Friday, September 17, 2010


Garbanzo is stealing again.  Just little things, mostly sweeties, that he pockets in the stores.  So distressing.  We always make him go back to the store and confess and then do work for them to pay them back.  This doesn't seem to deter him at all, but I don't know what else to do.  What do you advise?


  1. Grain of salt coming from someone without a child with Garbanzo's struggles...

    I think my first question would be, what is Garbanzo's payoff here? Is it to get to eat a piece of candy he's otherwise not allowed to have? Is it to get a rise out of you? Is it for general attention? Is he good at it or is he easily caught? Or maybe a combination?

    If the approach of taking him back to the store and making him apologize and then work off the theft isn't working, perhaps THAT has become the reward? As you said below, negative attention is still attention. What a powerful person he must be to make Mama go back to a store and then command the attention of the store manager and be supervised during a task! Maybe? I don't know.

    Maybe it's a win-win situation for him, if he doesn't get caught he gets free candy, if he does he gets Mama's (and the store manager's) undivided attention. Either way he wins.

    Or maybe I'm totally off-base. I guess I would just try to think about what the REAL payoff is that he's getting here--is it really about the actual object he's stealing or is it something else? Maybe if you can figure that out, you can have an easier time figuring out how to remove the payoff to punish the behavior.

  2. Hmm... Is there some way you can make it a stronger lesson? What I was more thinking of is seeing if you can get police involved. Does he have any kind of healthy respect for law enforcement or does he understand what jail is? I don't know if it is possible, but it may be worth getting together with the store owner/manager and the local police if he does it again. Perhaps there is some way you can give him a little taste of the real life legal consequence of stealing. I, also, have not had to deal with this problem and am just trying to think of some ideas for you.

    Shelby brought up a lot of good questions about what he is getting out of it that may help you figure out the cause.

  3. I know this post is old but I wondered if you have found a solution or combination of approaches that work? We have just discovered over the last couple of weeks that our son has been stealing from his friends at school for most of the year. He sneaks out to the lockers when no one is around and rifles through them for food, toys and trinkets. Yesterday we discovered he emptied his sister's piggy bank and has been stealing food from the pantry.

    Our discipline and positive feedback approach of the last couple weeks have had zero impact. Based on my reading around the PI world I am very worried. Any help would be appreciated.

    rthomas at exordiumgroup dot com

  4. Just now saw this Ronda. Honestly, the only thing that really works is consistent pat-downs and bag checks. Grim.


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