Parenting has to be the toughest job on the planet. Every time I get cocky and think I have this parenting role down pat, I’m thrown a curve ball. Geez!
How many times in frustration or anger have you told your kid that if they did, you fill in the blank, one more time, you were going to, you fill in the blank? If you’re like most parents, at least once in your life you’ve told your kid that you were going to do something that you know darn well you wouldn’t do. Yup! I’m guilty too.
I’ve learned to be more careful about those ridiculous outbursts because those words could come back and haunt me. For I know that if I don’t do what I said I was going to do, I’ve completely lost credibility with my child. And losing credibility with my child means nothing but trouble. Keeping that in mind, I thought I’d share a story with you.
My son is going through a typical but frustrating phase that some kids go through… it’s the unthinkable…. Stealing!!! There I said it. Why? Because you may have some advice for me or you may learn something from my experience.
He’s eight. About two months ago, this unfortunate phase started. The first offense was at a store. He was made to return the item, which he’d opened and we made him pay for it. We went through the typical parental lecture about doing the right thing, choice, consequences, and so forth. This was the first time and I firmly believe that his actions were impulsive.
The second offense, about one month later, was more deliberate and calculating. He took an item from his older sister and fibbed about it. Two days later, the truth came out. We talked about it and he was punished. AND… out of frustration, he was told that if “it” the stealing happened again, that I was going to take him to the police. Yes, I did! Of course, I thought he learned his lesson (mistake), so I didn’t think too much about it.
Don’t you know it!! About four weeks later, little man did it again!!!! I picked him up from school and a teacher delivered the bad news. My words came back to haunt me with a vengeance. I knew what I had to do, but I really didn’t have the time nor did I want to make the time. I asked my son if he remembered what I told him that I would do if he stole again. Oh yes! He remembered! “The police station?” He was horrified and scared to death. As pissed off as I was, it was hard not to bust out laughing when I caught a glimpse of his terrified face in my rear view mirror.
His ride to the local police station must have felt like a death sentence. For a moment, I wondered if I was needlessly traumatizing my child. I pondered if the theft was a phase or would my darling baby grow up to be a felon. Who knows? Of course no one wants to think that their child will grow up to be a criminal. But the fact of the matter is that all the criminals walking the face of the earth belong to someone! Tanya, you’re doing the right thing, keep driving.
At the police station, I was greeted by a receptionist. “How can I help you?” Frustration and annoyance drove me to say, “Hi! This is my eight year old son. We have a problem, he’s a thief and he needs to see a police officer!” She tried to maintain her composer and left to get an officer.
A police officer and a detective lectured to my son about positive and negative choices and the consequences that come along with personal choices. So that he could understand and visualize the consequences of stealing and other illegal offenses, he was taken to the holding cell, all while I waited in the hallway. I know! It all sounds harsh, but it wasn’t a scene from scared straight. He needed this. Taking his privileges away at home, didn’t work, so a different approach was needed.
On the way home, we discussed his actions and what he learned from his visit to the police station. Later when his dad got home from work, we talked more about why he did what he did. A week and a half later he’s still on probation (at home) and is working hard to earn his favorite toys and our trust back.
Will he steal again? I don’t know. Hopefully he learned from the experience. Will others disagree with my actions? Yes. I just know that parenting is trial and error. What works for one child may not work for another child. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! For me, it’s tough love and a constant reminder that in addition to holding my son accountable for his actions, that must also hold myself accountable for my actions and for my words. The school of parenting is amazing! I will continue to enroll and give it my best!