Hi, I read the article about the family dealing with their two daughters stealing and we are in a similar situation, but the only thing is that, while we have gone through similar experiences, our daughter (14-years-old) has never been caught and denies that she has been stealing (we have been contacted by her school homegroup teacher that she has been accused of stealing even though it can’t be proven). There are other issues going on, we believe, and we have been praying for wisdom in how to tackle this. She suffers from low self-esteem even though she comes across as bubbly. Things are starting to change now as she can’t keep up the facade. She is very good at manipulating also and we are finding it difficult to hem her in. She knows that stealing is wrong and if she did ever steal – we would take her to the persons or shop to pay back and apologize. She has said that she doesn’t steal as she is too scared too, but we are unsure whether to believe her as she has taken money from my purse before and just does as she pleases. We have rules in the house and all of us abide by them except for her. eg. picking up after oneself, or not eating in the bedroom.
Some wise counsel would be welcome as we want to help her through this difficult time – she said that God doesn’t help and has decided to turn her back on Him.
What I noted as I read through your letter, is that you seem to make excuses for your daughter's bad behavior. You state that she has taken money from your purse, but simultaneously state that she hasn't been caught stealing. You state that you have rules in your house, but you state that you don't enforce those rules when it comes to your daughter. And if anything is left out of the mix; well, there is always the low self-esteem excuse.
Self-esteem is just another phrase for pride. She might lack some confidence in herself, but you describe a young woman who is quite prideful, and who believes the rules and regulations in the rest of the world don't apply to her.
Children often go to the limits a parent sets for them. For example, I would hope that while she is still a minor in your home that she is still expected to attend worship and Bible classes, whether she claims to believe in God or not. She is at the age when she doesn't think through to see the consequences of her actions. Until she gets to that age, it is the parent's responsibility to protect her from herself by clearly stating the limits regarding what she can and cannot do -- and then see that those limits are kept. Yes, she'll scream, holler, and moan that you're the worse parents who ever raised a child. That just comes with the territory.
You can't revise the past, but you can make changes regarding the future. First, stop making excuses or avoiding confrontations. If you have a rule that eating is not allowed in the bedroom, then enforce the rule when it is broken. Have her clean up her room thoroughly and completely, to the exacting standard of a drill sergeant. If that doesn't sink in then add that she will be cleaning the kitchen every night for a week. If her room isn't picked up, tell her she isn't going out with her friends until after it is picked up to your satisfaction -- then she can go.
Second, let her know that bad reports from school aren't acceptable. You don't know if they are true or not since you weren't there, but life often isn't fair. For each bad report from school about her behavior, she will be spending that weekend grounded at home. But don't worry about being bored because you are going to have all sorts of chores lined up to keep her occupied.
Everything should be stated in a pleasant, no-nonsense, matter-of-fact way. No emotional hysterics on your part, no yelling or screaming, your daughter will do more than enough for both of you. Just ignore the drama and when it is time to enforce the rules, just quietly do so.