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12 year old stealing - now I feel awful

Redlasoo July 9, 2019 21:43

We found out this evening that for the last couple of months, our 12 year old has been taking money out of the sideboard. She says she’s taken £40 but we think it might be closer to £140....

She’s says she didn’t like the school dinners so has been taking money to spend it on sandwiches, snacks and drinks on the way to school. She passes a very expensive mini supermarket on her way so could easily be spending £6-7 a day there.

DH and I stayed incredibly calm, we were patient, understanding, supportive and didn’t even slightly raise our voices. We just hugged her, chatted with her and talked through why she’d done it and what we can do in the future. I’m slightly regretting being QUITE so calm now and she seems quite relaxed whereas I can’t think straight.

She has always had an obsession with food (cooking, preparing, eating, talking about, drawing, etc, etc). Food was pretty scarce in the birth family and we put it down to that.

I’m going to contact the local authority tomorrow as she’s 12, been with us since she was nearly 8 and I think could now really benefit from some good quality counselling.

Oh crap. Things have been going so smoothly up until now. I’m terrified we’re about to hit the pre-teen rollercoaster.

Scott C-R July 10, 2019 09:18

Hi Redlasoo.

I am so sorry to hear what has happened, I have sent you a DM.


chestnuttree July 10, 2019 18:56

Hi Scott,

I would like to DM Radlasoo. How do I do that? When I click chat, I only see a few old chats. No text field, nothing. When I then search for Redlasoo under "find others", I get "no matching profiles" which is clearly incorrect. I find the chat function in itself not great either, because the text field is tiny. I only see about three words at a time. That might work for "I want to return my t-shirt" but not for a support forum.

I am sorry to say that it takes a level of determination to make this forum work that is unrealistic...

Scott C-R July 11, 2019 09:34

Hi chestnuttree

The issues you describe are currently being worked on. I will come back to you.


Redlasoo July 11, 2019 10:03

Thanks for the attempts to DM me, chestnutttree

Update: We’ve calculated properly and we can’t be 100% sure of the exact amount but we know she’s stolen at least £250 over a period of about a month. What I find most heart breaking was that she had so many opportunities to stop. This was SO pre-meditated. I remember now all those mornings where she was reluctant to eat much for breakfast, didn’t want to take water to school and said she’s 'prefer to use the fountain in school', and struggled to eat her dinner in the evening. I feel like such an idiot. She’s been dipping in and out of the drawer so many times, grabbing about £40 at a time. DH is being a rock here and rightly says we have to not react emotionally, but I’m finding it so difficult. I didn’t go to work yesterday and stayed home and cried for most of the morning. I guess we just have to change the way we function as a household and not leave temptation in the way again.

So – what have we done.

1) We’ve explained to her that what she did was illegal and a criminal offence. We are not going to the police this time (although we did suggest we might when she was clearly still only telling half the truth). We’ve told her that if we ever find out she has done anything like this again then we will take her directly to the police station.

2) We’ve taken her to the shop and made her show me all the things she had been buying.

3) We’ve suspended her pocket money and her after school club (which also costs us money) until she has paid pack the money.

4) She can keep her laptop, which she uses for homework, but we’ve taken away her phone and tv until she’s paid pack the money.

5) We’ve taken away her front door key and we're not going to leave her in the house by herself until she’s paid back the money (she was starting to have a lot of independence and used to be at home alone for an hour or so once or twice a week).

6) We’ve contacted the adoption support team so we can try and get a claim in to the post adoption support fund for her to have some, what we feel is now long overdue, therapy. This is so closely tied up to her obsession with food - it raises so many alarm bells for the future.

7) We really need to teach her about the value of money and some budgeting skills. The things she was buying was absurd and so extravagant - several halves of a meal deal, 2 or 3 slightly different drinks when it could have been buy one get one free if she'd bought slightly more similar ones.

8) We’re going on holiday in less than 3 weeks, where we can hopefully spend some quality time together trying to rebuild as a family. At the moment we're still very cross and upset (although we have been keeping remarkably calm). Right now she feels awful and hates herself, but we know that's a recipe for more damage. We've got to pull the family out of this horrible atmosphere, whilst also being mindful not to just sweep the whole thing under the carpet as though it didn't matter.

Eugh - what a week....

chestnuttree July 11, 2019 13:56

What do think has brought this about? What is the feeling behind the behaviour? My daughter sometimes takes things, but usually at times of high stress. Is something going on at school? Is this part of an avoidant attachment where she is panicking that you are getting too close? Has she recently transferred to secondary? Could she be bullied? Does she have a safe person and place in school?

You are giving her a lot of consequences in one go. I would also make it very clear that you are on her side. At 12 she doesn’t really understand the difference between £20 and £120. trust is an abstract concept, she also doesn’t really understand Yet. Even though she seems calm, she probably feels a lot of shame. I feel for all of you. We have just gone through something Similar. Unfortunately I don’t think there is an easy solution. It is a coping mechanism.

Donatella July 11, 2019 14:13

Hi. Stealing, unfortunately, isn’t uncommon in our kids and there can be many reasons. When my son did it - and it was close to £1,000 - it wasn’t about food, rather computer games. We did manage to reclaim the majority of they money thankfully. With him, it was about his poor impulse control rather than it being pre-meditated. He just couldn’t help himself. And he got himself into such a muddle that it was hard to get himself out of it without losing face and without toxic shame kicking in.

Is the stealing only about food? Or could there be something else as well? Are there any issues in school for her at lunch time? Difficulty queuing, sensory issues around noise, food etc? It may not be as simple as it seems? And food, as you say, can be a tricky one to manage. That unfillable hole!

Im a great believer in natural consequences so, devils advocate , what do you think removing her devices will achieve? There is no natural link from the consequence to the behaviour? When my son stole - using my credit card - we removed his Xbox for a period of time because that’s where he was spending the money - that and his phone. They were confiscated. We didn’t physically make him pay it back - he wouldn’t have been able to - but we agreed a weekly theoretical sum of £20 and his devices were confiscated until the majority of the figure he’d stolen had been theoretically paid. We also looked at his pocket money situation. We were remiss. He was at the age where he needed/wanted his own money so we gave him a Go Henry card and a weekly allowance for him to spend as he wished. Yes, he bought some crap but his money so up to him how he spent it. There were a lot of gritted teeth! Rather than pay for unwanted school dinners, could she have an allowance to buy her own? Would she come shopping with you and decide on her own packed lunch? And make it?

I get the need to punish ... I’m just not sure it’s always effective. I considered pcso as an option for my son but ultimately it wouldn’t have been the right thing for him - still have to consider his future. I know it feels very raw for you at the moment but deep breaths and take some time to think about a positive/constructive approach. And I know that’s easier said than done. I have been there .....

And lastly, lock up your money! Remove temptation.

Safia July 11, 2019 15:10

Sadly I agree - it is very common. We had big problems with my son and the xbox / cards - which when I took off cancelled his membership. These companies - particularly microsoft and amazon work in this way - that it only takes one click to spend money - and it is sometimes confusing what they have to pay for and what is included or comes for free! I know yours is a cash issue so that's different - just needed to rant against these companies! My daughter once took £150 because someone she knew had threatened to spread a photochop nude picture of her on facebook if she didn't give him the money - if she'd told me I would have gone and confronted him / reported him to the college / police etc but she was too scared / shamed to do that - even though it was only her head used in the photo - she thought I would believe it was her. My son took a lot of money for food in secondary school - didn't usually take it from me but used money I had given him for other things - I'm nor sure if he spent it all on food as he was being bullied and there was suspiciously little change about too - so I think someone was taking the money off him but he would not say - they do feel so shamed by bullying. Also the same thing happened with his lunch card - he'd buy things others told him to but for them and then run out of money. Comfort eating was a big thing at that time - he was really unhappy at school, was being bullied and also so many opportunities and so little impulse control. We never actually punished (except when I took the card off the xbox) but said we couldn't buy something because there was no money left - I took the educative and preventative view - but its a very long term job and also you need rigorous policing of your money and property. Many adopters have found they have to keep things locked up or on their person all the time. I think they feel they have a right to take whatever is there - that is yours - my son never took a single thing from anyone else - so I put it down to unmet early needs. Bryan Post has a good book on the issue - the Great Behaviour Breakdown

Heavenly July 11, 2019 21:40

My AD went through a phase of something similar when she was 13. It was very much food based, but also tied into her inability to do money very well. She had packed lunches at school, but rather than steal from us, she was borrowing money off a school friend to buy different food and I only found out because the mum spoke to me. I was mortified! She also 'hid' her paper packed lunches under her bed. She also used to meet another younger school friend who had lots of money for sweeties before school when they both gorged themselves so that they couldn't eat anything else all day (!!). Where this friend got the money from, I don't know!

For us there were some consequences, but it was also about encouraging her to talk to us about the fact that she wasn't enjoying her packed lunches (she's at a fee paying school with expensive lunches we can't afford), and finding out what she would eat. She is so over compliant she wouldn't rock the boat and say she didn't like her packed lunches! I texted her sweetie sharing friend to ask her not to because I was concern about AD's nutrition. It's still all a bit iffy in the food department, although not extreme for a teenager. I find large/multipack chocolate wrappers in her bag, but she's 17 - I did similar things. All I can do is remind her to be good to her health because she had such a bad start nutritionally. I hope it will sink in some time!

Some of her stealing might be about her peers - she maybe needs to feel she has money to spend in front of them (I am amazed how much money some kids have). If you can find out what her motivation is, it may help to move things on. x

Scott C-R July 12, 2019 12:07

So much to think about in all of this.

I'm sorry you had to take the day off and were so upset by it. Do take the temptation out of the way, but also think about the practicalities of the consequences you have put in place, are they practical? Are they connected? Will she learn? Will it cute potentially more shame? Lots to think about. Personally, I would only start again on the money stuff, and leave the there stuff.

Lots of useful information from others, so I won't repeat, but will say, my 20 and 21 year old are extravagant. I am tempted to say that whilst they did not get mine and my husbands work ethic over the years, they have totally rebelled against our frugal ways... well mainly the buggy's frugal ways, of cash back online, 2 for1's etc.

Eldest is independent and would rather go to the little independent grocer across from his flat and pay double for something that he can get in the major supermarket a 5 minute walk from his place, and of course, save money and collect points! This is someone that has his own bills to pay and actually would rather not pay his rent but buy a £3 box of cereal that is on offer for 99p elsewhere.

Middle is better with money, but is trying to live a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget! He promised eldest a new Xbox One for his 21st. I knew it wouldn't happen as he simply can not afford, it but it was his intention. Downloads £5 games onto his phone then deletes them, will go to the shop and - I do get it - would rather buy separate items for his lunch rather than a meal deal etc.

It is a tough one, really is, but when there are so many layers, all you want to do is get to the bottom of why, and of course, reality is it crosses over with other things.

I hope your holiday will help, and of course, bring you all closer together.

Best wishes



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