Robbery Victim's Unusual Punishment for Teens Doesn't Include the Cops

Mom Moment 18

cellphoneI tend to take a hard line on discipline. I cheered when a dad found stolen goods in his kid's room and turned the little thief in to the cops. But a woman who took unusual steps after she found the cellphone of a teenager in her ransacked car has me wondering if I'm a little too hard.

Eliza Webb could have called the cops immediately, but the woman who works with high schoolers had a hunch the phone belonged to a teenager. So she didn't.

Instead, Webb wanted to talk to the kid and his parents and see if she could figure out how to deal with his bad behavior without ruining his life. As Webb told the Seattle Times:

I think bringing the police and courts into something like this can have long-term, devastating consequences for kids.

She's right.

Get the cops involved, and you're talking about giving a kid a record, a record that could follow them for the rest of their life. 

Sometimes, that's necessary. Sometimes, it's overkill.

So how do you know the difference?

More from The Stir: 6 Sneaky Parent Tricks to Keep Your Teen in Line

In Webb's case, she ended up meeting with the kid and taking him and his teenage accomplice door-to-door in their neighborhood, apologizing to neighbors for breaking into their cars and returning the items they'd stolen. The teens also have to write a letter of apology that will be read at a community block party. Having to own up to what they'd done and doing it face-to-face surely made an impact on those kids, maybe even more of an impact than standing in a courtroom with a judge and prosecutor who represent The Man.

As a mom, I'd like to think I would have turned my kid in to the authorities if I found out what they'd been doing. But this ... this doesn't seem like such a bad option either.

I can't help but wonder: is this the difference between a parent disciplining and a stranger punishing a kid?

Do we as parents have to be harder on our kids than strangers? Can strangers teach the lesson we need to teach with strength by showing compassion?

I'm not suggesting that we turf our disciplining to other people -- I'd much prefer my kid never end up hurting someone else and ending up in a position like this -- but the "it takes a village" mentality of parenting certainly seems to have worked here. And it can work in most situations; if people show a little common sense when dealing with miscreant teenagers.

You don't ALWAYS have to call the cops. Sometimes the lessons are much more profound if they're dealt with on a human level.

Look at Eliza Webb. She didn't let the kids "get away" with breaking into her car. But she didn't turn to the cops either. Good for her. Good for her for doing her part in the global village and helping shape the next generation.

If only more people were like her.

Perhaps it's a little hypocritical to want a little forgiveness from strangers that we ourselves won't give our kids. But one thing I've learned over the years is that kids tend to take things better from someone who is NOT their parent. Other people simply don't HAVE to be as hard on our kids to get them to shape up.

Put yourself in these parents' shoes. Would you want someone calling the cops on your kid or dealing with it as Webb did?


Image via DeusXFlorida (2,093,896 views) - thanks guys!/Flickr



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redK8... redK8blueSt8

This consequence definitely drove in the lesson much more creatively, and probably successfully than a slap on the wrist and community service would have. The humility of looking the neighbors they'd robbed in the face, apologizing, and returning the stolen stuff will stick in their memory and may make them reconsider doing it again. 

LostS... LostSoul88

sorry I would have called the police. The teens choose to break the lsw they need to live with the consequences. We need to stop coddling these kids 

Saerise Saerise

I think if you can solve the problem without involving the police, then awesome. Only time will tell of the effectiveness of her lesson, but I do hope it holds.

amber... amberdotsmom

When I was a kid two teens broke the window on my parents car (on purpose).  One was a neighbor the other had just moved in up the street and was hanging around with the neighbor kid.  The new boys father had him come to our house, apologize face to face and pay for half the repair.  The neighbor kids parents just paid the other half themselves and we hever heard a word from them or the kid.  Guess which of them grew up to be a functional adult (and which one died in their 20's after many run ins with the law)?  It seems like it's the parents that make the difference - if the parents of the kids in this story hadn't been willing to have them see that punishment through maybe I would have called the police.  If on the other hand the parents realize their kid is running wild and, like the new kid on my street, make them own up to it and straighten out then handling it as this women did might not be such a bad thing.

nonmember avatar Laurie

It depends on the kid. I have personal experience in the form of a brother who has always been dishonest. In his case he stole things from me as we grew up, jewelry, etc. We have always had a rocky relationship because of his issues, my parents never seemed to see what I saw. This past year he began breaking into houses with an accomplice. He was bringing things to my parents to sell on eBay. When he was arrested (because they stole truck tires from a neighbor and put them on the accomplice's truck, the neighbor noticed and called police) my parents finally wised up and called the Sheriff to come and collect all the items that hadn't been sold online. It turned out they were all stolen. My parents could have been arrested, my father (who works for a prison) risked losing his job. My parents did the right thing. He spent seven months in jail and is out on bond awaiting trial. I am a mother of one (soon to be 2) and I feel this experience with my brother has prepared me for some things I could potentially deal with. But like I said, it depends on the kid. If my kid doesn't show signs of being a pathological liar and does something stupid as a teen, yes, I would likely make him face his victims rather than calling cops. But if it were a continuing pattern I wouldn't hesitate to hand his butt over to cops.

Ashley Christopher

Im surprised the parents allowed their child to be disciplined

Vanessa Poholek Fasanella

I think calling the police or DCF in this situation is necessary, in ADDITION to doing what she did. Why? Because it establishes a pattern, and if this teen does it again, it needs to be on record that it has happened more than once.


This breaking into cars thing happened in my quiet, sleepy neighborhood years ago, and even though we all called the police, they did nothing. The dispatchers wouldn't even put in the calls! It turns out that a group of teens was stealing money, GPSs, and Christmas presents from cars, and pawning them for cash. It all came to an ugly head when one bravely and stupidly broke into a house 15 houses down from me, after turning doorknobs all night, to see who didn't lock their doors. He got the guy's car keys, and was trying to steal his car when the guy screamed that he was 'coming after him' from upstairs, while dialing 911. I think most of it could have been prevented, had the parents cared to know what their kids were up to, and if the police had taken any of us seriously when we had called to report all of our cars being broken into.

Happy... Happydad73

You do realize that by fessing up to the neighborhood what they had done they open themselves up to criminal prossecution from others who aren't as forgiving. There isalways another side to every story.

nonmember avatar Lord K

Um, yeah, I may be relatively new to this country, just being a stupid arab, but I seem to remember reading multiple times and places crimes done before 18 or 16 depending on the state are sealed. So their life is not being ruined, and if it is it's their own damn fault anyway...

Kelly Walters

My bike was stolen.  My husband caught a teenager riding it and gave him a firm talking to and that was it.  At least, until mommy showed up to chew out my husband for talking to her kid.  Next time we'll just call the cops and mommy can deal with them.

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