My lovely nephew has started taking other children's football cards, lifted things from his class and afterschool club. Despite being caught a few weeks ago and being reprimanded for it he has stolen football card again. This time my DSIL has marched him round to the child's house to return the cards. What is upsetting my DSIL the most is that he doesn't seem bothered by it all, like he's not quite getting that this is wrong. What methods have people used to punish bad/encourage good behaviour? Any ideas, thoughts?
Your SIL needs to look very, very hard for the reason behind the behaviour rather than just trying to deter it.
What is driving this. I assume it isn't a simple as him not being able to afford these things, in which case, the cause could be emotional in some way. Does he struggle with friendships and feel the need to impress other children with his belongings? Is he experiencing a compulsion to steal things to complete collections? Is he trying to fill an unmet emotional need with possessions?
Also look into why he's appearing not to be bothered? Sometimes children don't know how to communicate their emotions and sometimes they pretend not to be bothered because they don't want the adult to 'win' by getting to them. Is there some other, apparently unrelated, issue that could mean he feels angry with his parents?
I firmly believe there is no point in trying to use sanctions or rewards to change a child's behaviour until you understand it. Tell your SIL to start there and the way to manage it will probably become apparent.