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Stealing and natural consequences

3959 Views 10 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  kirei
My son will be 6 in a week. For a while we have had a problem with him taking things from other people and hiding them in his room or coat. He thought he was borrowing so I said that we would not borrow or lend anything to anyone for a while. That was about 6 months ago. Since then he hasn't taken anything for other people.

Yesterday he was playing a friend's gameboy and he took the game home. After I found out I said that we would be taking the game back to her and he needed to apologize to her.

I was so frustrated and angry but I did not yell or scream--I told him that since we could not trust him with his friends that we would not be having a birthday party with his friends. Afterwards I thought that might be too harsh because I was angry and not thinking clearly. This morning I looked for the gameboy game and it was not where I had put it. He has taken it sometime last night or this morning and hid it in his room. I asked him about it and he lied that he did not know where if was. Finally he said it was in his room and he got it. When he handed it to me I realized that he had removed the sticker ont he face of the game--not a big deal if is your own thing. So now I am pissed--he stole, lied and then ruined someone elses property.

I am trying so hard to be calm and rational--it's a big change from irrational and crazy.

So here's my question what is a good consequence for stealing? I told him that we would be buying a new game to return to her and that we would donate the game that he took and that would be his birthday present from us. I feel like everything I do or say right now is not right and not going to teach him anything. My dh keeps saying that our daughter never did this. That is really no help at all.

(BTW I lost rational thought when I removed all the toys from his room--OMG I sound competely crazy!!)

So all you sane mommies--please give me advice!
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My first concern would be "Why?"

Have you talked to your DS about why he is doing this? Why he took the game? Why he took the sticker off?

Personally, no birthday party (and now no present from his family) seems like way too much to me. Esp if it is because he feels like he has no way of getting things he would like (does he have an allowance?) I can only imagine that becomming worse.

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Wow, I remember this with ds. I posted here, I was heartbroken. I think, for ds it was a fantasy. "If I take it and no one notices, then it will be mine"

Our came out in the open when he took his sister's birthday present and hid it in his room, on her birthday I was in tears, what could have caused him to think that was okay? How can I prevent it in the future?

We really didn't *punish* him in any way. We talked a LOT about how other people feel when someone takes their things....I used his lightsabers as an example. If he was looking for his lightsaber and couldn't find it, how would he feel? How would he feel if his sister/friend took it? What could we do to help her feel better, since he took her baby and she was crying? Talking, for us, works better than anything else. I hope you can get to the root of what is bothering him.

And I agree with Tired (as usual
) that no party, no present is harsh. I think that it's appropriate for him to purchase a new game to replace the one he ruined, if he has access to that amount of money. Once, ds put a huge scratch in the hardwood floors, and we told him that he had a choice, he could either pay to repair it out of his bank, or he could choose to not buy a new costume for Halloween (that we were going to purchase). He chose to not have a new costume.

It's hard to balance. Society says there should be a "Punishment" for this type of behavior, but I think at this age, addressing the cause of the behavior is so much more important. They are so little, still trying to figure out the difference between fantasy and reality. The main thing, for me, was to ensure that ds didn't feel threatened or punished, because I want to know when these things happen, and I know from my childhood that harsh punishments do not deter the behavior, they just make the child better at hiding it.
I don't want to repeat that with my children, kwim?
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He doesn't know why he took the sticker off. He brought the game home because he liked it. (I know this is normal behavior).

He wrote an apology note to our friend and together we are going to find the same game. I know that I was extremely frustrated when I said no party no gifts. That doesn't make sense. I think there needs to be a consequence to his actions but should I manufacture one or will one happen in the course of time?

I know part of this is my embarassment to having to take him to return this game--it was a person I know that was being nice.

Of course I am thinking that I am completely messing him up no matter what I do.
He has money in a savings account but he is "saving for a star pointer and college". Plus he started a birthday wish list. His grandparents will get him almost anything he wants. He took the sticker off and hid it after I said no party with friends. I think that he may have been thinking that we would not get any gifts at all.

I have no problem admitting to him that I was wrong. I really think I was. I need to be clear and less emotional before I talk to him.
I have a five-year-old so I can understand a bit what you're going through. It's an interesting age.

Thinking as the other parent... I wouldn't be upset if one of my daughter's friends took a game and then returned it. I mean, of course I wouldn't want it stolen, but I don't think it's necessary to buy a new one because the sticker was removed if it doesn't affect the functionality of the game. My friendship with the other parent would be more important than a silly sticker. Have you called her and asked her if she wants it replaced? Then just tell your son that it is replaced? I'm thinking that if you buy a new game and give your son the ruined one it will reward him. Of course, offer to pay the other parent for the ruined one (or replace it if they want). But to me it wouldn't matter.

Personally, we gave away about half of our kids toys (with their permission, letting them pick what to give away "to the poor kids") and I'm finding it a heck of a lot easier to keep their room clean. Also not buying more toys (hard for me).

There shouldn't be any embarrassment on your part. It's not your fault he took it. You're bringing it back. You didn't know he took it.
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Hi - don't want to hijack the thread but i'm going through a similar thing. Also with no idea what kind of consequences would be effective for this behavior, or if just discussing it is enough and it really will stop on its own? I stole also when i was a kid, dad had me return the stuff and pay for it 'cause i had opened it, and i didnt' steal again. why doesn't that work in this day and age!? My dad was very GD!

DD (6.5) often takes little things - barrettes, tiny pocket toys - from friends' houses. I find them, she admits she took them. There is no shaming or guilt or anything. I say we have to return them. She's ok with that. But then when I want to talk about empathy -- how would she feel if... she says "I wouldn't care!" She also completely refuses to return it to the person and/or apologize, she wants me to do it, or she says she will return it quietly and no one will know! I asked her to return something once in a grocery store and she stood there for 5 minutes, enraged and crying, swearing at me under her breath, when I finally realized she wasn't going to do it, so I just gave it back. So it's on me now to do the returning and everybody always chirps "it's okay!" buit it's not, and I don't know how to relay this to her.
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I think the natural consequence would be guilt. And to feel guilty about his actions he has to realise that they're wrong and it hurts his friends- i think the best way to do this is to alk to him like a pp said. Also- about the bank account thing- at 6, i think they need sometihing tangable that they can actually see and feel and sepnd themselves. And if he wants something big then go halvsies to make it a realistic goal.

good luck mama
I think a natural consequence would be reparation. He should have to do chores to earn the money to buy the new game. Sure, it's not ruined, but he defaced someone else's property, and that's not okay. He should have returned the game himself and apologized. Also, the problem with the no birthday party thing is not that it's too harsh, but that it doesn't relate at all to what he did. He won't be sitting there thinking about how stealing is wrong. He'll be thinking about his mean parents who didn't let him have a birthday party. If he has to do chores to earn money to replace the game, he can learn about the value of that sort of thing. If her works for an hour, you can tell him that he earned $5 or whatever, and that he only has to work this-many hours until he earns all the money. Then he can go with you to buy the game and with you to give it to the friend. That's all a lesson in reparations. You can't just say, "Oh sorry," and it's all better. You have to make the victim whole.
If your family (like a lot of MDCers) practices voluntary simplicity and NFL, is it possible that your son was feeling jealous that his friend has a gameboy, and that's why he peeled the sticker off?

It can be hard for kids to really "get" the principles behind simple or natural /healthier living, and sometimes a child might go through a period of perceiving it as deprivation.

That might not be applicable in your case it all, but I thought that I'd toss it out there......

This might be totally irrelevant, but it came to mind, so I'll post it.

When I was younger (8 or so?), I used to steal a lot. I honestly have no idea why, beyond that I felt like I just really wanted the stuff. I felt like I needed the stuff and I couldn't get it unless I stole it.

My mom later told me that they talked with a friend about my stealing issues and that person suggested that my dad spend more time with me, one-on-one. My mom says that he tried that and the stealing stopped. Funny, I never knew they did anything about my stealing (or even really knew/cared about it, I don't remember it being talked about much). Even thinking back, I never felt like... oh, I'm going to steal this thing because I need attention.... but apparently I did need it, because according to my mom -- it worked.
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