My 11-year-old daughter is lying and stealing and I feel powerless.

My daughter is 11, and I have been having a very difficult time with her for the past few months. My husband works a lot and I feel like I am doing this on my own. She is an only child. She is lying about something everyday, from little white lies to more severe ones. She is sneaking food from the kitchen, taking stuff from our bedroom, or anywhere in the house, and then lying about where she got it. It just seems like whatever she wants, she takes. We no longer trust her. Things turn up in her room that I have never seen before, clothes, toys, electronics, makeup, jewelry, etc. and I wonder where they came from. Two days this week, she tells us she has to be to school an hour early so she can practice for a play, and then we find out, there is no play. What she has been doing, we have no idea. I ask her about it, but I get numerous varying stories, so I don’t know what to believe. She stole my cell phone for two days. I searched high and low for it, and she never confessed. We find out she has been using it to call boys until 1:00 AM, texting friends and the conversations and language we read was shocking. She was grounded for a week for this, but then a day after the grounding was over, we found my phone back in her room again. I try to give her positive reinforcement, tell her we love her and that we are there for her, but she keeps taking advantage of us. She is disobedient and refuses to follow the rules. I feel like I am at my wits’ end and she is not even a teenager yet. She is punished for bad behavior by taking away privileges like TV, video games, etc. but she doesn’t seem to care. It seems as if we have no currency. Tonight, for example, she had a temper tantrum because she wasn’t allowed to go to a birthday party (due to the lies earlier in the week about needing to be at school early). For two hours, she cried, threw things, stomped her feet, refused to go to her room to calm down. Tonight was worse than it has been in a while, and I tried to be calm, but inside I felt powerless. I worry that things are only going to get worse as she hits puberty and gets older. Please help! I know she is a good kid, I just don’t know where to go from here. I don’t want this lying, stealing and sneaking around to escalate.

You are likely in for a difficult patch. I would suggest you continue your firm approach and insure that you have some good times with her as well. It is very easy to get trapped into only negative interactions. Try not to get angry. Be firm.

On the control side I would suggest you inspect her room on a regular basis so that you will find everything she has taken. Remove everything that is not clearly hers. Don’t take excuses, if she cannot prove to you she has the right to have something, it is not hers and should be confiscated.

Ignore the temper tantrums and when she it is finished impose discipline.

Don’t give her the opportunity to take your things. Keep track of your money and your phone. Don’t put temptation in her way.

On the positive side, find something you can do with her that she likes. Not anything expensive but something you can share. You need to build the relationship between the two of you.

Notice her positive behavior. Let her know when she is behaving well without putting her down. Say: “You did a good job on your Social Studies project.”  Don’t say: “You cleaned up your room, why can’t you keep it clean all the time?”

Check to see how she is doing in school. Is there a problem there that is spilling over into her behavior at home?

In summary, be firm but not angry. Maintain your relationship with her.

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