• Tue, Nov 12 - 5:05 pm ET

Mom Takes Her Klepto 5-Year-Old To Jail To Teach Her Not To Steal

shutterstock_143651017__1384291691_142.196.156.251What would you do if you found out your 5-year-old had stolen some candy from the store? I would probably make her return it. The embarrassment and utter horror of having to return to the scene of the crime should do the trick. One mom took to Reddit to explain what she did when she found out her child had stolen some candy. I’m not sure that I would go this far:

I found out that my 5yo daughter stole some candy from the store and stealing is a huge no go in this household! I told her I had no choice but to take her downtown to the jail, where I presented the evidence to the police officer. It was hard for me to keep a straight face while she was super scared but it had to be done and this scare tactic did the trick! Expressing sincere remorse she said sorry, promised never ever to do it again and asked the officer to not put her in jail (this was super cute). The officer went along with it perfectly. He said he accepted the apology, told her stealing was a very bad thing to do and he believes this will never happen again then asked “can count on her to do the right thing from now on?” to which she replied “yes!” quickly followed by a hug and thanks you. I feel confident that this will never happen again! Big thanks to the Puyallup police for being some grade A, Grammy award winning cops.

I wonder what would happen if I tried this in Brooklyn. This is what imagine would transpire:

Hi officer. I know you are super busy, with actual criminals – but could you please pretend that you are going to arrest my 5-year-old?

Get the hell out of here lady. 

It’s just a guess – but I think the cops in Puyallup, Washington, population  38,147 – may have a little more patience for something like this. The population of Brooklyn is 2.5 million. Not sure this little trick would work there.

Also, I’m not sure I want to terrify my child by making her believe I am throwing her in jail – but what do I know. I seriously doubt this little girl will ever steal anything again – or will she? Some of the Redditors weighed in on the matter:

My parents did something similar to my when she was 8. She is a meth addict with a cop fetish now… terrible combination.

Excellent way to instill fear of cops and authority figures in your children.

The mother said she tried the returning-the-candy tactic and it didn’t work. So clearly the obvious next step would be taking her 5-year-old to jail.

(photo: Radharani/ Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Mystik Spiral

    I thought just about everybody stole candy from the store when they were around 5 years old. And I thought everyone’s parents did the same thing MY mom did… Return to the store, ask for the manager, and make me confess what I did and apologize.

    Now, one could argue that it didn’t work, since I was caught shoplifting at age 14, but even then they they didn’t call the cops OR my parents, they just banned me from the store and encouraged me to tell mom and dad what had happened. I didn’t tell my parents until at least 15 years later, but I can say I never stole anything again.

    The lesson was pretty age-inappropriate for a 5 year old, if you ask me.

    • brebay

      I agree. A five-year-old’s motivation and understanding of right and wrong is not the same as an adults. It definitely needs to be addressed, but this will backfire. If a 5-year-old is chronically stealing, she needs a therapist. 5-year-olds aren’t motivated by an understanding of the law.

    • Evelyn

      I personally agree that bringing the child to return the sweets and apologize to the shop staff is far more appropriate than pretending to take them to prison for a 5 year old. Not only do I not like the scare tactics of using the police but I am not a big fan of controlling kids with lies and fantasy or making threats that are wild and exaggerated that you could never possibly carry out. What your mum did with you did not let you feel you were getting away with it or that she was soft on stealing but it was also not a lie that would as you grew older make you not trust her or believe that all her punishments were desperate fantasies that she would never follow through on. If I did mad punishments like the lady who took the girl to the police it wouldn’t be long before my kids feel I actually have no real control over them and feel honesty is negotiable. I like your mum’s way better.

    • Hayley Shaver

      Why didn’t she just make her apologize? I know a few kleptos, and this is not true klepto. Only a girl who sees a sweet and wants it. Kleptos don’t care if they have punishment for stealing. They just do, even if they get in trouble for it.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      My gran found a lipstick I stole from a Walgreens once and brought me back to the store to confess. I was 7 I think. It definitely worked, I was scared out of my mind. But I was a bit older than this kid, so I think the lesson stuck more.

      I had friends who would steal sun glasses and stuff from Duane Reade and I would legit walk away all scared, because I didn’t want to be guilty by association. Everyone thought I was a punk, lol.

  • keelhaulrose

    Police have a lot on their plates, even if it’s in a smaller town. My village of 1,300 has 4 police officers for very little crime, but I’ve spent some time with them, and they have a lot to do.
    And it’s not fair to put the cop on the spot like that. I try to teach my daughter that police men are good (because most of the time they are) and she can trust them if she needs help. I’m sure threatening her with one would make her scared of being around one in the future.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I totally agree. One of my sisters is a cop, and she has heard parents tell their misbehaving kids before to “stop it or that cop will take you away.” Not exactly what you need to be teaching your kid if you want them to ask for help in an emergency. She seriously hates it.

  • brebay

    I wish we still lived in a world where you could walk your kid back to the store and have them fess up and apologize. Unfortunately, most businesses now have policies mandated by their insurance companies that require them to involve the police for ANY theft of AN amount by ANYONE. In the city I used to live in, it was not uncommon for the police blotter in the newspaper to publish the names of 7 and 9-year olds (which they legally can do for misdemeanors) who had shoplifted food. Talk about overkill!

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      That is crazy!

    • Rachel Sea

      Turn the country around, I want to get off.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      THIS

    • Hayley Shaver

      That’s weird. They never do it in Utah.

    • brebay

      No, in Utah they just publicly shame you for getting a divorce. Yes, I know divorce records re public records, but most places you have to at least go to the court house an d fill out a form to see a specific record. Only in Utah do they have a free site up to look at the entire state’s divorces free and easy…kind of like a crime registry…

    • Hayley Shaver

      Never got divorced (I was lucky) so I never knew that. But if a person really wanted to know who was divorced or not, which I think is a total waste of time to find out, isn’t he going to find out anyways, whether at the courthouse or online? I have a feeling you may have gotten divorced and were ashamed about it. Divorces aren’t shameful, just a statement saying things didn’t work out.

    • brebay

      Ha! Never divorced, think fewer people should get married, think divorce is not a bad idea at all and very often better for the kids and never lived in Utah. Still, yes, if you really want the info you can get it, but Utah makes it much easier to be a “nosy nelly” and just look people up the way you do on facebook. I don’t think divorce is shameful, I think staying in a bad marriage is. My point was just that it’s odd to me that Utah makes it so easily searchable, I think it’s Utah (for obvious reasons) that is making it seem shameful, not me.

  • Elizabeth

    It’s also totally possible that the daughter had no idea she was doing anything wrong! When I was little, I thought that everything non-packaged that wasn’t produce was free (like bulk dried fruit or those rolls they kept in plastic bins). My mom caught me with half a roll in my mouth once, told me that was considered stealing, and that was the end of it.

  • Alanna Jorgensen

    Haha, I’m at work in Puyallup right this minute. It’s a smaller town but it’s very close to Tacoma and Lakewood. This area in general has a lot of drugs and poverty, so they do have things to deal with. I’m a fan of making them go back to the store and admit their theft, but I really don’t like the idea of making small children think they are going to JAIL. I see it as potentially damaging.

  • Elisianna

    When I was about 5 I stole a chocolate bar. My mom found out and told security. I remember getting a talk about how I could go to jail if I did it again. I was pretty scared…
    From then on if I wanted to steal candy again I would tell my younger sister to do it and I would distract my mom. And instead of eating it in the store we would wait until we got home and sneak it downstairs to eat. So I guess I didn’t really learn a valuable lesson except that I needed to be sneakier.

  • EX

    Grammy award winning cops? Did they burst into song or were they recording a spoken word album?

    • Skipper

      This was my thought. I guess she meant Emmy but that’s strange too.

  • Annona

    Sounds like something my dad would have done. Especially if I’d already done it once, been forced to return the candy, and did it again. Pretty sure the cops here would have the same response as the cops in Brooklyn, though. “Is your child shooting at anyone? No? GTFO.” Or, they’d arrest the mom for child neglect, or something equally stupid and terrifying.

    I mean, yeah, it’s a little much. But better than having to come bail her out when she’s 16 and gets caught shoplifting jewelry at the mall. If you’re stealing, you SHOULD have a fear of cops. I’m guessing she’ll never steal anything, ever again.

  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    My daughter is the same age and she stole a $.025 pack of gum a while back. We took her back to the store (we’re friends with the owners so it was less intense than what I imagine it might be like when you don’t know them) and they were so funny and cool about it. They sat her down, all serious, and explained how bad it was to steal and how their livelihoods depended on the money they made there and how stealing made that harder (in words a kid could understand) all the while trying not to laugh. It was great and absolutely did the trick.

    My kid would have shat herself if we’d gone to the precinct here in our NYC neighborhood. I think they would’e played along (we live in a more close-knit area than some parts of BK) but NYC are SCARY to a little kid, lol.

  • Muggle

    this is kinda silly. I think for this tactic to work you gotta live in a rural area with nothing going on or the cops/sheriff deputies will tell you to piss up a rope. I mean not usin that language but they will most cetainly not be amused. i know my fiance would be and there aint shit happening where he works half the time .

    i mean on one hand, stealing really is illegal and I cant fault the mom for wanting to get that message across. but on the other hand i think it would have been just asa well to take the child back to the store and give back whatever ti was that she stole, and pay for it. i mean that works for mos tpeopel right? what kid doesn’t get aught stealing toys or candu or something?

    sorry for the drunken rant, i swear im more eloquent than this. holy shit i cant believe i managed to spell “eloquent” in my stat e TWICE. anyway cops have way too much shit to do no matter where they live, liek keelhaulrose said. depending on if they’re cops or deputies (yes there’s a difference), whether theyre on patrol or working inb the jail(s) then they have so much shit to do. they have to write reports, either arrest bad guys or keep an eye on them while they’re locked up, go to court and escort them bck and forth. and they have “work” shit just like anyone else, talkning to bosses and shit (chiefs or captains or sheriffs or lieutenants or w/e) and going to meetings, then NORMAL PEOPLE SHIT just like anyone else like families and marriages and pets and kids and social lives and just some gorram time to themselves. it’s a stressful job. and these people see the absolute worst that the species homo sapiens has to offer on a regular basis.

    it’s also like FormelyKnownAsWendy said, you dont want to teach your kids that the cops will take you away when you misbehave, like they’re scary people who are hired by their parents/elementeary school archnemesis to take all their freedom away. That;s not really true. I’ve had some.. unfortunate dealins with cops. HAvent been arrested, but they were there when the tags on my licenese plate expired and when I got into a car accident a year after that. They were there when there was a bad fight outside my dorm in college and some poor guy go tthe shit beaten out of him. they were there when another guy got the shit beaten out of him at a party my sister was at. you don’t wnt to teach people that cops are bad and out to kill yoru fun. I regularly have to put up with anti-cop asshttery on facebook because the asshats apparent’y don’t know or don’t care that I’m marrying a cop in a few months. that’s wht happens. and i worry about them cause what if they were robbed? or mugged? or physically assaulted? as much as they piss me off with their obviously biased, poorly-cited MSM bullshit i do care about them.

    i cant totally fault the lady, she probably reacted more calmly than i would have. theft is a berserk button of mine, I hate being stolen from and i don’t have a lot of patience or sympathy for most thieves. not like that lady a few weeks back who stole like $100 of groceries to feed her kids, but i don’t feel much for kids who just can’t restrain themeselves long enough not to steal. it’s just a toy/piuece of candy, you’ll live. but stealing is illegal. I don’t like scare tactics, though. the adults at my school were way too fond of them. it’s a common thing in the “old school” rural south. doesn’t work at all, really. I think just taking the kid back to the store and making her pay/give the item back would have been enough.

    sorry if my rambling made no sense. im drunk. 4 bottles of mikes is bad for muggle. :(

  • Alfreda

    At five and under I actually watch my kids in the stores and do a quick scan of their hands when we are leaving. I think it is my responsibility to make sure they are not stealing. They have never actually left the store with anything. Once they had something in their hand, and were going to ask me to buy it but forgot. I made them put it back before we left the store. Maybe I am just lucky they are not sticking candy in their pockets or anything. My kids can be pretty strong willed and can be sneaky when they are supposed to be brushing their teeth, but thankfully this has never been an issue. I think I shoplifted a ball when I was five. I showed it to my mother when we got out of the store all proud. She made me take it right back and I don’t think I did it again. I think at five they are really just grasping the concept of stealing. Once my daughter found some kid’s toy on the floor at kindergarten and brought it home. I made her take it back and asked her how she would feel if you left a toy out and another kid took it.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    I don’t think this is a bad idea.
    My granda was a warden in the Hague prison in Holland (yup, THAT HAGUE PRISON!)
    He found out my mother had stolen 20 Guilders from her mother’s purse.
    He brought her into work one day and let an inmate (in jail for armed robbery) speak to her about all the things he can’t do in prison, he was unable to go see his kids, unable to go for walks, etc.
    At the time my grandmother was furious with him but my mother always said it was a lesson that stayed with her forever

  • http://buyecigaretteuk.tumblr.com/ E cigarette

    The mother is psycho!
    To bring her own child to the jail, the only thought came into her mind?

    There are many alternatives.

    This type of experiment can cause a lot! That child may hate her in future that scare me a lot! She definitely will try to hide from her and her mum will not be like ordinary mom just like Spy! May god bless to that child.

    E cigarette

  • AugustW

    I stole one of those fake plastic grapes from a mobile home for sale when I was about 5. My brother tattled on me and my mom marched me back to that salesperson and made me give it back.
    It was perfect in that it wasn’t terrifying but it was a good lesson.

    Oh, it should be said, my 3 year old made it out of the store with candy a while back. We went back and returned it, and now if she has something in her hand (eve if she already owns it) she is very adamant about getting the cashier to “beep” it.

  • Erin Murphy

    When I was little, maybe three, my mom and grandma had me in the stroller as we went into the mall. On the way through the first store I stole something, they caught it and put it back. Then, on the way out I did it again! I was quite the sticky fingers. Obviously, I was to young to punish but I didn’t grow up to be a delinquent.

  • SA

    Geez, if I were the cop I would have given the mom a lecture about appropriate punishments and taking up valuable resources.

    5 years old? Unless this was a common occurrence, simply taking the item back to the store and apologizing should be the consequence. I think it is much more important to show the child how her behavior hurt the store/owner than scaring her to death with a cop.