What Would You Do? - New York,NY

Updated on March 17, 2018
T.D. asks from New York, NY
14 answers

my kids are in school for another hour and half so i have some time to decide what to do about this. they do not even know that i know

they got into the emergency cash stash. they each took money. when i saw a 20$ on the floor of my daughters room i knew something was up. so i asked my hubby how much was supposed to be in that stash. he answered, there was money missing.. so i searched her room (shes 5 almost 6) and found about half the missing amount so i searched my sons room(age 7). found the rest in there. so i think i have found all the stash. but what do i do about this? my husband is prone to over react. and this time i don't have a clue what to do!
so what would you do in my situation? how would you handle this?
again they are in school and don't even know that i know about the money

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So What Happened?

one of my kids was using scissors this morning, so on the way home from school i asked about that. my son was upfront and said he took recycling paper out to cut up, i asked if that was all that was being cut and he said no, sister took money out of the hiding place, cut one, then hid the rest. she immediately agreed that it was her, her by herself and did what she always does when she is in trouble. (hangs head and pouts)
hubby is again over reacting and wants me to cancel her already paid for and invites sent out bday party. but i don't want her to relate this to her birthday.i am thinking a no screen time, grounding and have her clean both her and her brothers toys up (she plays with his toys as much as she plays with her own ) is better suited to the situation. a few extra chores added to her list might happen too.
since they were honest about it i don't want to be too harsh, but balancing the overreactions of hubby is a difficult position to be in!
thank you for the help in deciding adequate and not overreaction discipline.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

I guess that I'd confront them when they get home. I wasn't one to give my kids the opportunity to lie so rather than say "did you take the money?" when you know they did, I'd say, "I am aware that both of you took money that did not belong to you." I'd then discuss trust and what it means to break it. I'd also discuss stealing and what could happen if they were caught in the big world doing something like that.

As far as consequences - it sounds like you got all of the money back so restitution wouldn't be in order, just consequences for breaking house rules of stealing and trespassing (assuming you keep the money in a place that is off limits). Personally, we'd have grounding, loss of screen time and likely some extra chores, but each family makes their own consequences based on their own experiences :) I'd also be putting locks on things and maybe I'd have them pay for the lock or bank as possible restitution.

Good luck!

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I'm getting to this after they are probably home, so I'm not sure where things stand.

I wouldn't ask them if they took it. You found it and your daughter (at least) didn't do a very good job hiding it. So it's a good time to let them know that their rooms and their stuff (and later on, their phones and computers) are subject to parental review and investigation at any time.

I think I would do less talking at first, and more listening. I'd separate them and get each one's thoughts. It's important to know why they took it, and what they wanted to do with it. They clearly knew it was wrong - because they hid it. So ask questions that they can't answer with "yes" or "no" but which require longer explanations. As least you will know what they were thinking.

For most kids, parental disappointment is a huge deal, so don't be afraid to use that. It's also okay to say, "I haven't decided on the consequences yet. There will be some, but I don't want to respond in anger. I want to think about it." That's probably a good lesson for your husband to consider as well.

One option is to ask the kids what they think an appropriate consequence is - separately of course. If they get into the blame game of who started it, walk away. That just tells you - and you can tell them - that they are too young for the privileges they may expect or already have access to. If they are still too young to follow the rules, I would say, then they are too young for computer usage or play dates or _____ (fill in the blank with what they want). It's okay to make them do some work to earn money (for the family this time, not their own pockets) so they understand how hard it is to put away extra cash.

I always think a good consequence is letting kids know that you don't have time for X or Y because you had to do something else that they caused (search for money, think up a consequence, or other daily things like pick up their dirty laundry and find their missing shoes and so on).

I'd move the emergency stash, of course, and I'd buy a combination lockbox from the office supply store. I'd put that in something that won't interest them. But I'd also explain, in general and over time, the purpose of an emergency stash and what constitutes an emergency. It doesn't hurt for them to understand in an age-appropriate way that this is not buried treasure but rather a way that parents work to take care of their children.

If you've already talked to them, remember that it's okay to go back and say, "I've had further thoughts on this." This should probably be an ongoing discussion, same as "the sex talk" and the drug/drinking talk and a million other things.

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E.B.

answers from Honolulu on

I completely agree with not giving them the opportunity to create a clever story. Don't start out by saying "there's some money missing, do you know anything about that?" That's only for situations where you are truly in the dark about something. You should approach this truthfully yourself. You tell them (when they're quietly sitting, with no tv or electronics on), that you know that they got into the stash of money, and that they each took money.

Then you talk to them about what trust means, and what it means to be trustworthy and how important that is.

And then you tell them that they will have to earn the trust back, by being honest. Tell them you're disappointed in them, but that you love them and want them to be good and kind and honest.

Tell them that you'll have to spend money now to buy a small safe with a lock or combination, and that means that the money that you'll have to use for buying the safe means that there won't be pizza next week, or ice cream, or that movie you were going to go see (or whatever treat means something to them).

Have them each write an apology to you with a plan for being more honest in the future.

Approach this calmly, not angrily, making it about disappointment and sadness.

Then go over the rules for finding personal property, for respecting other's property, and get that safe or locked box (you can find inexpensive ones at office stores or places like Target).

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C.C.

answers from New York on

First - put that money away, far away. Remember that even the most "trustworthy" child can have trickster friends, and the casual mouth of a child - "My mommy and daddy keep a big pile of money under our sofa!" - can result in that money walking away one way or another.

Next - I think "we cannot have pizza on the next two consecutive Fridays because mommy and daddy had to spend that money on a locked safe"...something like that seems like a fitting punishment. Extra chores too if you want.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

Cancelling her birthday party is hitting her with the big guns. And as you said will cause her to connect this to her birthday. What's left for when she does something more serious down the line.. What consequences will you have when She's a teen. Now is when you build trust.

I'm glad she was honest. And gave you the money. I reward honesty by having a conversation. By punishing her when she tells the truth she will learn to not tell the truth. I've seen this happen in my family.

She's only 5. Remember that her brain is still developing meaning that she doesn't have the ability to understand concepts. She may know It's wrong but not know why. She is impulsive and not learned ways to manage that impulsive feeling and action.

I see discipline as a way to teach. I believe consequences have to relate to what she did. Having a calm talk telling her why she is trouble, how it makes you feel and together make a simple plan for what you want her to do shows respect and trust. She will learn this way. She will learn that she can come to you for help.

Taking away her party is unrelated to taking money and hiding it. She'll learn that Daddy gets mad so I have to lie. She will learn she's on her own and do things because she's not learned how to deal with her feelings and actions. She won't understand why her birthday party has been taken away. "I must be bad." She will not understand why this is happening. She's.only 5.

I have 2 granddaughters,.4 and 7. They're learning about life. The 4 yo gets mad and doesn't do what she's told when her Daddy yells at her. She's very strong willed. When her mommy and I talk in a calm voice and sometimes tell her why, she frequently cooperates. When It's just the two of us it's more.

I do not punish. I give consequences that teach. For a five year old, I'd praise her for telling the truth. I'd emphasize that truth is more important than taking the money. I'd say I'm disappointed. I'd talk about why she took the money? She's five. She doesn't know the value of money. I'd ask questions. I'd talk about what she should do when she knows something is against the rules.

Talking with her will take time over several incidents builds respect.

I suggest doing anyone of the consequence would be OK. It's not like she did a major thing. And She's 5.
What will be a consequence when She's older? Big Guns at 5? Relate cleaning room to taking the money. She can work to build up your trust. Finding the money missing took up your time. Now she spends time.

It blows my mind that her Daddy wants to give her a severe punishment. I would stand up to my husband to protect your daughter. Does he always get the last say? Is he unwilling to see another way. Is he able to negotiate?

Children are not little adults! Perhaps a book that describes children's stages of growth would help along with a parenting book. You can find developmental stages on the Internet.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

You have an hour to be angry and get over it so you can deal with this calmly when they get home.

First - keep your emergency stash where the kids can't get into it. It's for emergencies so no one should have easy access or even know for sure where it is or how much. How about a small combination safe? They aren't that expensive. Make sure kids don't know or brag about it with friends.

Second - you need to talk to the kids about taking things that don't belong to them. How would they feel if their things were taken from them?
They need to understand and empathize to take the message to heart.
It might take more than one talk for them to understand - and if there are continuing problems I might start taking some of their things so they know what it feels like.
I'd also ask them individually what they wanted the money for, did they think it was play money, why did they think it was ok to take something that wasn't part of their toys, etc.

They are young and they might not know any better right now - so teach them.
You need to have a short grounding - maybe send them to bed early tonight - and explaining of the rules - the consequences for breaking the rules and how much worse things will get if the rules are broken repeatedly.
They have to have a way to get back into your good graces - because if they have no hope things could get worse.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

First on the practice note, you need to keep the money somewhere they don't have access to it.
On the punishment front, of course they need to understand that what they did was wrong. Talk to them calmly, tell them you are disappointed in them, talk about stealing and relate it to something they can understand (like if someone stole their favorite toy) and then punish them maybe by removing said toy or other privileges for a time.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I like your response - I would do something similar.

We had one of ours steal from someone we knew around that age. We had him apologize and return it. We talked about how he was fortunate that the person forgave him because not everyone would - and that sunk in. He was allowed to go back. We talked about how often we had to 'earn' trust back. We kept it age appropriate but those were concepts we discussed and kind of sunk in.

I always try to have our kids do something to 'earn' being forgiven too - as you say, chores, etc. Here, if someone does something to someone else, they have to ask the person what they want done - the kids came up with this themselves. So one kid might say "Do the dishwasher for a week" in addition to an apology, etc.

So I think that is good. It's more than just having something removed. In the 'real' world, if they had taken a toy from a friend for example, they might have to earn back trust ... and prove that they are a worthy friend, etc. I think your ideas are good :)

I think your husband is overreacting, but he's likely just upset. Hopefully he'll cool off and feel differently tomorrow.

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T.M.

answers from Las Vegas on

I'd give a lecture on "thou shalt not steal" and then hide the stash somewhere else. No sense in tempting them. They are too young to know the value of money, to them it's just paper--

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I would thank them for being honest. Ask why she took it, and talk about why it's wrong. Ask how she would feel if you snuck into her room and took things and hid them. And, because she cut one of the bills up, give her chores to have her "earn" money so that she can pay you back for what she destroyed.

I disagree completely on cancelling the party. Yes, she was wrong, but severe punishment for honesty is going to lead to a child that lies to try to avoid (or at least delay) punishments in the future.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

ooh Tad...

you have a problem - and it's not just with the kids.

1. your kids are stealing. While they admitted to it - they are stealing.
2. your husband needs to learn to handle situations without blowing up.

How much money is gone?
What happened to the money that did not get cut up?
WHY did your kids cut up money?

Cancelling the birthday party is not going to be the correct solution. She needs to work off the money she lost/stole. She needs to be credited for telling the truth instead of lying further about it.

She needs chores to pay back the money she stole.

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J.G.

answers from Chicago on

I would have just sat down with my kids and told them what I discovered, and then we would have had a talk about stealing. It is very common for young kids to do things like this. I would have reversed it around and asked how they would feel if someone came into their room and stole their favorite X.

No punishment, no consequences, a good chat about respect. Punishment doesn't really work. It increases lying and destroys trust. I'm a big fan of Dr Markham.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

almost all kids snaffle something at some point. it's a fairly common milestone.

that being said, it's NOT okay. dishonesty is one of my bedrock no nos so i'd take a very, very dim view of this and would not let it pass lightly.

it would be tempting to 'give them the opportunity to come clean' (ie set them up) and it's something i actually did when my spawn broke the rules. in retrospect i don't think it's a good idea, though. scared kids lie to protect themselves, and there's already enough righteous and justified anger over this. best to stay calm and tell them point blank you know what's up and you're waiting to hear their explanations.

i'm glad you're involved in this, as i appreciate your desire to react in a helpful manner and make it a teaching as opposed to a punitive moment. i agree that your husband's suggestion is overkill.

when the situation is fairly dire as this one i'd start by expressing extreme disappointment. reiterate the family rules about honesty (i presume you have them, and they know them.) no yelling or raging, just quiet emphatic disappointment and yes, anger. but not scary anger.

then i'd put the ball back in their court. ask them what punishment THEY think should be imposed for such a serious breach of trust. listen to them carefully. this will let you know if they really understand or not. your kids are young so they might not. this is your opportunity to understand yourself whether or not your parental philosophy needs to be tweaked, and clarified. take their suggestions seriously. implement them if they're sensible.

and of course, put your emergency fund somewhere actually secure going forward. if your kids can break into it, so could anyone else.

and i think i'd use this opportunity also to sit down with the husband and seriously evaluate how this entire parenting thing is going. forgive me, tadpole, but you do have fairly frequent and important issues with your kids. i appreciate your frankness in posting about them here, and we all have our own individual challenges. i can see many areas in retrospect where i wish heartily that i'd parented better.

you're a young mom and have young kids. you still have time to create a more healthy, wholesome, joyful, positive atmosphere in your home.

i very much want this for you.
khairete
S.

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R.K.

answers from Boston on

Great responses.

I just have to thank Suz t. for the term "snaffle". My vocabulary increased today! Just perfect term for the situation.