Stealing money from mom
A mother in distress posted on a parenting group on Facebook
that her 12 year old son has been stealing money from her.
The latest incident was when he stole $100
and bought candies and chocolate from the gas station
for all his friends.
You’re going to pay me back
Her solution to this was to take his skateboard and video games and sell them to make him pay back the money.
She said – he has to know how it feels to lose that money.
I imagine her hope was that in feeling the same pain she felt
that he would suddenly develop compassion or empathy
and stop stealing.
Stick to your guns
Reading the 60 comments below the post
everyone was encouraging her in this course of action.
They were saying
stick to your guns no matter what.
You have to be consistent.
He has to know how it feels.
If you let him get away with it
he will just keep doing it over and over.
She knows punishment has no effect
In her post she also states that
punishments don’t affect him in any way
because he just acts as if he doesn’t care.
Even with this very clear understanding about how
ineffective her method is,
she and everyone else believed the best course of action
was to continue with punishing.
I have two specific pieces of feedback about the situation I would like to share with you.
Teaching by example that stealing is okay
With her taking his stuff and selling it
the real message she is sending to him is that
if a person feels it is justified then it is okay
to take someone else’s stuff.
I know that is not the message she wants to send to him.
She wants him to know it’s not okay to take someone else’s stuff,
but she is doing it by taking someone else’s stuff.
She feels justified in doing so given the situation,
and so does he.
The example that we set has a profound effect upon our kids
It is important for us to understand that
kids learn more from who we are
than what we say.
It is the feelings and behaviours we model to them
that really shows them how the world works.
His reasons were as valid to him
as hers were to her
She felt perfectly justified in taking his stuff because she was trying to teach him a lesson.
His reasons for taking her money
we’re just as valid and real to him.
My second point is about what those reasons are.
The need to feel loved and accepted
There is a fundamental need in children
and in all of us I would say,
to feel loved and accepted.
We want the people in our lives to recognize
that we are essentially good people and worthy of love.
This need drives so many of our behaviors.
So this young man who is stealing
is clearly reaching out for that sense of validation.
If they are not getting the validation and acceptance they need at home they will seek it elsewhere
In some way or another he is not getting it at home
and so he is looking for it from his friends.
When he shows up at the gas station
with $100 to spend on everybody
he is truly a hero.
Acceptance is a Powerful Energy
You can imagine the energy he would receive from his friends in that moment.
It may be only because of the money,
It may be temporary and conditional,
but in the moment it is real and powerful.
It is certainly powerful enough to keep him
repeating that behavior so he can experience the rush of
apparent love and acceptance.
As I often say the solution to a lack of love is more love.
What the boy needs is not a firm hand.
He does not need to experience more pain.
What he needs is more love, more connection
and a deeper feeling of acceptance from his parents.
Make the home the safest and most nourishing place for your kids
If they truly want to stop that behavior from occurring
they need to make the home an environment of such profound acceptance,
a safe and wonderful place,
where he feels nourished from the inside out.
This way he will not have the need to seek his acceptance from external sources.
There is a saying: “Who needs a well when there is a flood?”
Big change is challenging
I know it’s difficult to take a completely non-traditional approach
in a situation like this
especially when the traditional approach is all you’ve ever experienced.
I hope she is able to choose to connect with her kid.
I hope she is able to show him understanding and empathy
rather than severity and punishment.
If she does this I am quite certain
she will see profound change in him over time.