Disciplining Children

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

”Dishonesty — What’s a Mother to do?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My 13-year-old son snitched my credit card out of my purse. Since I seldom use it, I did not miss it for several weeks. I got my statement recently and there was $1,300 charged to my credit card. I do not know how he did this. I believe most of the purchases were made on line. At the time, I didn’t think he would be able to forge my signature in a store. I canceled the credit card and forced my son to return the card to me. But the nightmare continued because the following month canceled checks began to show up in my checking account statement. He actually was able to forge my signature. It is amazing how close the signature on the checks is to my signature. What are my options?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Options:

If I had a child who behaved in the manner your describe, I would consider him to be in serious trouble. Your son’s behavior indicates that he has been raised with little if any discipline or serious consequences for his behavior, and however harsh this may sound, it would appear that it is now time to let the system take charge by reporting him to the authorities for his misdeeds. Many would tell you “oh after all, he is just a kid, and besides he’s your son.” To this I would most likely say, “He may be your son biologically, but you have allowed him to become a crook.” With that in mind, suffering the consequences is appropriate, and possibly one of the most loving things you could do for him, thereby giving him an opportunity to take some responsibility for his choices and hopefully begin to reflect on the error of his ways.

”Stealing — How do I Discipline my Child?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

When I was in the grocery store last week my 12-year-old son leaned over the produce counter and started taking grapes out of the bag and eating them. I caught him at it and I smacked him and told him to put the grapes back and told him “don’t you ever let me catch you doing that again.” Ten minutes later, the police showed up and threatened to arrest me for child abuse. Some person in the store I guess saw me slap my son and called the police.


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Puzzled:

It is true that we have allowed government to undermine our authority when it comes to disciplining and raising our children. Discipline has largely been taken out of the home and out of our schools. One little statement that you expressed caught my eye — “Don’t you ever let me catch you doing that again.” Please know that this type of threat is not discipline, nor is it a positive method of teaching a child the lesson that we do not take things that don’t belong to us. The store pays hard-earned money for those grapes and if every shopper who comes in the store helps him or herself to a handful of grapes, there would be little, if any, profit for the store. Often the produce manager will offer shoppers a sample of a product. All shoppers need to do is ask. Your threatening statement is likely to instill excessive (unnatural) fear in your son. It would not be surprising if he developed a habit of lying about his behavior as a result. Please be more cautious when he is in your presence.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

”’Email your questions to mailto:DrGelbSays@hawaiireporter.com More information on Dr. Gelb’s services and related resources available at”’ https://www.DrGelbSays.com