General Question

Raggedy_Ann's avatar

How do you stop a child from stealing?

Asked by Raggedy_Ann (455points) March 17th, 2009

Our 13 yr old son is getting into the habit of stealing from us and feels that if he has a good reason that it’s OK. He has stolen money from his father and I along with candy that he was supposed to be selling as a fundraiser. Short of putting a lock on our bedroom door and storing any there that might a temptation does anyone have any suggestions?

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23 Answers

aviona's avatar

Tell him his fingers are going to fall off.

But I guess 13 is a little old to believe that one

KrystaElyse's avatar

You can take away something valuable of his, like xbox or tv privileges, until he can pay back the money he stole by doing chores.

Raggedy_Ann's avatar

@KrystaElyse tried but still happens. This has been going on for awhile.

Milladyret's avatar

Sorry, a bit to quick to answer ;)
Don’t mind me!


marinelife's avatar

“When a child has been caught stealing, a parent’s reaction should depend on whether it’s the first time or there’s a pattern of stealing.

If stealing money from a parent, the child should be offered options for paying back the money, like doing extra chores around the house. It’s important, however, that a parent not bait the child by leaving out money in the hopes of catching the child in the act. That could damage the sense of trust between a parent and child.

Whatever the underlying cause, if stealing is becoming a habit with your child or teen, consider speaking with a doctor or therapist to get to the cause of the behavior. It’s also important to routinely monitoring your child’s behavior, keep him or her away from situations in which stealing is a temptation, and establish reasonable consequences for stealing if it does occur.”


Raggedy_Ann's avatar

@Milladyret he’s been caught numerous times.

KrystaElyse's avatar

I don’t know if you would ever consider this, but how about sending him to boot camp? Or a teen wilderness therapy program?

augustlan's avatar

If it’s a pattern and the consequences have been appropriately severe to no effect, I suggest getting him to a counselor, and quickly. Thirteen is plenty old enough to know better, so I suspect there is something else going on here.

Milladyret's avatar

Yes, I saw that, problem is that I answered before I read the whole question…

mangeons's avatar

I’ve learned that many times, if a child is excessively stealing, more often males than females, they are more than likely stealing to pay for drugs. Sit him down for a talk, and promise him you won’t be mad, you just want to help him. Talk to his friends, and take him to a doctor or therapist to see if you can figure out what’s wrong with him. Good luck!

afghanmoose's avatar

Steal his bed from his room,his video games,things he holds dearly

laxrrockr18's avatar

Steal from him….............................hehehe

btko's avatar

Cut off his hands.

If that doesn’t work – you could try talking about the long term consequences and how you are disappointed in him. Outright punishment doesn’t work… but guilt trips do.

alive's avatar

@btko you beat me to the punch!

@raggedy_ann you said he thinks its OK if he has a good reason. why does he feel that he has a good reason? 13 is too young to get a real job, but it is right around the time when kids want to be able to go out to the mall or movies ( feeling grown up because there are no adults/parents), so they need at least a small amount of money to spend time with friends.

as parents do you give him an option to do some chores around the house to get a little bit of cash to feel like he is being independent and using his own money instead of stealing from you? (in other words does he think it is OK to steal since you don’t give him money otherwise?—i’m not assuming you don’t give him money, just asking what his motives are.)

laureth's avatar

Thirteen years old might be old enough for a paper route, or doing lawn mowing in the neighborhood. Maybe he can earn some honest money, and not have to steal it?

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

What’s he doing with the money?

Milladyret's avatar

That’s what I’m wondering as well…
It did happen that I stole some cash from my parents, but that was because the allowance they gave me wasn’t enough for a six-pack. Maybe that’s what he’s doing?

But letting him work it off is a good idea. Pay him 3 $ per hour, and that might teach him the real value of money if he has to clean out all the gutters, mow the lawn and so on to pay you back a 20.
Might be a good time to teach him financial tips as well! You know, creditcards, debt, budgets, saving and so on.

My dad always said: Money talks, bullsh*t walks, and I think he’s right!

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Also, what kind of allowance does he get?

wundayatta's avatar

Please don’t send him to boot camp, or any other punitive type program. It’ll only harden his resentment of you, and will probably kill any chance you have of having a good relationship with your son.

Your son clearly has an agenda that is important to him. He’ll use any tactic he can use to get what is important to him. Do you know what is so important to him? Can you give us a clue, if you don’t know? What’s your son like? What does he like?

If you can find out what his agenda is, maybe you can work towards more socially acceptable ways for him to achieve that agenda. You’re looking to focus on positive steps, and stay away from punishment. Punishment doesn’t work (as you have already seen), and it only widens the rift between parents and children.

There are so many things involved here that we don’t know about, so any advice is probably wildly off the mark. We can’t see for ourselves what your relationship to him is. We don’t know your religion, or your ethical/moral beliefs. We don’t know how you parent. It’s practically impossible to say much that is useful without this information, and, frankly, without see you, in person.

The best hope for help is to find a family therapist you can work with. You’ll need to find out what philosophy they use, and figure if it meets with your style of relating. I’m not a therapist, but I do have very clear ideas about how people should relate, and that’s where my suggestions above come from.

Good luck, though. This is surely something that really bothers you.

Mr_M's avatar

Anything he steals from other people, make him return it to THEM.

Is he getting an allowance? Is someone bullying him for money? When you ask him why he does this, what does he say?

Can you be sure that what you KNOW he stole is ALL he stole?

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wundayatta's avatar

Here is a bunch more evidence that Teen Boot Camps are not a good idea. They can be quite dangerous for your children. They are not good for behavior modification or for hostile children. You’re trying to modify the behavior of your child, so it is probably a bad option for that. Here’s an academic article about the ineffectiveness of boot camp approaches.

One expose of Boot Camps show all kinds of horrific problems including teens being forced to eat their own vomit. This website has a huge list of horrible problems at such places. And how about cruelty, sadism, injury & death in locked residential facilities for troubled youth.

There are alternatives. This site urges you to not send teens to Teen Boot Camps, but instead to find intervention that works!

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