Sticky Fingers (and we ain’t talking about the Rolling Stones)
It’s pretty common for kids with attachment and trauma problems to also have “sticky fingers”, aka, a problem with stealing. So, a while ago I asked other parents on Parenting in SPACE to give advice, and what follows is what they said. I hope it is helpful to those of you who may have kids who are struggling with this issue. If you have additional thoughts, send an email to info@HouseCallsCounsling and we’ll add to this! Thanks!
These are just a handful of ideas. Thanks to everyone who submitted them!
1. Figure out the purpose of the behavior.
For kids who are trying to capture a piece of the person they are with, but fear they “may NEVER see again” (from the kid’s perspective) even if they live down the hall: making “pieces of each other” jewelry or other carry-along items can be helpful.
Personal example: After my daughter stole my drivers license a few times to “keep me from driving away,” I got a novelty one made at the flea market (okay, fine, a fake ID) and let her carry it since I HAD to come back for it.
2. Prescribe the problem.
I’ve hidden little things around the house that are numbered and dared them to “steal” them all, etc.
Lots of little dollar store items laying around, available for stealing for older kids.
Say things like:
“Hey while you’re at school today, why don’t you grab a couple things out of someone else’s lunch box, wouldn’t that be AWESOME!”
“You know those suckers are on the counter-top, when I am not looking you sooo should take one.”
“I am going to leave my purse in the car, I am pretty sure there is money AND gum inside, when I am not looking, have at it.”
Results/Reactions from the kid:
I always get a scowl/smile.
“NOOOOOOO, Mom, I don’t want to do that.” 99% of the time they don’t.
And if they do, it takes the sting out of it for me: I get to say things like “Excellent, you did EXACTLY what I asked you to do, terrific.”
3. Get Creative!
I have hung signs over the door that say:
“May everything stolen that enters this house be covered with oodles and oodles of extra love from mom. May the person who took those things be covered in that love until it leaks out of their ears and warms their heart.”
I have also made up a “Mom Love” spray (water with a hint of lavender or peppermint oil). Go around spraying all over their room.
Child: “What are you doing?” Mom: “I’m spraying my Mom Love spray. You see, it is only attracted to anything that is stolen. Usually things get stolen because a person is feeling bad or stressed. They need extra Mom Love! So, this sticks to the stolen things and leaks out all over the person who took them.”
They have to replace 3 times over.
If they have stolen from a store: they have to tell they store manager what they did, pay for it with money they earn from chores, and clean up litter from the parking lot.
If they have stolen from the family: it is replaced with their money or returned, and they have to help the family member for a set amount of time.
5. Other Solutions:
Hand held in all stores.
Line of sight any time we are not home.
Clothes without pockets.
Note: The common theme of the posts seems to show that these solutions have worked in one way or another, but have NOT completely stopped the behavior. Also, we kept the contributors anonymous for confidentiality reasons.