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to threaten to tell her friends and her school?

(153 Posts)
Mimishimi Wed 20-Feb-13 01:38:49

We've had three incidents of petty theft with our twelve year old daughter recently - two suspected and one confirmed. She has only been openly caught in one - the first. My DH found her with money that she admitted, after lying about at first, that she took from her grandmother (!!!). It was the equivalent of ten pounds. She has come back to Australia to attend a selective high school here and some of her school friends are those from her selective primary class that she attended for 1.5 years.

Just over a week ago, I had twenty dollars go missing from my wallet. She had seen me withdraw sixty the day before. That morning she had woken up earlier than me and asked for lunch money, which I refused because she had time to make lunch. When I fully woke up, I asked her by text what she had taken for lunch and she said a sandwich - however, there was no evidence of her having made a sandwich left on the bench and she always leaves evidence. So I checked my wallet and discovered the twenty missing.I went over all my spending from the previous day to account for everything and was fairly certain that she either took it or that it fell out of my wallet, it was not spent. She denied taking it when I texted her and when she came home from school. Since it had been gusty the night before, there was a slight chance that it had blown out of my wallet (never had the problem before) so we decided to give her the benefit of the doubt after questioning her most of that day.

This morning was almost the same situation. She woke up at 6:15, I woke up at seven. When I woke up, she complained that there was no bread to make a sandwich so she had to make a salad. I went to the freezer and pulled out a loaf of bread (she knows to look there if there is none in the fridge). All there was on the bench were a container of lettuce leaves and no evidence of cut tomatoes, carrots etc. Two minutes later, at 7:05, she said "Ok, I'm going to go to school now" which is at least ten to fifteen minutes earlier than she usually does. I told her to wait and I went and checked my wallet. It was cleared out and eight dollars was missing. I still had the receipt from Monday evening for the twenty I gave the cashier in cash for $12.00 worth of groceries and I am certain it was in there still last night as I didn't buy anything with cash yesterday (it's Wednesday morning here). I asked her and again she denied taking it (in a very flat monotone 'bored' sort of voice which is the tone of voice with which she denied it last time). I told her to go but in retrospect, I probably should have done a bag and pocket search immediately. She has not answered my texts and has refused to take phonecalls from either myself or my husband all morning.This time I don't have much doubt that she took it and she probably did the last time also. There has been no hint of contrition from her, not even the first time, but more of a snarliness that she has been caught out. She genuinely seems to think she is entitled to the money.

I have already confiscated her Mac and she will have no access to the iPad, both of which she needs to complete a school project that she's been doing with her friend (who has been coming over in the afternoons) and which is due tomorrow (a video assignment which she's been recording with the iPad so the files are on there and she wants to edit it on the Mac tonight). I texted her that she will not be getting them back until she confesses and apologises. I also texted that if she refuses to do so by the end of the day, I will be calling the school and telling them that we are experiencing some petty theft from her. I really am genuinely concerned that if she can do it to her own grandmother, let alone us, she might do it to classmates. I then texted that if a confession and apology is not forthcoming by the end of the week, I will be emailing all the friends whose email addresses I have and telling them the same.

So this comes to my AIBU question. My DH is concerned that the last two threats might be going overboard and might permanently ruin her reputation for what is apparently a common problem with pre-teens and teenagers ( I can genuinely say that I never stole money off my parents although I did raid the lolly jar once and tried to lie about it - DH says he never stole money but his brother did). His suggestion was that I go to the school and threaten to pull her out of school for three days if she does not confess but I don't see how that would be effective? There is no shame involved in that for her and I could potentially get her into trouble for not sending her to school without an adequate explanation. Do you think the threats to tell the school and her friends are unreasonable?

More importantly, what on earth do I do about the stealing and the denial of it? She was a very truthful little girl, could be relied upon for it, and it's absolutely breaking my heart.. She does get pocket money and lunch money once a week although I've been a bit lax about it the past couple of weeks because we've only just come back from Hong Kong (where she attended school for six months to try it out).

dickiedavisthunderthighs Wed 20-Feb-13 01:46:27

At this stage I'd be less worried about making threats and more worried about why she's taking the money. She sounds like the new girl at school; is she being bullied ?
Can you help her make her lunch the night before? She's only twelve, I'm pretty sure I wasn't rooting around in freezers for bread at 6.30am so
I could have some lunch.

dickiedavisthunderthighs Wed 20-Feb-13 01:46:59

At her age I mean.

squeakytoy Wed 20-Feb-13 01:50:11

Whilst threatening to tell her classmates and teachers may scare the living daylights out of her, I really would not go ahead and do it. Children can be nasty and cruel, and would never let her forget it, making the rest of her schooldays a misery. Do you really want that for her?

Lots of kids push boundaries by taking money at that age.. it isnt good, but it certainly isnt unusual or the end of the world.

Make sure your purse is kept somewhere safe, dont leave loose change lying around that could be a temptation.

Can you give her money for her lunch on a daily basis? Maybe she wants to be with her friends at lunchtime rather than on her own as the case may be.. talk to her and find out what the problem is and WHY she needs the money, rather than interrogating her and making her clam up.

deleted203 Wed 20-Feb-13 01:50:44

Oh gosh. Really feel for you. I don't know what to advice, TBH. I don't think you can pull her out of school for three days. What would be the point? She probably wouldn't care - it would presumably be better than you phoning the school to tell them about the theft.

It's unhelpful now, but yes - you should have done a bag and pocket search. For now I would be sleeping with my wallet under my pillow so that she can't raid it for money whilst I'm asleep. I think you and DH need to sit down with her this evening and have a long talk with her. There may be reasons she is taking the money - good or bad. Perhaps she's being bullied or threatened. Or perhaps she's buying alcohol/cigarettes/something else she knows you won't approve of. Perhaps she's 'buying' friends or trying to look cool if she's just back in a different school.

I think I would sit down (the three of you) and simply say that you know she is stealing - and that you want to know why. What is the money for? It might be a first step in finding out the entire story of what's going on.

Good luck.

deleted203 Wed 20-Feb-13 01:52:14

x posted with everyone else - but we all have the same thoughts. Why does she need so much money every day?

Mimishimi Wed 20-Feb-13 01:54:05

Ahh,wel,l the lunchmaking was her choice really, she complained that she didn't like to take leftovers from dinners (what I would usually pack for her lunch the next day) and that she preferred sandwiches (which I don't really like making). She knows that if she sticks the bread in the microwave for 30 seconds, it's completely defrosted so that she can make a sandwich. We have tried to encourage her to make her lunch the night before.

We did think that the first incident, in Hong Kong, might have been due to her being a new girl at the school and my dad (a teacher) also thought this might be the case. So we didn't come down very harshly on her after the first day. Yet here, she's got a good group of at least seven girlfriends whom she knew before at her primary school here so fairly sure that it is not peer pressure. Is twelve really considered young to make your own lunch? - I was definitely making mine by age eight (and that of my youngest brother) but that's because my mum had a chronic illness. By twelve, I was making dinner for all of us too about three nights of the week ...

a 12 year old shouldn't be able to make a sandwich!? that's ridiculous dickie I was cooking family dinner so at that are, you were very lucky. Op i would not tell school just yet, it might make everyone treat her badly will make everything worse

Greensleeves Wed 20-Feb-13 01:56:42

Is she feeling a bit mixed up and discombobulated with the moving and changing schools? Often when children steal they are showing off and trying to impress a new peer group. Is she confident socially? Is she under pressure academically and struggling because of the disruption? I don't wish to be rude, but I notice you point out that two of her schools have been "selective" - is her performance at school especially important to you?

Not enough information to really understand what is happening for her. But definitely don't tell her friends, that would make everything worse. I would talk to her and try to find out what the problem is and make sure she knows she can come to you with anything. That truthful little girl is still in there, this is behaviour which is happening for a reason.

also I think your dh is wrong, I don't think stealing is normal at all

deleted203 Wed 20-Feb-13 01:57:40

I'm not worried by making your own lunch. Mine could all do so at this age. I think you need to find out what the money is going on, though.

Greensleeves Wed 20-Feb-13 01:58:14

agree there is nothing wrong with her making her own lunch, "rooting in the freezer" sound like scavenging in the bins! A 12yo needs some responsibilities. Making own packed lunch is entirely appropriate IMO

Mimishimi Wed 20-Feb-13 02:12:14

Her performance at school has largely been self-driven ... we didn't even know about the test for the selective primary school until she came home and said it was something she wanted to try out for. In other ways, she's great when it comes to doing homework, extra studies etc. I just mentioned it to show that she's in with a good group of children (they are) and that she definitely does have quite a few friends at her new school. Fairly sure she must be taking the money for food from the canteen as this was also the case when she took it from DH's mum. What is upsetting me is that she is denying it without even trying to sound offended or indignant (which she normally would if I wrongfully accused her of something) and that she is not just coming across the money on top of a bookshelf or something... she is opening up my handbag, opening my wallet, unzipping the zipped section and taking it without asking. I do realise that I shouldn't leave her open to temptation by leaving money around but a bit hard if she's actively searching for it. I usually wake up at six so it's definitely an opportunist thing for her which is also quite disturbing....

SashaSashays Wed 20-Feb-13 02:17:25

Stealing at this sort of age is very very common, it's pushing boundaries and a sort of form of rebellion in lots of cases (but does usually have a root cause). Some children take to lots of answering back or staying out late, you may not have stolen but may have rebelled in alternative way.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the sandwich making, although getting it made the night before might be a better route. However, the dislike of taking leftovers, the not seeming to want to make or take a sandwich, sounds as if she is trying to avoid taking lunch from home.

Obviously the stealing is wrong but I think it's important to really try and establish what she is spending the money on as I would say there in lies a lot of answers. Is it that her friends are all buying lunch or something after school and she wants to as well (I know packed and bought lunches sit separately at my kids school)? This extra money isn't being tipped down the drain so you need to find out where. I not stall saying that is a justifiable reason for theft but to a 12 year old girl issues like that can be blown out of all proportion.

I also think you are coming down a little hard and not in the right way. Focus on punishments within the home and that you can control. Humiliating her to her friends or the school will have repercussions beyond your control and knowledge. You can't predict if it will mean she loses friends or carries this around with her for years. Also think you should give supervised usage of the iPad for her school work, that shouldn't suffer. I would remove privileges at home and do things like grounding, paying back the aunt with her pocket money. Writing an apology to you and her grandmother. I'd also attempt to have a heart to heart with her, ideally without being angry and interrogating her, to find out what the actual issue is, where is the money going, then I would explain sanctions and express that reoccurrence will result in more severity.

ripsishere Wed 20-Feb-13 02:26:57

I wouldn't jeopardize her school project by taking the computer away.
I would be sitting down and asking her why she's been pinching your cash.
I was not a thief, but if I ever found the odd 10p laying around our house. It was mine.

IneedAsockamnesty Wed 20-Feb-13 02:40:42

Simple things you can do like don't leave temptation around. Talk to her about the age of criminal responsibility in the country your in, remind her that after that age she can and will be arrested even if its family she's stealing from.

Every time she steals make it directly impact on her stuff like "can I have bus fare/lunch money/pocket money/ money to go shoppping with friend mum" "no,I have no money as it was stolen from my purse"

If you have prepay meters for electric and she steals then she can't use electrical stuff above and beyond what's absolutely needed because now your broke and can't put any electric on.

Anything that drums into her that what she takes deprives the whole family and herself but obviously make sure its cost tied I.e she takes 8 then something else that costs 8 dollars can't be brought she takes 20 then a thing costing 20 dollars or less cant be brought and so on.
She wants a new skirt look in purse if money's been stolen then its "oh shit I can't buy that for you,my money's been stolen again.

When its stealing of other people outside your house like grandmother then do the face to face shame make her apologise and return.

But for Christ sakes wtf are you doing hounding her with calls and if you don't do this threats whilst she's at school?. Why would you pull her out of school and stop her going until she fesses up or ban her doing homework??? Equally as such why would you involve her school in the matter unless she has stolen from school or you were intending to get her a school councillor,because doing those things makes no sense at all. Why would you think it will achieve anything?

Mimishimi Wed 20-Feb-13 02:57:31

She leaves at 7:20 normally. The texting had finished by 9am which is when she started school. I guess I am hoping that the pressure of not handing in a joint assignment will lead to her confession/apology after which she will definitely get the computer back. Not fair on her friend who is lovely though, I know.

Gingerodgers Wed 20-Feb-13 03:09:22

Ok, I did this when I was her age. My parents sat us all down for a serious discussion about how money was going missing, and they wanted to check whether or not it was us before they called the police to investigate the thefts, as it was extemely serious. Of course we fessed up, were punished, and never did it again. Of course kids nowadays may not be quite so afraid about the cops coming round, but it is one of the few times in my childhood, that I felt really awful. Incidentally, there was no reason to take the money, other than to buy sweets! Good luck.

mathanxiety Wed 20-Feb-13 04:37:01

You can't stop her from doing her project -- on top of the fact that it is her homework there is no way the friend should have to turn up in school with no work to show because of your DD's behaviour. You should give her back what she needs for the homework for as long as she needs it. You could take it away afterwards maybe?

You shouldn't have threatened to call the school or email the friends either. Next time you should think a bit before you inflict punishments that are going to be very hard to enforce.

Have you taken a look at what she does on the computer btw?

6 months is a lifetime for a girl of 12. The sands of friendship can shift dramatically in under a week -- 6 months away and she might as well be returning to a completely new set of girls.

Sunnysummer Wed 20-Feb-13 05:02:12

A slightly different view - do you know what she is spending it on? Because the stealing could certainly be a 'cry for help' type thing, but also could be:

1. like a certain awful 13 year old who once took cash from her mum's purse because she felt like her pocket money wasn't enough to cut it with her new friends who bought lunch every day and new clothes every weekend, and felt like she 'deserved' it (still full of shame when I think of my hard-working and underpaid mum, who instead of getting angry, cried and apologised that we were so poor, which was the most awful guilt trip ever, and a very good incentive to get a weekend job)

2. If it's food focused, stealing money for food was one of the first signs of my cousin's bulimia at the same age - although no-one spotted it at the time, as they thought the real problem was the theft.

As a totally clueless ftm i don't have any suggestions for how to deal with it (although if she is just being bratty, the guilt trip is certainly effective!) but without being too alarming, did want to share my cousin's story in particular hmm Good luck and hope it all works out

sashh Wed 20-Feb-13 05:59:18

Mimishimi

Your child is in pain. Not physical, but psychological.

She left Australia 1.5 years ago, you don't say where she went, or if you and dh were with her, then she has been in Singapore for 6 months. Now she comes back 'home' and you are lax with giving her pocket money.

And you wonder why she is stealing? Be thankful it is money and not alcohol/drugs.

As for taking the mac so she can't do a school project - wtf? Who punished their child by stopping them from handing in work?

Mimishimi Wed 20-Feb-13 06:15:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HecateWhoopass Wed 20-Feb-13 07:30:32

I think it is unacceptable that she is taking money and it has to stop, obviously.

But I think you need to try to understand why she is doing it.

She's new. Does having sandwiches mark her out in any way? Does she want to befriend a group of people who have school dinners? Do the other children have cash and she's feeling 'poor'? Is she finding it hard to cope with all the changes? Is there something she needs money for that she's not able to tell you about? etc etc.

At 12, she may not be able to approach you and tell you what's wrong and have a mature discussion about her grievances. It's down to you to find out what they are.

Don't just punish her, get to the bottom of her behaviour. When you understand WHY she's doing it - you will know the best course of action to take.

SminkoPinko Wed 20-Feb-13 07:42:45

why can't she just have lunch money? are you strapped for cash?

ll31 Wed 20-Feb-13 07:44:26

i think while its wrong to take money you need to focus on why and stop coming up ways to humiliate her tbh. also using blackmail to get her to admit to something is just wrong... immoral even. what would it mean, if you come up with an even nastier threat to make her admit it, she does- what have you gained? talk to her to find out why, stop the threats

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