Thoughts on Stealing

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Stealing is always wrong. (It is not to be laughed away as being cute). We are not talking about taking a few odds and ends around the home. We are talking about major theft like your car, a pocket book, checkbook, credit cards, toll phone calls, jewelry, etc. This behavior will put a young adult in prison, we need to stop it now. Do not confuse this behavior with a small child (6 years old) stealing a pack of gum from the store. Although stealing gum should still be discussed with the child, you want to treat the more aggressive stealing as a serious bad behavior. We need to decide at some point what we will do when a child steals. If he steals your car (or the neighbor's car) will you call the Police? If he steals your only valuable piece of jewelry will you call the Police? This is probably not the first time this child has stolen and he may have been stealing from you for awhile. Now you have caught him. In his mind, he thinks "nothing bad will happen to me" even if you call the Police. What will the Police or Courts do? Nothing? Your decision may end up costing you money and time. OK you do not believe me, let me explain.

You call the Police and report the crime. The police file charges and even book the child. They photograph and finger print them (your child will love this part, they will brag to their friends). The child returns home after you have waited two hours at the station to pick him up. The child cannot wait to tell his friends what cool things have happened. Then you will wait months before you go to Court, and by then it will feel like a year has passed. You may have to testify in court. Your child will need to see an Attorney (which you will get and take him to, this is more of your time off work). The Judge may give this child a fine, which the child may not be able to pay (who do you think pays it? YOU!). The Judge may sentence him to community service (which you need to drive him to). Then you deal with all of the new problems associated with this community service. For example, the child is required to work 40 hours at a place with other teens and adults on probation. This becomes a place to pick up more bad habits. When this whole process is done, you have spent thirty hours directly on transportation from one point to another and preparation. You have spent another thirty hours thinking about it. All you see is an unrepentant child after this process. You feel totally helpless.

Your mind starts thinking...what can I do to change my foster child? Short of a miracle, nothing. All of the things we do are meant to get the child to want to change. It is the child who must want to change. We cannot do it for them. So we commit ourselves to fight this behavior at every opportunity. We must keep them safe from themselves by setting up a life system where it extremely difficult for them to steal!

This gets us to what I call "Consequences and Containment." Where the consequences fall short containment does not. Containment is this, lock up or remove all opportunities to steal, even outside the home. This is simply watching them very carefully when you go shopping. This will keep them from stealing. If their desire to steal is very strong you will find that they are very fast. They can steal while your head is turned for only a few seconds, so watch carefully. This is really good for them. If they can go for a period without stealing (even though you are making this happen) then maybe this habit can be broken.

Containment is also locking or keeping safe those items that are a temptation to them, and I mean everything! You should never leave your valuables unlocked or unattended. If you get in the car and then realize you forgot something do not leave your pocketbook in the car. Don't forget to keep the glove box locked. Always put your valuables in the same safe place. Create new habits of living even if you are alone.

Never leave the car keys unattended. Start to think like they do, how could I steal this item? Obviously you may say I do not want a child like this, but that is not the solution, we need to persevere. Fifty percent of these children will pick the right path in life. The others will wind up doing occasional prison time. All of this talk on stealing is not meant to be a discouragement, but to show you how to look at a difficult situation with practical eyes. Go in with yours eyes open and do not give up the struggle. Come up with creative teaching times. Get across the point that it is always wrong to take things that don't belong to them. Use every possible opportunity to teach honesty. Be careful how you live and be an example.

Also these children think that if they don't get caught then it's OK. They don't realize that they need a mind and heart change, a new set of principles to guide them. You may be that person to show them how to change their "old ways."

Throughout this process maintain a positive attitude. Remember to say something to praise them, even if it is unrelated to the situation e.g. "You are a great basketball player!" Whatever you decide to say, make sure that it is true.

Credits: Jeffrey Silla

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