13 Year Old Lying and Stealing

by Jennie
(South Sacramento, Ca)

Question: I have been having a lot of problems with my 13 yr old son lying, stealing, and bad-mouthing me. He has stolen cell phones from teachers twice.

He stole $300 of my rent money for the book fair, again stole $20 out of my pocket yesterday, he steals from stores, he steals food (all he has to do if he wants something is ask)...basically, if he wants it, he takes it.

Then he turns around and lies about it, even when he knows he is busted. He says things like "I didn't know I couldn't take it" or "I thought it was mine" Nothing seems to work.

I have grounded him, taken things away, tried to sit down and talk to him about the seriousness of his actions, and NOTHING works. I tried to have the cops talk to him about consequences and they told me that they are not in the business of scaring children.

What do I have to do to get them to help me, wait until he gets arrested? I am trying to avoid that at all costs, but the road he is on is going to land him in jail. I need some constructive advice...no bashing please!

Answer: Have you tried having him do restitution for anything stolen? This could mean him doing chores to pay back the equivalent amount he has stolen. I would also have him directly return any items to an individual he has stolen from
and apologize for stealing it.

I would take him to the person yourself to ensure that it is done. If it happens at a store, take him to the store manager and have him confess, return it (or pay for it with money earned from doing chores), and apologize.

It's possible the store might press charges, but chances are it would just be a misdemeanor, which is way better than a felony down the road because he has embezzled money from the work place.

Put a list of rules in place for him. This will include restricting his freedom of movement (he should not be able to go anywhere without supervision, such as shopping etc.). Checking his pockets and backpack when he gets home everyday and looking through his bedroom weekly for items that could be stolen. Provide a list of chores that will need to be done in addition to his regular chores when he has stolen something. Also, let him know that he will have to directly return anything you find stolen to that person and apologize.

Put these in writing and go over them with him. As he shows you he can be trusted, you can allow him some more freedom, but anytime he is caught stealing go back to the strict list of rules. Prevention is going to be your best option here and hopefully he will want to earn back some of his freedom and privacy by not stealing anymore.

Good Luck!

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