WWYD – Child Is Stealing

I received this letter from a reader this morning – your input, dear reader, will be much appreciated. This letter was only edited for spelling.

Hi Hadassah,

You don’t know me, but I’ve been a fan of you and your blog for many months now, and now when I have a problem I thought maybe you and your readers could give advice. It’s a problem that kept me up this Friday night, and I don’t know whether I’m over reacting. Please feel free to edit/cut/delete.

I have 4 children, aged from 11 to 17, all with different personalities and needs (I’ll call them child1 (oldest) to child4).

Child3 is very talented at science, and goes to extra classes once a week in the evening after school. Child3 also needs a lot of sleep and finds it difficult to concentrate, so I give her a small bar of chocolate to help her get through the evening. The classes are very difficult but it means that she can start a degree during the last few years of high school if she wants.

About a few weeks ago I saw some chocolate bars on sale, and bought enough to last her for a month. I put the bag on a table in the house, and after a day or two discovered the bag had disappeared. No-one admitted to taking it. My elderly father was visiting us for a week at the time and he has a sweet tooth so I thought maybe he took it but I don’t think he would do that and of course I didn’t want to embarrass him by saying anything.

Child3 buys some cookies and puts them in her bedside drawer (she shares with child4). Child2 sees her eating one. A day or two later Child3 discovers that she has less cookies than before.

Seeing that the chocolate bars disappeared, I bought more and this time didn’t put them on the table but put them in child3′s drawer. Later we see that instead of 4 there are only two. Again I buy another few to last to the end of year, and again they disappear. A few days ago I entered Child2′s bedroom and see what I immediately recognize as chocolate stains on the sheet next to the pillow. Since Child1 and Child4 had been eating bread and chocolate spread I immediately jumped to conclusions but Child2 said she had no idea what the stains were and didn’t know how they got there. A day later the stains were gone.

Child1 is always looking for something to eat, but buys with his money. If he buys on credit from the local store he always tells me and pays me. Child 2 is trying to lose weight, so in theory won’t eat fattening things. This said, she isn’t losing weight. Child4 gets on very well with Child3, and also buys snacks for herself with pocket money.

My problem is this: Obviously I suspect Child2, but when asked she gets very emotional and hurt that we always suspect her. Child3 caught her looking in her drawer, but she said she was only looking for her deodorant which had disappeared! Why didn’t she look for her sister to ask her? How can I get her to admit the truth? It may be only chocolate, but it’s a slippery slope when you start doing something wrong, and suspicions grow.

Child2 never had enough money to go out with her sister and friends to the movies, and marveled that her sister could, while also buying lots of other items. Now I’m thinking that she has been taking money from us, bit by bit, or also from her siblings. No-one keeps a close check on how much they have (there was no need).

I would love proof of who is doing the stealing, and to know if it involves money as well. Can this be done without the knowledge of anyone but me? I’ve told Child3 that until we know I suspect all 3 siblings equally but she has her suspicions.

I hate think that a child of mine is a thief. I don’t know who it is, what they have been stealing, how to find out who it is, if I need to know who it is, and how to deal with it or if to ignore it. Lots of questions and no answers.

Motherof4

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14 Comments

  1. David says:

    Buy a cheap motion alarm, put in drawer with chocolate.

  2. batya from NJ says:

    Child may benefit from talking to a therapist to figure out why she feels the need to steal the food…it may not be about hunger or it may be due to feelings of deprivation that this child is feeling b/c s/he know that s/he needs to lose weight & is resentful…

    • lady lock and load says:

      My exact thoughts. Something going on here. She is at the age where it is common for eating disorders to develope. Would be good to address this before it becomes serious.

  3. kisarita says:

    I’m a little confused as to the details.
    are huge amounts of chocolate disappearing? if so I would suspect an eating disorder, bulimia.

    If only a bit of chocolate now and then, what’s the big deal? I wouldn’t even call it thievery. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. You mean youve never sneaked the last spoonful of ice cream or something like that?

  4. Rainy says:

    It isn’t about the stealing. Whatever child it is needs to talk to someone, a counselor, about the underlying issues. There’s something going on that’s prompting the behavior. Think of it as an iceberg. The stealing is what you can see- just a fraction. The pain under the surface is much larger and more dangerous.

  5. OTD says:

    The child stealing something says at least as much about the parent as it does about the child. Both should get to therapy ASAP.

  6. Miriam Shenny says:

    Ths sounds to be huge issues not being dealt with or brushed under the carpet.This child needs help and support and is his way of crying out for help. Please get the help or it will turn into much larger problems. Hatzlacha

  7. how do you know it’s not child 4? Or child 3, sneaking extra chocolate when it’s not one of those school nights and blaming it on child 2? Are you sure it isn’t your husband either?

    anyways, stealing some chocolate from your siblings doesn’t sounds like MAJOR ISSUES OH NOES to me. Although my little brother used to steal food/candy from other people in the house all the time, and now he has type 2 diabetes…

  8. I don’t think the issue is the missing chocolate, it’s that someone is lying about it and possibly framing another sibling. That would upset me more than sneaking food.

    I would sit all the kids down and talk to them about the issue. Let them know how it makes you feel, how suspicion affects the entire household and will affect your trust in each of the kids over all. I mean, if you can’t trust your kid to leave the chocolate alone, what else can you not trust them with?

    After that I would say that you expect whoever has been stealing to find a quiet moment with you and confess. Promise you won’t get angry and mean it. After a cooling off period, you two can talk about what’s going on in private and then figure out where to go from there. If no one does fess up, find a way to ground all of them or take away an outing or some such.

    Good Luck.

  9. motherof4 says:

    I am the mother in question, and thank you all for your input. It has clarified the issue for me and now I see that there are two problems – a possible eating disorder and a child who is stealing from his sibling and lying about it.

    Most of you come up with the therapy idea which we have been thinking about it for years but it is very expensive (we are barely finishing the month financially) and she is a girl who finds it difficult to open up to strangers. It would need a great leap of faith to pay so much money for something that may not work. At the moment I am the one she speaks to most and I listen to her and do my best to help. She is trying to lose weight (20 lbs) but lack of self control make it difficult so with her agreement I am pushing her to do sport every day. It’s started to work. She is also the prettiest in the family, knows all the dangers of anorexia and bulimia and I doubt she would go down that path. And just to make it clear – I love this girl with all my heart, and it hurts me to see her hurting and not being able to help.

    As regards the other issue, I think stealing and lying is unacceptable. It is not something I have ever dwelt on before because the issue never arose. I do not consider taking food from the kitchen to be stealing, but taking something from a siblings drawer is, whether it is food or anything else definitely is. Among the items taken were those that had been purchased with their own babysitting money. Obviously I have spoken to all the children, and of course they all deny it. On the whole I think it is preferable to have suspicions and no proof than to accuse someone unjustly. On a practical level I think to give each child a box with a key where they can keep personal belongings (money, diary, chocolate!).

    One comment was not understood, “The child stealing something says at least as much about the parent as it does about the child. Both should get to therapy ASAP”. I have no problem about therapy (if we had the money I’d love to go), but the first part – what does this say about the parent? In my opinion parents have the difficult task of teaching their children how to behave in life, but at a certain age they go their own way and don’t always follow the guidelines we try and provide.

    I like to give a big thank you to you all for your insightful comments.

    • Chanief says:

      Something else to consider…

      Is it possible that the child suspected of stealing is jealous of child 3 and the attention she is receiving for being so smart? I’m sure you’re very proud of her and her aptitude for science, child 2 might see your pride as a preference for child 3.

      In addition, if the children are using their pocket money to buy extra snacks but child 3 is receiving chocolate bars from you (not having to buy them with her own money,) that might play into jealousy. Jealousy in turn would lead to her feeling badly about herself, and combined with trying to lose weight but lacking self control, it seems like she could be at risk potentially for, as previous comments suggested, an eating disorder or other serious issues.

      As far as therapy is concerned, I highly suggest you look around your community for help. There are many places that offer services on a sliding scale where your financial situation would be taken into account and the fees discounted appropriately. Please don’t dismiss it offhand for lack of funds, there has to be a way to get the help for what is a small issue now but has the potential for greater damage.

      Good luck!!!!

      • RubyV says:

        In my community, Jewish Family Services has counseling available, on a slidling scale, and are very flexible. When my family was in crisis a few years ago due to multiple medical things taking place, they provided me with counseling. Please give it a try. I was referred to them by my Rabbi. Most shuls are used to making referrals.

    • OTD says:

      Sorry if I was a bit harsh. I also commend you for discussing this in the open; it can’t be easy. I guess I was just trying to say that Child 2 may be stealing candy, but it’s probably because of other issues such as perceived neglect by parents, jealousy, anger at her situation, and possibly body image. What she needs is a whole lot more TLC, whether or not she takes chocolate.

      BTW, I’m not a big fan of therapy myself, mostly because of the exorbitant cost. But it’s crucially important to seek advice of trusted friends etc in trying to minimize blind spots in our relationships.

  10. Saul Davis says:

    Therapy could be a case of killing a fly with a sledgehammer. Therapy sends the message: “you have a big problem”. Mother (and Father) of 4 must talk about this together and then with the child. Bezrat Hashem it will get sorted out easily.

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