The ADHD Child and Stealing

Two symptoms of ADHD we deal with quite a bit is the Pumpkin’s constant need to touch and her inability to control her impulses. We find that she, and I’m learning other ADHD kids as well, often have a compulsive need to satisfy their tactile desires. In other words, they can’t stop touching things or picking them up and walking off with them. Often, their one-track minds are so determined on possession, they don’t always stop in time to realize they’ve stolen something.

ADHD kids aren’t stupid. They absolutely know what’s right and what’s wrong but they’ll often do things that aren’t acceptable because they can’t control the impulses until it’s too late. Then they panic about what to do next. Often, they’ll pretend nothing happened because if they admit to the offense, the embarrassment of being unable to control their impulses on top of the guilt of doing something wrong is overwhelming, even before a punishment is dealt.

We noticed our daughters touchy issues early on so we’ve constantly talked about taking or touching things without asking, how it makes her feel if someone takes something from her and how it affects other people. From a very early age, we established “shopping position” which puts her hands folded behind her, so she can’t touch things in stores, giving her a “technique” she can use to avoid touching. For other places, we talk about her “action plan” for when she may be tempted to touch things that don’t belong to her and let her work out some ideas on her own. We’ve pretty much talked every day about not touching things since she was a toddler.

It’s inevitable, so if she does something wrong, we emphasize that she should try to make it right asap. For example, if she knocks someone over, she should apologize and help them right away – “I’m sorry but I don’t always know how strong I am, let me help you.” Take responsibility and turn an impulse into something positive. We hope that if she feels like she can correct the situation on her own, she will. As ADHD parents, we need to empower our kids to take responsibility for and control of their impulses. Like anything, the more practice you get, the better you get.

Thankfully, the Pumpkin has never stolen anything. We check her before leaving any store we enter and her hands are always empty. If there is concern about clingy behavior leading to other/more serious offenses, maybe a tour of the local police station can be arranged or have a police officer sit down and have a candid talk with your child about what happens to people when they steal. ADHD is not a legal defense so it’s important to make sure your child understands that the courts aren’t going to be as forgiving as school or home.

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