In so many ways, my AD is doing really, really well. But she is lying and stealing, and I'm finding it hard to find a way to help her stop. I think that it's actually the lying that is the most difficult for me - I know she's exceptionally impulsive and sometimes can't help what she does. I'm working very hard to avoid making her feeling shame about her behaviour but AD appears unable to tell me what she's done and why. I know that she's too embarrassed to admit she has a boyfriend (she''s 14), and has taken gifts to give him. She tells me the most extraordinary fibs instead. Is it a phase? I'm really hoping that it will pass soon.
Lying and stealing
I wish I could reassure you! Both mine were like that around that age - to be honest the stealing has stopped (they are now in their 20s) - as they have more of their own own money (plus of course I’ve been making it very difficult for years!) - but they - particularly my AD is still very cagey with the truth. Her psychiatrist thinks she may have a paranoid personality disorder and this is a feature of that - it’s an oversuspiciousness if others and lack of trust. A lot of the features are similar to those due to attachment / early trauma which seems to link with the paranoia - so the roots are probably the same. Maybe for your AD it’s a trust issue - we say to them we can’t trust you unless you tell me the truth so it’s a bit of a bind - I hate it too - it makes me so anxious. My AD has ADHD too - there may be some impulsiveness in saying whatever comes into her head first and of course there is with the stealing. Does she / you have any professional help? Maybe whoever supervises her ADHD treatment could recommend a CBT programme that could help?
Hello - our eldest AD has always lied about something that I have suggested or accused her of doing. We can’t have any discussion about whether it’s her impulsiveness or fear that she will be refused if she asks for something that causes her to steal from us. She is 13 and will be 14 very soon. She has taken money without asking and has abused my trust by using my credit card to buy something on the way to school (she was only meant to use it for her bus). The night before she had taken one of my saver cards but I found that when sorting out her dirty laundry. She could swear that black is white and I wonder sometimes whether she actually persuades herself that whatever lie she tells, she thinks it is the truth. I have decided to lock my purse away and favourite jewellery in case the situation gets worse. I really don’t like the way this is going. I found out that she had been vaping recently and one of the thefts would have funded this. She is desperate to fit in with her peers. I know I won’t be the only parent going through this and I would really like to hear how you have dealt with this issue of stealing and lying.
It is very common and incredibly frustrating and not easy to solve.
You are dealing with poor impulse control, a struggle to understand the difference between wanting and needing something, a lack of understanding of the impact stealing has on other people and on trust in a relationship. It might be a copying mechanism in times of stress or a technique to create distance in relationships as part of an avoidant attachment style. Some children steal to keep something from another person to stay close to that person. It can also be a way of feeling safe. Some children have a very charged relationship with money. It can be a mixture of reasons and the primary underlying cause can change.
Remove temptation as much as possible (no money in wallets, jewelry locked away). In conversations about it, do not get hung up on whether your daughter stole something or not. If you think she did, talk about it as a given. Talk about it in a neutral and factual manner, but do explain the longterm consequences.
You could try a step by step approach, in which you first try to get her to be able to admit to it. Let her know you know she has taken something and give her time to process and to calm down. Don't expect her to admit it straight away. Try to not take it personally and be neutral about it, but be curious and wonder what made her do it. If she admits it, praise her and tell her how proud you are of her for admitting it. Focus on this positive aspect to reduce fear. Give her novels with characters who steal, so she can think about it in an impersonal but emotional way. Occasionally encourage and help her to think about why she takes things. If you can see remorse, point that out and praise it as well.
Then try to get her to hand the stolen item back. So she still takes it, but does not keep it. Again, praise her for that and tell her how proud you are. Keep having conversations about what feelings lead to the stealing. Try to get to the point that she puts items back, before they have been noticed as missing.
Ideally, your daughter could get to the point at which she realises she will take something and seeks help before actually doing so. You could then wonder why she is feeling like that, what the underlying reason is and support her in solving that.
That was our 10 year process and we are in the final stage, except on very rare occasions. Of course, it might not work for you or you might need to adjust the process for your daughter. I thought I would share it anyway, because parts might be helpful.
These are helpful:
- Sarah Naish: "The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting"
- Holly van Gulden: "Real Parents, real children"
Thank you Chestnuttree. Your reply makes a lot of sense. Our AD has an avoidant attachment style and both she had her younger sister constantly want money and treats. They can never be satisfied. Our eldest AD is going through a really difficult time at the moment for various reasons. She was suspended from school on the 15th Feb for smoking in the toilets. She also had a vape on her. She had stolen these from my sister when we visited at the weekend. It’s hard to understand why she would choose to smoke in school because she travels independently by bus. She has ample opportunities to smoke outside of school. There are regular talks in school about smoking and vaping. It’s almost like she wanted to be caught. So we have the multiple thefts to deal with and the theft from my sister. We have been reeling from the shock of the school saying that normally they would expel a child immediately for this. They are apparently taking into account her previous good behaviour. Honestly it sounds like I’m talking about criminal law and sentencing policy ! So once the dust has settled we need to talk to her and find a consequence that flows from that. Did you try PACEful and natural consequences with your daughter? We can’t just ignore it (I don’t think you were suggesting that).
I am so impressed (and daunted) that you have been working on this for ten years with your AD. I hope I can look back on this time and be in a better place than I feel in now.
I have tried a hundred different responses and consequences over the years, depending on what I thought the underlying reason was, on her attitude and how I felt in the moment. By now, I mostly stay neutral and don't give any consequence, because it happens extremely rarely, she is unhappy about it and just cannot help it. If I feel she is lying, I make her aware that I don't believe her and that that is not okay. My daughter knows I react positively if she tells me the truth - no matter what it is-, unlike if she lies and I find out later, so that is rarely a problem these days.
Have you had a conversation with your daughter about what she is getting out of the vaping? It sounds as if she was very much trying to make a statement plus it is high risk behaviour which will have given her a thrill and a sense of power. She wasn't vaping to vape, but to show off. Who else was there? How did the school find out? I am not sure how helpful talks about smoking/vaping are, because they usually don't offer alternatives. How can she get the same sense of belonging to a group? What else can she fidget with and hold on to that looks cool? How can she feel rebellious and powerful in a safer way? etc.
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