Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: "I drove through there once!", NV
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Cancelling the party is pretty extreme. That's something she'll likely remember negatively for the rest of her life, and not in a "I learned my lesson" way.
I agree with you that she probably has no clue how expensive phones are (she's probably even seen ads for them as "free with contract"), nor how much personal value they can hold (photos, information, and things like that), so reacting as you would if she were older isn't really developmentally appropriate. I'm sure she knew that it was different from picking up a quarter off the ground (her reaction of trying to get rid of it says that), but I suspect she sees it as more in line with stealing a toy - she knew it was something that wasn't hers that someone would want back.
Kids do this stuff. I did "find" a toy I wanted when I was a kid. The experience of feeling guilty about it and getting caught was enough to deter me from doing it again. I can't even remember the punishment, if there was one.
Also, a perceived disproportionate reaction may make her feel that she is the one being wronged, and undermine your point.
So, since this seems to be the first time she's done something like this, I'd react as I would if she'd taken something of less consequence. Restriction from electronics sounds reasonable. If it happened again, I'd do something more.
DS born 6/03, DD1 born 9/06, DD2 born 10/10, DD3 born 4/14.