13 Yr Old Stealing from Family, but What Do You Do If You Have No Proof

Updated on March 25, 2010
D.R. asks from San Jose, CA
19 answers

We have had a lot of money go missing from the house and recently it is believed that my daughter stole money out of her grand mothers purse....we do believe she did it and my mother is convinced that she did as there is no other explanation as to where it went. What do i do, how do i confront this situation. A bit of back ground, she was actually born to a different father but has never met him. My husband has been her father since she was 3 mths old and we are a very happy family although I do believe she holds resentment for my other two children as they are what she calls "his blood". Is this a cry for attention or is she just so spoilt...do i over compensate because she is not my husbands blood??? She is a wonderful child, sure she gives me attitude and a hard time but she helps me out so very much as I also have a 5 and 6 year old, i work full time from home as a hairdresser and I try and run a house and be a wife.....My heart hurts to think that she has done this and I dont know where to turn.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think you need to sit her down and talk to her honestly. You want honesty from her - give it to her. don't be accusatory since you really have no proof but let her know that you suspect she's doing this.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I know I'm no help but I wish she could understand that "blood" is not hat big of an issue! OMG she is so blessed with a dad who does not care that she is not his blood but he loves her just the same!!!!! She is so blessed and she doesn't know it! (Im a stepmom so I know a thing about loving someone who is not "blood") I wish you luck and big kudos to Daddy!

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answers from Portland on

If there is no other explanation for the disappearing money, assume that she took it. But, I can think of a couple of other possibilities. The 5 or 6 yo may have taken it. My grandkids took money out of my wallet when I left it laying on the table. They didn't try to hide it. It was just fun to play with. Look in their bedroom, toy box, anywhere they play. Another possibility is that her grandmother spent the money and forgot. I've done that from time to time my whole adult life. Another possibility is that a friend of your daughter's took the money either with or without your daughter's knowledge. I've seen that happen more than once.

I suggest that you start out low key with a conversation with your daughter. Tell her the situation, ask her what she knows about it. Reassure her that she won't be in trouble if she tells the truth. Give her a chance to tell you what she knows. You could even tell her that if she needs more money you'll help her find a way to earn money. Calmly explain the importance of telling the truth and of admitting the theft now before there is more trouble. Be warm, express concern.

In regards to her birth circumstances. Whether or not she took the money her feelings about this need to be dealt with. Why is she so aware that the other two children have "his blood?" Why is it important to her? What is really bothering her deep down?

Does your husband treat her differently, perhaps without intending to do so? It might help for the two of them to have a talk about how he feels about her in spite of the "blood" difference. You might want to get involved in some family counseling to deal with this issue.

I adopted my daughter. She came to live with me when she was 7. My significant other became her psychological father. His sons became her brothers. She still sees most of her birth family. She counts her psychological father, brothers, aunts, uncles along with the same in her birth family. It was quite a shock when she was in school and said that she had 12 siblings. If I were with her someone would look at me and ask how I managed that. It became a fun thing to do; shocking people with the number of relatives she has.

We emphasized that a family is not determined by blood but by commitment. I found books that talked about families and the various ways in which they can be made. We emphasized love and didn't spend much time talking about why she was in this family instead of the other. She does have difficulties, even now as an adult, comprehending the complexity of her situation but she knows she is my daughter and Malcolm her father, even tho Malcolm and I are no longer together. He called her and still calls her, "my daughter" often. We emphasize the family connections.

Does her father give he lots of compliments, hugs, happy conversations. If not perhaps you could encourage that or if him increasing his warmth is not a possibility explain why he doesn't do this. My father wasn't very demonstrative and my mother would tell me that he grew up in a family that didn't express their feelings but she knew that he loved me. She would point out ways in which he showed his love. This helped me alot during the years I felt insecure and unloveable, which are common feelings during the teen years.

Since you ask if you over compensate I'm guess that you probably do. In what way do you over compensate. Can you get a grasp on that and work on changing it? Be honest. Talk with your daughter about your concerns for her and express your uncertainty about whether or not you have been treating her OK. Give her a chance to express her feelings without the need to protect you. Let her know that you're willing to talk about anything and that the two of you can work anything out. You are the parent and so don't promise to do anything that abdicates that responsibility. It's just that teens usually respond the best when they can be a part of planning the solution.

There are some understandable reasons for her to resent the younger children that are unrelated to birth. They are younger, they may get to do things differently than she did at that age. You're an older more experienced parent. They have different personalities. And the world is different. Let her express her feelings. Tell her she has a right to feel that way. It's OK to have negative feelings. What is important is what you do with those feelings.

I'm a strong believer in counseling and so if I were in this situation I would start family counseling. Stealing the money, if she stole the money, as you suggested, is just a symptom. The money is not important. Finding out how to deal with the entire picture is most important.

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answers from Honolulu on

If she is stealing... this is only a symptom of what is going on inside of her... and THAT needs to be addressed.
Does she have anyone to talk to? Someone that can really listen, understand, validate her, make her feel accepted and a part of her family, and that she is equally loved and respected etc.
She is a teenager.. they have tons of emotional things going on inside. Justified or not, as an adult may view it.

Even if she is wanting attention, so be it. That is what she needs. I would not label her spoiled. That will only undermine her and justify any wrong-doing she is doing. It will undermine her self-worth and just convince her that no one understands her.

A teen girl's self-worth and self-respect is really paramount. And that comes from their family... that is where they find or lose their sense of being valid.

I would, if she is doing these things.. make sure that she is getting the kind of help she needs. See what is really going on inside of her... and her heart. Because if anything is making her do wrong things... it is just a symptom of what she needs and what she is lacking.
Does she get positive feedback? Does she know she is a wonderful child? That she is appreciated for all the help she does? That is a lot for a child... and it shows that somewhere in her she cares very much... by the good things she does do.

All the best,

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answers from Sacramento on

How much does she know about her bio dad? My oldest is not my husband's bio either, and we never talked with him about his bio father. During his teen years he was acting out in several ways, including taking money from the family. I discovered that a big part of his need was just to know about who his bio father was and something about his background. Telling him those things didn't immediately stop his behavior problems, but it was a start and helped him to eventually turn around and accept my husband as his "real" father.

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answers from Bakersfield on

Recommend setting up a nanny cam and confront her with the evidence and some understanding. If you don't nip the dishonesty now, and explain the consequences are minimal now...it could manifest to a greater degree as she grows older and result in a criminal rap sheet and record later. start cutting out newspaper clippings of juvenile arrests releated to shoplifting, theft of money and property, leave the news articles throughout the house and casually call them to her attention. Always relate to her and all of your children how difficult and heart breaking it would be if any of your family members were involved such incidents.

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answers from San Francisco on

DING! "My heart hurts to think that she has done this" That is all she needs to hear. She is normal. ALL 13 year olds experiment with this stuff. Do you not remember wondering, "it would be so easy to just walk off with that, I wonder why more people don't?"
I have gone thru 4 13 yr olds, two of them steps that had a chip because they weren't full sibs. We let things go because of this chip and it was a mistake. Please ignore any past excuses for misbehavior and let her know how she could make it right. "I love you with all of my heart. I don't know for sure if you snagged a ten from G-ma's purse, but she could use some help with the dishes. Go in there and help her". Being a girl, she may just find a way back into grandma's arms.

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answers from Missoula on

I have a friend who has 4 boys. Whenever she knows one of them is lying, she tells them that they have 1 hour to tell the truth without any punishment. If they don't tell her within that hour, then she makes them sit on the couch and tells them that they will sit there all day until one confesses and that means no food or drinks and that that will be very sad for them. They usually confess within minutes.

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answers from San Francisco on

I agree with the idea of a family meeting with ALL the family members, including your mom (if she can keep silent regarding her doubts).
Explain the situation to everybody, that money is missing and if they have noticed anything about it, you need to know.
Don't make any accusations. Just state the case neutrally, ask for information and observe.
Then (if nobody has info/confesses), tell that if something comes back to their minds, they can come and tell you later.
Then, you can inform them of any measure you plan to take to avoid this (no purse next to the visiting customers, purses hiding in a closet and only family members have the key) Ask them for idea/solutions.

It may or may not be your daughter. If it's her, she may or may not confess. But, in any case:
- don't make accusations without proof.
- show trust
- show you know money has been missing and you will control it more tightly in future.

In case she did it, all put on the open may stop her to try again. Or she might confess and explain why she did it (to grab attention, to buy the new teenagers' gadget, to have the same purse as the cool girls at school, to give it to a bully...?) To be able to confess, she needs to trust that she will be listened to.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Don't take this so seriously that it makes your heart hurt. She is only thinking of herself which all teens do. She is not trying to hurt anyone. Try to find out where the money is going. If it is for drugs you need to confront her head on! If not, then just explain to her that if she needs money for the mall, you would be happy to start a fair allowance for all that she helps you with. Don't even bring the father issue into it. You probably have more of a problem with it than she does. Yes she is probably spoiled and that is why she feels she deserves the cash and is not concerned about getting caught. Try not to make a big deal about the money, focus more on stealing in general if you even want to bring it up. If she is a good girl, I'm sure it will stop almost as quickly as it started. Besides if she gets in the habit of asking you for money, you can say for what? Then you will know more about her teenage life than a lot of parents of kids who sneak and hide. Keep focusing on the good girl and tell her to always make positive choices! Best wishes!

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answers from San Francisco on

First, be VERY sure that money has really gone missing. Grandma might have forgotten a purchase she made or may have put it somewhere else. I've done that more than once --- have been convinced I'd had two 20's in my wallet (which is stored in a very public place in our house) only to remember later that I made a cash purchase. Only AFTER you're convinced that she took it, talk with her privately (she's not likely to confess during a family meeting). Start out by saying there WILL be a punishment, but it will be less than if you find out later she lied about it. Let her know how your heart hurts even thinking that it's a possibility that she took it. Ask her why she felt she had to take money instead of asking for funds. Does she need to earn an allowance so she doesn't have to go to mom every time she wants something? Most kids experiment with taking money at some time or another, even if they're good kids who normally help out at home and engage with their family. This may turn out to be a one-time thing. And, it's also a possibility Grandma is mistaken OR a customer lifted the cash, especially since you have people in and out of your home constantly with the business. Good luck and let us know what happens.

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answers from San Francisco on

Does she get an allowance? I think there's a lot of pressure on 13 year olds to fit in with the latest clothing etc. That being said, she needs a way to earn money. I don't believe in just giving an allowance without work attached however. Have a talk with her about trust and the freedoms that go along with being trustworthy versus the lack of freedom when a child is not trustworthy. Don't outright accuse her or she'll lash back in defense. Just ask her if she borrowed some money from Grandma as if she was planning to reimburse her. Then, if she admits to it, go in for the lecture. Good luck and hide your money and jewelry because even her friends may have light fingers.

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answers from San Francisco on

I, too, have a different biological father from my brother. My step father did adopt me but I always felt "different" and a little removed from the family. I don't think there's a lot that you can do to help her feel included. I think it's inherent in the age and the situation.

But, do ask her if she took the money. Let her defend herself. Is it possible your mother made a mistake? Does your daughter suddenly have new clothes that you didn't buy or she couldn't normally afford? Yes, she wants attention. Every girl wants attention and look at what her competition is - a 5 and 6 year old, who are cute and friendly and infinitely more enjoyable than a teenager.

I think I should let you know that one day your daughter will want to meet her bio dad. I know that I did. My mom wouldn't provide details until I was 18 and even then I had to do some detective work to find him. All during my teens years I dreamed about my bio-dad - someone who I imagined would love me and take me away from my current situation. In reality there was nothing to "run away" from but when you're a teen it sure seems as if there is.

Tell your daughter how much you love her and give her a hug, even if she squirms.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi my name is M., I just wanted say how sorry I am for you. I know that has to be the hard on you. i have exspirienced almost the same thing. I have three kids, Boy girl boy. The oldest is now turning 22? and at your daughters age, she is going through what we call growing pains for parents, because I have learned, that it really dosent go away. IT STARTS AT 13 YEARS OLD, they want to play the power trip, and make you feel guilty for nothing, you have to get really hard on her, and show and tell who is the parent, and who is the daughter? She has to have ground rules! and this not being my blood? He raised her, and that is her father. I have gone through the same thing, and in time that will get better. Also do a drug test on her. You can find them in any walgreens. Take the time to show her you mean business, and she will not talk like that in your home, or around the other kids. That is so important. So watch her. Go through everything! every pair of pants, jacket shoes, draws, you name it go throught it! so what if she gets mad! you are now mad! you have to prove to her that you wont tolorate that coming from her. stand strong! she is your child.



answers from San Francisco on

First of all, remove the temptation, make grandmother's purse unavailable.
A lot of money is a relative thing - if you're speaking about 100's of dollars, that is very serious. If you're speaking about $20, that's not o.k., but certainly a less radical situation.
Investigate the missing funds, just as a detective would. Write down all of the facts, interviewing your mother as to when, where and how she discovered the missing funds, how regularly, etc. Interview everyone in the family, as well as anyone else who has access to the funds and follow-up on those investigations. Assume that everyone is innocent, until proven guilty, and be thorough. There is nothing worse than building a case your mind, without facts.
Whether or not your daughter stole the money, it's important that you, your husband and daughter have some counseling with a professional to create an open and safe discussion for what her anger or fear is in regard to having a different biological father from her siblings.
Have the professional teach you and your husband, and then your daughter and mother how to speak from the first person and practice "active listening", a technique that allows for everyone's perspective to be "heard" by others, even if the others do not agree, they learn how to hear it. Being heard is more than half the battle. Just the experience of everyone learning how to express their feelings and concerns in "I" statements and have those statements repeated back from the others, as demonstration that they "heard" what each person has to say, whether or not they agree with it, will dispel a lot of built up heat and hardening of positions.
Remember, it only takes one person to change a relationship. You, your mother or your husband can start to role model a new type of strong and healthy boundaries while practicing active listening and immediately change the relationship with your daughter.
Children are not "spoilt", although they may be overly indulged to the point of confusing the child as to who is taking responsibility for raising the child. Children want boundaries, not walls.
If your mother is already, or would like to be, close to your daughter, she has a great opportunity to express her love and concern for her granddaughter, and all of her children, by role modeling how healthy boundaries, reasonable punishment followed by forgiveness are expressed by strong and wise women.
You and your husband, ultimately, are the ones who will hold the most sway with your daughter and, therefore, have the ongoing opportunity to step up and role model everything we all wish our parents had been able to learn and do for us.
There are many online resources for active listening, there are low cost social services, school counselors, and the good ol' library to help everyone communicate better.
One of my favorite authors on family dynamics is John Bradshaw. His current book "Return to Virtue, Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reasons" integrates current neuroscience about the brain's development at every age along with a compassionate understanding of clinical research on how children/people develop a healthy conscience. (He does not push any particular religious agenda. He draws from a whole range of recognized spiritual and philosophical scholars.)



answers from Stockton on

do what we did
our 12 year old did this what we did is cleared out his room of EVERYTHING gave him one set of clothes and a towl for the week and put him on homeschool for 2 weeks he was aloud to come out for 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour for night we made him feel like he was in juville hall no rights we talk to our kid till he confessed see he stole money from his little sis alot of it we tried to call the cops they said sorry thats a family issue yes its harsh but if this is been on going you need to put a stop to everything you can call write me and i'll tell you more but i will tell you he will never never do this again
D. mom of 4



answers from San Francisco on

Your daughter has gotten the idea that "blood" is important somewhere... probably the same place you got the idea that you should mention that she has a different birthfather than your other two. Why on god's green earth would that make any difference to anyone or anything? Either she took the money or she didn't, and if someone thinks it's more likely she took it because she has a different father than her siblings, then that person should have their head examined.

Anyway, stealing is par for the course with some kids. It doesn't mean they're "bad," it just means they don't yet understand why they shouldn't steal. IF, and only if you have good evidence she took the money, tell her this, and tell her why you think she took the money. Set out all the evidence, and if she still doesn't admit it, start explaining why theft is bad, from square one, the way you would to a very young child. Take every single opportunity to add to the explanation, so that you are repeating it every day, several times a day. Make sure you go over every reason you have ever given her, and new ones you haven't yet given her, as to why theft is a bad thing. Don't let her make you feel guilty about accusing her, but, by the same token, don't accuse her unless you have REALLY strong evidence that she did it.



answers from San Francisco on

You must never feel guilty for doing what you need to do for your family. I myself have two teenagers-you sound like you have raised her to the best of your abilities. You cannot use that as an excuse to allow her behavior to continue-most mothers are in tune with their children. I would sit down with her calmly, with no one else around to embarass her and ask straight forward if she has been taking money from you and others? You should be able to tell from her response if she is telling you the truth-generally, if she gets very dramatic and it is not normally her nature than she may not be telling you the whole story. Keep conversation calm and let her know that it is not appropriate to take anything that is not hers and if she needs something she should talk with you. Trying to relate to your teenager without becoming her friend is tough but can be done--your at a place where being too tough or too easy is a fine line. Don't ever let your child make you feel guilty, they make mistakes on their own that have nothing to do with us as a parent. She needs to take ownership of her behavior and understand that there are consequences to each action that she displays.



answers from San Francisco on

Good luck on the bio-dad issues. My husband was raised by a series of women, and VERY little contact with his bio-mom. (Complicated situation). At one point he was homeless around age 20, and the step-mom who had tried to get custody of him at 12 took him in. They got into a fight about hair color, and he moved out. They didn't talk after that.
Fast forward about 15 years, when he is about 37. He sees his step-mom again (probably helps that our daughter was 2) and realizes this woman is MOM. Not the bio-mom that we continue to have rocky interactions with. Nope this woman is MOM, and he feels terrible that he didn't take her side when the judge questioned him about custody. Honestly, spending time with them, so much clicks into place and explains his personality. (And the crazy thing is, his step brother is SO MUCH like his showman dad! Shows you how personalities can cross pollinate in the modern family.)
I hope it doesn't take your daughter the next 15 years to figure out who her "parents" are, but these kids can come around ;-)

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