We’ve just discovered our 11yo daughter continually steals things.

Desperate to go on a shopping date with a friend, she was grounded because she stole $50 from my wallet.

A week later she was discovered with a device clutched to her chest at 10.15 at night. (There are a few reasons this is not OK: she doesn’t own a device [we’re waiting til she’s in high school], devices are to be put in a central charging area at 9.00pm; and we already know she has a device addiction).

She was grounded again. I informed the friend, but there ensued a long text conversation – between my 11yo and her friend – about how she wouldn’t misbehave again and she’d be good and they’d be able to go shopping the next weekend.

That was on Fri.

On Mon we discovered the wrapper of a Lindt chocolate block on her desk. She’d stolen it from the pantry on Sunday and eaten the whole thing Sunday-Monday!

We sat her down and had a long chat, she admitted she’d stolen money and things from the pantry before… She doesn’t know why she does it.

What should I do?

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  • What a problem. I do hope you are on top of this by now. it must be so concerning as you know that as they get older and out in the World away from home that others wont be as forgiving as their loved ones. I hope it all worked out for you.

  • I have a (foster) daughter who is officially diagnosed with Kleptomania, but would be careful to call her a kleptomaniac; she is not her diagnosis.
    Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder, whereby often anxiety lays behind the behaviour. The frontal lobe is known for controlling impulses. If there are changes in it, you may be at risk for impulse control issues. ICDs may also be related to a group of what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) calls disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders.
    The diagnosis can only be made by a clinical psychologist or a clinician.
    I would suggest to seek psychological help.

  • Hi, If you haven’t yet, I’d suggest getting some help with an organisation that deals with children and offers counselling. It sounds like there is something bigger going on for her.

  • Hi mama! Just wondering if you’ve been able to resolve your issue with your 11 year old? Now while I have no experience in this area I can give you some advice as to what I would do personally. I’m a mother of two girls and the last thing you want to think about is them stealing – it happens though unfortunately and know you are not the only parent to go through it. While my daughters are quite young 18 months and 5 turning 6 I’m constantly thinking about the future and what they will be like as teenagers and it scares me (as good as they are!) If you feel like you cannot get through to your daughter do you have another family member that might? Or is extremely close to her? I didn’t always want to open up to my parents when I was a teenager but I had two older sisters I could go to. Do you know your daughters friends? These days who your child is around really makes an impact on them – what they’re doing she will want to do. Now personally if I were in your position I would be driving my daughter to the closest police station to let them talk to her – trust me they have a good approach on these situations especially since your daughter is so young. And as forward as this might sound I would be telling my daughter the cold hard truth about the consequences of stealing – she will end up with a record she has for life and it doesn’t go away, she will be arrested and charged. I remember in high school two of my friends stole clothes from a clothing store (I didn’t steal a single item but knew what they were doing and was with them) they got caught – and yep I was arrested and handcuffed at 14. Now I ended up with no charges but my friends did. I remember them putting handcuffs on me and shoving me in the back of a police van after me telling them I didn’t steal anything. I was SO ASHAMED! I had to walk through a shopping centre with people staring and talking about me it was horrible. Not only that I was interviewed at the police station for hours and had to sit in a room by myself without my parents. As I said I wasn’t the one who stole anything but the shame that came with placing hand cuffs on me and having people watch is something I’ll never forget. Everyone knew at school the next day and my friends were named and shamed by everyone in our year level. I’m sure you’ve let your daughter know the consequences of stealing but let her know true stories, if she gets caught not every police officer will be nice (especially these days with the amount of stealing that happens) let her know it’s a criminal offence and she will get a record if it continues. People won’t want to hire here if she has any sort of history with stealing and that could potentially ruin any job opportunity that comes up for her. But also have a calm approach you want to be clear and stern with her. Another idea is to speak to the school and get them to organise a police officer to come out and talk to the children about stealing and the consequences that come with it. Maybe spend some one on one time with her and take her out to do something she loves and try to get to the root cause of this issue. Tell her she won’t be judged for what she opens up about and that you are there to listen and help her through it all. You still have time to set rules and boundaries with her now so don’t think it’s too late. Keep a close eye on who she interacts with also and give her as much support as possible because after all she’s only 11! I would love to hear your outcome on this situation. All the best!

  • How is it going now ? My 8yr is officially diagnosed with Kleptomania. We have psychologist, pediatrician and since short also psychiatrist in consult. We consider to place her on a therapeutic school (Redbank school or Arndell school from Coral Tree services her in Sydney).

  • Do think you should first look for some underlying reason of a change in your household – she is leaving clues for you to find about her stealing. She has admitted it to you, sow what has changed in your household. If you honestly can find no reason, then you need to call in help – the police won’t help here as she knows there is a problem and is calling out for help. Find a good psychoanalyst.

  • If she won’t listen or start behaving with the discipline younwre giving her as harsh as this may be take her to the police station and get them to give her a stern warning on what could happen if she continues to steal things. We had to do this to my stepson and he has finally stopped stealing now.

  • Take her to police & explain & they give kids a big scare.

  • Perhaps try counselling and see if there are unresolved underlying issues.

  • I feel for you! This isn’t an easy question to answer but i think that everyone’s responses are right on the money (pardon the pun) I’d do all of it because as they’ve all said she has definitely got a few things going on that need to be addressed and each of those suggestions will address these issues and help any possible future occurrences from happening or from more serious mental health issues arising from these behaviours. It needs to be a holistic approach so use the “hang time” that’s something we all should do anyway with or without problems as it’ll bring u closer together and the police too while she’s still young enough to be intimidated and scared by them before she gets too cocky if not addressed quickly, keep up the boundaries and stick to yr word no matter what, i know it’s hard i can barely do it myself lol but just do yr best as that’s all we can do and ask of ourselves. Get some counselling for her with your support but you might want to ask around to get a good one as someone said earlier that you don’t want her running rings around them and wasting precious time u need a savvy psych. Don’t be afraid to go to parenting workshops they can be a great wealth of information and tips that you’ll be needing i think for now and in the future. She needs to be held accountable so you need to figure out what will work for you and your daughter and be strong. You’re not alone in this, believe me, and i admire you for saying it out loud as a lot of people would be too ashamed or embarrassed to even consider putting that out there so cudos to u! You’re doing the right thing and be sure to lean on those close to u for support that’s what friends and family are there for. I think i’ve rambled on enough but i hope some of it helps and i hope i covered what everyone was advising u to do because all of it was gold. Just wrap it up into one big bundle of supplies and get to work hun! It’s not an easy road ahead but i have faith that u and your precious daughter will get through this and come out the other end better for it. GOOD LUCK.

  • What’s going on in your daughter’s life that has changed or is about to change? The stealing is likely to meet a psychological need that is not being met. You might need to think laterally and accept that YOU might be at fault for something (take constructive criticism from yourself to help your daughter).

    So, consider… Job change, house move, school change, bullying, new sibling, losing sibling, family not living in the home changes, hunger, boredom, peer pressure.

    You’ve got over a huge hurdle by your daughter admitting she’s done it, and done it in the past. That honesty is commendable.

    Instead of grounding her consider joining her in a collaborative task. Set the time limit that YOU can deal with, it might be 20-30 mins per day/session and multiple days/sessions. BUT … The reason behind this is TOGETHER TIME, not necessarily about the task. You don’t have to tell her your strategy at first but the aim is to get you both talking and spending time together. It will set you up for the rougher teenage years too. I like to call it “hang time”. It could be she chops veg while you wash up. Good life skills all around.

    It will probably pass as she matures and learns a different coping strategy. When it becomes a bigger issue is when adrenaline is involved and she’s doing it with friends. That rush might be hard to compete with

  • I’m guessing there is something else going on with this young girl. As a primary schooler, I used to take coin from my Mum’s wallet and walk on my own to the milk bar to buy lollies, ice-cream, chips… and eat it all before I got home. It’s only now through therapy that I’m trying to figure out why I did that. I was the third child and often unnoticed, except people always commented on my weight. Always. Not sure in hindsight what it means, but working on it. Keep talking to your daughter. I think there is something else going on.

  • This is the first time I’ve heard this, I have no advice but I wish you the best. I am sure you are doing an amazing job!

  • When she is a true kleptomaniac, grounding or getting angry is not going to help. It’ll make actually the behaviour worse ! Sounds maybe strange, but best is a neutral response and not an overload of attention of the behaviour.
    My 8yr old is diagnosed with kleptomania in the context of a Reactive Attachment Disorder.
    I would suggest get psycholical help. Go to your Gp to get a referral. The Gp will then make a Mental Health plan on which Medicare will partly cover the costs for psychological help.

  • She’s not a Kleptomaniac. She is acting out. Normal behavior at her age. She clearly feels misunderstood and it’s time for some long talks and perhaps new friends?

  • This is way beyond normal teenage behaviour & it is going to take more than just grounding her.
    I am a tough love single Mum to 2 boys & if it were either of my children doing this I would contact the local Police & ask them if they could “talk” to them & show them the jail where criminals are locked up. The Police will be more than willing to help you so ask them how they have handled this sort of thing in the past & would they be willing to go along with a tough love talk/action. I would march her down to the cops & show her where she could end up if she continues to steal because the day will come when she steals from the wrong person & is caught, the Police are involved for REAL.
    A counselor might be able to help but it sounds like she is pretty savvy about the whole situation & will probably just say the right words to them so it seems like she is going to stop stealing.
    If you do nothing more than grounding she will become even bolder & progress to something more serious & end up in jail for it.

  • Definitely a bigger issue than just grounding her! You need to sit her down and asks why she is doing it!

  • I’d seek professional advice it could be a very good opportunity to deal with her device addiction too.

  • She is eleven, she knows right from wrong. She was getting a reward from stealing, even leaving the wrapper to be found. This has continued, she gets a bugger buzz each time. It is like a person at a Poker Machine. Adults who gamble will say they don’t want to they know they can’t afford to but the buzz they get from that intermittent reward, is why they return to the Poker Machine.
    I would suggest, you get her an appointment ASAP with a Child Psychologist, both parents present near, perhaps in a waiting room. Once your child feels comfortable, her story will unfold. Work with the therapist for as long as is needed.

  • I would do the hard stance and take her down to the police station. Obviously ring the police before hand and state what is going on (without her knowing that you have already talked to them) and they can give her a very stern talking to. Hopefully it will scare the beejesus out of her and she won’t do it again.

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