7 yr old with ADD and is stealing

Andrea - posted on 03/07/2011 ( 15 moms have responded )

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My son is 7 yrs old and is on Methylin 10mg for ADD and PICA. He is doing great in school since starting the meds 1 -1/2 months ago. He hasn't destroyed anyone's property, quit eating non-food things, doesn't bother other kids like he used to, and his impulsiveness is under control a lot better. But, this past weekend he ended up with a pocket full of change saying someone ont he bus gave it to him. I saw thru it and eventually he fessed up to stealing from his sister. He was grounded to his room for most of the day Saturday and had to clean and organize thoroughly before I even considered letting him out, and he had to apologize to his sister.
I received an email today from his teacher asking if Alex had a certain brand and flavor of chapstick, because someone told her he took it out of someone else's backpack. Nope, he doesn't get to take chapstick to school becuase he uses it in a day or loses it or "draws" with it so I told her it wasn't his and to please let me know his consequence at school.
Has anyonehad experience with stealing? This isn't just the 2nd time it's happened, and he's 7! I've talked to him about how it hurts the person he stole from, about how he'd feel if someone stole from him, how it's against the law and God's law, etc. I've made him write sentences (which he hates!) about stealing.
I'm not sure how else to handle this. Does he maybe need a different medication? Because this seems like an impulsive thing to do, and I tell ya, I don't even want to think about him being a pre-teen/teen and still stealing.
Any ideas or advice?
Thank you

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Terri - posted on 03/09/2011

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Impulsivity can be a real problem with ADHD kids. One thing you need to realize is that while your son is chronologically 7, emotionally he's probably closer to 5. ADHD kids tend to lag behind emotionally, and it makes it tough to explain ethics and integrity to them when they're still relatively young. However, it definitely needs to be addressed. I don't know if you've done any empathy training with him, but you might want to try it. Rather than browbeat him about "Don't steal" help him to really understand how it feels to have someone take something away from him. If he has a small toy or other item that he really likes, take it and lock it away. Then sit down with him and ask him to explain to you how he feels when the item has been taken away? Get him to understand his own emotions about losing things, then you'll have a better chance of getting him to understand how others feel when he takes their things. Remember, he's 7. He has absolutely no clue how "the law" be it man's or God's actually fits into his world. You need to relate to him on his own emtional level to get the kind of response you are looking for from him.

Carol - posted on 08/05/2016

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Hi there I feel your pain , I really do. My son is 18 has ADHD and has been caught stealing many many times. He is on probation now for two theft charges. He also lies! I posted my problems and all comments I received were that we failed in our parenting . That blaming ADHD is a cop out. We were good parents and he had consequences for his actions. Reading other posts where parents are having the same problems is comforting . I don't have any advise because quite honestly nothing has helped . Hang in there and I wish you the best you are not alone.

Jane - posted on 03/14/2011

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The doctors, especially if they are only pediatricians, often have no clue. They are taught to expect horses, not zebras, and in most kids these would be phases that the kids would grow out of. Unless the doctor has an ADHD child of his/her own they will naturally gravitate towards the advice that will serve the majority. Often it is very helpful for families with ADHD kids or kids with difficult behaviors to be in therapy, if only to help distinguish between typical kid misbehavior and things that indicate a larger problem.

Our son has more than ADHD (he is also ODD and Bipolar) and so we rely on a psychologist and a psychiatrist as well as our own observations, not on the uninformed experience of a pediatrician whose primary job is to keep children well.

Terri - posted on 03/10/2011

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I read an article earlier today dealing with double ADHD, in which both the parent and child have ADHD (as is the case in our house) it had some great tips. So far as therapists go, try to find a counselor who works with whole families as opposed to one to deal strictly with your son. Family counselors can be a great help in getting the parents and siblings all on the same page. We used one about 10 years ago and right in the middle of a session, our counselor looked at me and said "Would you be surprised if I said I think you're depressed?" I wasn't surprised that I was depressed, but I was surprised that she picked up on it so quickly and was able to help me get the help I needed in order to help my kids.

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Darlene - posted on 03/14/2011

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I appreciate your feed back Jane. The scary thing in reading these posts is not the parents, but more the doctors who seem to be telling them that their children will grow out of it. I am all for protecting your family. Didn't realize I came off that I wasn't.

Jane - posted on 03/14/2011

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@Darlene - I don't see anyone saying to gloss things over or not impose consequences. Consequences are vital in raising all children, ADHD or not, and I think we all know that. It is simply that kids with ADHD have a harder time learning from the consequences so you end up working harder to teach these kids than kids who don't have this problem. You also need to make sure the rest of the family is safe since some of these actions can put them at risk, such as my son's fascination with fire and with knives. Hence in addition to consequences we also need to lock things up or remove temptations.



Protecting your family is also a parental duty.

Darlene - posted on 03/14/2011

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I am not saying to lose your cool at all!!!! I just mean that you need to address it when it happens and every time it happens, and stealing is a big deal, you can go to jail for it and I have seen the negative effects it can have on a 7 year old being pegged by his peers as a stealer. I am also not saying that all ADHD kids will put knives in someone's bed. That is just silly. When children know that there will be consequences to negative behaviors that will be strictly enforced and not just swept under the rug, then they will eventually opt not to do it. It does take time, commitment and consistency. If they do not respond to this then you may have an emotional problem and not ADHD.

Terri - posted on 03/14/2011

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Darlene, with all due respect, girls do mature faster than boys. My ADHD daughters certainly understood right from wrong at age 7, but my son's impulsivity made it more difficult to deal with teaching him proper social behaviors and outcomes. You state that you should come down harshly, but let me ask you this: if you make a mountain out of a molehill when the kid is 7, how will you react if he does something wrong at 10?, 13?, 15?. Overreacting to a situation just teaches the kids that mom isn't reasonable and gives them a reason to hide the behavior or lie about it. The punishment should fit the crime. I've raised 3 kids who have ADHD and haven't found a single knife in my bed, nor do I expect to. I treat my kids respectfully and reasonably, and work within their limitations. By accepting the idea that knowing what to do and being able to control what you do on spur of the moment, and not losing my cool over it, my kids have turned out to be pretty well adjusted.

Darlene - posted on 03/14/2011

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Please nip this behavior in the bud by dealing with it harshly! Make him write apology notes, make him use his own money to replace stolen items, make him return stolen item to store, have police talk to him and additionally ground him for an extended period of time (no video games or extracurriculars, no bicycle, skateboard,visits with friends, whatever will really work) Treat it harshly, do not give in or you will be finding knives in your bed or worse when he gets older. DO NOT BLOW THIS OFF and hope he will grow out of it. Swiftly handle EACH situation. Do not wait to see school consequences, have your own! My 7 year old daughter has ADHD, but she is not stupid and knows right from wrong. Stop treating these kids like you need to walk on egg shells around them. YOU are the parent and need to step up and do everything in your power to make sure your child grows into a productive adult. Do not use this disability as a crutch, you will be very sorry later! GOOD LUCK!

Honey95ro - posted on 03/09/2011

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My son have ADHD very bad, he have had it for a long time. Everyone love's him, have lots of friends. Have never gave me a problom until this year. He is 8 going to be 9 soon. Started lying a lot first at the beginning, but that have gotten better. I made him read the story about the boy who cryed wolf and told hime that no one liked people that lyed. The lying gotten better,but now he started stealing last mouth. It is hard and when u do talk to the psych's. The first thing they tell me is its a behavior thing and he will grow out of it. We went back this week, I sat down and asked what do i need to do? Do I need to take him to talk to someone? But this is the thing about my son. He will not talk to u unless your a ked or someone he been knowing a long time. But we have been seeing this dr. for 6 years. So he have been doing a good jod with him. But with keds with ADHD u will never get the anwser u are looking for. At the beginning, I cryed a lot about it. But now and talking to people that have grown keds with ADHD and them telling me very thing they went through.Their storys are just like mine. I know I have hope. i have a lot to say, but this week i have worked a lot. So my wording might not make sence, i'm sorry for that. But i read your story and had to tell you." YOUR NOT A LONG"

Jane - posted on 03/09/2011

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Our scariest episodes involved a several year period when my son stole knives and lighters. He threatened several people with knives, and he set two fires, one in the living room and one in his room. He also burned himself deliberately. Our only solution was to lock up all knives and things that could start fires, and advise the parents at any house he might visit to watch for missing items.

Since that time he is now just fine around knives and has now become the main BBQ chef. It took a good ten years to get him past that.

Andrea - posted on 03/09/2011

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Thank you all for the advice and ideas. We need to find yet another therapist/psychologist. The new guy we started seeing wanted to see Alex alone the second time we met him. Well, Alex would have none of that (and if he wouldn't have refused, I would have) and the next time we tried to go to an appt, Alex flat out refused to go in to the room to meet with him and was more mad than I ever saw him. So, back to the drawing board trying to find someone decent in my area. The lady before that acted like his PICA was no big deal and just wanted to keep doing play therapy instead of any kind of testing. My son's pediatrician has been the one to help him most. I need to find someone who specializes in ADHD as we were focused more on grief therapy (my husband committed suicide in 2007). The problem I've also had is the psych's we've seen have all just wanted to do play therapy and no one is helping ME with ideas on how to help my son. Now I know I just have to search around.
Anyway, thanks for all the ideas. I know he's 7 and emotionally much younger than that, he always has been, and he has never had empathy. Does anyone have any good book recommendations? I'm pretty new at all of this. Thanks.

Leilani - posted on 03/09/2011

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Yes we have many times... Actually my 8yr old boy, ty, just stole 300 from my husband to buy his friends books @ the bookfair. No one cought it until day 3 of his gift giving so we only got 200 back. We had a long talk with ty his teacher and therapist. He lost all his savings to repay us and was grounded from all tech stuff for a week. This wasnt the first time, but I try to handle these types of neg situations as if it where. Day by day. Also I have ty meditate w/ a cd each day for 10 min to learn self control n its helping a lot.

Judy - posted on 03/09/2011

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I most certainly wish I could help, problem is, my son is CONSTANTLY stealing stuff from me, my husband, his siblings, my parents, and anyone else that might have a "neat" object.

He has stolen money from us and the grandparents. Surprisingly enough buying him a wallet and a ton of play money has eased this problem.

However, he is constantly taking peoples tools, batteries, sunglasses, jewelry, purses, books, DS, and anything that lights up has not stopped. We have given him his own glasses, his own books, lights, etc. yet the behaviors haven't stopped. The tool situation has actually gotten worst. He has recently began stealing knives... a carpet cutter, a steak knife, and butter knives. I have been finding these in his siblings beds.

Bottom line... I am scared! I fear what my son might become. I wish I could get him to stop stealing and understand my fear. He is 8 almost 9, yet he sure doesn't act this way.

Good luck

Jane - posted on 03/09/2011

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Terri's post has hit the nail on the head. ADHD kids have very poor impulse control which means they almost reach out and take things before they even realize they are doing it. Emotional immaturity compounds the problem as they tend to see only their own side of things, much more so than other kids of the same chronological age.

With that said, however, because of impulsivity and emotional immaturity both, the stealing may continue to be an issue for a number of years. Every time I think I have gotten through to my son, now 16, my belief is shattered when I discover he has $20 or $40 in his jeans pockets or has taken one of my earrings again or raided his sister's room. He still cannot restrain himself from taking money that isn't his when he wants something, rather than working and saving his own money. He is gradually now coming to believe that there are laws beyond the rules I set at home and that he is subject to these laws. For many years he insisted the laws did not exist, that I was making them up to "scare" him.

We have worked for many years to increase his empathy, including working with him with even younger children, taking things he cares about. or denying certain pleasures to him until he apologizes and makes good his theft. We also model empathetic behavior in front of him, and we have discussed the penalties for stealing. This has included trips to "juvie" once he was in his teens, so he can see the reality of the legal system.

This will probably be a sporadic but on-going problem that you will have to address multiple times. With luck, therapy, and gradual maturity it should become less over time.

At times we have also worked hard to make less temptation come his way. I carry my vehicle keys at all times, and often keep money only in a locked container.

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