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11 year old stealing and lying - at my wit's end and feeling like a terrible mum(16 Posts)
Hi there. I have three children a 5, 4 and 11 year old and am currently 7 months pregnant.
I am at my wit's end with my 11 year olds behaviour. During the last few years (I would say it started around 8 or 9) she has been stealing food on and off and lying about it. I have tried everything. Talking to her about the fact that they are treats and that mum and dad give them out when appropriate. That they were for lunch boxes so now she doesn't have that in her lunch (in an effort to teach consequences) that it's disrespectful to take things that are not hers. I have tried shouting, punishment i.e go to your room as I don't want to spend time with someone who steals from me. I have tried other suggestions from friends such as when she steals class it as a meal and therefore she misses out. I have tried to reiterate that it is not healthy and the health consequence of not eating healthily - as I think at her age now she can grasp that.
There doesn't seem to be an "emotional" reason for her doing this. As it occurs in different situations and not as a result of for example a bad day (she is very good at telling me when something is bothering her) one example of her stealing was eating almost 3/4 over 2 days of her 4 year old sisters birthday cake. Which we as a family were very upset about as she knew it wasn't hers and that her actions would hurt her little sister who as a consequence missed out on a lot of her cake.
There isn't a pattern of time when she steals either it can be sneaking down in the morning and helping herself to things or sneaking into the kitchen when I am doing her brothers reading in the front room. Or waiting until I am putting 4 year old to bed. It just seems to be opportunistic.
I have asked her why - most of the time I get "I don't know" or I was hungry. Which I'm sorry I weigh her food out so I know she is getting adequate portion sizes for her age and size,(so she isn't hungry) she also has access to fruit and other healthy snacks, which I have reiterated lots of time she can have. When challenged as to why if she was so hungry (and a portion of the time she steals is very soon after a meal so I know she isn't hungry) she doesn't know or will admit she's being greedy.
Today was the straw that broke the camels back. My husband is military and has been away and I bought a chocolate cake for us all to share as a treat when he got home and she has eaten (very soon after lunch) a large portion of this. I really lost my temper (which I am not proud of) and told her if she couldn't stop stealing then she would have to go to her momahs until her behaviour (the lying and stealing) would stop.
It isn't even the fact if she was hungry she could have had something - we had not long before had a discussion about her prom dress and making sure she ate extra healthy for the week so it wasn't tight on prom night - I had bought extra fruit that she likes (cherries ect) and special yogurts that she could have (she was allowed a small portion of cake as we all were) and as soon as I stepped out the door to sort out her brother and sisters shoes for the bike ride we were going on she stole it. Then she lied even though I could see it in her teeth. I know what I said was wrong about the living with her grandmother until her behaviour stopped and I didn't mean it - I did explain this to her and that I was angry because she had stole and lied and I found it disrespectful. I also explained to her that if me or her sister went into her room and stole things and then lied how would she feel? She admitted she would be hurt and angry. I said I was sorry for the comment and I loved her and didn't want her to leave because she is my daughter and I love her but that I was worried about the stealing and lying and that if the behaviour didn't stop when she was older that it would escalate and she would end up getting herself into trouble (i.e the police) I know it makes me a terrible mother to have said such an awful thing but I just lost my temper.
Can I also add we have always "softened" punishments if she has told the truth first time and made sure she knew that and what the consequence would have been if she had lied.
I love her to death and I am truly sorry for the comment - am I a terrible mum? I feel like it at the moment and any advice on the stealing/lying would be helpful
I feel sorry for you but it is food she is taking, not money or valuables. In your place I would tell her to ask before taking and tell her that, as long as she isn't wanting to eat everything, she can have it. Most kids think they can help themselves at home, she is not 'stealing'. The lying is worse but don't all kids lie to parents if they are in a corner?
You're not a terrible mum but maybe overreacting a bit about food treats. She's only eleven and at that age, kids consume quite a lot!
When I first saw the title I imagined a child purloining the contents of your purse and maybe other people's money and valuables.
It's the fact that she is taking other people's things not just things that are there for everyone? For example her sisters birthday cake? I don't think that it is over reacting to get upset about the fact she took 2/3 of that so no one else really got any? It was her 4 year old sisters birthday day - the little one was devastated.
Surely if you have been told they are for your brother's packed lunch or your packed lunch please don't eat those and it's happening repeatedly that's stealing? She knows that's what's she's doing is wrong because I asked her if they were here friends would she take them and she said no.
I don't know I wouldn't have dreamed of taking things including food that belonged to my mum of brother and I certainly wouldn't have lied about it.
And the problem I have is that she does take everything to the point where no one else gets a look in. Couple of weeks ago I bought a bag of pepperami for her and her brother and she ate the lot the night I bought them. Leaving none for her brother. I said to her the three you took were your own and now you have to go without but the fact you took all 6 that is stealing because you knew they weren't yours and you took them anyway. And the fact she took her dad's celebration cake - surely after knowing it was his really as a celebration of him coming home?
I know they consume a lot and I give her proper portion sizes and snacks - she gets occasional treas i.e MacDonald.
It's the fact she takes EVERYTHING all the time. Including things that are specially not hers and she knows there not?.
And as a footnote she has started to take other things i.e my make up (I know it's penial but I'm demonstrating her behaviour is spreading) my shoes and my jewellery. Also taking my designer sunglasses and loosing them. So she has started to spread to other areas
OP, why do you weigh her food?
I don't know what OP means? I weigh her food because my mum reckoned she wasn't being fed enough that's why she stole. So I weigh out her food to make sure she gets the right portion size. I was also advised to do this by the school (she doesn't know this) as she had the NHS weigh in thing at school and she was overweight by a slight amount. They told me 90 per cent of parents over feed their children and then portion sizes are too big. To make sure this wasn't happening I weigh her stuff out. But to be fair i weigh everyone's out including mine and my husband in the instance of pasta and rice so i don't over feed or waste food.
By the way the stealing started waaaaaay before the weighing so it isn't related to that - she has asked me once aabout weighing things and I said the truth which is I don't want her to not get the right amount of food such as potatoes/pasta and I do it for everyone and I don't like to waste food.
I don't do it with veg or fruit.
I have also addressed the issue of her slight over weight (which is directly related to how much crap she steals at every opportunity) by the whole family going on a healthy eating lifestyle and having talks with her about living a more healthy lifestyle. I have enrolled her in more sports and encourage a healthy lifestyle. All the children have 1 hour of "screen time" a day in whatever form they choose.
And I cannot stress enough I have never called her fat or made her feel over weight. When she has brought up that her clothes are tight I have just said maybe we need to cut down on the our treats and eat a bit healthier? And also telling her I think she's beautiful but that it's important that we are healthy for our whole selves
I think she is getting some sort of eating disorder from your comments about her weight and the weighing of food, neither of which is normal. Why can't you just let her eat dinner until she is full (as long as she isn't just eating the tasty bits, she's eating the veggies too)? I wouldn't worry about a kid's weight until they were definitely overweight and you'd spoken to a GP without them present, and the GP said they were definitely overweight and what to do about it. Trying to limit intake of a growing child is a dangerous thing so you would want the supervision of a doctor to make sure you're doing it right. And you can avoid making hurtful comments to your child when it turns out it was your imagination that she was overweight and she actually wasn't, or not enough to need to do anything about it.
I agree with @TigerQuoll - weighing portions of food for her depending on her age sounds odd, and will probably look like food rationing in her eyes, that food is scarce. Unless there is a overweight issue or eating issue, most children would eat until they are full at lunchtimes or dinnertimes, i.e. they will tell you when they don't want any more (or ask for more if they are still hungry).
I was a child like this. My parents rationed and hid 'bad' food which just encouraged me to seek it out and eat it. I would also steal money with which to buy the forbidden food. Exercise was enforced, there was lots of discussion about 'healthy lifestyle' etc etc, of course I knew exactly what was meant by those comments. I just wanted not to have restrictions and be like the rest of my schoolmates, I wasn't overweight or anything, just wanted not to have to feel like these foods were so restricted.
From the age of about 14-28 I had bulimia and anorexia. I should add that the stealing never extended outside home and I doubt your daughter's would either. I do think there is a real risk of you creating an issue here. The prom dress especially - she is 11, she shouldn't be thinking about clothes being tight or trying to fit into them?
I should add I turned out OK, I didn't turn into a criminal etc in my thirties I am very active, eat a varied healthy diet etc, but it took a lot to get there including getting rid of the idea in my head that unhealthy food = treat food.
OP - you need to see a counsellor for yourself and fast
She's eating because she's hungry and because you are being weird about food and control.
You may not think you are but you definitely are.
Next you'll be chaining her to the bed, locking her in her bedroom and putting locks on the food cupboards.
I have a great relationship with my DD 12 who often goes into my room to 'borrow' things it drives me nuts but she's my DD and I just tell her to put it back because it annoys me so she does.
There is no shouting or belittling involved.
DD and DS are often hungry a short while after a big meal so if they want to snack they do. I buy them food to snack on for this very purpose, mainly cheap biscuits.
I also buy special items which they know are special and for everyone.
The are both very slim.
I said to her the three you took were your own and now you have to go without but the fact you took all 6 that is stealing because you knew they weren't yours and you took them anyway
oh your poor DD I can't believe you are accusing her of stealing in her own home
Just buy more bloody food woman.
TantricTwist has hit the nail on the head when they say the issue is your own - you can tell from the way you talk about this food which is simultaneously "crap" and "special treats".
Food is just food. Some crappy unhealthy foods are gross and others are delicious. Some healthy food is incredibly delicious. It doesn't feel good to overeat, instead it's far nicer to eat a good variety until you're just satisfied. But I doubt your DD is capable of understanding this because some food is simultaneously vilified/restricted and held up as a lovely treat for you all to celebrate with.
I wouldn't ever restrict these sort of foods, I would work hard to make sure there are very delicious healthy choices on offer too (the healthy option should never be boring) and I would try not to insert any sort of value judgment into either food or exercise.
Please stop saying the child is STEALING! It makes her sound as though she is going round shoplifting or taking things from friend's houses.
All kids take food which their parents hoped would be used on a certain day, etc, and all girls 'borrow' mum's make up, jewellery and shoes. Even I did that at age ten! Designer sunglasses would be a magnet (my mum didn't have those). Of course she must learn to take care and not lose thing.
It's the fact that she is taking other people's things not just things that are there for everyone?
She might be hungry... at 11 years old I ate like a horse even though I am short and dainty because I was starting to grow up and grow a figure and I need a lot of fuel. But besides that, there is an emotional pattern to at least some of what she eats, because she's going after other family members' "special" food.
Children sometimes do things to express the feelings they can't put into words. Could she be feeling she doesn't get enough of your time and attention, that there is simply not enough parent-attention to go round, resenting the time and attention the others get (because she can remember a time when it was all hers), fearing the next arrival in your household... those are all very normal feelings but not ones most 11 year olds have the words to express. With your husband being away so much she possibly sees him as another rival for your attention when he gets back, and not as someone she feels very close to and who has anything positive to give her when he is home; or else she's missing him and angry at him for being away. So if you're giving him cake then she's going to eat it. She's taking all her brother's share. And her sister's birthday cake - birthdays are when someone else is centre of attention.
One of the painful things adults do to children is "explain away" their feelings - to tell them it's wrong to feel jealous, or that they mustn't feel angry with an absent parent because he's earning a living. Facts and feelings are two different things and knowing facts doesn't make feelings go away. Eating tasty food, on the other hand, dulls bad feelings.
I have never called her fat or made her feel over weight. When she has brought up that her clothes are tight I have just said maybe we need to cut down on the our treats and eat a bit healthier?
Well, but how does that make her not feel overweight? If you didn't think she was overweight you would say "you've grown out of it and you need a new dress". She can work out what you really think.
So stop shouting and punishing and threatening. Max out on kindness and attention, unrelated to food either way.