Treating the Group

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1997

Dear Annette,

My l2 yrs. old grandson was caught stealing a very tiny toy in a store. My daughter has been devastated.  He has been grounded, and will receive no Christmas gifts until after January first.

This is not his first time, this is like the fourth. The first time he took $5.00 from his mother. She found out and even though at the beginning he denied it, eventually he accepted his fault.  Sometime later he took some cards from a child near his home, the mother came and requested the cards, and he was again punished. Sometime later, he did it again. Now, he got the small toy in a store Friday.

Our grandson has been in the company of his mothers' boyfriend's two boys, ages 15 and 13, who have been raised in a different atmosphere than his. These two boys have been exposed to visiting one or two uncles they have in jail. They come from school and stay in the street, as the grandmother that takes care of them works and comes home later. The mother is working too. Therefore, they have a lot of freedom and street customs.  These boys are with my grandson every other weekend. They too have lived thru a divorce

My grandson is doing pretty bad in school. He does not pay attention to bringing homework home etc.  He is a very clean boy, and he copies a lot from the oldest one regarding haircuts, manners, shoes, etc.  He only interest is some form of karate.

This last theft, the three were caught. The l5 yr. old was already out of the store.  They all were trying to steal the same little toy. The store will eventually send my daughter and the other two kids' dad letters regarding this matter. They were really scared, but the sadness my daughter has is extreme.

They had a meeting today with my grandson's dad and all of them had questions and answers. My grandson told the other grandmother, that the l5 yr. old one was the one that told them to take the object in the store.  The theft of the cards from the neighboring boy were taken when the other boys were not there.  Therefore, we really do not know.

My daughter is a teacher.  She and I feel that even though she must punish her child, that  perhaps the punishment given was too severe.

She also feels that she should take her son to a psychologist.  Maybe he hasn't been able to work out his conflicts with his dad's abandonment even though he visits him every two weeks, and sees him often. Not great quality time but.  He is also kind of abusive with his younger sister.

The separation was 3-l/3 yrs. ago. Divorce only some months ago.  The thefts that my daughter has detected have been with a period of a year.  The thefts appeared to begin after the separation/divorce.  Our grandson has quality time from his mother, but not from his father.

I have sent my daughter all your information. And would like to sincerely congratulate you on this website, which I will definitely recommend to my friends.  Even though we are not Mormons, I feel that your way of facing your sickness and religion are great.

May God always keep you in his good care. Congratulations again. and Thank you.

Can you give us some more information on this matter.


Dear Grandmother,

As I studied the information that you gave me, it seems that the thefts began to occur after your grandson was exposed to the boyfriend’s two sons.  You said that your daughter is strict and takes very good care of your grandson and there were not thefts before this, so I take the leap that she also instilled good values, one of which is not stealing.  This was probably in place since he was very young.  So he has not even though of taking things until he was taught how easy it is to steal and get what you want by these other boy’s. 

You said that all three of them had stolen a very small toy.  Thefts usually start out small.  And the things that are taken are usually of little value.  Then, over time, the thefts move to bigger and more expensive things.  It seems then that you have caught all three in the early stages of their career of stealing.

The other boys may have started stealing because they didn’t have much and/or didn’t have good supervision.  I get the feeling that your grandson started on a dare or was called chicken.

There is another side to this coin.  Theft is not always done because the person wants something, but because it provides an adrenalin rush.  Youths love activities which gives them a high.  It is therefore suggested that the other two youths be given an opportunity to find a legal passion that will provide the adrenalin rush that youths search for. 

This could be sports, repelling, rock climbing, parasailing, dirt bike racing, snowboarding, etc.  This could take place during the time that they are not supervised.  This activity would serve a duel purpose.  It would provide the good supervision and give the boys a good avenue to see their thrills.

All three boys must have the opportunity to make money so they can buy or save to buy the things they want instead of taking them.  If they have no resource to make money then there is more of a chance that they will steal what they want.

Since it looks like your grandson is in the wrong company every other weekend, the treatment will not be effective unless all three boys are treated.  This means that it will take the work on the part of your daughter, her boyfriend, his ex and the ex’s mother.  All need to sit down together and decide family rules and appropriate consequences to be administered when the rules are not obeyed.  All parties must be consistent in administering the consequences.  The consequences must happen or the youth will know that they can get away with the bad behavior and will continue to do the bad behavior in hopes the consequence will not take place.


See:  Allowing Rewards and Consequences for Children’s Behaviors

 Helping Children Overcome Bad Behaviors


Family Council

You may also need some good mediation skills to help this group to be cohesive and work together.  

See the whole mediation section at:

It is also important for the this group to look at each of the boys in terms of life-skill deficits and help them find success in each of the deficit areas.

See: Setting Family Rules and Teach Life Skills

As for your grandson doing poorly in school… It doesn’t matter so much what caused the poor school work as getting the youth caught up so he can perform properly.  Usually good grades come from doing the homework.  So each night’s homework must be done.

  Helping Your Youth Overcome Poor Schoolwork

The Plan

Since some students will not take the responsibility to get their homework assignments and do the homework, many of these have to have a homework notepad in which they must list the days homework and have it signed by each teacher, every day, so their parents can see what is to be done each night.

Many schools have a homework hot line that can be accessed by phone or by e-mail.  Most teachers invite interaction between parents via the phone, appointment, or e-mail.

It is then the parents responsibility to make sure the student has mandatory study time set aside each night in which s/he accomplishes the daily homework. 

Never take the student word as s/he is not trust worthy yet!  Always assume there is homework in every class.    

The Contingency Plan

Since these parents know that their student does not want to do homework, they plan in advance for the day that their student comes home without notebook signed or they do not bring home the books which are needed to do the homework.

§         They have already met with each teacher and explained what they need for the teacher to help their student be responsible and successful.

§         They understand what is expected in each class.

§         They have made prior arrangements to get the number to the school's homework hot line if there is one.

§         They have the home phone of each teacher for when they need it.

§         They have e-mail access to reach the teacher about other issues such as dates for tests and due dates for projects, and etc.

§         They have told their student what is expected of him/her and the consequences if these things are not done.

§         They are always consistent and immediate with administering the consequences.

The Consequences

The student that doesn't bring home the books or get his/her homework assignments signed will:

§         lose a privilege.  This must be something that is of great worth to the student.

§         have to walk or will be taken back to get the books.  If they are taken back, they are assessed the cost of gas which will be take out of their allowance or they will be assessed an extra nasty chore like washing baseboards, wall, toilets, the refrigerator. etc., which must be done after the homework is finished.  It must be done before s/he is free to do pleasurable pursuits.

In no way should the misbehavior of the student allow him/her not do his/her work or s/he is rewarded for misbehaving and will continue to get further behind.

Most students hate school because they do not do well in their school work.  They have little or not success in their homework because they are so far behind that they cannot perform the school work.  It may be that if the mother cannot help Todd catch up by explaining the daily work and helping Todd to work through the homework without doing it for him, then she may have to invest in a tutor for him.  The school usually has names of qualified people who serve as a tutors, but the price is usually quite spendy. 

Studies show that when a student does the homework that s/he performs better on tests.  The reverse is also true.

It is important that the student not be allowed to get behind.  This causes frustration and poor self esteem.  Studies show that frustration and poor self esteem usually lead to the child acting out in school and ultimately getting suspended and kicked out of school.  For some students, this frustration leads to violence at home, the community and in the school.

If your grandson is spending school days at his father’s home, it is imperative that your daughter’s stay in touch with her ex-husband to see that the work is being done.  She must keep the father responsible and answerable for Todd's schooling.  This can be done with a phone call to the father.

The mother must stay on top of the daily homework so she knows how Todd is doing.  There should be no question as to how he is doing.  She should know because she is involved in getting Todd caught up if he is behind and making sure each assignment is done.  If this is not done your grandson will continue to do poorly and not get his work done and he will continue to fail.

It is a known fact that one failure leads to more failure in all aspects of life due to the failure casting poor self-esteem on the child.  This leads to failure to succeed as an adult, mate, parent and provider.

Your daughter must be made to see that she must not leave her son alone during the mandatory study time.  This should be about two hours to get the school work on a Junior High level accomplished.  Depending on the work and how far behind your grandson has fallen, this may be even longer on some nights. 

Your daughter can plan activities so that she will be in the same vicinity as where her son is doing his homework.  The son’s work place can be is full view of your daughter so if her son has a problem she can be right there to help instantly and to see that the work is being done!

For Further reference just in case thief takes place with all three boys in the home, use:

Who is the Thief Among Us

For a good general guide for parenting see:

A Parent’s Guide for Raising Children

I think that if the group is treated as planned above, there should not be a reason for the need of counseling.  I don’t think the thefts are because of the divorce.  I think that it is because of peer pressure.  Please do not take my word on this.  Your daughter has the right for inspiration for her and her family straight from God, who know all things.

Please have her think these issues through, make a decision and then ask God if what she has decided is correct. 

You too have the right for inspiration for this family because it is your family too.  Try it out and see!  To see how to do this… 

See:  How to Make Good Decisions

Best wishes in your endeavors!

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

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