my 7 year old stole a phone... SHOCKED...what to do??! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 07-13-2014, 04:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Question my 7 year old stole a phone... SHOCKED...what to do??!

My almost 7 year old DD wants a phone really bad. We told her she will need to be older.
So we are in this place and a lady leaves her phone on the counter by accident. DD decides its ok to take it (for whatever reason) and puts in her purse and bring it home. I dont know all this. Somehow, she then decides to get rid of it (it was a bad idea? maybe she felt bad and wanted to make it go away? WHO KNOWS!) so she takes it outside and leaves it under a tree.
LUCKILY after a long story, the lady was able to locate her missing phone and found us. At first I could not believe what had happened - it sounded too crazy of a story. But finally it dawned on me that my child had actually taken this phone. DD was sick to her stomach when she was discovered.
I could not apologize enough and of course made DD apologize also. The lady is just happy to have her phone back, but for me... I'm in utter shock.
We are trying to figure out what to do in this situation and what an appropriate punishment is. To us, this is obviously an offense beyond imagination. To a child however perhaps picking up a lost quarter off the floor or picking up a phone are not too far apart? I have no idea. She is obviously sorry but I still do not know how I even raised this child and how can this be. She had a birthday party coming up that she has been looking forward to forever and we are thinking of canceling it as punishment. The logistics however involve that we cancel at the booked location, un-invite family/guests etc. We also want to remove privilege to all gadgets and TV for 2 weeks or however long. Is this appropriate punishment? How can we make sure she LEARNS that this is completely and appallingly wrong what she did? Is this even possible?
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#2 of 7 Old 07-13-2014, 05:38 PM
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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.
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DS born 6/03, DD1 born 9/06, DD2 born 10/10, DD3 born 4/14.
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#3 of 7 Old 07-13-2014, 06:18 PM
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I think canceling her party is very extreme, she felt remorse and guilt which is good and will probably prevent her from doing this again. Overreacting and making her feel sorry for herself by doing something so extreme and vengeful will take away from these feelings and change how she perceives her actions. I think you should stick to talking to her about the effects of stealing, tapping into her empathy by getting her to think about how she would feel if someone stole from her, and I'd go electronic free as much as possible as a family to lessen her strong desire for electronics.
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#4 of 7 Old 07-13-2014, 06:34 PM
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The fact that she was sick to her stomach once realizing the reality of it indicates that she knows she did something that is not acceptable. She feels awful over it. Punishing doesn't always teach, but talking about how her actions effected someone else may do more than taking away things. You might say... This woman may have had an emergency, or needed her phone to call her child and she did not have it. Perhaps this woman's dog had a very bad injury and she could not call her veterinarian....examples such as this that a seven year old could understand and relate to, thus seeing how her actions negatively affected someone else. This may do more to teach her than taking away a party as she may not link the two things, party and stealing the phone that easily, or when looking back on it in the future. Yet, if you personalize it, and make it more about how her actions affect others it may be more helpful in the long run, plus it keeps the communication open between you and your child.
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#5 of 7 Old 07-13-2014, 08:27 PM
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I think that if she threw up when she was caught that she has pretty much learned her lesson. I *hate* vomiting so that would be punishment enough for me!

Maybe a conversation about the value - both monetary and convenience/sentimental - of a phone would be worthwhile but her reaction was extreme enough that it seems like she already gets it to me. I would be very surprised if she did anything like it again. We can all make major errors of judgement given the perfect storm of circumstances. You've raised her well enough that she knew how serious it was without punishment.
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#6 of 7 Old 07-13-2014, 08:42 PM
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My take on this was to tell my kids if they wanted something bad enough to steal it to come and talk to me. I'd help them buy it and they could "work it off in chores". The thrill of stealing is strong for some kids but I wanted them to know that the wrong choice could literally "ruin their lives". Stealing is wrong and should be treated as a serious offense.
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#7 of 7 Old 07-17-2014, 05:59 AM
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My 5yo at the time stole a bracelet from a store. She knew it was wrong and she hid it. One of my other children pointed it out when we got to the car. I didn't want to punish her (I don't think punishing works because it does take away their feelings about what they did) so we saw a security guard standing outside of the store. I went and spoke to the guard and explained the situation. I went up with my daughter and he explained why stealing isn't ok. He was kind but firm. She hasn't done it since!
I would suggest not punishing her because it seems she learned her lesson but maybe have her write a letter to the person with the phone saying she is sorry. Or you guys could think of kind things you could do for people. Something that will stick with her. Canceling a party, she will focus on not having a party anymore. Not on what she did wrong.
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