17yo stealing, need help

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
17yo stealing, need help
11
Wed, 09-29-2010 - 12:55pm

There's a whole lot of back story to this that I'm not going to get into, mainly because no one has the time to read page after page of it. So I'll cut to the chase.

I have a 17yo son who lives with his dad, again looooong story, he has a history of taking things that don't belong to him. Candy bar at the gas station, money out of purses, and strong suspicion of taking fund raising money.

When he's been caught he never seems to be sorry for doing it, but because he got caught. When asked why he did it his main reason is because he wanted to.

I think, due to the whole back story, it's a way for him to control something. He wants it, he'll get it, regardless of how. And that thought fits in with what I know of shop lifters. Both the, because I want to, as well as a way to control something.

Recently he got into a drawer at his fathers house and took a credit card racking up about $100 using it on video games you have to pay for in order to advance your character. You don't *have* to spend the money to be able to play, but because he wants the extra stuff he found a way to get the money.

Dad and SM called the cops to put some fear in him. Cuffed him and put him in the back of the cruiser. The cop was going to take him to the station and carry the fear factor as far as they could but after seeing the 17yo acting remorseful and crying decided he had learned his lesson and let him go.

Problem is, he's gotten very good at telling you what he thinks you want to hear. He's seen several counselors of dad and sm's choosing and he's done the same with all of them. He'll cry, he'll say the right words, you name it, he's done it and they believe him. But it doesn't change anything and he's right back to doing stupid stuff.

Now he's been caught stealing something more then a candy bar and dad is quite ticked off about it, and with good reason. Question is, what do we do?

I don't want to see him land in jail, but if it comes to that then maybe it's something he needs to do. However, I don't think that'll change anything, it won't help him...except to maybe make him smarter when he goes to steal something.

So what other options are out there? More counseling? But with who? Or what kind of counseling? Who's going to see beyond all the BS that this child likes to pull, especially since he's so good at figuring out what it is you want to hear.

Are there programs out there I should be looking into?

I think this goes beyond "Because I wanted it" but how to find someone who can see that, not be influenced by my thoughts or his dad/sm's thoughts and see the child for himself and what he thinks, I just don't have a clue.

Hopefully someone has a clue and can point me in the right direction.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 09-29-2010 - 4:09pm
This is just an idea off the top of my head, but instead of him going to the counselor, which isn't really working since he has no intention of changing his behavior or getting any insight, what about if you & his dad went to a counselor to get some ideas of how to deal w/ him? At his age, if he does get arrested, pretty soon he'll have an adult criminal record which will follow him forever. I'm sure he can't see the consequences of that right now. My DSD was like this--she did some petty stealing from us, like taking a $20 from my wallet, using dad's debit card to get $10 of gas. Then he found out that she was arrested for shoplifting but I think the store didn't press charges if she paid some money. She obviously hasn't had enough consequences where it really hurts to stop the behavior--recently she went from MA to VA driving and I guess there are toll highways on the way, so she decides to drive through the "fast pass" lanes w/o stopping, thinkig that since she's from out of state she will never get caught, then she ends up w/ $200 in fines for that. She was living w/ her grandmother, then got tossed out of her house because she was stealing from her own GM, including stealing her pain meds, probably to sell. So since she really hasn't stopped, I guess I really don't know what the answer is.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-20-2009
Wed, 09-29-2010 - 4:49pm

Sorry about this.

Susan L.



Robert Edward Xavier Lin - Born July 31, 2010 at 5:56AM, 6 pounds 4 ounces and 19 inches long. He spent 2 weeks in the NICU but he's doing great now!
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 09-29-2010 - 5:13pm

IMO, the counselor isn't working because your son has not been correctly diagnosed or treated. ADDers steal because they "live in the moment". Past and future do not occur to them, and consequences have little effect, mostly because they are not remembered. ODDers steal because they lack inhibition - they purposefully aggravate, annoy and cause trouble. They also steal to "repay" real or imagined slights. People with antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and conduct disorder have an inability to form meaningful emotional relationships, coupled with chronic anger, poor impulse control, and a lack of empathy and remorse.

The thing here is, if these conditions are left untreated, they WILL get worse. And MOST emotional/psychiatric disorders cannot be treated by psychotherapy ALONE. Medications make the person CAPABLE of learning from the therapy. Quality therapy can then teach life lessons and acceptable coping skills.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-1998
Thu, 09-30-2010 - 10:52am

I'm with Sabrtooth on this one...I'd spend the money and get him tested.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-21-2008
Thu, 09-30-2010 - 11:30am

I don't know at this age. I also don't know this young man but it sound's an awful lot like the DD I seem to have been referring to in the last few days. Susan might be right, especially if she's much closer to the age and thoughts and ideas "these" kids (including mine) were raised hearing. I don't mean by the parents, but what the other students and defiant kids talk about and learn from each other.



I don't know what state OP is in, but here in Washington, SOMETIMES one can gain a little more "time" to help if the teen get's incarcerated AS A JUVENILE, to be held in a youth facility until 21. It dosen't sound like he's done anything serious enough for that. It seems like if he hasen't been accountable up to this point, it might be difficult to get the ball rolling at 17 without a youth "history" of behavior, maybe school records? OP, are you or X able to keep DS on insurance after he turns 18? But if he dosen't see a problem or WANT to change how his life is going, how does one "compel" an 18 yo to continue shcool, counseling, ANY program if he chooses not to- and can't be forced by juvenile incarceration?

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-30-2010
Thu, 09-30-2010 - 12:23pm

I have a few ideas for you.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 09-30-2010 - 4:44pm

Wanted to thank everyone for their thoughts, I greatly appreciate it.

We're in NC if that helps at all. I've passed on what's been said to the ex and sm and guess we keep putting our heads together and see what we can do to keep him out of jail, get him whatever treatment he needs and hopefully get him on the right path.

Crazy thing is, he knows right from wrong, he and his brother were busted for shoplifting a few years ago. However he was let off the hook...which I'm sure contributed to his thought processes that he wouldn't get caught... while his brother went to the program one of you mentioned.

Jail may be the place he ends up, but I'd like to see us try everything before he gets to that place.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-20-2009
Thu, 09-30-2010 - 5:51pm

I may "just have a baby" but I have a brain and I have opinions.

Susan L.



Robert Edward Xavier Lin - Born July 31, 2010 at 5:56AM, 6 pounds 4 ounces and 19 inches long. He spent 2 weeks in the NICU but he's doing great now!
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Thu, 09-30-2010 - 7:11pm

The error in your reasoning is that this kid obviously has an emotional/psychiatric problem that renders him INCAPABLE of stopping the lying and stealing. Simply letting him <> will not "teach" him anything. He needs to get a correct diagnosis, and appropriate psychiatric & medical treatment, or he will NEVER change, and the longer this is postponed, the harder he will be to treat.

Many people have your attitude, that all troubled kids need is a a good swift kick, and to <>. Looking in from the outside, you have no idea what the parents have tried, or gone thru. And your 15 years in the legal system apparently did not educate you to the association between mental illness and criminality.

According to a recent report by 57 independent monitoring boards of prisons, 90% of inmates have at least one diagnosable, UNTREATED mental disorder. Another meta-study found that 86% of prisoners qualified for a diagnosis of personality disorder, with a significant relationship seen between ADHD and personality disorders. Offenders with ADHD were more likely than their counterparts without it, to have antisocial personality disorder (54% vs. 30%), borderline personality disorder (52% vs. 23%), and other mental health conditions like mood & anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, and somatoform disorders.

This indicates CLEARLY that treating ADHD and other personality and psychiatric disorders EARLY, would heavily reduce the number of people facing the consequences of their actions in our prison system. Which, obviously, does NOT work very well, considering the simple fact that up to 94% of former inmates will be rearrested and up to 81% will wind up behind bars again -- a recidivism rate that calls into question the effectiveness of America's corrections system, which costs taxpayers $60 billion a year.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-16-1999
Fri, 10-01-2010 - 7:32am

<>

Don't rely on the legal system to enact consequences for his bad behavior - take the bull by the horns and make sure he understands the seriousness of what he did! And not by simple grounding or taking away his tv or whatever either - make him "work off his crime"! And I do mean work. Many years ago, my DS got caught shoplifting a carton of cigarettes when he was 17 y/o. Yes, he was charged as an adult, but all he really got out of it was a hefty fine - that we made him pay out of his own money, that he earned at a JOB. No allowance $$ here after a certain age. Then, we figured the cost of that carton of cigarettes and how long it would take to earn enough to buy it at $5 an hour (given what minimum wage was back then, and allowing for what would be taken out for taxes and such, $5 was about what he'd take home). He spent many, many hours at hard labor, moving landscaping bocks around for DH. After he was done, he got a good talking to about being a *man* and *earning* what one has, rather than being a low life that takes what he wants off the hard work of other people... followed by the comment "you know, in some countries, if you get caught stealing something, they cut off your right hand! Don't let it happen again!" That was the last time that kid stole anything... it wasn't my bio son who did this (well, he was involved on the edge of it - he got the same penalties, minus the fine) but the foster DS who spent the first 17 years of his life living with an habitually criminal, drug addicted, welfare-supported bio family. Apparently his "consequences" weren't too harsh, coz he's still here... and to my knowledge has never stolen anything again. Given that we live in a small town where his bio family's criminal element are well known, the stores and police were keeping very close tabs on him at the time. My bio-DS? That was the first and last time he tried shoplifting something.

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