My daughter has escalated the lying to stealing…Now What?

Dear Coach Richie: My daughter has escalated the lying to stealing. Please help. My son and I share a birthday. Of course he gets all the attention- as it should be. So from my parents and in laws I got cash for new dress shoes as I was an afterthought.
A day or two ago I noticed some of it missing – $150 if the $300. We looked around and couldn’t find it. It was fairly open – I’m trusting – and I realized one of the kids from the bday party could have taken it. I was chalking it up as a learning experience.
My wife to “be certain” asked both kids point blank today. Both denied it.
….then we get a call from the school asking if we really have my daughter $150 in $50’s for the school book fair. So she both stole it and lied to us. She’ll be 8 in Nov.
And honestly, she lies pretty often as it is.
Any advice how to handle this? This behavior needs to stop, but I’m worried that if we come down super hard on her she’ll grow up with a “they don’t trust me anyways, I may as well” attitude.

Coach Richie: My kids denied everything as well. Our children’s first instincts are to lie. Who left the empty milk container in the fridge? The dog?. The lying comes with parenting. Part of the game. First thing I would try to figure out is what is going on in the house that would cause her to act out and draw attention to herself. Sometimes children do things because they are not being heard or because there is some trouble in the house that they don’t understand and one way they believe they can remedy it is to have the focus be drawn onto them (I see this typically when parents are constantly arguing). Since she shares a birthday with her brother, could he possibly be getting more attention than her? Have you had a check in with him to see what was going on. If it was me. I would do a family meeting (but never in the house as the children don’t see this is a safe place, peer influences they get from their friends) what do they like to do or eat and take them there. Then casually bring up the missing cash and you and your wife could blame each other and see if that goes anywhere. What was the money for? Maybe play a guilt card in front of them. You could also be sincere and ask them what they need and listen to what they say. One thing I wouldn’t do is use harsh language that will push them away. That will create a very bad environment when they reach their teens. This point in their young lives you need to be resourceful and find ways to become their friends. Because right now they are being influenced by their friends and outside factors. You have small window of opportunity to reconnect with them before it is too late. (they turn 13 years old) that is when real trouble starts. In the end it is not really about the money or the lying. it is about finding a way to become their friend and connect with them so they don’t create chaos in order to be heard or get attention. We can love them or control them but we can’t do both. Hope you find something useful here. All my love and support on your parenting journey. Richie

Response: The lack of attention is a concern for most now as it rings the most true. She has very few things she enjoys doing and we’ve cut out the destructive negative ones.

Coach Richie Follow Up: You are heading in the right direction. Attention is usually one of the top ones especially at her age. Some more questions. What did she like to do before? I had some similar issues with my boy’s at that age. We started do family’s dinners (technology free) and spend some time listening to what they have to say. I also found it helpful to share some of the challenges I had when I was there age. It helps build rapport with them and identify with us. Our children usually view us as the God’s of perfection and if they see us in a different light it could possibly help you get the shift you to address her needs. Have you sat down with her and asked her if she could do anything in the world, what would that be? Or you guys could start by saying if i could do anything I wanted to in life i would do x. Then throw it out for discussion. hope this helps. have an amazing day. 

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