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acstump asks:
Q:

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

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Expert

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.

Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000

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Additional Answers (6)

Rtankgirl
Rtankgirl writes:
My daughter, at 7, stole something from walmart. As we were in the bathroom she found it hard to hide from me and I said "what is that, what are you holding in your shirt?" It was lipstick. I said " your are stealing" We went out of the bathroom and I made her return it to an employee and say she was sorry for trying to take the lipstick. I think she was so embarrassed she won't try that again for a while. It has been over a year since the incident and she has still not continued the stealing. I additionally had a talk with her when I got home and made her write down 15 times "I will not steal from anyone or any place". I asked her "why didn't you ask me if you could have it rather than just taking it." She said, "because I knew you would say no." Now I know that I didn't have much money, but I realized that I was always saying no and it made me think about how I should react to this type of question. Rather than just saying no all the time I will say "write it on your Christmas list" or when we would get to a store I prepare the girls on whether they will be able to get something or not so they are more aware. I believe the mixture of all helped big time. I have to say I wanted to explode on her and I thought to myself I can't believe this is my daughter, but sometimes you need to step back and really think about why they are acting out and really listen to them when they talk. They could teach you something. Hope this helps!

Main tip-embarrass them. I think kids react to that. As horrible as it sounds it works.
> 60 days ago

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hopefulness
hopefulness writes:
Well you have to sit him down and explain why stealing isn't good for him. Most of all pray bout it.
> 60 days ago

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karelg
karelg writes:
The problem is serious as your son is having number of problems associated with it he is also get started showing unlikely behavior problems i.e; stealing. Although there are number of renowned online programs that can be helpful for your son behavior problems but most of these problems are not recommended with children having such mental problems. Like the total transformation or home intervention system. The Home Intervention System will help you deal with a wide range of problems that children often encounter including; anger, substance abuse, school issues, self-esteem, arguing, motivation, interacting with family, and more.
Children with such mental problems associated with it some behavior problems need professional advice.
I just added the above information, & a resource website for your information. Try to touch them and get appropriate advice, if home intervention system is suitable for your son.
> 60 days ago

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Littlejo
Littlejo writes:
Ask a local police officer in your community to either be in uniform or undercover and have the officer tell your 8yr old s/he received a report that the 8yr old was caught on tape stealing, put him in the back of a police car, (fingerprint-just for the fact to have your child fingerprinted for safety precautions). The officer will give your child a warning and educate him in the importance of choices and making the right ones
> 60 days ago

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nic1979
nic1979 writes:
I, too, am having the same problem with my 8 year old. Right now it seems its only been limited to stealing from home. He's yet to be caught stealing from anywhere else but I'm concerned that it could be possible. I hate to admit but in the past I wasn't very good at punishing him and would just let it go thinking it was just boys being boys. Most kids (including myself & my sister) go through a stage where they see what they can get away with. I was under the impression that it wouldn't last long. Six months ago my fiance' moved in and has been a little harder on him which I feel he does need. He stole from us not too long ago which resulted in him losing the ability to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. We also took out his tv & game system from his room for a week. Now, this morning he was caught stealing from us again so we've taken everything back out his room and he will be confined to it for the next 2 weeks.

He's always caught and always lies about it first. What scares me is that his biological father is currently servicing time in prision for being a thief. The odd part is that my son has had no relationship with him his whole entire life. He's aware of what his dad is in prision for and has no desire to be around him. I'm worried that my 8 year old son is starting to show signs that he'll grow up & be nothing just like his dad. My fiance' is going to try this 2 weeks of punishment where he won't be allowed out of his room other to pee. If this doesn't work then I've advised I'm moving on to ask our local police department on what I could do or maybe even how they could help.

I refuse to let my son grow up & be like his sperm donor so I will fight to make sure this habit becomes an old one. My suggestion is just to never give up and reach out to anyone & everyone who might be able to help. Once they hit age 18, that is a record that will stay with them for life and these days NO ONE will hire someone who is a thief.

I, too, welcome any suggestions. You & your family are in my prayers & I hope things get better for you & it stops.

Good Luck!
> 60 days ago

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JolynVance
JolynVance writes:
I'm putting my comments on here so that you know that I can relate and that I understand what the professionals have answered to you question. I appreciate the professional's answer, but I want to ask for more details of what consequences we should give our 8 yr old. He is just like this other boy, except PDD or bi-polar. Our son is obsessed with stealing candy and snacks. We have done everything we can think of and he just does not seem to care about any consequences of stealing and lying. It's like he thinks his desire to have sweets is more important than any punishment that he will have to take. Maybe he gets a thrill from stealing. We can't figure out what is going on in his mind.
We have made him give things back and say sorry to the owners. We have taken him to the police station to talk to a cop when he stole from a video store. We have made him talk to Walmart security manager when he stole from there. We have told his teacher to not be easy on him when he stole from he and she made him stay in from recess for a week. We have taken candy from him when he earned it from his Sunday school teacher and ate it in front of him to let him know how it feels to be the one that has been stolen from. We have tried spanking him, taking away his stuff, grounding him from all electronics, not let him have any free time to himself and have lectured him till we where blue in the face, so to speak. Nothing has done any good.
We are now making him do hard labor cleaning last years leaves and twigs out of the the rock bed and flower bed. It is a big job! He has to move all the rocks from one place to another to get all the leaves out of them. This is more torture for us, because we have to stand over him to keep him on task. I'm not getting anything else done around the house, because I have to babysit him to do his chores.
I have to remind him daily that if he steals from school or any stores again we will have them call the cops on him and that i will not bail him out. If he does the crime, he will pay the time.
We are on our last wit with him. I have thought of calling the cops on him myself. I wonder if they would be willing to do a mock arrest. Lets see how how serious he takes it when the cops interrogate him for stealing candy and let him spend at least a few hours behind some bars.
Please, help!?
> 60 days ago

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