Recently I've had an issue with a family member stealing from our house...
My MIL lives in a house with four apartments in it- she's on the main floor, and her cousin, his wife, and their three kids (5, 9, 11) live in the attic. Recently her cousin and his wife have been going through some marital issues.. I don't know how much the kids know, but I know it's got to be hard on them.
Anyways, we recently had two gatherings at our house- Christmas, and my DDs birthday (the 22nd). On Christmas, my DDs got a few Playmobil sets. Once all of the guests left, it became apparent that all of the Playmobil people (seven of them!) plus an ambulance stretcher were missing. MIL was still over and we searched high and low. MIL swore she knew it was the 11yo girl cousin. Let's call her J. Apparently J has taken toys from my MIL's mom (she cares for a child). MIL's mom lives upstairs from MIL, downstairs from the 11yo. I also found out that J frequently writes on walls and things like that. She once wrote her dad's name on my DDs brand new bike. Anywho, MIL swore that she'd "open an investigation" and return the people safely home.
The next day, after catching wind of the open investigation, J came downstairs and returned six playmobil people to my MIL. She alleged that a little boy who was also at our house for Christmas "put them in her stocking by mistake". No. Her stocking was hanging on my mantle when this little boy went home. And he's 2. He didn't do it. MIL thanked her. MIL doesn't want to stir the pot. We let it be..
Then today happened. MIL watches the kids whileDH and I work. When we got to the house to pick the kids up, we found out that they were all with MIL playing upstairs at J's house. When they opened the door, my 5yo was holding the big rainbow playsilk my 3yo got for her birthday- on the 22nd. [[[I hadn't seen the playsilk since they unwrapped it at their party. We searched high and low. I thought DD misplaced it. She swore she didn't and had been beside herself- it meant a lot to her.]]] My 5yo DD told me, "J said I left this here... but I never brought it here!" and when i asked her where she found it, she told me that it was hidden in the back of J's desk drawer.
This 11 year old girl stole from my house on two separate occasions- she first knowingly stole my 3yo's birthday present, and then stole the playmobil stuff. And she's still holding one playmobil figure AND the little stretcher for the ambulance hostage.
We haven't really discussed this with my 5yo- but she has an inkling that J stole her stuff. How the heck can I explain this to my DD?!
No one wants me to talk to J's parents. I get it. It's not a good time. But supposedly it will cause a ton of family turmoil and drama. And they might deny it because of their pride. But it worries me- what if J is stealing for attention? What if she steals my 3 month old's bottle from MILs house for the attention? Her formula? What if she steals shoes, something of importance? I told my MIL that she's only going to get older and start stealing more expensive things. No one will listen.
Also, this must be more than a cry for attention, because she has always kind of acted out. When she was little she used to pinch people. Then she started writing on other people's walls. Belongings. Hurting people and blaming other kids. I just don't know what's up. Her parents were in a very strong relationship and their family was very close knit- her antics have been going on since long before their marriage trouble.
So WWYD. Bite the bullet? And what do I tell my kids?! I'm losing sleep.
I would sit down with the parents and J and let them know that J has been stealing. I don't think that a family 'situation' is a reason to steal. I don't think it is a reason to look the other way either.
I wouldn't invite them back for a long time and then I would make a point of watching closely.
aaah windy - its been a while since i've seen a post from you. Congratulations on the new wee one. an UC too. how cool.
so glad you no longer live in one of those apts.
but yeah i'd say too - that you have to bite the bullet and talk to the parents. this is some deep issues that i dont think you yourself can handle.
i am not sure how you could restrict her stealing from your MIL's house.
plus you also have to accept that their parents might not do anything. 11 is a hard age and its going to get worse.
that poor niece of yours needs help.
your 5 year old? tell her her cousin has some form of sickness and she cant help but steal.
but stealing the baby's bottle? or the formula. perhaps that is being a little too fearful. has she taken anything like that that would make you fear she would take something like that? are you sure in ur freakout mode you are not being illogical?
though I did find out today that J has stolen peoples things and thrown them away... no idea why. one girl cousin visits from out of state every summer. two summers ago J threw out her bathing suit. last summer J threw out half of her bathing suit as well as her shoes. MIL said her parents brushed it off.
The next time the girl is in your home I would say "Last time you were here several of our things went missing so today you need to stay where I can see you. If you need to use the bathroom your mother will need to go in with you." If you think it will be a problem with the parents tell them when you invite them that these are the conditions they need to reinforce if they would like to take you up on the invitation. She may be crying out for attention or she may be doing whatever she wants to do because she can do it without any repercussions and kids like doing what they want to do. It sucks that her parents are having a hard time but they are still her parents and if they are in denial it will be easier to get them out of it if they know about each of the incidents as they happen.
It's totally a cry for attention. Both of my kids went through a stealing phase during my divorce. The explanation from psychologists is that they do it to help fill a void in their hearts. Kind of sad. That said, you can't just accept it and let the kid continue to steal from you. I agree with what a previous poster said - supervised play time. Very supervised. And have your kids put away their very special toys "just in case."
I had a cousin who was a cleptomaniac, growing up. Hopefully they can take care of this issue before it becomes a life for her. My cousin (who would steal everything from a monogrammed ring which clearly she had no use for, to an electronic "dear diary" style toy that she didn't have a password for) has only gotten worse with age. She's in her late 20s with two kids of her own, now. And steals money out of our purses (my grandmother made it a policy to lock all of our purses in her bedroom to protect us), steals clothing from our suitcases, and even stole my grandmother's wedding rings after she passed away this past year. =( If the parents don't help her through this, it won't go away.
It is sad, but it's also sad for your kids when their stuff goes missing or is vandalized.
I'd stop having her over and I'd be honest about it. Take a deep breath and say it - I'm sorry, she/you can't play here because she/you steal from my kids. I'm sure it's just a phase and I'll be glad when it's over, but it's not fair to my kids and it's not fair to her to pretend it's not happening. She needs help with this but I am not the person for the job.