Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Do You Do When Your Friend’s Kid Steals From You?

The past several days I’ve been wrestling with a situation. One of my older son’s friends has taken my younger son’s toy. It’s not the first time. What do you do about a situation like this?

During a sleepover with the friend, my younger son nestled his three Bakugan on their magnetic cards on his desk when he went to sleep. My husband saw them there at bedtime. This was his toy of the moment. He carried the little balls everywhere. Since they’re magnetic they were even attached to his silverware at dinner. He had to earn 10 extra homework points to get them and this took 21 days. The number of days is etched on my mind because earning the toys was as stressful for me as it was for my son. This toy meant a lot to all of us.

The friend was sleeping over on a school night. Just as the older boys were about to go to middle school, the little one woke up and said his Bakugan were missing. He was trying to get the boy to show him where they were, but it was time for them to go to school. As the vehicle pulled away, my son started to wail and I understood what had occurred.

Just before they had left, I told the boy that he didn’t need to take his overnight duffle bag to school. He had this slight panicked look and involuntarily started to move toward it, then stopped. I noted that his reaction was odd at the time. He had been upstairs going back and forth between the bathroom and my son’s dark bedroom several times. Just as I went to ask him what he needed, he dodged downstairs for breakfast. The whole morning had this slightly unsettled feeling for me.

Since my son was crying, I immediately went to the duffle bag. The Bakugan weren’t there but under the clothes I found my son’s coin collection and his cub scout flashlight. Since he wasn’t crying about these items, I ignored them.

What do you do? All I wanted was for the Bakugan to come back. Bakugan were the main thing on his Christmas list and now he was without the few he had earned.

I called the parent and happily reported that they were off to school on time. Then I explained that my little guy was crying because he woke up and his toys were missing from his desk. I didn’t think my older son had moved them. Could he ask his son about it? There was worry on both sides about how to handle this, but still hope for a happy ending. However, a couple of phone calls later, I was told that they were in my house. The boy claimed they had been playing a keep-away-game where he held the Bakugan hostage. The boy didn’t remember anything. When I explained that he had been keeping them “hostage” in his hoodie pocket until my son removed them, there was some anger from the parent. The boy is willing to share a few of his Bakugan with us.

Even my little one said, “He is just trying to make himself feel better.” Yes, I explained, it’s called “alleviating guilt”.

No one wants for anyone to be upset. I’ve lost two nights sleep.

I haven’t mentioned the other items in the bag or the fact that one day last summer all my older son’s best Yu-gi-o cards disappeared. They had been playing with them and when the boy left my son went over to his decks on the table and all the best cards were gone. We didn’t say anything. We don’t want to start trouble or accuse a friend. You don’t know how to make that phone call. I made the call this time but the parent believes his boy would not lie. I’m struggling.

One part of me thinks I should just forget about it. We already accepted that we lost our best cards a long time ago. We are hoping that the Bakugan my mother-in-law bought for Christmas are an exact replacement. In the meantime, we gave him one of his Santa presents and frantically paid a fortune online to get another one delivered so that Santa doesn’t look bad. You can’t buy these toys in stores because they sell out immediately.

But what do I do next time the boy comes over to our house knowing that he has probably been taking things each time?

Do I frisk him down and go through his bag? Of course, I couldn’t do that in front of the dad. Okay, I can’t do it at all.

Do I talk with the boy myself? Tell him all I know? Warn him? It’s not my place. What good would it do? He lies to me about things all the time. You can’t have conversations like this with someone else’s child.

What if he starts to steal MY things? It’s an awful feeling. This is the feeling my sons have now. We all know what is happening.

The boy needs help. He needs to learn that he can’t take things. What if I don’t say anything and he gets arrested for taking something? Don’t I have a responsibility to try to teach him right from wrong? I care about this family.

I don’t want to l lose the friendship because they can never visit us again. I don’t want to lose the friendship because I tell the whole story and there is anger at me. Bad feelings will hang between us. I’ve spent days trying to find the right words. If I tell the whole story, I still won’t be able to trust the kid, and I probably will have lost a friend.

I want my sons to learn from this situation and I’m afraid that no matter what I do it will be wrong. Do I teach that you keep friends you don’t trust and let them take from you? Do you discard friends when they do wrong? Do you try to help someone with a problem? Can the boy really be helped?

I think I’m going to lose some more sleep.

2 comments:

  1. Hi,

    A very difficult situation I agree, but you need to be strong both for your sons sakes and his.

    By ignoring the situation you are teaching your friends son and your sons that stealing is OK and that to turn a blind eye to it is OK.

    I'm sure this is not what you want your sons to learn.

    It will also act to undermine your teaching and philosophies that you teach your kids.

    My advice, phone the parents explain the problem and tell them the boy is barred from your home until the stolen items are returned and they assure you that he has been spoken to and that it will not happen again.

    If you do not the matter will escalate until either money or something of value disappears.

    Also your sons will feel that you are unable to protect them or their belongings in their own home.

    How would you feel if it was your friend and no-one did anything?

    Hope this helps.

    Good luck

    Colin

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  2. Here are my two cents, which are worth far less than what you've already lost, I'm afraid.

    You know that you can't allow this behavior to go on. It's harmful to your children, your family, and ultimately, to the boy himself. So the real question boils down to whom you talk to first.

    I suggest that you explain the situation to your boys, who are old enough to understand what's going on. Emphasize to them the importance of discretion, and tell them how you plan to handle the situation and why -- that will reinforce the lessons that you want them to learn. Bad things happen in life, but you can teach them how to deal with bad situations by maintaining moral responsibility.

    Then talk to the parent. Don't request compensation or recommend action, just make the parent aware of the situation so he can handle it as he sees fit. If you lay out the facts as you've put them here, there's no denying that the friend is a thief. If the parent denies it anyway, then maybe your children aren't the only ones who need to reconsider their choice of friends.

    I am sorry that you've been put in such an uncomfortable situation, but the silver lining is that you can teach your children a valuable life lesson.

    Good luck.

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