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BOTD EXTRA 4/9/2017 "Klepto or Seeking Help-o?" A John Boy & Michael Junior Production

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David M. Katz

Klepto or Seeking Help-o
A John Boy & Michael Junior Production

You have three boys, Daniel is 12, Andrew is 14, and Michael is 18.
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One of Daniel's best friends is Jonathan, 13.
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You have a working agreement to help out Jonathan's mom as Jonathan has been displaying a lot of negative behavior, because of puberty and also because of a dad who doesn't really care and older siblings who walk all over Mom. In doing so you have introduced Jonathan to all sorts of discipline, including spankings, both for what he does at your house as well as things Mom informs you of.  Jonathan does confirm his mother's reports with you and he does protest if he feels Mom is exaggerating and you do listen. Jonathan, most of the time admits when he screws up and accepts his consequences. Note: you don't just take Mom's word at face value; if Jonathan has an issue he speaks his mind and you listen and decide after hearing his side.

A couple of months ago, Daniel and Andrew came to you with a concern:  after Jonathan left from a sleep over some things had gone missing. You listened to your boys and even talked to Jonathan the next time he came over.  Jonathan denied taking anything. There was no evidence so there was no case. Anyway, your boys have been known to misplace things in the past. You suspected Jonathan did take the missing items, but with no proof, you decided not to pursue it.

Things came to a boil this weekend while Jonathan was visiting. You and your Mom have to go run some errands and Jonathan asks to go to a local park to play. Daniel and Andrew are at their mother's home (you are divorced with custody of your sons) and Michael is at a band practice. Jonathan is told he can be a latch key kid while you are out. You come home and Jonathan says he just got back but decides he wants to go to the park again. You tell him to have fun. You are cleaning your room and notice how light a box in your room is. You open it up and realize Jonathan's Easter present, a new tablet, is missing. (You and Jonathan's mother got the gift to replace a tablet that had recently broken. Jonathan is unaware that he is getting the gift.)  Some other small incidentals are also missing from your room. With a sad heart you go up to your boys' room and look in Jonathan's bag. There is the tablet.

You are now prepping yourself for a talk with Jonathan and come up with a few talking points and some ideas for consequences that you jotted down on a list. One of the things you consider is a possible motive for the theft.  Other than the obvious, is Jonathan sending a call for help or attention?

Jonathan is now back from the park and the two of you are together in the privacy of your room.

What needs to happen?

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

David M. Katz

I would hope to have a calm discussion where I present the facts that I know.  My biggest issue is dealing with why I went in to Jonathan's bag before asking him.  This sort of shows I assumed he was guilty.  As we move past that, the goal of the conversation is to get Jonathan to own whatever role he has and/or to offer a credible explanation to the contrary.

Should Jonathan be guilty and should he come clean then a discussion of consequences is needed.  I will share my thoughts with the boy and get his input.

After it is all discussed, the decision is ultimately up to me and Jonathan's mother but I do want Jonathan to have some level of ownership.  I will call Jonathan's mother and let her know the details and get her input in to my decision.

If he is guilty then I think the following will happen:

1. A very deluxe spanking. (Whatever that entails in my household.)

2. When at my home, Jonathan will no longer be allowed to be by himself or in an unattended area.  This restriction will stand until trust is built back. If he can't abide by this then he is no longer welcome in my home.

3. Jonathan will be made aware that the tablet was to be his anyway.  However, he will not get the tablet when planned.  Jonathan will need to wait an additional two weeks for the gift.

4. Do I need to suggest to Mom that Jonathan needs counseling?  Is this a recurring issue that needs professional intervention?

5. If any of the "incidentals" have been lost, damaged or sold and cannot be returned intact then Jonathan and I will come up with a fair value.  Jonathan will do chores for me every Saturday morning ( he already has a rake Cool )until he has worked off the cost.

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.


I pretty much agree with DMK. Given the previous incidents, I don't think I need to give an explanation or apology for going through his bag. The fact of the matter is that I was right.

As to consequences, I think Dave's are pretty much spot on. If Jonathan feels he isn't trusted--he's right. He's violated all of our trust, and stolen from his closest friends and a surrogate parent. While I'd be very sad if he couldn't live with the new rules, at the end of the day, he isn't my legal responsibility. You can only help people who WANT to be helped.

Does he need counseling? Probably, if only to have a truly neutral third party to talk to. I don't think this is "kleptomania" or a sign of mental illness. But there is such a thing as "honor among thieves"--you don't steal from one another.

I really hope Jonathan can be diverted from the path he's pursuing. It's self-destructive and will end badly otherwise.


This really is a difficult and unfortunate situation with no easy answers.  I basically agree with everything David said above.  The only point that concerns me is the requirement that he be supervised at my home at all times until trust can be restored.  That requirement may seem to him like a permanent sentence to second-class citizenship unless there is some discussion as to what it will take to lift that restriction and when it might take place.  I don't have a clear idea how to communicate that, but it seems like a cloud on the horizon if it is left unresolved.


I have read this scenario several times, and I honestly can't come to a good answer.

Sometimes it's hard to have a good answer, because you don't really know the people involved. You don't see their interactions, and you can't know how they feel. To me, this very much reads like Jonathon is treated like a second class citizen everywhere. His dad doesn't want him, his mom ships him off somewhere else, and there - he's punished for things he didn't do, by someone sitting in judgement on him with no idea of what really happened. Sure, he gets to hang out at his friend's house, but how much choice does he have, even in that?

But putting aside how I'd react to the situation...

If a kid did this in my home, I would start by asking how the tablet ended up in his bag. At that point, I'd ask him why he did it, what about the other stuff I'd asked about before, why he'd taken it, and why he'd lied about it (that last is really pretty blatant, but I want him to think about it).

I would then talk to him about if he wanted to keep coming over to my house, how he thinks everyone he stole from is going to feel, and what he thinks we should do about it.

Other decisions than that have to wait until I've heard what Jonathon has to say, and how his mom reacts.

"In the end, it's just a story. But if you ask me, it's all true."


I am going to smoke Jonathan out by taking back the tablet and waiting a few days to see if Jonathan comes to me. His mother will be in on this. Then I might let his mother show him the tablet and ask if he has anything to say. His face should be a picture. If he owns up as Iexpect he will get the whipping of his life and the tablet at a predetermined point in the future when he will have paid for his mistake


While I am in general agreement with Dave, Kier and Jack, the notion of having Jonathan not be unattended in my house "until trust is restored" was stated. How is that going to happen if, in fact, he is never alone in any room of the house, is not at all clear to me. What I would like to see are some specific criteria delineated that must to be achieved by way of building back that trust. What those would be in specific terms would need to be worked out by the parties involved, though. (I do wish I could be more specific here, but I am not able to do that.) By not being given clear guidelines on how to rebuild trust, I suspect Jonathan will become frustrated and doomed to fail if not by his own design then by the nature of the hazy definitions given at the outset.


I won't have a thief in the house mixing with my children...

He's not coming back into my home, and the other kids are forbidden to socialize with him at all...

In my family back until the 18th century as far as I can find, there has not been a thief and I'm not starting a new trend in this matter now... I dread the thought that one of mine might have been influenced by this into stealing.


John Boy

I am going to do what I do EVERY time. I'm going to sit down with him, give him a chance to tell me the truth. Then I'm going to show him the evidence. Part of me is inclined to give him the spanking of his life, and maybe even another form of punishment like soap or lines... or both. I will first make sure he understands why he is in trouble, and how to make sure it doesn't happen again. I would also subject him to random bag and body checks until a time when he can be proven to be trustworthy again. (Like some people and nicotine tests)


A difficult one with no easy or even "right" answer.

How could Jonathan possibly imagine the theft of such an item would not be discovered and spark an investigation?

Knowing the family background the following passages from the scenario prompt me to treat this a cry for help, to realise that punishment at this stage could be counterproductive.

".... Jonathan has been displaying a lot of negative behavior........"

"Jonathan, most of the time admits when he screws up and accepts his consequences. Note: you don't just take Mom's word at face value; if Jonathan has an issue he speaks his mind and you listen and decide after hearing his side."

I will confront him privately and produce the tablet with a one word question "WHY?"

Then I will need all my empathetic skills to tease out and expand the relevant threads from his answer.

Hopefully this will point me to take the first step towards his rehabilitation, towards trusting him again - but who knows?

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