Stealing 10 Year Old

Updated on November 08, 2011
B.M. asks from Alvin, TX
8 answers

In desperate need of some advice or suggestions--my 10-year old step-daughter has a history of lying, cheating, and stealing. She also ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) and takes medication for ADD/ADHD. One of our current issues is stealing. She's stolen craft items from art class at school, miscellaneous items and trinkets from classmates, toys from friends, candy and snacks from our kitchen, etc.

Last night, she snuck in my daughter's room and took her cell phone. SD was upset because she is grounded from her DSi (again) and wanted to play a game. While she was playing, my daughter got a text and SD replied three times then told the girl not to tell my daughter she was using her phone. She put the phone back this morning before anyone was up. Needless to say, the girl told my daughter at school this morning. When SD came home from school, Hubby confronted her about it. She lied and said she was: 1) just looking at it; then 2) was finding it to take it to my daughter at school (she was at her Dad's house last night). She never admitted she actually used it until we told her we knew. There's more to the story, but you get the jist. My question is, how do you make it stop?

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So What Happened?

Update--she does see a therapist and we do family counseling as well. The stealing issue has been discussed at therapy each time it happens. We've tried every avenue of consequence we can think of--grounding, time out, writing sentences, yard work, physical exercise (which she despises), no TV/games/electronics, cleaning out her room down to a bed and dresser, nothing works. I'm thinking the "scared straight" approach with a police officer is the next logical step and I mentioned it to bio-mom and she's completely against it (she's done a few stints in the county jail herself). Hubby is on board. She has no remorse, not conscience, no empathy. I'm afraid we're raising a sociopath.

UPDATE--I initially sent this as a private message but decided to add it here as well. I thought it was worth sharing. This is a response to Rose M.'s reply: You obviously have never been a step-parent. And it's also obvious that you take great pride in hiding behind a computer screen. Not only was your reply to my very concerned, very serious question inappropriate, you are highly misinformed and grossly uneducated in the area of mental disorders in children. If you reply to other members' posts with as much negativity as you did in mine, I can assure you that your answers/comments are unappreciated and considered offensive. If you have nothing more positive to contribute, please do not post.

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answers from Williamsport on

I like the scared straight idea. 10 is vital to instill the knowledge she cannot act this way. She also needs a feeling of self worth which a tough accomplishment like that may very well give her.

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answers from Washington DC on

After reading your So What Happened, wow, any thoughts I had about therapy and family counseling went out the window since you're already doing that. And the "clear out the entire bedroom" procedure that works for some kids would have been the next thought.

The police "scared straight" may work for her. One thing I'd add: Tell her therapist about it (without your SD there) before you do it, so the therapist knows in advance and is ready to deal with it if your SD brings it up in their sessions. Or it gives the therapist a chance to bring it up with her.

Other thoughts: Has the therapist worked with you on why the many consequences you've tried do not seem to affect her and why she seems to lack remorse? Maybe it's time for a team approach on consequences, with your counselor, her therapist and you parents.

Also, when she is with her bio mom, does the mom enforce any consequences? It sounds like maybe she's not on the same page regarding discipline. As long as the girl knows she gets different treatment in each household she will cling to that and know that bio mom is "good cop" who will let her get away with things. (That may not be the case, though. Just wondering.)

Do the school counselor, principal and her classroom teachers know about not only her diagnoses but also the stealing at school? Has she been caught by teachers etc. and disciplined at school, or do you know about the school stealing incidents because you found out another way such as finding items in her room? In her case I think the school should know what's going on with her at home and what you plan to do. Again, it would help to have a united front so that she knows EVERY adult in her life -- parents, therapists, bio mom, school counselor, teacher -- has eyes on her and cares for her enough to know what she is doing, every time she does it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

She sounds like an exact carbon copy of my SD, and therapy, for her and the family, may be the only option that works at this point. Also, accountability in the form of restitution of the items stolen, and loss of privileges for the lying and stealing. Hopefully you can get her to get this behavior under control now while she is young.

I have been in your shoes and I know it is hard.
{{HUGS}} and God's blessings.

Since she is in therapy already I suggest Toughlove as DVMMOM described: ~ it is geared towards teens but works for preteens as well.

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answers from Columbia on

When I was about that age, I had a serious problem with lying and stealing. Looking back, there were a few issues that my mom didn't understand.

First and foremost, you need to give your daughter a way to earn things that are HERS. If she wants these craft items, trinkets, candy and snacks, you can help keep her from taking what isn't hers by teaching her that the only things she deserves to have are the things she earns.

So get her out washing the car, mowing the lawn, cleaning the kitchen, bringing in firewood, changing the oil, cooking dinner, washing and folding the laundry.

And don't pay her a set allowance each her for the work she actually does each DAY. Since she has ADHD, she'll have a hard time keeping focus for the whole week to get to that end goal. It might work to have payment be weekly in a few years, but for her daily.

So, the lawn = $2.00 for the front, $3.00 for that back. Washing the car = $4. Whatever rates you choose. Just give her the opportunity to earn the things she wants so badly so she doesn't feel like she has to take them from others. And really emphasize the importance of EARNING what you have. Give her examples from your and your husband...the things you have. And make sure that her behavior also plays a role. If she does the work with a crappy attitude, she will get less than if she has a positive attitude.

My youngest had a short bout of lying, stealing, and mild vandalism. I cured it by showing him my budget. I also showed him a list of all the things I did for he and his brother around the house. When he saw just how little we had left at the end of the month, it helped him to be much more thankful of the things he has. He's also become much more willing to help and offers a lot more affection...because he understands that he is very blessed with having me as his mother. ;o)

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answers from Dallas on

Stealing snacks???? In her own dads house... There's more to this.

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answers from Austin on

It sounds like your SD is crying out in pain. It is really hard to be a SD, especially if there are step-siblings. She might be feeling inferior to her SS and mistreated (in her immature eyes). It may have gotten to the point that almost all of your interaction with her is negative if she is always acting out and she doesn't know how to express her anger/pain/frustration/jealousy. She probably thinks that all you do is punish her (even though she is the one to blame for that). What a horrible feeling for her.

I would take her out for lunch or dessert sometime and just have a fun time, just you and her. Tell her how hard it must be to have to be in a new family or two homes (whatever the situation is) but that you are so glad that she is your "bonus daughter." Ask her if that is okay to tell people she is that because you like that better than "step-daughter" or "my husband's daughter," etc. Tell her what you like about her. Tell her you need her help - ask her what you could do to be a better SM because you have never been one before and you think you might be making life harder for her or something like that. Ask her if she would like to redo her bedroom. Maybe she needs a new focus and it is something you can do with her that isn't a punishment. Don't bring up any of her bad behavior.

Keep the conversation very positive with your SD, even if she comes across indifferent, sarcasm, or accusative. She might just need to see if you are serious. If she answers the question about what you should do with sarcasm or something outrageous, just laugh and say, "No, seriously, what can I do to make things easier?" If she continues to say something like "leave me alone" or "let me have ____" just SMILE and say, "You can get back to me after you have a chance to really think about it seriously." Then change the subject to her room or something. End it really light and thank her for going out with you. Tell her it shows a lot of respect to go with you and treat you so nicely (if she did). If her mother is in the picture, make sure you only speak of her positively. Nobody ever wants to hear negative things about their parents, even if it is true.

If your daughter wants to know why she can't go, just tell her something fun like "Because it's November 9th" and smile. Have your husband reinforce it as something positive, like they need time together just the two of them.

Hope you can bring some healing to all that pain.

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answers from New York on

If you are already working with a therapist definitely work on the behaviors in therapy. When I worked with foster kids various kinds of "acting out" behaviors were common those your SD is showing and others (fighting , running away, defiant behavior, etc). Often this was because the kid was under a lot of emotional stress and didn't know how to express their feelings any other way. Since she is your step daughter I imagine she has already been through a divorce or separation of her parents and whatever ongoing parenting issues between them. She very likely wants some extra attention and is getting by on negative attention (common with many kids). One thing that might help is giving her a little bit (15-20 minutes) of daily positive attention that is not based on good behavior (it is hard to get started if you are frustrated with your kid but it will improve things). The stealing could be to get attention or partly because she is impulsive (maybe you can figure that part out with the therapist). Most kids and a fair number of adults will lie or cover things up to try and stay out of trouble. It may help to change how you confront her. Instead of confronting her in a way that invites her to lie try letting her know whatever evidence you have and then take it from there. Giving separate consequences just for lying isn't a bad idea either. Can you balance out all the punishments with some opportunities to earn things back? If she has some chance at getting things she wants you probably have a better shot at eventually getting behavior to improve. There is a really good book on getting defiant children back on track with a detailed program but I unfortunately can't recall the exact title right now.

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answers from Redding on

It sounds like you're trying everything, but it seems to me that some kids have issues with impulse control and that may be at the root of her problem. She may know it's wrong to take things that aren't hers or lie, but if she does these things impulsively, then it's impulse control she needs to work on.
Kids who act on impulse don't seem to be affected by punishments or "being afraid" to be punished because at the time they do something, their brain isn't thinking that way.
"There's candy in the kitchen. I want it, I'll go get it".
"I'm grounded from my DSi but there's a perfectly good cell phone I can play games on. I'll use it".
"I'm busted...caught...I'll say I didn't do it".
It seems like there is a manipulative reasoning behind it, but there isn't because they don't THINK before they do. They just impulsively DO.
I have a friend who went through this with her son and when she realized it wasn't a matter of being "defiant", it was a matter of teaching him to control his impulses and think BEFORE he did something, that things turned around.
Yes, he still had consequences, but the focus wasn't about him seemingly deliberately doing everything he was told not to do, And, it definitely seemed deliberate.
I don't know if any of this could be the case with your step daughter. My friend's son is now a teenager and a really great kid. It took work and patience, which can be hard to have, but he learned that just because something pops into his head, that doesn't mean he has to act on it without thinking it through.
He's also no longer on any medication.

I believe in being firm. I'm a pretty strict parent. But, I also think that when kids have issues, it helps to get to the root of it so you can find the right way to work things out. These behaviors likely won't stop overnight regardless of what you do.

Best wishes to you.

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