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Am I unreasonable for how I am handling my daughter being accused of stealing?

302 replies

magsel · 06/09/2022 19:09

I share a daughter with my ex wife. She lives with her mum about half the time. My ex also has a stepdaughter through her husband. The stepdaughter and my daughter do not get along.

Around a month ago the stepdaughter lost her Nintendo switch. She has blamed my daughter for stealing it to get back at her for calling her names. My ex has since searched all over her house and through our daughters things for to switch and has been unable to find it. She is now convinced that our daughter has hidden the switch in her bedroom at my house.

I am unconvinced because my daughter is a really bad liar. She has a lot of tells and breaks down very easily when caught lying. When I asked her about the switch she was very insistant that she does not know what happened to it. I did not see or hear any indication she was lying. So unless my 11 old daughter magically became the best actress in the world within the past couple days I sincerely doubt she stole the switch.

Still my ex is insisting that I let her search through our daughters room at my house or search the room myself. I however find that to be a massive invasion of privacy. I tend to think about it from the point of view of when I was a kid. I would have felt violating to have my things searched through. It’s not even like I hid anything suspicious or wrong I just wouldn’t have wanted my stuff rifled through. Based upon how upset my daughter was after her mom did it at her house I imagine she feels the same. I am of the personal opinion that it is only okay to go through my child’s things if I have reason to believe they could be doing something dangerous or if I have proof beyond shadow of a doubt that they did something wrong. Her stepsister simply saying she stole the switch is not enough proof in my opinion.

Things escalated from there and my ex then gave our daughters switch to her stepsister until hers showed back up. A few days later when I went to pick my daughter up she grabbed the switch and quickly got in my car (I didn’t know about this as she had it in her backpack). When I got home my ex called because they found out my daughter had taken her switch. My ex was irate and demanded I bring it back. After thinking about it I refused to because again she had nothing other than her stepdaughter word as “proof”. Therefore I found her punishment unwarranted. Since I was the one who paid for our daughters switch I saw no reason for my ex to demand it be given to her stepdaughter.

After that my ex started taking away our daughters allowance. We normally take turns giving her her allowance every other week. My ex decided that she would be taking away our daughter allowance on her weeks and giving it to her stepdaughter until she had enough to buy a new one. So in return I decided to give my daughter her double her allowance on my weeks.

My ex now says I am undermining her parenting by making decisions without her, but she is also making decisions without me and I think her punishment is unjust. Especially when her stepdaughter did not receive any punishment for teasing our daughter. Obviously things have gotten out of hand, but I’m not sure what else to do because my ex is absolutely convinced our daughter took the switch and is refusing to budge or talk about it. It’s quite odd because normally we coparent very well and rarely have any issue.

OP posts:

magsel · 07/09/2022 01:21

@Onlytheriver I'm dating someone, but my daughter has not met her yet.

OP posts:

EveryFlightBeginsWithAFall · 07/09/2022 01:24

Onlytheriver · 07/09/2022 01:14

If my father searched my room at that age I would have been humiliated.

Really? More humiliated than being accused of being a thief by your mum and ?

I'd have wanted to prove I wasn't hiding it in there


alphons · 07/09/2022 01:31

I tend to agree with PPs.

You are clearly prioritising your DD, as you should.

Your ex is trying to strike a balance between her DD and her SD. She may not have it quite right yet, but I can see what might be happening. She’s also having to balance you and her new DH.

The girls have their own relationship.

In amongst all this you’ve got two children who need all the adults to act like adults. All the stuff about stealth searching, doubling allowances, forfeiting allowances….it’s aggressive and knee-jerk and reactionary. You need to communicate better, all of you. And not about the bloody switch. You need to talk about why SD accused DD; why DD snuck her own switch back; you and your ex need to talk about what’s really going on here for each of you because you’re not on the same page; you need to accept that your DD has new important relationships in her life that YOU need to factor in for HER benefit; and so in and so forth.

I’m not suggesting a family summit on the issue. Perhaps you and your ex should start with an open conversation about what’s going on with her escalating this, what she’s really feeling, what’s really going on. And be open to her. If she were posting I’d say the same thing to her btw, this isn’t a man/woman thing.


StClare101 · 07/09/2022 01:57

Reckon the SD has taken it to her mums. Only fair her room gets searched too.

God knows why your ex isn’t applying the same level of scepticism to each child.

And you bought the switch so she can get stuffed. She has no right to give it to another child!


WokingOrNot · 07/09/2022 02:25

I think you're handling it well. I wouldn't search her room or allow your ex to search it. If you do ot secretly, you'll lose a lot of her trust and that's hard to rebuild. You could maybe ask your daughter if she agreed for her room to be searched but obviously accept a 'no' and make sure she knows beforehand you don't believe she stole anything.

But you need to have a conversation with your ex wife to solve this, so that you can be one front again. Ask her honestly why she thinks your daughter stole it. Ask her what did she do to protect your daughter from step sister calling her names. Explain your point of view.

If she didn't steal it (and as you say you have no reason not to believe her) this must be so hard on her and can have very serious consequences, not just for her relationship with her mother. If she did steal it it sounds like a cry for help and all those punishments would just make the situation worse.


Mamma7576 · 07/09/2022 02:41

Can you both go through your daughter's room together, with the intention of tidying, but explain to her that you believe her and this is just so you can tell your ex that you've searched and it's not there. Just to put an end to it.


Billybagpuss · 07/09/2022 03:20

From what you’ve said I don’t believe your ex will believe you’ve done a thorough enough search anyway even if you have.

I do agree with pp to chat about it with dd and do a search with her.


Biscuitandacuppa · 07/09/2022 03:34

Kids can do stupid things at this age, particularly if a family dynamic has changed (thinking if the marriage to stepdad). My steps brother deliberately destroyed a book my auntie had bought me and stuffed it down the back of furniture when I was younger. It was only a book, but it was the last birthday present my auntie had bought me as she had died in a car accident and it was special to me. He obviously denied it all and it really don’t help our already difficult relationship!
I think it’s good your dd has a space with you that is stress free and safe. I would still however search her room. I wouldn’t hide that from her either, at 11 she is old enough to have a conversation that explains the easiest way to end this unpleasantness is to do a search (not that you believe she would do something like this) so that her mother can get off her back.

If the switch is in her room it gives you opportunity to discuss calmly why she may have taken it, if it isn’t there I’d also have a discussion about how she is feeling because she hasn’t been treated very well at all!


Richielogic · 07/09/2022 03:38

Not trying to create a stereotype but girls of that age can be a bloody nightmare. High percentage VERY devious and more cunning and manipulative than you could ever imagine so my advice as a parent of teenage girls is be VERY careful here.

Nobody knows if your daughter took the stepsisters game or not. They don’t get on and frankly its very possible she did take it, fall out, teach her a lesson, whatever. Its not like someone broke into the house and took it is it?

Its also more probable that a teenage girl would take or hide a stepsister’s game to teach her a lesson than it is for a teenage girl to lose or hide her own game and pretend that her stepsister took it.

I tend to agree with @PrinceOfPegging that your daughter has demonstrated “Stealthy ability” by sneakily putting her own back in her rucksack when nobody was looking despite mum confiscating it from her so its highly probable, she could well be guilty. Hence why ex wife is acting as she is in relation to her own daughter. She thinks her own daughter took it over the stepdaughter playing some other manipulative game. Meanwhile, you are fighting fire with fire and to a certain extent indulging DD whilst its highly probably she can manipulate you and wrap you round her finger, that’s girls for you and dads, been there and worn the t-shirt. No doubt DD will want to move in full time with Dear Daddy next, the writing is on the wall.

I think you need to draw a line under it with your ex this is what is the most important. You are both the adults here. Out of earshot of both girls you need to talk. Calmly. Don’t get into she did this she did that. Neither know what went on. So, you both need to step back from it. More damage is being done by you doubling up on paid allowance whilst mum stops her allowance. That’s a nil sum game and just painting your ex-wife out as the evil one and could well be totally unjustified.

The two girls need to get on and you should try and encourage that. If they can’t for now, they need to work to tolerate each other and ditch the dramas.

I would search your own daughter’s room on the QT whilst she is next at your ex-wife’s



Bumblegreen · 07/09/2022 04:11

Search her room without her knowing. When you don't find it,

tell her " Lets search the room together and I will help you tidy it as well so we can tell your mum we didn't find it " and then we can go out afterwards.


Bumblegreen · 07/09/2022 04:11

Ask her mum, how long is she going to keep punishing your daughter ?


Mummyoflittledragon · 07/09/2022 05:53

I am glad to see you’re now considering searching your dd’s room. This really is the right decision for her own protection. However, as her dad, I think you should be telling her that’s what you’re doing rather than asking. I would be clear you trust her implicitly and this is what you both need to do to get things to calm down. This is big, scary stuff right now and she still needs a lot of guidance. You’re jumping an age stage imo and acting more like she’s about 14/15 whereas she’s only 11 and from my experience of 11 year old girls (my dd is 14), they make terrible decisions and do the most stupid things at this age due to hormonal changes and brain rewiring. Real headless chicken stuff.

As for lies and the truth, my dd is a truthful person. However, 11 really was the age, where I found dd and her friends to be very black and white about everything and lack the ability to see things from each other’s view points. This caused all manner of arguments between her and her friends. When I asked what had happened to try to help them resolve arguments, I’d get very different versions of events, missing out anything they’d done wrong but be very clear about what the other had said / done. This isn’t because they were lying, they truly didn’t have the ability to see things another way.

As the stepdaughter is about 12, she is pretty much at this stage as well. Your ex should also be considering the possibility she’s taken the switch to her mum’s or lied about breaking it or is hiding it to get your dd punished. If it’s at her mum’s, she may even have forgotten it’s there. But now that she’s said your dd has taken it and everyone is being so hard line, even if she found it, she probably wouldn’t own up.

All round, whatever has happened, it is now easier for the kids to lie, especially as the adults have become so entrenched. All of this doesn’t even mean anyone is a bad kid. This situation is going to replay and even if this time, your dd is telling the truth, there will possibly be times in the future, where she will not be, especially if you and her mum don’t get a handle on things. Or perhaps she will just be economical with the truth as just explained. If one of the girls is lying now, even if it is the SD, she won’t have the cognitive ability to realise the gravity of her actions. So it’s also very important that her room at her mum’s house is searched.

I can totally see why you’re doing what you’re doing. However, what you’re perhaps not realising right now, unless you have an older child, is that 11 is still a pretty malleable age. Once your dd is through this stage, she’s likely going to go through the next stage, where it’s bloody impossible to reason with them and the back chat is insane, yup dd, I’m looking at you. 😩 If you keep on doing what you’re doing, you and her mum are going to find yourselves in much more of a pickle than you are right now tbh.

Once this is settled, I also think you and her mum should talk about the room situation even if that perhaps means she spends more time at your house. My dd would have struggled to share a room long term with a good friend, let alone someone, not chosen by herself at this age. Emotions are very raw. Empathy at 11 is at an all time low with girls and very slowly returns through the teen years.


Nekomata · 07/09/2022 06:05

It just seems a lot of drama over nothing. I tidy my kid's rooms all the time. It's not a big deal. Just check her room while she's at school and put everything back. If you do find it, I'd just say it turned up under the sofa just to avoid further drama.


magsel · 07/09/2022 06:09

I have to say I am rather disturbed by how much many of you would secretly or forcibly creep through your children things in such a situation. It's such an alien perspective to me, but it certainly gives me something to think about.

OP posts:

HakuSansTan · 07/09/2022 06:19

The two girls need to get on and you should try and encourage that. If they can’t for now, they need to work to tolerate each other and ditch the dramas

They really don't NEED to get on. It must be a horrible feeling for the young girl in question. A stranger and his daughter foisted on her and forced to share her room. I can't imagine how confusing and distressing that must be. It is why there are so many casualties from 'blending', most often children too 😔

OP, you have bigger problems that the switch here. Has your daughter expressed wishes to move in with you?


Fucket · 07/09/2022 06:22

It’s not creepy, it’s good parenting. Just like checking through a child’s phone. You are doing it to protect them as much as they don’t like it. If a child has stolen something and you find it, you can deal with it in an appropriate way. They hopefully learn from the experience and never do it again. If the child never learns to be caught out by authority figures, and learns true remorse they are perhaps at a greater chance of learning when an adult. Then it’s not the parents doing the policing it’s either the police or the small claims court.


Mummyoflittledragon · 07/09/2022 06:22

magsel · 07/09/2022 06:09

I have to say I am rather disturbed by how much many of you would secretly or forcibly creep through your children things in such a situation. It's such an alien perspective to me, but it certainly gives me something to think about.

I get that. But as per my comment, your dd is still quite young to be given so much responsibility for her life. If she’s year 7 or year 6, that’s still quite little.


frazzledasarock · 07/09/2022 06:23

I wouldn’t search my DC’s room either without good reason.

it is a horrible invasion of privacy.


Mummyoflittledragon · 07/09/2022 06:26

Cross post with @Fucket Exactly. I saw many parents not checking phones at 11/12 and their children sending awful things out. I checked my dd’s phone regularly at this age. I don’t do it anymore now that she’s 14 and not so often at 13 because I know she’s pretty sensible, not going to be sending angry or inappropriate etc as she never has and would bring something to me if she felt it wasn’t ok. Not all kids are this open but it’s something to encourage.


Hyacinth2 · 07/09/2022 06:31

Buy a new one and move on. Perhaps with counselling.


JustLyra · 07/09/2022 06:38

magsel · 06/09/2022 23:04

@JustLyra it's just lies about silly things. Like saying she finished her chores when she didn't. That doesn't seem out of the ordinary to me.

Aside from the reasons I gave. I'm more of innocent until proven guilty and searching her room feel much more the opposite. I wouldn't think it okay either for the police to search someones home just on the word of someone else either. To me it just seems so absolutely morally wrong in this case.

Tbh you’re massively overthinking it imo.

Shes 11. And lies to you about blatant things. 11 year olds act impulsively sometimes.

But more than that - you’d be able to have her back in a more firm way if you can say “I’ve checked and it’s not there so what are you going to do now about these constant punishments?”

Theres a fine balance with kids because giving them age appropriate privacy and keeping them safe. Searching a room in this kind of situation would be akin to checking a phone if there was an accusation of saying something. You check, you know exactly what you’re dealing with and you deal with it.


jeaux90 · 07/09/2022 06:40

I agree with you OP but I probably would look for peace of mind.

The amount of people that blend their families at a time when it's really difficult for kids just amazes me.

You are right to keep your GF apart from your daughter for now, sounds like the poor girl has been through enough!


hop321 · 07/09/2022 06:44

Have to go against the grain and say I agree with some of the things your ex is doing. I have a big issue with lying, which you say is a regular thing as it means you can't trust what your kids say.

My younger son is in this category and I tend to take pretty harsh action when it happens (usually with some kind of technology consequence). I can understand why she's stopped the allowance, less convinced about giving it to the step daughter. I can slightly see the logic if she is 100% convinced your daughter nabbed the Switch but it's too far for me.

Either way, I'd be pissed off if my husband undermined me by doubling the allowance. And we do have different approaches to bad behaviour. As hard as it may be, I think you and your ex need to find a resolution to the missing Switch question and agree a joint approach in terms of consequences. It's not good when kids can divide and conquer and we've all been on the receiving end of that as parents.


OperaStation · 07/09/2022 06:50

WestIsWest · 06/09/2022 20:06

I would probably look in her room without her knowing, just so you can stop your ex asking. I agree with others that it’s really good that you’re supporting your daughter in this. Maybe the step daughter broke her Switch and was worried she’d get into trouble so lied. There could be lots of explanations I guess, she might be being bullied and was forced to give it to someone even.

But the daughter would find out that her dad had searched her room. If the mum suddenly stopped blaming her because it hadn’t been found in her room it would be very obvious.


Gardenfish · 07/09/2022 06:55

Has anyone checked the Sd room.

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