought myself a Harry Potter PS3 game that I play in front of him. Harsh, yes, but I want the lesson to be deeply and painfully learned that stealing is NEVER okay.

Mom 4 Kids said...

I don’t feel that I have an answer for you, just more thought evoking questions for you to consider. This is definitely a challenging teachable experience. Stealing is criminal and so none of us want our children to truly believe that criminal behavior is okay. It is not. But our hurt kids have such a hard time learning the lessons they need to for a productive life, which is definitely your ultimate goal. You have communicated that well through out your blog.

My first thought is how much of this “do gooder” behavior is to win some friendships there at school where he has recently had some trouble, a bullied kid trying to buy friends? I don’t know your sons full situation there at school so these are just questions.

I really love Diana’s recommendations about looking at your own childhood situation and what motivated you to make those choices. Perhaps Calvin will feel more connected with what you teach knowing that Mom made those mistakes and learned a better way.

I feel confident that you will come to the right way to handle it and I can’t wait to hear how it all goes!

BT said...

I love Diana's reply. I would focus on getting to the bottom of the emotions. Since you have a stealing background (!), you sharing your emotional basis for that should be a great way to get Calvin to open up a bit. The opening up is a HUGE issue for us with our P -- he has become a lot more willing/able to talk about feelings, but we went through years when he would just clam up and it would be downhill RAD from there if we pushed at all. But the minute I would start talking saying "I imagine you felt x, ..." -- and especially if I could add something along the lines of "I felt like that once when I was a kid (or even when an adult), and give an example..." -- he would be raptly listening and it would sometimes make him cry. I think it was just the sense that someone understood him and could help him articulate some really incredibly difficult feelings.

We have been through the wringer with stealing, and I know it is not fun and it is infuriating and, for me at least, it is terrifying. Try not to leap 10 years ahead in your thinking and start picturing that you're raising a criminal. Diana is right that it is totally not about the money or stolen object. But that thinking is so hard!

One thing we have always tried to do is have P come up with a way to do what we call "make it right." We often require him to come up with 2 or 3 different ideas for how he can set right the situation he's created. I like him to have to see that there might be multiple ways to heal a situation. Sometimes all of the may be necessary, whereas other times one of them may suffice. In earlier years, we used to help P come up with his list of ways to make things right so he could follow our lead and learn by our example of our thinking.

At any rate, get to the bottom of his feelings as much as you can. Make dealing with this a time of bonding between you and him. If you can't pull this off right away, then let it sit for 24 hours or whatever it takes until you can. Tell him "I am not able to be calm about this right now, so I am going to think about it and we'll discuss it when I am able to control myself." Just by doing that, you are giving him a huge example in self-regulating and making good choices.

And my strong advice is to NOT give Fudge an equal amount of money. My opinion is that would teach a bunch of wrong lessons.

Good luck, and please keep us posted. Hang in there and take some deep breaths.

GB's Mom said...

Diana had a great response and one that I think would be worth using. The first place my mind jumped was to where MOM 4 Kids was "My first thought is how much of this “do gooder” behavior is to win some friendships there at school where he has recently had some trouble, a bullied kid trying to buy friends?" J used to take money and every time he would try to buy friends with it. I know- a bonding experience we would much rather not have!