Parenting --Teens/15 year old son


QUESTION: We are a 2 parent home with one child, a 15 year old boy. We live on an island in the Gulf of Mexico. The maternal family (mine) is very involved although since we moved here to the island, they are about 8 hours away but we do see them at minimum twice a year. The paternal family is not involved and never much has been.
This past week we were in the state where my family lives, visiting with them as well as getting medical news (bladder cancer) about my very active 83 year old father.
While there my son stole that same grandfather's loaded revolver from a gun case (it was in a case and also in a zipped holder thing#. He took that gun to his favorite cousin's house #female, same age# to spend the night. Meaning, not only did he put himself and his cousin at risk, he had that gun in MY car with me driving around not knowing about this #what if I had been stopped and searched??#. It all came out after I went to pick him up the next day to bring him back to his grandparents house. Apparently the cousin was visibly shaken and her parents forced her to tell what the issue was. Her mother called my father and he checked his gun case and everything was there, nothing missing. I sat my son down and told him he had one chance to tell me where and how he got the revolver he showed to his cousin. He told me then that he had taken it from his pawpaw's cabinet but that he felt guilty and put it back. I maintain he didn't feel guilty but that he knew his cousin was upset and knew he was going to get told on and THAT is why he put it back. So my father went to check it and found that it had been unloaded and I had to search my son's bag for the bullets but did find them.
Next day, my father gets a call from same cousin's mother. Cousin's Ipod is missing, with apparently my son being the last one to see it. Cousin states that while there my son made the statement that he could take anything he wanted and no one would ever know. I searched his suitcases, the bedroom where each of us were staying, the bathroom, EVERYWHERE. No Ipod. For 3 days my son denied stealing it. We get home and I make him put everything from car in one corner of living room then told him to empty his pockets. He did but I could still see an outline of something and forced him to pull it out. Ipod!! STILL he tried to deny that it is his cousin's, knowing full well that I know he has an Iphone and doesn't need an Ipod and was never bought an Ipod. Finally after threatening to call and have the police come out and speak to him, he fessed up. But the ONLY remorse he has shown of either of these 2 incidents is the fact that he got caught.
Questions are...
1. Why would he do this to grandfather and favorite cousin #son states just to prove he can).
2. What punishment is appropriate for each of the 2 thefts?
3. How can I find out what ELSE he's stolen, just because he wanted it and thought he could get away with it?
4. How can I prevent him from doing anything like this again?
I have talked to him about his choices in life, the consequences such as living in and out of jails or prisons, what effect things can have on his future. It just seems he doesn't care what you say to him, nothing phases him.
Please help. Thank you, Kim

ANSWER: So sorry this is taking me so long to consider my answer. I am NOT a qualified professional, merely a very observant journalist and grandmother who has been around the block many times.

Usually, as you can tell from most of my answers to others, I can size things up fairly fast and give lots of suggestions those with problems have found helpful. This time, I need to suggest you find a very good psychologist who won't be fooled by a smile and a pretty face. I probably can't help him.

There are several key things you say here that cause me great concern, and stealing is the least of them. There are symptoms of something much worse, and your key phrase is, "nothing phases him." The other three things that jump out immediately were the way he believes he can do anything without being caught, the fear he instilled in his cousin, and his remorse only being that he was caught.

There are a few questions I have for you:

1) Has he always been confident of himself, or felt himself to be smarter than others?
2) Has he ever said or done anything to frighten you?
3) Have you ever seen him hurt an animal or a younger child? When he was caught doing it, did he deny doing it on purpose, and skillfully convince you it was an accident?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, I can recommend a good book to read. PLEASE know, no matter what, if your son DOES have a serious issue, it is better to address it when he is YOUNG, and that NOTHING he does is your fault. We all make our own choices in life.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: In reply to your questions:

1. Can't really say he's always been confident of himself, no. Smarter than others, very definitely yes. In 1st grade, they were sending him to 5th grade math and science classes. Currently at 15, he can look at a very long algebraic equation and solve it in his head within seconds. Drives his teachers crazy because he won't write out the work.

2. No I have never been frightened by him. I would have to say I'm more frightened about the path he's taking and what he might end up doing to himself, as in drugs, prison, etc.

3. Absolutely not. He loves, loves, LOVES animals of any kind and he is really very wonderful and patient with younger children, even feeding and changing my friend's 4 month old.

I believe what you're asking me is whether or not there are sociopathic tendencies. No, not even a little bit. This is why I've had such a hard time believing he did the things he did. I KNOW he did them, he admitted them to me. The flip side is that even at 15 he is a very affectionate, loving child who still uses ma'am and sir, please and thank you... to a point where other parents and teachers will call us to ask what we did to make such a polite child. He still hugs us, even in front of his friends. I'm just at a loss but I did get some psychiatrist and psychologists phone numbers from our insurance company and have appointments pending approval of expanded therapy.

Thank you for your help.

Oh, thank the merciful heavens. I've been looking with trepidation in my inbox every day for your your response.


There is probably a very simple reason for his behavior. Boredom.

Very bright children need lots of stimulation, or they begin to create situations of excitement for themselves. If he's an only child, stuck on an island most of the time, he's going to get creative.

A psychologist will probably be able to diagnose and treat him with a few sessions that will hopefully straighten him out. He needs to know not only the consequences of his actions, but he also should develop some empathy for others. For example, how his cousin felt at the loss of her ipod. He needs to develop remorse for his actions, or he could very well slip into a life of crime.

If you can afford it, sending him to a camp where he has an opportunity to help others would be very beneficial. His eyes need to be opened to the suffering of others, which he could help. I know there is still a great deal of cleaning up needed after Katrina, and right now Grand Junction Colorado is dealing with the Black Forest Fire that has consumed many homes. Look around for people needing service. He's a little old to join the BSA, but perhaps there are other service organizations or church groups organizing efforts to help others. That would change his focus better than anything else. Perhaps a family vacation serving the less fortunate would be something you'd all enjoy.

I googled a couple of things, and you can do the same.  

Parenting --Teens

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My own dysfunctional youth in an alcoholic family helped me decide to raise my children with love, acceptance, and honesty. It must have worked. We`ve got terrific kids. Those I've answered on this site usually feel I've been helpful in their unique situations. Our world is so much better when we lift instead of crushing. Every child is worth more than any bank can hold. If I can help at all, it will be in teaching both parent and child of their own personal value to humanity, and how to punch through the noise of the moment to find their greater purpose. Together, we can all make a better world.


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