Subject: teenage lying and stealing
Question: I have 2 teenage girls, one being 17 and the other being 13. They do not get along, the oldest wanting nothing to do with the younger, as it seems there is a constant competition between the two. The 13 year old has been caught lying about several different issues, school work being completed, actions she has taken that are not appropriate. She has once been caught stealing money from someone she is babysitting for, she breaks into her sisters bedroom helping herself to whatever it is she feels she needs at the time.
She helps herself to anything she wants while my husband and I are working. She constantly lies with a straight face about things she has taken or actions she has done. I have been faced lately with teachers from school calling me to advise that she has not been completing assignments at school on time. When asked about whether or not Sher homework is completed daily, her response is yes. She is very witty and is very sociable with others, even adults enjoy her company, she always did well in school in the past, but constantly lies, it seems, in every aspect of her life and continually pushes the limits to suit her needs at the time.
We, as parents, have grounded her, taken things of importance away, discussed the issues surrounding stealing and lying, but nothing seems bother her enough to make the changes she needs to make. Both my husband and myself work full time, but are constantly on guard as to the well being of our children. There are no marriage issues they may affect her, she has been brought up in stable environment. I am a very affectionate mother and have no issues in telling my children what they mean to me. I would like some advise as to how to make her realize the importance of being truthful to others and how she looses trust with others every time she lies or steals, before this becomes a bigger issue as she grows.
Answer: Dear Brenda:
You said she has done well in the past. So this behavior is new. Something has happened. Children do not just go bad.
There are so many things I could discuss here. The possibility of someone abusing her (at school or somewhere else), the possibility that she maybe into drugs and/or alcohol, the possibilities are endless. I cannot make assumptions from what you have written here. Sometimes it is as simple as giving to much to children.
Regardless of what happened I strongly suggest family counseling. Run to a local family therapist and start working on what is going on here. Don't be afraid as it is not about laying blame it is all about getting her back on track before she becomes an adult.
As for taking things away. Punishment rarely works on children who are already showing a complete lack of respect for others. I strongly suggest setting up a behavioral modification system. Find out what she wants, what her values are and then go from there. She needs to EARN privileges. TV, radio, cell phone, cable, time out with friends etc...are all privileges not RIGHTS. A child has the right to expect their parents will provide a roof over their heads, food on the table, an education the basics. They do not have a right to time out with friends, extra money in their pockets, cable TV, computers, cell phones etc....(Not saying you do this just seems to be the norm these days). The problem with just giving to children is they soon learn there is no reason to act in an appropriate manner. If you feel mean realize your boss would not pay you if you behaved badly by stealing. She needs to get this figured out before she has to go out into the world.
Also realize it is easy to become negatively engaged with a child who acts out. Try and make sure you have plenty of positive interaction with her praising behaviors you want from her. Build on her strengths and you will find you will get through this!
M Kay Keller