acstump asks:

How can I get my 8 yr old to stop stealing and how do I punish him for stealing?

My son is 8 yrs old and has been diagnosed with PDD, ADHD, Bi- polar disorder. He recently has started stealing. He steals from home, school, and even at the stores. My husband and I have talked to him and explained that it is wrong and  that what he is taking belongs to someone else. We have also had his teacher talk with him., and our pastor. Nothing seems to matter to him. He keeps stealing. I don't know what to do to make him understand or just quiting.
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago



Boys Town National Hotline
Oct 22, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

When your child steals it's easy to become embarassed or begin to ask yourself what you, as a parent did wrong.  Remember that he's making the bad choices, not you.  Children steal for a variety of reasons.  Some do it to gain attention while others do it just for the thrill of trying to get away with something.  You can even spend hours explaining to your kids the importance of being honest, and they may still choose to steal.  However, it's still important that they hear from you that it's not ok.  Even if they choose not to do as you tell them, your words will always be in the back of their head.

You  mentioned that your son has been diagnosed with several behavioral/mental disorders.  Is he working with a therapist on a regular basis, and/or taking medication?  If so, talk with his therapist and prescribing physician about his recent behaviors and ask them what they would suggest that you do.  

Since your son doesn't seem to be learning from what you, your pastor, and his teachers have been telling him, it may be best to focus on consequences right now.  His consequences need to be enough to deter him from doing it again, but not too much that he doesn't feel like he has anything to work toward.  The most important thing to remember when deciding on consequences is, the punishment needs to fit the crime.  

When you discover that your son has stolen something, require him to return what he stole directly to the person he stole from.  He needs to make an apology face to face.  In addition to a face to face apology, have him write an apology letter to the person or business from which he stole.  If he steal something that cannot be returned, he needs to do work to make up for the cost of the item/s.  Next, give him restrictions from TV, computers, and the phone for 1-2 weeks so he has time to realize why his actions were wrong.  

It's also important to tell your son ahead of time what the consequences will be if he chooses to steal.  This is called pre-teaching.  Be prepared to follow through with those consequences if he re-offends.

Because you are dealing with a variety of behaviors be sure to consult any professionals your son is working with before you implement any new behavioral techniques.

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