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16-Year-Old Son Stealing and Staying Out All Night

Question:

I am having serious problems with my 16-year-old son. He is lazy, sleeping all day and staying out with his friends until all hours of the night. He disregards the rules I set for the household. The most worrisome is that he has been caught stealing from family and friends and even a store on several occasions. 

Most recently, he and his friend (age 18) were accused of stealing cash from a neighborhood girl’s purse. She and her father brought this to my attention that evening. At the same time, my daughter (age 13) discovered that cash was missing from her wallet.  

My son denies that he took the money, but I don’t believe him. He has offered to reimburse my daughter and neighbor out of his lawn-mowing money. He says he is doing this not because he is guilty but because he wants to save the relationships. The neighborhood girl’s sister has been caught stealing before and had access to the purse and my daughter’s wallet, so maybe my son is innocent. I just don’t know.

He has been diagnosed with ADD and Narcissus Complex, and he has been seeing a psychiatrist for three years. I see little progress, if any. I don’t know what to do.  I am a single mother with a full-time job. I can’t even enforce my own rules because I am never home. I am so disappointed and frustrated with my son.

Answer:

Parenting is a difficult job, and you are doing it alone. Who do you have to support you emotionally? Of course you feel frustrated and disappointed. Your son could be a tremendous help to you and shoulder some of the responsibility, but he is doing just the opposite.

Have the police been made aware of his stealing and curfew violations? You will be held responsible if anything bad happens to him while he is out of your home beyond curfew or anytime he leaves without permission. Don’t risk being charged with neglect. Call the police and report that he is missing. You can indicate that he was supposed to be in by 10 p.m. – or whenever his curfew is – and he was not in by then. You need to have it on record that you called in to report him missing.

Every time he steals and does not suffer a consequence, his interpretation is that he is “slick.” The behavior will likely continue and possibly increase.

If he is scheduled to appear in court for his theft charges, perhaps he will be required to attend a diversion program to work through his problem. If not, there are programs available in our area that may be helpful. 

One particular program is at the Tamarack Center. This center has a daytime treatment program for behaviorally disturbed youth.  

Another option is Catholic Community Services, which has an Integrated Family Preservation program. The staff would come to your home and coach you on your parenting issues. They might also try to connect you with services in your community for support. The number to call is 800-566-9053. If you need support for yourself, we can help you find an experienced counselor.

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