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Thread: Any advice from parents, teachers or counselors about kids who lie and steal?

  1. Senior Member
    Bagelsong's Avatar
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    Jul 2013
    Ft. Benning, GA

    Any advice from parents, teachers or counselors about kids who lie and steal?

    Preface: I work in a program for students who are considered "at risk" due to challenging home life, social/behavioral disorders, etc. We run our program after school in a cafeteria, and during that time, the kids are split into groups. One group gets academic tutoring while the other group goes to an arts enrichment class. Then they switch. We also work with them on social skills and focus on areas where they struggle academically.

    My question:
    Do any of you have any good advice or resources to deal with a child for whom lying and stealing has become a normal part of life? She is so incredibly sneaky, and does not fear the consequences of her actions. We have now have had to lock up all of our supplies at school, even when we are there, because she has found ways to get into them. Now she is somehow finding ways to get into other students' belongings. There are three adults in the room, and she is so clever about it that we still have yet to witness her in the act. She always has a great explanation for everything. She just always conveniently has something that looks exactly like something that belongs to somebody else, or when she thinks she might get caught, she conveniently becomes the hero by suddenly being able to find others' missing belongings.

    Today, another student was crying because her coin purse disappeared from her book bag. Little Miss Sticky Fingers was right there when the distraught girl reported this. I asked the crying girl, "Well, can you remember who was at this table before you went to art class?" Before she could answer, "sticky fingers" all of the sudden needed an emergency bathroom break. While she was in the bathroom, the distraught girl mentioned that "sticky fingers" and one other person were the only ones at the table. I happen to be working 1:1 with the other student at that time. All of the sudden, "sticky fingers" comes running back from the bathroom shouting, "Oh my gosh! Look at what I found on the floor in the bathroom!"

    In the past, she has offered to help put supplies away, and in the process, things have gone missing from the snack box and prize box. During the first week of the program, she coincidentally won items in her class auction that were the exact same brand and color of certain items in our supply bins.

    The list goes on, and I just am not sure how to handle it. Mom is a single parent with many kids and is not fully involved in her kids' school lives (which is why this student is in the program to begin with), and has many issues with drugs and breaking the law on her own.

    I am going to talk to my boss and the principal, but a variety of options/ideas would be helpful. I am pretty sure I will have other students like this in the future.
  2. Senior Member
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    Jun 2012
    Hmmmm. I've never had that situation personally but my first thought is to give her some kind of special assignment. Could you even make her in charge of the prize box or snack box? Tell her things have been misplaced and you need her to keep track of how many snacks/prizes are in each bin? So she would have to count at the beginning of the week and keep track of how many prizes you give out, and then at the end of the week if all of the prizes are accounted for, she can have a reward of some kind?

    In general, the more responsibility I gave my trouble students (whether I actually needed them to do it or not) the less I had to deal with problem behavior. I worked with middle school students though--I feel like this tactic would only work with elementary/middle school age kids.
  3. eas
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    Feb 2011
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    I think for her it is an attention seeking behavior, she is craving for attention which you have to think she is in a group class room all day to then go to a group activity after school then goes home to a mom with split attention and most likely too tired and busy to listen to what she has to say. Therefore she searches out something to draw attention to her even if it is negative attention because either one will fill her void.

    As much as it has got to be absolutely frustrating and a little disturbing you must love her through it and create an environment where she can be listened to and praised. Instead of just searching out the things she does wrong make her your "teacher's pet" and exaggerate the praise when she does something right as positive reinforcement.

    It is wrong what she is doing but it happens alot for children that are starved for attention. The other thing is that she could be searching for things that could be her's and only her's because she most likely has to share alot in her family from toys, to clothes and also things in the classrooms so maybe start bringing in little trinkets she might like as rewards for good behavior.

    If both those things dont work children are quite intelligent and can be talked to like adults. Talk to her frankly and not in an angry way where she is in trouble but ask why she wants to take those things and why she chooses to return then and be the hero. You might be able to get an answer but NEVER punish her for her answer because she will never open up to you. Also start a dialogue on her family life and what she did in school for she probably doesnt get the chance to talk to an adult that truly listens to her.

    Good luck and remember try to come from a place of love no matter how frustrating she can make things for you
  4. The Decider
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    I think in order to properly treat the problem, you have to find the root of it.

    Jane's suggestion would be a good one if this child is stealing for attention. I have a cousin (adopted after parental rights were severed. Incredibly bad former living situation) who steals and lies about everything. When we go to visit family, we have to hide our purses in a locked compartment in a locked room, or leave them in the car with the doors locked and keep the keys in a front pocket, because she steals from us as well. But she steals because it's habit for her. She became the "provider" of her family at eight years old (or perhaps earlier) and if she wouldn't have stolen food or money, the younger kids may not have survived. She steals because she still feels her survival is contingent on having other things. So she takes and "hoards," for lack of a better term, because she is insecure and doesn't want to be in a similar situation again.

    Particularly if the parent has drug issues, it could be that this child steals because she feels some sense of responsibility for her family, or thinks she won't have food later.
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  5. I just can't even...
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    What a sad situation.

    I can't give advice but I think you've gotten some great advice already. Good luck.

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