18 answers

How to discipline a 15 years old teen stealing money from parent

My husband and I just noticed that our 15 year old has been taking money out of my husbands wallet to use for lunch. This is the ONLY time he is taking the money, so do I still consider this stealing?? We have noticed money missing here and there for about a month, so we finally set a "booby trap" to see if it was really happening.

How exactly do I go about talking to my son about this?? He is certainly old enough to know that this is wrong, so I am not planning on being "nice" and say "don't let this happen again". I can only imagine the excuses I will hear when I talk to him about this (teenagers are GREAT at excuses!!)

Thanks for any feedback/suggestions you may have!!

What can I do next?

Summary

Certainly be straight with him, tell him that you noticed money missing and that you know he has been doing it. Let him explain himself. Tell him that you consider this stealing and that it is not to happen again. Decide on a proper punishment.

So What Happened?™

First of all, Thank you to all for your concern and suggestions!

I did confront him about the money situation. He actually said something to me before I approached him. I knew for a fact that he was taking the money for lunch because we had an arguement/discussion over it a while back-- which I did not mention in my previous post. He was to be responsible for his lunch..either he was to use his own money or make it himself and bring it to school.
That is when the money started to be missing. PLUS, I would see the receipts in his pockets and the change he had matched the receipt!! Believe me, I know what teenagers are capable of...I remember when I was one :)
Again, I appreciate the feedback. but I didn't appreciate the feedback telling me that he WAS NOT using it for Lunch and NOT to believe my own child!! I just wanted to know in what ways I should confront him and what to say.
Not every teenager at 15 is doing/buying drugs and/or alcohol.

Anyway, he is paying the money back, feels horrible knowing that he has been "stealing" and doesn't want to be known as a theif. He was afraid to ask myself and my husband for the money because he knew he was to be responsible for it.

Thanks again!!

Featured Answers

I give my son 10. at the beginning of each week for lunch... he has to make it work.. the 10. or he makes his lunch or does some chores. He likes lunch in school.. so it seems like he is helping more and more around the house so he can take a few dollars more to school. he helps empty the dishwasher, and clear the table. and he takes the garbage out to the street. he is 12... lunch usually cost about 3.50 a day or 4. so 10 doesn't get him to far. good luck.. maybe you can help him out like i do with my son.

If he is stealing money he is probably doing something with it that you wouldnt approve of. DO NOT ignore it. Confront him and ask what he is doing with it. Talk to him about drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes and tell him you will not allow this behavior. Has he changed friends recently? Has his school work suffered? Is he more moody that usual? He is NOT taking it for lunch. Dont believe him and good luck.

More Answers

Heck, my kids would forget to ask for lunch money or
we would forget. So if we were still asleep, they
would take it out of our wallet. I think they would
usually let us know. It was for lunch so never thought
a big deal. Now if they were taking 20s that would be
different, but $1.50, not a big deal in my book.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree wholeheartedly with the writer Ellen E. A teenager may want special little things like music or games and I think he/she should use an allowance for such things but your basic lunch or meal should be paid for by parents...at least until their 18, while in school and living at home. Then at that point more can be expected from them. If there were specifics in your situation we don't know about, sorry.

1 mom found this helpful

Maybe there's more to the story than you've written, but giving your son the benefit of a doubt, it's a good thing that you already sound positive your son is taking (not stealing) money for lunch. ( Thank God, not drugs!) So, why are you setting up a deliberate confrontation with him? ("booby trap.") Wouldn't it just be easier to sit down with him, and have a nice honest talk, and also listen to him?...a two way conversation, not a screaming match. Then maybe you could say something like he'll be given allowance lunch money at the start of each week? (or on a daily basis?) Also, how about the good feeling of pride for him to have a small after school job to earn his own pocket-money?...either with home chores, or as an introduction to the outside business world? (At the same age, after school, our kids earned their own pocket-money, part-time, at Burger King / Dunkin Donuts, etc, which from time to time, my husband and I also contributed to their earnings, as an acknowledgment/reward for all their efforts...and also keeping their grades up in school at the same time. I'll be thinking of you, good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Aren't you giving him money for lunch? He's a kid. He should not have to be responsible for paying for his own food as long as he is still under 18 and living with you. I can understand telling him he has to buy his own cd's or video games, etc. These are not essentials. I can understand you want to teach him responsibility. But food is a basic necessity that a parent should provide for a child. Teenagers (as I'm sure you are well aware) are biologically not good at getting up early. He is probably too tired in the morning to make his lunch and then ends up taking money because you are not giving him any. I think very few teenage boys are responsible enough or can remember to make their lunch the night before school. You don't want to set him up for bad behavior. If he prefers to buy lunch at school, make sure he has the money to do so. Certainly be straight with him, tell him that you noticed money missing and that you know he has been doing it. Let him explain himself. Tell him that you consider this stealing and that it is not to happen again. Decide on a proper punishment (take away privileges, grounding,etc) and have him pay it back.
I won't jump to conclusions like many other posters did. But if after discussing it with him and making sure he has enough money for lunch, you still find money missing, then this is indicative of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed, like using it for something illegal or that you would not approve of.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,
I have a teenager too. I definitely consider taking money without asking from someone else's wallet, anyone else's, to be stealing. Certainly it's not acceptable. I see from your follow up post that he was supposed to be responsible for his own lunch - I was wondering why he did not just ask for lunch money. If it were my teen, I would have given consequences for this. Going into someone else's wallet isn't acceptable, and at 15, I'd be very upset with my teen that this was his chosen method of dealing with not wanting to make/bring lunch and not choosing/wanting/budgeting to spend his spending money on school lunch.
I would definitely have had my teen pay the money back that was taken and I likely would have had some other punishment involved - I don't feel that repaying the money is punishment, it's restitution. The way that I parent and discipline, there would have been punishment as well.
The thing I'd be most anxious about in this case is if the teen thinks it is okay to take money from mom or dad (or knows it is not okay but does it anyhow), would they eventually get to deciding they could steal from someone else in some other situation.
Good luck and hopefully this will never happen again. I hate to say it but I think that at some point during our kids' teen years, they will do something that we aren't happy about!

Talk to him before you get too upset. Do you give him lunch money? If he is given lunch money and still taking it out of your husband's wallet, then you have more of a problem. But if he really needs lunch money .... well?? I would say just talk to him. Tell him you will give him X amount of dollars for lunch for the week and that is all he's getting so use it wisely. Then follow through.

If he is stealing money he is probably doing something with it that you wouldnt approve of. DO NOT ignore it. Confront him and ask what he is doing with it. Talk to him about drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes and tell him you will not allow this behavior. Has he changed friends recently? Has his school work suffered? Is he more moody that usual? He is NOT taking it for lunch. Dont believe him and good luck.

Hi J.,

I'm a little confused. You say your son is taking money for lunch. How do you know it's for lunch, especially if you haven't talked to him? Aren't you giving him enough money for lunch? If it's for lunch, why doesn't he just say "Hey dad, can I have a few bucks for lunch?". Or are you saying my son has permission to take money out of dad's wallet for lunch, but has been taking out more than the allotted amount?

Unfortunately, small amounts of money missing here and there are the beginning signs of trouble. Is it possible that he may be drinking, doing drugs, gambling, or even taken up smoking? You may want to do a little "spying" before you have a talk with him.

If you're 100% sure it's your son who's taking the money (not your other son, one of their friends who frequently visits, etc), then you and your husband should sit down with him (make sure his brother is not arround). Before taliking to him, you and hubby, should both be in agreement about how you're going to respond to some of the excuses he may present, and what type of punishment.

Then straight out ask "We've noticed that there is some money missing, we also know you're the one who took it, please explain to us why you took it and what you're using it for." Take it from there.

Good luck and please let us know how the talk goes.

Dear J.,

I would really monitor what your son is doing in his free time. I would be worried that the money is being stolen because he is using it for something that he knows is not acceptable. If it were just for lunch I am sure you would not make him go without, so therefore there is no reason for him to steal it. I would make sure he is not drinking, using drugs, or gambling. Unfortunately these are some of the things that teens get themselves into and a reason for stealing money. You can ask him but I am almost sure he is not going to be honest with you if he has a problem or something to hide. I would really check out and make sure he is going where he says he is. If that means you have to show up then show up, or if he says he is at a friends ask to speak with their mom or dad. Being a parent of teens is the most difficult time you will have, it is when we can not be their friends we must be their parents. He will probably not like being checked up on but when someone steals they need to earn back trust. I have raised two teenagers and believe me if you offered me a million dollars to relive them I would say no thank you. My son gave me more trouble then my daughter and that was mainly because of his friends. And most of his friends I knew their parents and they were really nice people, however they allowed their children a lot of freedom. So therefore, my husband and I were the bad guys all of the time. As I said I would monitor where he goes and what he is doing so when you do approach him there won't be much room for excuses. Good luck!!

have any friends who are police officers?have them talk to your son.does he get an allowance? have him do chores so he can make the money and not take it.S. C

Hi J., I read your "so what happened" and am glad you have straightened out the situation. Our children are given to us as gifts and it is our duty to steer them in the right direction. You are right to try to get him to be responsible. Good wishes, Grandma Mary

I'm glad to see that you and your son have talked about this issue and that he is really using the money for lunch. I'm wondering why he needed to take money from you though. Is it possible that there he is being bullied at school and needs extra money to replace what is taken? I know it seems like something that only happens on TV but it's possible that he just doesn't want to talk to you about it if something like this is happening. Just a thought.

Obviously you were teaching a lesson in responsibilty and good for you! I am guessing you made it clear how disappointed you are that he not only failed this simple test of responsibilty ie pay it yourself or make it at home which was very fair but that his choosing to take the money makes you all the more insecure about his maturity. You should certianly tell him you have confidence that he will learn from this experience but that priveleges that require your own confidence in his maturity will be limited as he has proven himself "just not ready yet" which is ok we all mature at different paces. He made a bad choice in how to handle this a problem. Stealing is majorly the wrong answer and parents do deserve the same respect as everyone else. Often teens do not think of taking money from parents as stealing because what is yours is thiers. Besides recognizing it was the wrong choice to make he should be able to dialogue with you about other ways he could have appropriately and openly handled what he obviously saw as problem. Would you and your husband been receptive to a more flexible arrangement ? had he approached you with "It is embarrassing to bring lunch when all my friends buy it" etc etc the million excuses you mentioned.
Now is a critical time to establish an open dialogue about your expectations as a parent and your willingness to listen and discuss your sons concerns.

You are assuming it's lunch but it could be for other things. Definately sit down with him and see what's going on. Does he get an allowance? Earn his own spending money? Is he hanging out with his usual friends or is there someone new hanging around with him. I wouldn't go into the conversation planning on not being nice since all you know at this point is that money is missing over the last month. He's not 5 he's 15 so you need to treat him with some respect and have an open dialogue about what's going on and why he's doing what he's doing.

I just read your request. I also had a son that would take (steal) money from my wallet.. no, it wasnt for Drugs as some would say.. no nothing so dramatic. He wanted to be able to buy team dinners at mcdonalds so as to fit in. I gave him money but he felt he needed a bit more. No it wasnt a "big" deal but it was stealing. In my case if he would have ask, I would have given him additional but made him responsible for earning it.. ie.. additional chores.
I must say that I have written to this site a few times about a issue with my teen daughter and I agree.. The responses are often tainted..
Hope all is well with your son now. remember to cherish the remainder of the time he is under your roof. they grow up and leave way to fast....

I give my son 10. at the beginning of each week for lunch... he has to make it work.. the 10. or he makes his lunch or does some chores. He likes lunch in school.. so it seems like he is helping more and more around the house so he can take a few dollars more to school. he helps empty the dishwasher, and clear the table. and he takes the garbage out to the street. he is 12... lunch usually cost about 3.50 a day or 4. so 10 doesn't get him to far. good luck.. maybe you can help him out like i do with my son.

Why does he need to "steal" money for lunch? Is he supposed to use his own money and doesn't want to? Is he poor at budgeting the money he is given for lunch? Does your child's school have accounts that you can put lunch money into...my kids' schools have that, and I can put blocks on things like ice cream and extras so that there is always enough money for the actual lunch.

Definitely don't let it slip. It is a VERY big deal that a child doesn't have the boundaries to stay out of his fathers wallet. You are right..at 15, he knows he is wrong. Stealing is stealing. It doesn't matter why you are doing it...it is still wrong. Don't let him justify it...there is no justification.

Only you know the specifics about how you handle making sure he has lunch money, so it is really hard to respond to, but your husband really needs to deal with this as a disciplinary issue...teenagers need our trust, and if they break it in one area, it is hard to trust them in any area...I know, I have a 16 year old step son that cannot be trusted. It needs to be his father that is handling this, since the money is being taken from his wallet. That is very important...otherwise it could look like mom is upset about it but it doesn't bother dad.

D.
35 year old mother of 5 with one more on the way

I actually am a teenager who has found this website for my dad (my parents are divorced and my brother and I live with our dad) because my 17 year old brother has been stealing large amounts of money from my dad. My dad had tried a few of the ideas on this site and some of them have worked. I just thought it was unusual how some parents handled lunches at school and thought I would share something my dad has always done for my brother and I. My dad would give each of us a check for about $60 (sometimes changing depending on how much he was able to afford) and each day we told him the amount of the items we bought (for example a lunch for $2.50 and a $1.00 snack) and he kept a record of how much each of us had in our accounts. When we were running low he would send in another check and ask for a print out of our accounts that showed what we bought and when/if we paid. If we were spending too much he would call the school cafeteria and request a 'block' on our account so we could only buy a regular $2.50 lunch each day. This has seem to work for my family and I just thought I would share it in case any parents think this might work for their families.

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