Teaching Your Keiki How To Steal

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - November 01, 2006
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One of the pleasures of writing this column is that so many of you take the time to respond. And whether you agree or disagree with me, most of you are polite, constructive and friendly. I learn a lot from you.

Sometimes what you have to say disturbs me as well. Case in point: an e-mail from a reader who asked to be identified as a “concerned adult.” This person was at Sam’s Club, getting ready to buy a hot dog and soda, when she observed a woman with two kids. The daughter was about 9 years old, dressed in soccer clothes, and the boy may have been 4 or 5.

“The mother placed her order, and when the counter girl turned her back and walked to the back to get their order, the mother reached in and took an extra soda cup and passed it to her daughter to hold below the view of the counter window ... She then ‘shooed’ her daughter away before the girl came back with the rest of her order.”

Of course, the reader was appalled. What she had just witnessed was nothing less than a mother giving her children a lesson in stealing.

This mother thought she was being clever. She may even have enjoyed sharing a “special moment” with her daughter. After all, the little girl looks up to her mom and probably thought it was exciting to get away with a free drink. If Mom thinks it’s cool, then it is. After all, it’s just a 74-cent cup. What’s the harm?

But as my appalled reader pointed out, harm is being done, and plenty of it. It may start as a cup, but what will it be next? The seed of corruption has been planted. What will flourish in these children is the belief that it is fun to cheat and OK to lie, as long as you can get away with it. And what is likely to happen to this thieving mom is that eventually her daughter and son will start lying to her. They’ll steal again. And they’ll move on to bigger targets. They’ll end up disappointing their friends and hurting their relationships. They may end up disgraced or in jail. What’s even worse, they’ll pass on their dishonest ways to their own children someday.

My reader sums it up better than I could.

“Whatever happened to honesty and integrity that we are supposed to be teaching to our children? How are they to know the difference between what is rightfully mine and what is not? I sure hope there are much more positive examples than the one I saw this weekend.”

This reader wanted to pass her story along so that something good can come from it. It could be a “teaching point” about stealing, she says, for adults, children and teachers.

So here it is, and thank you for sharing. I hope the mother sees this and has a good talk with her kids. I hope other parents who read this will stop and think before passing along little seeds of corruption to their children.

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