Today I had a 14 year old boy in my office who had used his parent’s iTunes account without their consent. He had racked up about $200 worth of apps and games over the course of a few months.
His parents were shocked when they received their iTunes bill and their son was shocked that all those $2 purchases had added up to so much money. He thought they would go totally unnoticed!
His parents weren’t sure how to respond. They were swinging between two extreme options. Should they dismiss it as a silly mistake or take him down to the police station? It was my job to help them decide how to teach their son responsibility and integrity. Here are the basic points we covered in that session.
1. Most kids “have-a-go” at stealing at some stage in their lives. It is not outside of the realms of normal. However, parents response to stealing does send a clear message on whether it is appropriate or not.
2. Some teenagers steal to get attention. The first things parents need to do is determine whether they are spending enough quality time with their teenager.
3. Some teenagers steal because they are bored. It is critical young people are invested in sport, dance, arts, or part-time jobs. This is often easier said than done, but essential to address.
4. Young people rarely steal because they lack, but if there is financial pressure or talk about financial pressure it could also trigger stealing.
Mum’s question: Is it okay to just give him a warning?
My response: I personally think it’s okay to give first time stealers a stern warning with a reasonable punishment. Something like not having the iPod for two weeks might be appropriate.
Mum’s question: How disappointed should I be feeling?
My response: Teenagers don’t calculate risk well and they act impulsively, so you can take this into account if you feel it was a silly mistake that will correct itself.
Remember too that you get what you focus on. Don’t make more of an issue out of it than it needs to be and give him plenty of affirmation when he makes good choices.
Dad’s question: What if it happens again?
My response: That is for you to decide….now, not when it happens again. Prepare a “if this happens next time” speech that specifically outlines the consequences if he steals again. Make sure you are clear and can commit to these consequences. I personally show no mercy with second time offenders. Bring out the heavy artillery.
If your son or daughter has stolen I’d like to know how you responded. Leave a comment below…
THANK YOU to everyone who has been passing these blog posts on, and for all your kind emails about their impact on your family. If you have a topic you would like me to blog about email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond to it as soon as I can.
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MOST IMPORTANTLY if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.