Did you ever steal anything when you were a kid? Have your children ever stolen anything? Have you had anything stolen from you? What happened?
As a child I was guilty on two counts. Once while shopping with a friend at the local Ben Franklin I spied a bi-colored colored pencil. It was red on one end and blue on the other. I really wanted it. So I simply picked it up and walked out of the store. Then I laid it on the ground, and after my friend exited the store I pretended to find the pencil on the ground and kept it. But my conscience would not be quiet and so somewhere along the route home I purposely dropped it. I do not know the price of the single pencil but I am guessing it was well under a dollar. I had probably just spent that much on candy in the store. Another time I stole a piece of chocolate candy from a convenience store. It was an Ice Cubes chocolate square (“German Milk Chocolate Ice Cubes Melt in Your Mouth”). I think I ate it quickly before my conscience took over.
I do not recall any stories about my children struggling with stealing. That just means my memory is lacking, not that they were always angels. One of my sons told me the following story. “I tried to steal a little green army man from a neighbor kid, just to be mean to him. But his mom saw me out the window and yelled at me so I dropped it and ran home.”
One day our son came in the house with a twenty dollar bill which he said the neighbor boy had given to him. I wanted to know why. What did he want you to do to be given the money? Nothing. Something was wrong with that picture. I went to the neighbor’s house and discovered his son had helped himself to all the paper bills in Dad’s wallet while dad was napping. The money was returned.
When our two middle boys were teens a friend stole some money from their room. At the time he vehemently denied it and trust was broken. We all felt violated and betrayed. Years later he confessed to stealing from them. Truth eventually wins.
Stealing is wrong. It is a punishable crime. Even within our homes amongst family members it is wrong. When discovered, it must be dealt with seriously. Always consider the child’s character and heart when deciding upon appropriate correction. I also believe punishments should fit the crimes. Confession regarding the theft to a family member or a store or other victim can be humbling and a deterrent to future incidents. An apology is suitable. Restitution should be made. The one who stole should return the item if possible or pay to replace it. Parents should not overlook stealing or bail their child out of facing consequences for their actions. Sparing their child or themselves the embarrassment of confession will be a disservice to them. It is better to deal directly with a problem while it is still a small problem.
In the adult world stealing leads to jail time. No one is getting arrested for stealing cookies from the cookie jar at home, but shopping lifting, employees taking home work supplies, tax evasion, and reusing postage stamps is on the rise. Beware.