My Little Juvenile Delinquent


Miss 4 was caught stealing the other day. Caught red-handed, and slightly guilty, though more upset that she was caught rather than upset at having done the wrong thing.


Basically, it was a shopping trip like any other, except intentionally speedy. I had all four of my children with me, as it was the school holidays, and I only had a couple of jobs to do. Master 6 gets bored within sight of the mall carpark so whenever he’s with me, expedience is the key.

Now, I can’t actually remember what it was that we were looking for but at any rate I had raced into Kmart and not found it there. So we were en-route to another shop when a woman running a photography competition called us over. I’m one of those people who can’t say no, so we went over and I dutifully filled in my free entry while she explained the competition and its terms and so on. Once I was able to extricate myself from there we headed off only to be called back within seconds.

‘I think you forgot this,’ she said holding up a bottle of purple nail polish.

I shook my head. We hadn’t purchased anything from Kmart.

‘No one else has been here.’ She was right. And then it dawned on me. Miss 4 had had sticky fingers for awhile and had often brought things home from her grandparents’ houses, from preschool and so on, but never from a store.

I turned to Miss 4 and she eventually admitted that she had taken the nail polish and hidden it in her jumper pocket before leaving it on the photography table. I marched Miss 4 back to Kmart where she had to apologise to the staff member on the door for taking the nail polish without paying for it.

I was furious, of course, and more than a little bit mortified. Thankfully, we have had not repeats of that behaviour, although it was only 5 weeks ago so there’s still time I expect, but the whole episode had me considering the effectiveness of my parenting.

I mean, here I am, trying to raise good children and my sanguine Miss 4 is helping herself to stuff that doesn’t belong to her because she wants it.

But thankfully, before I completely destroyed my own parenting style another mother commented that this was actually a common occurrence. This fairly normal exploration of boundaries was made all the more tempting by the way that stores were set out.

Of course, it is no secret that shops arrange their merchandise in a way that is the most attractive – or tempting – to their customers. Children have little knowledge of the concept of self-control and the displays of toys, lollies and so on are designed precisely to interest children who will hopefully badger their parents into purchasing that item for them.

In my home we like to talk about this in practical terms, and avoid, where possible, areas of stores that are too tempting for our children. I am often heard to say ‘You can only touch that if you have money to buy it.’ If my kids are touching something or asking me to get something I usually ask: ‘Do you have any money for that?’ To which Master 6 answers no, but will determinedly save up for if he wants it bad enough, and Miss 4 answers no, but you do.

So all of this had me thinking about my shopping habits and the habits of those around me. I had to face the reality that we, and more especially some of our extended family, often evidence a display of indiscriminate spending. There might be a sale too good to refuse, an item that sparks our interest, a piece of clothing that we just have to have or something from Aldi’s middle aisle that just screams out our name.

Recently I have been trying to cut down our weekly grocery bill, as sort of a practice for when things get a bit tighter soon, as expected. But what I noticed was that although our grocery bills could easily be cut down a bit and in the last few weeks our highest grocery receipt was $138, there was a lot of spending outside of this that could easily be reigned in.

And so I came to the realisation that if I want my sanguine Miss 4 to practice any sort of self-control then I need to show this more consistently and regularly myself.

For kids it seems as though Mum and Dad have money to buy whatever they want, and I guess we do to a certain extent, but let’s face it, most of the money that comes into the house is already spoken for and will be allocated to bills, food and rent or a mortgage. If I can demonstrate self-control with the money left after all of those things are paid, then hopefully my children will be just as sensible when they are older.

Of course, self-control is not just in relation to finances and I know there are certainly a few other areas where I could practice this, and one of these is definitely my temper (my grandmother calls it the McIntyre temper and reckons everyone in that family line has it) and my sweet tooth!

Maybe, just maybe, if I exhibit more self-control my children will slowly learn strategies to help them overcome their own temptations and I will no longer have nightmares about raising a juvenile delinquent.



Filed Under: ChildrenFeaturedFinancesParenting

About the Author: Emily is a former ACPA award winning editor and journalist turned stay at home mum and blogger. She lives on a farm in regional NSW with her husband and their five children where she spends the time she should be doing housework reading books and writing posts.

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