7 Year Old Nephew Stole $400.00 From Us: What To DO? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I tried to make this short, but it is impossible. My BIL helped us sell our old Jeep last week while we were on vacation in Dominican Republic. He came over with his family on Sunday once we got home and gave us the money: $2500.00 all in $100 bills. We left the cash laying on the kitchen counter and sort of forgot about it as I busily unpacked and started to do 8+ loads of laundry and grocery shop before I had to go to work Monday morning. DH and BIL went into the garage to work on a car they are repairing. I turned on the TV for 7 yo nephew and he also had a few toys he was playing with. He also went outside for while to play ball with my dog.

A few hours later, a mom from down the street came to the door with her young son. She said that 7 yo nephew had given her son a 100 dollar bill and she was making him return it. My DH was extremely grateful to the mom and thanked her for her honesty and told her she was setting a wonderful example for her son. They left. We (along with BIL, our nephew's dad) confronted 7yo nephew and asked him why he took the 100 dollars. He kept saying he didn't know why. He got a lecture from both DH and BIL and now he is grounded. 7yo didn't seem to show any remorse during the whole exchange. Then DH went to count the rest of the cash and found $300.00 still missing. He confronted nephew again and nephew turns up the money, which was in his pocket. Another round of lecturing ensues, and BIL decides to cancel nephew's birthday party next week at the bowling alley. This is the ONLY time during the course of this drama that nephew showed any emotion, which is a little concerning.

IMO, he is plenty old enough to know right from wrong and knows that stealing is wrong. He never showed any emotion about the situation until BIL told him his b-day party was cancelled.

Nephew is dealing with a new sister being born, and he is probably being ignored at home. I think he stole the money to act out in frustration. He knows right from wrong and he is NOT a bad kid. It is hard to get BIL and SIL to pay more attention to him with the new baby completely overtaking their lives. I feel bad I couldn't entertain him, but I had 1000 things I needed to get done before I went back to work Monday. My DH told me it is "not my job" to entertain the kid and not to feel sorry for him. He is old enough to play by himself and keep himself busy. I just feel bad that he is not getting the attention he needs. Maybe I am making excuses for him?

Thanks so much if you've read this far. I feel bad that his dad revoked the b-day party at the bowling alley, but part of me thinks that there have to be consequences for his actions. $400 isn't small change to us. We need that money to pay off a loan. I just worry that this may be a sign of things to come...
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#2 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 12:58 PM
 
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Well, I don't know if this helps or not. But when I was about that age, I stole something from a friend (some candy). Everyone I have shared that story with usually has a similar story of "stealing" something at around that age. Not every kid does it, but I also think it's not that unusual in my experience.

Also, it can be very hard for a child to understand the amounts of money...what it's worth. The only kids I know who really understand are ones who have an allowance and have to decide to spend or save their own money. To most kids it's an abstract concept how much something is worth. So maybe in his mind he stole 4 things ($100 dollar bills), not $400? And he was experimenting with what it was like to have his own "money"?

One other thing my therapist pointed out. Asking someone "why" immediately puts them on the defensive. She mentioned that it's the most common thing people do to their kids and doesn't help get an answer. It's often hard for them to even know why they do things. Usually it's better to talk about your/their feelings rather than "why". I thought that was an interesting perspective.

Honestly, I don't think it's necessarily a sign of things to come unless it sets up a bad dynamic between the parents and kid. Canceling the birthday party seems like an overreaction to me. I know that he is not your child, but if it were my child, after making him make reparations to you, I would start giving him an allowance so he had his own money and got to experience the "power" of having his own....honor the impulse kind of thing.

jmo but I hope that helps some....
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#3 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 01:01 PM
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Does he have any idea of the value of money? I'm guessing not if he was distributing money to the largess
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#4 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 01:02 PM
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At seven, I stole some potpourri from a craft store. Note that I did not go on to a life of crime

Still, 400 dollars is hugely different from potpourri
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#5 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 01:10 PM
 
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I don't know that there's anything more for you to do. It sounds like his parents (his dad, anyway) are handling it.
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#6 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 03:15 PM
 
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If I can offer you something? Coming from a mother whose child is breaking her heart by turning his back on everything she taught him growing up (it isn't stealing in our case) I really don't feel that that "blame the parents" mentality is helpful. It isn't a sign of neglect, it's a sign that a 7yo kid made a bad decision.
What you can do from here is make a conscious effort to let him know that you're not avoiding him, don't think he's a bad lot and have trust in him to get it right next time. You could let him see you budgeting (say, for the baby) and get it into his head that way. You could hang out with him, be there for him whilst he adjusts to life with a sibling, in a small, low-key way.
I think the punishments are appropriate- grounding, to me, is a fairly logical consequence of stealing from friend or family or otherwise away from home and the loss of a birthday party, sadly, is part of that. BUT if you lecture someone, none of that goes in. Honestly. Small boys have a knack of not hearing lectures, somehow. Hippymomma69 is absolutely right about the futility of "why", as well. The best way of getting through to him is to show him where that money came from and what you're doing with it. Make it real for him.

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#7 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 03:24 PM
 
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Typical and age appropriate for 7 year olds to steal and lie to push boundaries. it is how we deal with it that is important. I have to go get my dd from school so don't have much time but will coem back to elaborate.
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#8 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 03:40 PM
 
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You know, he may not even have realized he was stealing. My seven year old foster saw some change on the counter and brought it to show what he had "found."
I agree, canceling a birthday would be harsh and devastating.

Trying to balance a preschooler and peace....
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#9 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 03:46 PM
 
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My almost 7 yo just stole a pack of Juicy Fruit from the store. SHe knew it was wrong but made a bad decision. She also showed little remorse until she found out she had to go back to the store. It was very abstract before that. I think if a bunch of hundred dollar bills were hanging around those would have caught her eye. The amount seems alarming but it was what was available. Stealing/money are still quite abstract at 7.
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#10 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 03:57 PM
 
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I know that my 8 YO wouldn't haven't a clue that a $100 is a lot of money. He might not even notice that is was $100 rather than a $1 unless he was being really attentive to the money because it was a math problem or something. He certainly wouldn't know what $100 would or wouldn't buy at the store. I think you are assuming motives and understanding beyond what a 7 YO is capable of.

I think you bare a fair amount of responsibility here for leaving that much money sitting on the counter. What if something had been spilled or it had otherwise been damaged? Honestly, the child might just have assumed that a pile of money sitting on the counter must have been fake. And even if you were busy, paying a bit of attention to a lonely child would rate a higher priority than laundry and unpacking in my home.

I think everyone in this situation is being much too harsh, assigning motives that may or may not have been there, and expecting way too much understanding from a child.

I think the only thing that you should do is see if you can address the lonely, neglected child part of your description. Can he spend time at your house?
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#11 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 04:06 PM
 
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I don't know what would be the right thing to do, but I think canceling his birthday party will only make him feel more alienated and alone in his family, yk? Is is possible he did it for attention?

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#12 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 04:16 PM
 
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My sister did this when she was about this age. Very similar circumstances.

Really, she knew it was wrong. But she also knew money was very important.

She really didn't get it. Even after the parents when ballastic. She still didn't really get it.

I think that your level of expectation of what this is supposed to mean, and what he is supposed to understand isn't in line with reality. He shows you so - he merely gave away $100.00 because he likes his friend. It clearly displays his understanding.
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#13 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 04:17 PM
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i don't know that you can do anymore but it sounds better than it did at the start. you know? he knows money is important and that taking what's isn't yours is bad but at seven he really might not understand the huge difference between snagging a single and some change and taking large bills. i'm sure he knows the difference but maybe not the reality of the magnitude. he probably is feeling ignored and since you had so much he thought you might not miss it...

i'm not excusing the behavior, just saying i'm not convinced hes headed for a life of hardened crime.
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#14 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 05:46 PM
 
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Agreeing with those who think this was normal, age-appropriate and not evidence of their being trouble on the way. Plus, I think canceling the b-day party was major overkill and completely without connection to his actions.

And I agree that the adults involved need to own about 50% of the responsibility here for being careless with that much cash and not supervising a 7 year old.

Having said all that, it's not the end of the world, he'll be just fine and make sure you give him a big hug next time you see him.
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#15 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 05:53 PM
 
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offwing- I agree the adults went way overboard here. I am sure the boy's dad was embarrassed and that led him to go overboard, ya know, to ensure that the OP and her DH knew that he thought it was a big deal. I totally understand that aspect.

HOpefully everyone has learned a lesson and can grown because of it.
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#16 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:04 PM
 
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It sounds like he was acting like a 7yo, and I wouldn't worry about him "being set up for a life of crime" based on this.

There was a pile of bills on the table and he grabbed 4 of them. I doubt he REALLY understood the difference between $16 or $80 or $400- which is what the numbers would have been if he'd grabbed an equal number of $5 or $20 bills.

How would you have felt about the situation if he'd stolen $16 or $80?

I think his father over reacted, especially since he DID return the money to you fairly promptly. I wouldn't have punished at all for that kind of situation, but instead had a long, heartfelt talk about how stealing is wrong and that $400 is a LOT of money!

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#17 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:07 PM
 
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A 7 yr old doesn't understand the value of money. He probably doesn't get that $100 is much different than a $5.

Cancelling a birthday party is quite severe and more than enough punishment, IMO.

Mom of a 7 yr old, 4 yr old, and 1 yr old. Wow. How did that happen?
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#18 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:08 PM
 
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It seems like, if he's not getting enough time with his parents already, maybe he could be included in the things that DH and BIL are doing? 7 is plenty old enough to be of some help in working on cars, or at least for them to include him in it and teach him about the things they're doing.
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#19 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post
I think you bare a fair amount of responsibility here for leaving that much money sitting on the counter. What if something had been spilled or it had otherwise been damaged? Honestly, the child might just have assumed that a pile of money sitting on the counter must have been fake. And even if you were busy, paying a bit of attention to a lonely child would rate a higher priority than laundry and unpacking in my home.

I think everyone in this situation is being much too harsh, assigning motives that may or may not have been there, and expecting way too much understanding from a child.

I think the only thing that you should do is see if you can address the lonely, neglected child part of your description. Can he spend time at your house?
This kid spends nearly EVERY weekend at my house. I have toys and puzzles for him to play with. I engage him when I can, but frankly, I think it is more of his father's job to do that than mine. BIL dumps him on me and goes off with my DH to do whatever they want. I have taken nephew places with me, played games with him, but I also work 40+ hours a week on top of being 5 months pregnant and exhausted. That means I have 2 days to grocery shop, do laundry, clean, run all my errands and maybe - just maybe - relax a little.

I have spoken with my BIL in the past about doing more with his kid and things got better after a while. But after the new baby came, he is just more interested on shoving his son off on me or grandma or my other SIL.

As far as the money being on the counter - it shouldn't matter where the heck it was. It wasn't his and he shouldn't have bothered it. Now I feel like I'm going to have to watch him more closely to see if he takes anything else. I hate to do that because we're family and you shouldn't have to do that around family.
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#20 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:10 PM
 
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My 8 year old got $18 for her her birthday. A $10 bill to her was a dollar. If she saw a pile of money she would probably play with it. She doesn't go around stealing things but wouldn't recognize it as a big deal to take 4 pieces of paper. She doesn't know what a $100 bill looks like. She does many things on impulse. She wouldn't get why people were so upset and wouldn't show much remorse over her actions.

I think your expectations of a 7 year old child's understanding are not realistic. I don't think this is a sign of something dire or because he is neglected and wants attention.

I do think canceling the birthday party is appropriate because he didn't return the rest of the money after being told it was wrong to take it. It's a harsh lesson but his actions were very serious. If he had given all the money away and it wasn't returned or lost it his parents would have had to reimburse you a lot of money.

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#21 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:14 PM
 
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A 7 yr old doesn't understand the value of money. He probably doesn't get that $100 is much different than a $5.

Cancelling a birthday party is quite severe and more than enough punishment, IMO.
I agree with this. I don't think that the fact that he didn't show a lot of emotion is atypical or some sign he is a "bad" kid. He stole 4 bills, which happened to have a large face value, but he may not really have gotten it until after the fact. Losing his birthday party is a big deal.

LOL, I just realized I'm repeating what others have already said. Anyway, it's not that you shouldn't be upset. I know I would in that situation. Trying to get kids of that age to care is hard. Maybe if someone could explain the value of money and show him how much of that money could make a difference. Maybe that is what they are doing with the birthday party, trying to put it in a dollar amount he understands.
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#22 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:15 PM
 
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how does taking away the celebration of a child's birth justice? You are in essence saying he is not worth celebrating. How devestating that must be for him.
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#23 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:16 PM
 
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I understand being upset, but I do think you are being a bit hard on him.

My son is 5.5 and recently took some money off the kitchen table .. I didn't even consider it "stealing" .. he had no clue it's value, that it wasn't his, etc.

I seriously doubt your nephew knew the value, otherwise I doubt he would be giving it away to neighbors! That in no way makes it ok that he took something off the counter that didn't belong to him .. but I wouldn't consider it stealing and certainly wouldn't cancel his b'day party. That seems so very harsh and punitive.

I definately think a good talk is in order .. we recently did the same thing with my son .. we explained the value, that we needed that money for groceries, and that he was NOT to touch money that was lying around. I doubt he will do it again, it was a good lesson learned, but we were not angry at all.

I'm glad you got your money back ($400 is A LOT of money!!) but I do think you guys are being much too hard on your nephew.

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#24 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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how does taking away the celebration of a child's birth justice? You are in essence saying he is not worth celebrating. How devestating that must be for him.
I just wanted to clarify - we (myself and DH) did not revoke the birthday party. My BIL (nephew's father) did. We did not suggest it. I don't think you implied this, Potty Diva, I just wanted to clarify for others who may not have read all the posts. We will still mail a card and buy a gift like we do every year.
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#25 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:21 PM
 
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how does taking away the celebration of a child's birth justice? You are in essence saying he is not worth celebrating. How devestating that must be for him.
I agree. Taking away a B'day party just seems so wrong to me. Sure, he shouldn't have taken those bills, but I am willing to be money he had no idea what they were worth and taking away a 7 year olds party for that seems crazy to me.

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#26 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 06:50 PM
 
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It sounds like you care a lot for this boy. He is very lucky to have you.

I think everyone is right that he had no concept of the sum, but probably had a swiping urge. Now that things have passed, have you sat him down over a cup of tea and asked him what is going on? No judgements, accusations, just wondering what happened, what your concerns are and if you and he can reach an agreement of trust. Keeping a line of communication open is always important and will be more helpful than a house full of toys.

I wouldn't be worried about a life of crime because of this incident. I would be worried about more negative behavior due to the lack of connection between him and his own family. Offering yourself as a confidant, not just a babysitter, will be invaluable to him.
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#27 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 07:34 PM
 
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It sounds like you care a lot for this boy. He is very lucky to have you.

I think everyone is right that he had no concept of the sum, but probably had a swiping urge. Now that things have passed, have you sat him down over a cup of tea and asked him what is going on? No judgements, accusations, just wondering what happened, what your concerns are and if you and he can reach an agreement of trust. Keeping a line of communication open is always important and will be more helpful than a house full of toys.

I wouldn't be worried about a life of crime because of this incident. I would be worried about more negative behavior due to the lack of connection between him and his own family. Offering yourself as a confidant, not just a babysitter, will be invaluable to him.
I agree with this. If this were my nephew (and my nephew has taken money from me before) I would treat it matter of factly:

- that's my money, and I need it for rent
- we don't steal from each other in this family
- if you feel an urge to steal something, come and tell me about it and we will sort it out together

FYI I stole money from my parents when I was 12, and now I walk back to the store if they give me an extra dollar in change. It's not a sign of a life of crime. But he is having some kind of urge (one I think most kids experience, actually) and it would be nice if he could feel your love and willingness to be there for him when he does.

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#28 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 09:29 PM
 
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But after the new baby came, he is just more interested on shoving his son off on me or grandma or my other SIL.
Could you say no? Tell your bil he can bring the kid over, but he has to be the one watching him because you aren't up to it and he's not ready to be unsupervised.

(And $2500 in cash isn't ready to be unsupervised either. I would never leave that sitting on the counter with kids in the house.)

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#29 of 151 Old 04-14-2008, 09:48 PM
 
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Could you say no? Tell your bil he can bring the kid over, but he has to be the one watching him because you aren't up to it and he's not ready to be unsupervised.

(And $2500 in cash isn't ready to be unsupervised either. I would never leave that sitting on the counter with kids in the house.)
ITA with this, and with what most of the pp's have said.

I have to ask, are you pregnant with your first child? I've found that my expectations about what I can leave lying around the house (and my expectations of children in general) have changed considerably since having my own kiddos and learning more about age appropriate behavior, directly and through more reading and discussion with other parents. Children are not rational adults, and all of the "I, as the adult, should be able to do X, Y, Z without worrying about the child doing A, B, C" theories just don't apply, at least IME. YMMV, though.

When I was child, I clearly remember my mother pressing me repeatedly when I did something wrong, wanting to know why I did whatever it was -- I didn't know. It was an impulse, and there was no way that I could explain it to her.

s to your nephew, and s to you. It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now, and it's difficult to handle these things when you're stressed, working, and pregnant.

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#30 of 151 Old 04-15-2008, 02:22 AM
 
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This is the ONLY time during the course of this drama that nephew showed any emotion, which is a little concerning.

IMO, he is plenty old enough to know right from wrong and knows that stealing is wrong. He never showed any emotion about the situation until BIL told him his b-day party was cancelled.

Nephew is dealing with a new sister being born, and he is probably being ignored at home. I think he stole the money to act out in frustration.
Be careful, Mama. These are the kind of words I've learned to eat in my mama years.

My typical 7-year old wouldn't have a clue about the money. She also wouldn't touch it because that's the way she is. My non-typical 8 year old would have had some clue about how much money it was at that age but wouldn't really have "gotten" that it was wrong to take it. Out on the table? Community property. That's how their minds tend to work. I would have been upset. Even more that he took it (and now I'm talking about my own child) and didn't give it all back. That he shared it? Kudos to him.

It's hard. And 7 years old really is still a baby. In our long lives, these are the early early years, when it's okay to make mistakes and everybody still loves you, and that love is what helps us make better decisions next time. Don't get me wrong, I have very limited tolerance in my own children's misbehavior, but this wasn't misbehavior I don't think. It was a bad choice, then shame and fear probably kept him from further admitting to wrong.

I know you don't like hearing this but I agree with a pp who asserted that the money shouldn't have been left out. I find that most things my kids do that I dislike could have been avoided with a little foresight on the part of their parents. Yeah, it's your house, yeah, it's your money, but when we're sharing space, even for a little bit, we take care with our treasures. I certainly don't leave bank statements out when family members come over because I don't want anyone to have a clue about what we may or may not have. It's just too personal for me. And this is the same idea. Not that you put it up because you think he's a thief. You put it up because he's 7 and things are exciting and he's bright and curious.

Again, I agree with others. Love him. Hug him. Forgive him, and take on a bit of the responsibility so that his little shoulders don't have to bear it all.
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