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Would you punish a child for something that you think they have done but can't prove?

(24 Posts)
lilibet Wed 13-Jul-05 08:30:30

Dd, 16, has bought herself a new MP3 player. Last night, dh, me and ds1 (12) were in the house with ds2 asleep and it went missing.

Ds1 had an MP3 player but broke it and he does have a tendency to take things. Last week he took dd's mobile phone out with him and used all her credit but we found that in his pocket. We have turned his room upside down and looked in all the usual places but he is insisiting that he hasn't got it (ususal line). We are going to France tomorrow and each of the children have £40 spends (£10 each froim the grandparents and £20 from us) dd wants ds's money to buy a new one.

We cna't prove that he has done it, but going of past experiences and the fact that we can tell he is lying we all know that he has.

What would you do? This morning he beleives that he has got away with it.

CiaoLeonardoCiaoOliviya Wed 13-Jul-05 08:39:50

If you definately know it was him, even tho u can't find the mp3 on him, then I would still punish him, otherwise he will think he can do it again and again...and it might shock him into giving dd the mp3 back.

lilaclotus Wed 13-Jul-05 08:41:54

i would punish him if you're a 100% sure he's got it. definitely no spending money.

triceratops Wed 13-Jul-05 08:46:43

I wouldn't punish him if you can't prove the crime. Surely if he wants to use it he will have to get it out at some point? 12 year olds are not terribly cunning usually and you will find out the truth but you can't punish until then. I would probably give the older daughter the money to buy a new one and then claim it back off son as soon as the proof surfaces.

I can still remember being punished for something I did not do in my early teens and still feel that burning resentment and injustice. The best outcome would be if he were to confess and feel remorse.

sweetheart Wed 13-Jul-05 08:47:42

I personally wouldn't punish him - imagine how terrible you'd feel if he was telling the truth this time.

Instead I'd be inclined to talk to him about how serious it is to lie and steel. Tell him you are giving him one more chance to own up and if he doesn't and you find out later that it was him - you will inforce a very very harsh punishment (something he would really hate).

Shurly an MP3 player is not something he would be able to hide for very long anyway - wouldn't he want to use it if he'd taken it????

assumedname Wed 13-Jul-05 08:52:20

I think triceratops' idea of buying dd another MP3 player is a good one.

Did you get ds1 to refund dd's credit on dd's phone?

Is it possible that he took it to sell? Or that dd herself has lost it and is using ds1 as a convenient scapegoat? Was dd1 in the house last night and do you definitely know the MP3 player was in the house last night?

Sorry, I read too much detective fiction!

lilibet Wed 13-Jul-05 08:58:14

dd went out and dh saw the mp3 player on the cupboard in the hall, when she came in, it was gone. No one else came into the house (Miss Marple !)

I gave him so many chnaces last night to own up - even promising to put it somewhere so that dd would think that we had 'found' it later.

We think that he may have hidden it somewhere outside the house and retrieved it on his way to the bus stop this morning

If we take his holiday spends that will make all of us have not as good a time.

assumedname Wed 13-Jul-05 09:07:10

Do you think it'll turn up in his school bag tonight?

If you have no further proof, I think I'd give him 2 options when he comes in from school. Possibly even write them down for him.

1 - own up, give it back. If he can't give it back, take half his holiday money now and make him do lots of chores, earn lots of pocket money to pay for the rest.

2 - if he doesn't own up. Take half his holiday money and make him do twice as many chores and 'ground' him/say he can't go to his favourite activity for 2 weeks.

The principle being that owning up has value because it saves him a worse punishment. He still gets punished for taking dd's stuff so he doesn't feel he's got away with it.

Hope this makes sense.

lilibet Wed 13-Jul-05 12:11:35

Oh dear - assumed names those are such good suggestions - problem is he is already doing extra chores to work off a £176 bill he owes us for kicking a football into someone's car and denting it!!

laughing and it really isn't funny

turnupthebass Wed 13-Jul-05 12:23:47

Lilaclotus - we are 99% sure. The 1% is that the front door was unlocked through the evening and the cupboard is near the door. Very very very outside chance that someone has come in and taken it - but the fact that there was money and keys there too and they haven't gone really makes me think this unlikely.

And he looked so very guilty about it. I still think it is either hidden somewhere else in the house (so that DD can't have it) or it is with him at school as we speak.

spacedonkey Wed 13-Jul-05 12:26:14

I wouldn't punish him (I had a similar situation with my dd recently). I think it's important to let their own conscience do the punishing!

spidermama Wed 13-Jul-05 12:28:38

Very tricky. But innocent until proven guilty. It all depends on whether his concience will 'let him get away with it'.

turnupthebass Wed 13-Jul-05 12:30:39

he has also been in a bit of a vicious circle with the lying - he tells the first lie to stop himself from being in trouble. Then carries it on and on despite the most damning evidence - which makes it all the worse.

And I think he feels that if he admits it after denying it so many times, he will then be in even more trouble. (we do try to assure him this isnt the case).

We need to find a way of stopping the first lie - but I don't know what that is.

spidermama Wed 13-Jul-05 12:44:16

That sounds upsetting turnupthebass (love the name).

I hate lies. My dh lied his way through adolescence and early adulthood then we had a meltdown after I discovered some lies. There ensued a large confessional covering all aspects of life. He's much better now and always says how grateful he is and glad not to be living with so many lies.

Can't remember who wrote it, and possibly a bit difficult to get your ds to read it, but The Road Less Travelled deals very well with this.

popsycal Wed 13-Jul-05 12:44:44

pretend you are going to call the police to report a burglary

explain that they will come and fingerprint the cupboard etc

would that work?

lilibet Wed 13-Jul-05 12:45:48

did that last night popsycal!

Great minds!

popsycal Wed 13-Jul-05 12:49:35


bran Wed 13-Jul-05 12:55:22

I remember reading something very interesting about lying in a book about adoption, unfortunately I can't remember the name of it. The gist of it was that it's natural for a child to lie to protect himself so you shouldn't ask a question that will allow him to lie back to you. Also, if your child lies a lot you should tell him that because he has lied so often in the past you will assume that whatever he tells you is a lie unless he can show otherwise and only when you have had a period of time without lies will you give him the benefit of the doubt in future. And you're not supposed to get angry or worked up, or show any emotion really while you're doing this (is this possible?).

So in this case you might have said to him "dd's player is missing and we think you did it. We don't want you to tell us whether you did or not because you have lied in the past. If the player isn't sitting on the table by tomorrow morning we will be buying dd a new one from your holiday money." Never ask something that he can lie back to, like "where is it?", "did you take it?".

If he continues to insist that he didn't say "Perhaps you didn't, but you have told lies in the past so we are assuming that you are lieing this time". Then refuse to discuss it any more and carry out the punishment.

TBH I don't know whether this works as my ds is only 13 mths. The book is intended to help parents of adopted children with sometimes severe attachment and personality disorders so it may be a bit OTT for your ds.

Raspberry Wed 13-Jul-05 13:05:12

Personally I wouldn't punish without proof. In life as in law one should be presumed innocent until found guilty.

Perhaps this actually incident is a side issue anyway. It sounds like your ds1 has 'issues' in general which you need to work with him to tackle to help prevent this repetative chain of events.

Lying, stealing and so on can often be a sign of some other underlying problem, possibly quite unrelated. I expect you know this already and probably have quite a good idea what the 'issues' are, so make sure you keep focused on them to break this upsetting chain.

Good luck!

tatt Wed 13-Jul-05 13:07:49

yes. Children should not get away with things when there is no reasonable doubt they have done it. I would withdraw priveleges - so not take the grandparents gift but possibly my money, ground them or would make them work to pay cost of the new one. They'd have one last warning - if it not back by ... then you will be doing .....

StayingIn Wed 13-Jul-05 13:58:39

Personally I wouldn't - but then I grew up being hit every day, mostly for things I hadn't done - including quite often because other members of the family had misplaced things which it was assumed I'd "stolen", and even at times for no specific reason other than that I "must have done something". I had a brother who knew the situation all to well and has happy to encourage it as he could get away with anything he liked.

So no, I'd need to be 100% sure first, because I know the effect that that treatment still has on me now, and probably will for the rest of my life.

(Am a regular by the way - but have changed name for this as it's a bit personal.)

Would the threat of a punishment if it's not found by xxx time, and you all hunting for it again to give him the chance to plant or find it, perhaps help?

lilibet Wed 13-Jul-05 20:53:17

So, we have made him buy a new one for her out of his holiday money. He asked what would then happen if the first one turned up and I told him that as he had bought it, it would be his.

He then decided to start looking. we told him that it was no good as we had looked everywhere. He asked if we had looked inside the cushion covers in the lounge. We hadn't and lo and behold.......

Dh at the moment asking him to explain how it got there. He has 'no idea'. Really really cross with him. He is treating us as if we are thick.

spacecadet Wed 13-Jul-05 20:59:18

oh dear, although you did the right thing, he obviously starting sweating when he thought he had to buy a new one.i would wait until you come back off holiday and then start the hard tactics, withdraw his privliages, ground him and take things away from him, like his playstaiton etc, also sit him down and have a long chat with him, see if you can get to the bottom of why he does it.

tatt Thu 14-Jul-05 08:48:52

lilibet I hope you made him pay a more expensive model. If not then the "found" one really ought to go back to the owner and he gets to keep the new one. Hope you have pointed out to him that you would have let him spend his holiday money on a mp3 player anyway if he wanted one so badly.

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