“My son doesn't think what he and his friends are stealing is a big deal.”
Dear Annie,I recently discovered that my 13 year old and some of his friends have been stealing tire valve covers from parked cars and bicycles. We told him this isn't okay, but he thinks we're making a big deal about nothing since he doesn't believe that anyone is hurt by what he's doing. What's the best way to handle this?
Concerned and Confused Parent
Dear Concerned and Confused Parent,
You are absolutely right to be concerned. I certainly hope you're not buying into his rationalization that this is "nothing", "nobody is hurt", etc. Clearly you want him to know that this is unacceptable behavior. Stealing is stealing, end of discussion. You sign your letter "confused." What, exactly are you confused about? Certainly not about the fact that your instincts are right on the mark, I hope!
I'd handle this on two levels... First, I'd let him know in no uncertain terms that this behavior is over. Done. He needs to have a loss of privileges (grounding would not be too harsh). He also needs to know that his choice to go along with what "all his friends" are doing, is not smart and it does not reflect your family's values.
On the second level, it is your responsibility as a parent to let your son's friends' parents know what's going on. These boys are breaking the law and they need to hear from the adults in their lives that this is wrong. I would get in touch with the parents of his friends and call a meeting of the adults and the kids. Talk about it together. Listen to what the boys have to say. Clearly they don't believe that this is wrong so it would be a good thing for them to speak their attitudes out loud. (For example, "It's not a big deal to take a tire valve cover.") And for the parents to echo back what they hear. Often hearing your own words reflected back at you is a real eye-opener. For example, "You just said, "It's not a big deal to take a tire valve cover. What gives you right to take something, anything, that doesn't belong to you?"
Aside from the moral and ethical considerations, here's something else: Tire value covers do have a purpose. They keep mud and dirt out of the valve and thus contribute to the optimal functioning of the tires. So your son's attitude that "it isn't hurting anyone" is not accurate.
I hope this helps.