Nine year old stealing without remorse

Q: I googled what to do if your 9 year old daughter steals from someone and shows no remorse and stumbled upon your blog. I was touched by the compassion you showed when you answered the question, since most of the other sites I had visited went from one extreme to another showing little regard for the child and the "why".

I have been fairly ill off and on since my daughter was born. I have issues myself from childhood and know I do not give her the attention she needs. I am wondering if you think this could be the reason she stole a Nintendo, which she already owns two of, and threw it in the lake behind our house.

I am so disappointed in her. She lied to me for over a week. I am at a loss as to how to deal with this and what kind of punishment to give her. My husband and I are thinking that she should have to give the little boy her own Nintendo to replace the one she stole and ruined.

I am finding it very difficult not to be extremely angry with her and I don't want to talk to her or even look at her because I am so ashamed and disappointed. If you can offer some advice, I would be so much more than appreciative. Thank you for your time on this matter...

-Frustrated Mother
(this question was edited)

A: Bless your heart for trying to get to the bottom of what is going on with your daughter, even while you are already stretched thin dealing with your own health issues!

Of course you are feeling ashamed and disappointed - that's SO normal for a parent to be feeling in this situation. And at one time or another, every parent will face the reality that they simply cannot be or give their children every single thing they need at the exact moment they need it. It's inevitable, because parents are only human, and we have our own limitations and needs to deal with. So please don't feel guilty or like you 'caused' this behavior. It may help to instead look at it as a signal that there's an opportunity to connect.

When strong feelings like the ones you describe come up for us as parents, it can really help to find someone to vent to - someone who will not criticize or chastise or try to fix the situation for us, but just simply listen while we pour out our frustration and candidly express the things we feel but would never dare or want to say to our children. Clearing all that out with a supportive listener who won't judge us can help us to feel our love for our child again.

I'm not sure if you read through all the comments that followed that post, but in there you may find that you are definitely not alone in this parenting situation. Here's the link in case you'd like to read them:

In those comments you will also find some links and resources that may be helpful, especially this one:

I highly recommend all the articles on the Hand In Hand site for helping parents to understand what's underlying their children's behaviors.

All that being said, after you've followed the advice in those articles and have helped your daughter to release some of those strong feelings that are causing her to act out, it may feel like she's ready to talk about how she can make amends to the person whose Nintendo she stole.

It would probably be good to elicit her ideas and brainstorm it together, using questions like, "Well, let's see, what do you think might make him feel better about this? What do you think he might need to put this behind him? What would help him feel peaceful inside when he looks at you instead of hurt and angry?" The tone of these questions should be neutral, not instructive or lecturing. You'll be inquiring with genuine curiosity, exploring the possibilities together.

Keep an open mind to her suggestions, and make a few of your own, while still holding her gently accountable for the full value of the Nintendo. If she makes a suggestion that is too small in scale, like, "I will give him a quarter," try responding with something like, "That's a great start honey! And it will cost about $100 to replace his Nintendo, so what else can you think of that will get you up to that amount?" If you know the boy and his family, you might even call him and offer him a few options to see what works best for him.

Here are some other posts that may also be relevant:

I wish you all the best on your undertaking of this project to help your daughter unload the feelings that are keeping her from being her sweet self. Do check out more of the articles on the Hand in Hand site if you resonate with their approach -- I think you'll find a lot of helpful and concrete suggestions there.

I hope this helps! Please keep in touch if you'd like and let us know how things turn out.


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