Aug 30, 2013

How Do I Stop My Child Stealing?

Category: Children
Posted By: Melissa

Question: My 10 year old daughter steals money within the family, uncles, cousins, siblings, grand-parents.

She lies frequently and says hurtful things to others. She has difficulty maintaining friendships, due to her nature and bully's others within the family and outside.

Answer: Oh dear Melissa, it does sound as if your daughter is very unhappy.  All these behaviours are signs of someone who feels deprived and unfairly treated.  I am not suggesting that this is the case, just that this is how she is experiencing things at the moment.  There are two wonderful men who write about children, Winnicott and Bowlby, they both agree that steeling is most often an attempt to forcibly rectify a deprivation, whether it is of time, emotional commitment, attention, etc.

I would suggest that you talk to your daughter about how she feels, you could ask her questions like ‘if you had a magic wand what would you change about our family?’ or ‘If you had one wish what would it be?’  Or move more slowly into it, read her the story of Aladdin and then ask what her three wishes would be.  This will give you an idea of what it is that she is trying to communicate with her behaviour.  If she comes up with very materialistic answers then try to steer her towards more emotional ones.  If she says a playstation, designer shoes and a Barbie house then say that these wishes are about the people in her life, not the things, what would she wish for then.

Be prepared that you might not like her answers.  You give very little information about your family so I will make generic suggestions but she may say that she would like her little brother to disappear, or her step father to go away, etc.  This just means that she is trying to communicate that she feels these people get the attention that she would like and you and she can try to come to understand this and why she may feel that way.

If these talks don’t work between the two of you then it may be helpful to get some outside perspective, either from a friend that you both feel can be impartial, or from a professional who can help understand the dynamics more clearly.  I would particularly recommend this if your daughter is not able to be clear about her wishes, a trained child psychotherapist would be able to interpret her communication more easily.

I really wish you luck with your daughter and I hope you find a way that you and she are both more happy with the family.

Very best wishes,


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