When Mya was younger, she went through a phase where if it wasn’t nailed down, she’d shove it in her pocket and claim it as her own. Not in stores, but within our house. She stole candy, food, toys…and then she moved onto the big one. Cold, hard cash.
She started out small. A piece of Almond Roca. A Hershey bar. Change left on the bathroom counter….dollar bills stuck in the dryer trap. No big deal, in the grand scheme of things. But a nickel off the floor is kind of like the ‘gateway drug’ of thievery. And then she swiped 70 bucks from Destini’s babysitting money.
When $400 disappeared from our foster daughter’s bedside table, we started to wonder if Mya was saving up for a plane ticket outta here. I don’t think we were far off. We found the hundred dollar bills wadded up inside her blankets and wondered what to do.
This was not our first go-around with stealing. It was simply the one that went on the longest…and for no apparent reason. We’d tried taking away privileges. She couldn’t have cared less. That was back in the day that I thought spanking actually worked (that’s a whole other story) and honestly, I whopped the heck outta that kids butt. Nothing helped. She’d turn around five minutes later and steal something again. And again.
SO finally, I had each child in the house go into Mya’s room and take one thing of hers that they wanted. Just one thing, but there were no limits on what they could take. Robin walked away with the Easy Bake Oven. Billy scored a guitar. Kayla and Destini, who were both older, took it easy on her and only took something small. But they hit her where it hurts and walked out with a Little Petshop animal…her prized possessions. Sounds harsh…but we’d all had enough.
And Mya finally understood what it felt like to have something of hers taken without her permission. Bingo. She never stole again.
Yesterday one of them went into Billy’s room, opened a brand new box of pop tarts he’d bought as a treat with his own money, and devoured 5 packages…that’s right…a total of ten pop tarts as fast as this child could shove them in!
But because this was a first offense…and because the child has a lower capacity of understanding than most…and because this child has been food deprived…and because this child immediately fessed up…I did nothing more than admonish and make the child pay for the box of pop tarts. We’ll see if it continues.
We’ve been through this with most of the kids we’ve had and for most part, a bit of embarrassment and removal of privileges has worked. But not always. It seems to depend…case to case…upon the child. Depending on their issues…on their past deprivation…on their level of capacity to understand…and on where they are emotionally, in their life.
Because it’s not always about wanting the item…sometimes, it’s much deeper.
After all these years I’ve still got one child who takes things from others continually. Nothing has worked. Not removal of privileges…not having everyone take something from their bedroom…not lecture after lecture. Nothing is working with this kid. This one maybe a deeper rooted issue than we at first thought. It may be…unfix-able.
And if there’s truly nothing I can do, perhaps a career can be based on such a skill. Maybe we’ll at least turn it into a positive thing, if it’s going to continue no matter what I do.
I’m sure such well honed skills would make a good “Repo-Man” or a Tax Collector…or a politician.