This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stealing - does it ever end?

Recently I got some Valentine candy in the after holiday sales. The candy had a stuffed animal attached that Bob wanted to give to a friend (she paid me for it). The friend was allergic to chocolate so I got the candy. This was after all the kids had gone to bed (where Bob was supposed to be) and after removing the toy, Bob left the box of chocolates with the torn cellophane on the kitchen counter.

After the kids had left for school the next morning, I realized I'd accidentally left the candy on the counter (I hide all sweets and baked goods for reasons that are about to become apparant). Of course 1/2 the candy was gone. I did ask the other kids (who rarely steal and would tell me if they did), and all of them denied touching the candy. Bear admitted to taking one piece.

For the last few weeks I've been attending NAMI meetings 2-3 times a week so haven't been home much. One night Hubby made tacos, but I'd had a few too many snacks at the meeting so I put my tacos in a plastic bag to have for lunch the next day. Nobody took my tacos.

I admit I complained in family therapy (which Hubby and I attend with Bear), but just a general whining about my chocolate and tacos being missing, not an actual accusation.

This morning Grandma called. Most of the kids had spent Saturday night as usual at her house. Grandma has a cabinet in her kitchen she calls the "Kids' Cabinet." It always has snack food in it (like Ritz Crackers, saltines, hot cocoa, applesauce, Koolaid...). We have one too, but ours has more whole grain "healthier" foods (popcorn for the air popper, honey nut generic cheerios, generic frosted mini wheats...).

Grandma had discovered that Bear had opened a brand new box of Cheerios instead of using the already open one in the Kids' Cabinet... which was annoying, but she could overlook. What upset her was that Bear had gotten into Poppy's Girl Scout cookies, eaten the entire box, carefully put it back together so it looked like it hadn't been touched, and put it back where he'd found it.

Today Bear missed the school bus home again. I asked Hubby to pick him up. When Hubby confronted Bear about the cookies, Bear admitted to eating a few (which wasn't OK since he hadn't asked permission), but denied eating the whole box.

Needless to say, I don't believe him.

I know why he lies and steals. I get it. I really do. But at the same time, if he feels there are no consequences then what's to stop him from escalating?

Today it's food, cell phones and MP3 players. Tomorrow? Now that he's 17, even that can get him in serious trouble. Plus he cannot seem to grasp that if we can't trust him then he'll never get the privileges he wants (driving, going places alone, independence...). Without checking with me first, Hubby took Bear for his first driving lesson last night. He said Bear is not going to be ready to drive for a long, long time.

Possible Consequences:

  • LEVELS - like they have in residential treatment centers. Very concrete which works well for Bear, but really requires a major step up on supervision on our parts. Probably need alarms and to go back to locking the pantry. Plus it'd be very difficult to do at Grandma and Poppy's house and Hubby and I are barely even ships passing in the night as it is, we really need the respite.

  • Letter of apology

  • Pay back $6 (Girl Scout cookies are $3/box and stolen/broken items are reimbursed at double). The grandparents said they only have one chore that Bear is competent to do at their house - digging garden beds - but Bear already does this for "fun." I took the money for my chocolate that he ate out of his allowance, but he still owes over $80 for past stuff so allowance doesn't mean much to him. So it really needs to be extra chores.

  • His Promise not to do it again.

  • Online shoplifting class I found: - it's $55 and meets legal requirements so this won't be happening.

  • Writing assignment about why he steals. (“I deserve X and am not getting it, so I steal to help fill that hole.” "I'm a bad person so I might as well steal." I used to need to steal to get what I needed, but now I have what I need, so I steal because ___________.)

While I'm at it, he also needs a consequence for "missing" the afterschool bus, which he does on a pretty regular basis which means someone has to go pick him up and he gets unsupervised time at school until they get there (which can be up to 45 minutes to an hour depending on how long it takes him to call me to tell me he missed the bus in the first place and what I'm doing.

To paraphrase the NAMI "Problem Solving Process" we're studying right now, it says you should:

  1. Define the problem as specifically as possible and make sure you're only trying to solve one problem at a time (and it should be the one with the highest priority - starting with danger to self or others).

  2. List all the things you've tried in the past. Cross out all the ones that didn't work (cause it makes no sense to keep doing something that doesn't work).

  3. Enlist others if possible and brainstorm at least 7 more options (bringing the total up to at least 12 options).

  4. Pick the choice you want to try first.

  5. Pick a backup plan.

5 comments: said...

I wonder what the emotion is behind the stealing for him? That is what I struggle with when dealing with Calvin (although, knock on wood he seems to of stopped for now) and this issue. It is such a hard one. Hang inhere. said...

the word verification for this post is cheat... lol

marythemom said...

That's a good question J! I think Bear has many reasons for stealing.
*He feels entitled to whatever it is and therefore justified in taking it.
*He thinks he's a "bad kid" anyway so he might as well steal.
*He needs to "prove" he's unloveable and unworthy of love/trust because he's scared it's true.
*He has an addictive brain and he "needs" the sugar.
*He has poor impulse control.

Probably a ton of other stuff too.


LOL about the word verification!

dueling mindsets said...

hey dear, it's your tennessee friend, from beautifully chaotic. I had to create a new space to be the real and honest and venting me. Stealing never ends. I give up. My life has become disposable!

Anonymous said...

Trying to post since last time it came out crazy... (this is Denise, BTW)

I have a son who never learns from his mistakes, but does learn from this punishments. Does that help? (NO, I didn't think so.)

P.S. The wordverification for this post is "fedupp". Coincidence?