Lying and Stealing! OH NO!
I often get asked to help when seemingly happy, well adjusted children, lie or even steal. As parents, we visualize our child who steals in a series of arrests or, the worst prison terms. So we automatically want to impress upon the child the seriousness of lying and stealing. We institute the most grave consequences; grounding, removal of favorite electronic devices, and letters of restitution. I have known parents to go so far as to have the child visit the jail or detention center or talk to a police officer. It makes sense to want to “nip it in the bud” with harsh punishments, but here is what the experts have to say.
First of all, the reason kids steal is either because they have a distorted sense that they should have whatever they want, or they are seeking the thrill of being sneaky and getting away with something, or they want attention or----all of the above.
With that in mind, we may want to look at this as a teachable moment with natural consequences rather that severe punishment. I find that when children are grounded for long periods of time and favorite activities are removed from them they become more resentful and bitter and really don’t learn what we want them to. Also, they may begin to identify themselves as a liar and a thief, not the honest child we want them to be. So here are a few tips.
1. Provide natural consequences. This can be returning the object, writing a letter, working off the cost of the object, and verbal apologies.
2. Avoid bringing it up again or reminding the child regularly that he cannot be trusted. Instead make the natural consequence a way to build trust and honesty.
3. Give your child routine responsibilities around the house so he is a contributing member of the household and not entitled to the rewards of an orderly household.
4. Provide a weekly allowance so your child has his own money and develops a sense of managing it. If you are a member of a church or your child is interested in any charities, have him regularly donate some of his allowance. If there is some item he really wants, help him budget and save his allowance.
5. Build self worth by praising the positive things he does, especially when he is honest or helps others.
6. Model honesty. If you are under charged for something, make sure your child hears you “make it right.”
7. Tell stories at dinner time or other family times that show the value and rewards of honesty.
Remember, make this time a teachable moment that builds your child’s self worth.
Hope this helps and thanks for reading my tips,
Jan Eggiman, RN,MS, LMFT