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Prevention Reactive Ongoing

 

Answers and techniques designed to

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theft related questions asked by parents

 

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Many parents know their child will be taught about drugs, alcohol or sex, but interestingly enough, we find the topic of theft is often left out of this list. Just by reading this document you, as a parent or guardian, are taking the right step to help prevent theft activities in your child's life.

As a counseling agency which specializes in theft prevention and diversion, "THEFT TALK"™ has become aware of the many questions and concerns of parents. We have designed this document to help parents find Preventative, Reactionary and Ongoing (PRO) techniques to help their child make better decisions.

If your child has been involved in theft, or if you suspect it, we have found that consistency and thorough follow up are the most effective precautionary measures. The following suggestions should prove helpful in preventing your child from involvement in theft.

Remember, these are not absolute answers or "quick fixes," but reasonable advise we have found to be quite effective for young people. We commend you on your consideration of these issues and encourage you not to give up. A key to becoming a PRO parent is consistency and follow through. You need not read this entire booklet, there are three sections, one or two which are applicable to you.

Becoming a PRO Parent

(Choose One)

Prevention

Reactive

Ongoing

 

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Prevention

Theft prevention can be addressed throughout your parenting years. The following suggestions may prove useful in providing your child with the tools to develop good decision making skills. As you will see, these suggestions emphasize the importance of "thinking of others."

 

The first step is to define stealing and to make it clear to your child that stealing is always wrong. Stealing is taking something which is not yours and without permission. Stealing is wrong because it always hurts other people - there are no exceptions! Periodically, remind your child that stealing is a serious issue and should never be taken lightly.

Go through your child's belongings occasionally to be sure your trust is warranted. Make sure your child can document how all property was acquired.

Create an environment where your child is encouraged to make a good decision when faced with the dilemma of whether or not to steal.

Leave one dollar on a counter top or table to build strength in the face of temptations.

Send your child to the store with a ten dollar bill to buy a one dollar item. Make sure your child returns with the correct change.

Reward all responsible and honest decisions your child makes. Take every opportunity to focus on the positives in your child's character and avoid an emphasis on negative behaviors. This will encourage considerate and responsible behavior.

Talk to your child about your own values and make sure your child knows your perspectives on theft. (Be sure there are no exceptions to your rule.) Don't hesitate to give examples which reveal your history of good choices such as telling a cashier when too much change was returned or returning a lost item. If you do wish to inform your child of a poor choice you made, be sure to include how you regret having hurt someone else.

If you see negative behavior, comment on it to your child. Make your child aware that hurtful behavior is not acceptable. Minimize your child's opportunity to experience negative people and remove violence from his/her life.

Plant positive seeds in your child's mind about his/her own character. Focus on positives in your child and avoid any negative comments such as "Why are you so bad lately?" Also avoid comparing your child to a negative person. For example, if the child's Uncle is a negative influence, avoid statements such as, "You're exactly like your Uncle."

 

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Reactive

 

This section includes suggestions for actions to be taken immediately after your child has been caught stealing. It is important to respond to your child's theft immediately. Do not let time pass or allow the intensity of this incident to wear off. Talk to your child about the seriousness and inappropriateness of this hurtful behavior.

 

Tell your child how you are feeling. Share how hurt you are with your child and get your child to try to understand how angry, disappointed, or sad you may be. Talk about your own values and perspectives on stealing.

Do not allow your child or yourself to minimize the theft in any way. The most important step parents can take is to get their child to accept responsibility in the theft. Do not blame peers, family, self esteem, the belief he/she is crying out for help, etc. Don't buy into any excuses or explanations for this behavior! Your job is to teach there is never an acceptable time to steal.

If your child was involved in a theft with other juveniles, consult with the other parties to make sure you get all of the details. Make your child aware that you will be in contact with others. This will encourage your child to be open and honest about his or her actions. Unfortunately, some parents may try to minimize their child's participation in this theft, but remember a Pro Parent accepts no excuses.

Have your child discuss this incident with a school principal, counselor, pastor or anyone respected by your child. This will reinforce the societal non-acceptance of theft.

Do not accidentally reward your child after the theft. For example, if a shirt was stolen, don't buy a shirt in order to demonstrate options to theft . Do not provide any tangible rewards for some time after the theft. Give your child a time line such as, "You are not going to get any new clothes for 3 months" and write it on the calendar as a goal to work toward.

Do not positively alter the family life in any way. (Another accidental reward.) Occasionally, when families are having problems, they choose to take a vacation or go to a movie. Be aware - you do not want to reward your child, but you do not want your family to function as normal either. Escalate the matter to a high level of seriousness. Don't try to hide it from the family. Let the theft be the family issue for the week.

Have your child face a victim connected to the theft. If your child stole from a store, go with him/her to talk with the store manager. Ask your child to come up with an appropriate way to respond to the store manager (victim), i.e. apologize, volunteer work, payment for the item.

Communicate with your child about options and alternatives to theft. Role play the incident in order to give your child the opportunity to come up with better options. You will want your child to generate a list of alternative choices that could have been made.

Be sure to impose punishments/consequences immediately after the theft. For example, take away all of your child's property and freedom, give more chores (work without pay-remember no rewards), and increase your level of supervision.

Bring your child to "THEFT TALK"™. The class focuses on changing the way people think about stealing. It is an educational and counseling session designed to help young people make better choices and to help your child better understand the full impact his/her actions had on others.

Do not allow your child to trade or borrow property with friends. It is important to be aware of all of your child's property. Your child should also be able to account for all of the property in his/her possession. Take away any property that can not be accounted for and donate it to a charity or throw it away.

Be sure your child knows your trust must now be earned. Also, help your child understand how to regain that trust. Let the trust be earned through the passage of time and good behavior, not on the passage of time alone.

If restitution needs to be made be sure your child pays it. Have him/her sell the Nintendo unit, bicycle, television, stereo, CD's etc.

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Ongoing Response

An immediate response to your child's behavior is important, however, we also find it is important to provide ongoing follow up. The consistent practice of the following suggestions will help reinforce the importance of good decision making skills, thinking of options, accepting responsibility for one's choices, and considerate behavior- even if the theft occurred six months ago.

 

Do not allow your child to trade or borrow property with friends. It is important to be aware of all of your child's property. Your child should also be able to account for all of the property in his/her possession. Take away any property that can not be accounted for and donate it to a charity or throw it away.

Regularly comment on your child's positive character traits. Help build the self image of a responsible person.

If you see negative behavior, comment on it to your child. Make your child aware that hurtful behavior is not acceptable. Minimize your child's opportunity to experience negative people and remove violence from their life. Focus on and emphasize positive behavior. If your child is engaging in a positive or considerate activity, be sure to give rewards which encourage that behavior. Reward all responsible and honest decisions your child makes and encourage your child to become involved in other interests such as music, clubs or athletics.

Remember not to accept minimizing or excuse making for any type of behavior. Disregard, and help your child avoid, statements such as:

"It wasn't my fault, my friends were stealing."

"I only stole one candy bar. Its no big deal."

"I only hit him once and he deserved it."

 

In order to help your child accept responsibility, many parents have found the words "nevertheless" or "regardless" helpful, i.e., "Regardless of that, it was still your choice." or "Nevertheless you are still responsible for the choices you make."

Conclusion

 

At "THEFT TALK"™ we promote "thinking of others" and encourage training this skill to the point that it becomes second nature for your child. Tell your child that being considerate is simply, "thinking of others." Attach stigma to examples of selfishness from others as a way to help your child ponder the balance between "self" and "others."

 

When people steal they are thinking of "self" and commonly not considering its effect on others. A PRO parent will regularly send the message: stealing is a selfish crime.

 

 
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