"What would you recommend as a course of action for the following: I have a 15 yr old stepson who admits to having stolen an I-Pad from a car, and a 17 yr old stepson who admits to having sold it to a friend. My gut says call the police, report the incident, and let them deal with the consequences. My wife wants to deal with it 'in house' and keep the law out of the matter. The problem is threefold: (1) Both sons are currently dealing with legal issues (on probation in juvenile court), and reporting the theft would almost certainly guarantee jail time for them. (2) This occurred a couple of weeks ago, and it appears that the whole matter is quietly slipping into oblivion. (3) Reporting the boys has major potential to cause a rift in my marriage. Any suggestions?"
Re: Point #1 – Your wife is not doing anyone any favors by saving her sons from consequences. Obviously, she is not willing to work this program if her attitude is “I need to keep my sons from experiencing painful emotions associated with their poor choices.” Anyway …as a weak alternative (in the interest of avoiding a rift in the marriage), both sons should earn money to replace the iPad and return the new one to the theft-victim.
Re: Point #2 – You’re right ...to issue a late consequence will not have as much of an impact as it would if it were immediate.
Re: Point #3 – Here we have to take a look at how the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Clearly, keeping your marriage intact is paramount. Without you, the sons have no father-figure. The marriage comes first.
The following is not necessarily a recommendation in the formal sense, but I recently had another “stepfather” that was going through a very similar situation. Somehow, he got an anonymous call through to his stepson’s probation officer, advising him of some illegal activity that the son was engaging in. As a result, the issue was addressed immediately, but without putting the stepfather in the “hot seat” with his wife.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents