My 10-year-old son sometimes pinches money from my purse or from the change kept in a small drawer in the kitchen. When confronted, he either says he didn’t take it or laughs it off saying “just for fun” Should I just ignore it or take it seriously?
This is a tightrope walk for any parent. Does one laugh it off with just a “you bad boy” kind of admonition, or does one read the child the riot act? Parents tend to fall on either side of the rope. For some parents, it’s easy to laugh it off; for others, it is easy to give vent to fears and pet theories, and turn it into a family crisis.
A no-no: Talk your child out of pinching what’s not hers or his.
The more complex and demanding requirement from a parent is to come up with an appropriate response. Which would be: a) to communicate your disapproval without rejecting and labelling the child outright, and b) to talk, in age-appropriate terms, about the concept of boundaries, both physical and abstract—which means that sneaking into your bag as well as taking stuff that is not his is a no-no.
Our children must feel that we are there for them as providers and nurturers, and that we are happy to give them the things they need and enjoy. But when they take it for granted, and simply grab or pinch things, we need to pull them off the road for a quiet talk that brings in important concepts such as boundaries, rules and honesty.
Also, get to another core issue, as gently as you can, about whether he feels awkward asking for things. The conversation would help him learn to simply ask, whether they are things that you would easily give him, or things that you would need to think about before giving him.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.
Write to Gouri at firstname.lastname@example.org