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Kids, Stealing and Lying

Hezekiah, age 7.

{I am not going to use the names of the particular children in this post. My goal is always to maintain my children’s privacy, but it’s a topic I want to discuss…I will say, these incidents took place with my younger children, not the older ones. Also, keep in mind, these children are all six or older…old enough to know better.}

It has not been a good week over here in the Baker’s Dozen House….Let me share a bit with you.

A few weeks ago it was discovered that Child A had been taking gum from me. It became apparent when most of the brand new pack was gone. About the same time, we discovered this same child had also gotten into a stash of candy on an older child’s shelf…a sibling Child A doesn’t even share a room with (therefore, had no business being in the room in the first place). Monday night I took most of the kids to the store…and took Child A with the express purpose of buying gum and candy to replace what was stolen. I didn’t want to reward Child A in any way, so  I explained to this child that they would purchase nothing for themselves. Just the gum and candy they had taken. Mission accomplished, we returned home, the gum and candy were given to their rightful owners and the incident was forgotten. Or one would hope.

The very next morning, not 24 hours after the trip to the store, Child A was caught hiding with the diaper bag, sneaking out the very gum they had just replaced the night before…within a few hours, the child whose candy had been taken (and replaced) told me he was missing four pieces of gum. Child A was found chewing that very type of gum…but denied taking it. Saying they “found it out in the carport”. Fresh wrappers to this very type of gum were found in Child A’s backpack.

Child A later helped themselves to batteries for a game. I explained that Child A was welcome to the batteries, but I wanted the child to ask first. This child was not in trouble…I just wanted them to ask. I went so far as to have Child A practice asking, and I said yes, and the  batteries were given. Later that same day, I noticed different batteries (I knew because they were a different brand) in the game. Yes, Child A had taken new batteries…depsite being talked to/walking through the process only hours before…

Child B was caught sneaking candy from a sibling, while sitting next to this sibling on the couch. Child B sat close and maneuvered the pieces out while the sibling was reading…Child B never even asked for a piece, but simply chose to sneak some instead.

I  told Child B they would have to use their own money to replace the stolen candy. Later that day Child B came up and said, “It makes me sad to think about it. That I have to buy my sibling more candy”.

“Well,” I said, “how would you feel if your sibling took candy from you without asking?”

“Happy.” Child B responded. “Happy because they would have to buy me a whole box!


Yes, that was my head against the wall.

Later in the week, after a strategy meeting with Chuck, we decided to switch up the room arrangements. In the process of switching out rooms we found a handful of Children’s Tylenol wrappers under Child B’s bed. Imagine my shock, when I also found a pile of Children’s Tylenol wrappers under Child A’s bed…Yes, both have been sneaking and snacking on Tylenol (no worries, all medicine is now in a locked box).


At our strategy meeting Chuck and I also decided to buy combination safes for each of the older children where they can keep money, gum, etc…I don’t want them to feel that their items are unsafe in their own home.

Yes, it’s been a rough week over here…


  1. Elizabeth

    Yuck, not fun. All the insecurity from Apollo’s medical drama probably doesn’t help anything. My little brother is prone to sneaking things. His lying and stealing got so much better, but after our family moved and dealt with transition it got worse again. He also hordes like crazy. Silly things, like pieces of paper, totally consume him and he can’t stop collecting it. It’s bizarre to observe sometimes. Every time someone in the family gets really upset and tried to just “fix” whatever the behavior is it just makes him get more sneaky. It sounds like you do well at not reacting to behaviors. On the upside my brother can get to the point of very genuine remorse. He’s also come to me (big sisters sometimes are less intimidating than parents!) and confessed things he’s stolen. (That had not been discovered) That was very encouraging. I know the thing that kicks the gut most is when there is not genuine remorse, only manipulation. (and trying how to not get caught next time) Jesus, please minister to this family. You know all that is going on in minds and hearts. Bring healing, trust, and truth!

  2. radmama

    This type of behavior sounds so familiar. I know what you’re going through. I don’t have any answers, but I do know that you are not alone.

    I’ve got virtual callouses on my forehead too!

  3. Marty

    Thank you for your honesty. My family is relatively small (5 kids) compared to yours but three of mine are adopted and I know too well the signs, thought processes (or lack thereof) that you’re experiencing. It is maddening and often requires backward parenting (all 3 of mine have RAD) and about near made me insane. We are now on the up side as mine are older but it’s been a trying 12 years. What works today won’t work tomorrow. You know the drill. Thanks for sharing and still respecting your children’s privacy.

  4. Sandy

    Please share what you discover in terms of combination safes. We’ve run into the same problem in our household and had the same idea, but our search for combination safes has turned up only very expensive options (when you have to buy in multiples).

  5. Jessica

    I believe this happens in every home. My brother is 22 and still thinks its okay to take batteries and what not from my parents despite having a job and knowing it only angers my parents. I hope by providing your older children the locked safes, it prevents the younger ones from taking their belongings.

  6. liz

    My 6 yr old with ADHD/ODD sneaks stuff. in spurts. I think most of it is impulsive behavior…or at the very least the pre frontal cortex screwing with us in that he is ALWAYS is the moment and doesn’t forsee consequences. Alot of the times he doesn’t even eat the candy.

    The 4 yr old will sneak gum out of the stroller or a compartment in the car when strapping babies in car seats. With the 6yr old we tried all sorts of stuff…consequences and all….nothing helps/ed…we find it best now that this is a battle not worth spending copious amounts of time on with him at this age. We try and “plant the seed” as the Drs say… we let him know it’s wrong he stole the easter eggs out of his sister’s bag…up in the closet….etc…He acknowledges it’s wrong and does show remorse. He has severe issues however.

    With the 4 yr old who truly can control herself I once said “no gum for 4 days” after she took not one but three pieces and shoved them in her mouth and then lied and said it was just one piece after being given several chances to tell the whole truth and that cured her.:)

    The meds we have locked up in a cupboard with one of those magnet kits. tot lok it’s called.You install the magnet on the inside of the cabinet and then have the other magnet to open it on the outside..We did however lock the magnet inside once…not good as it is a VERY strong magnet and we needed to go to Babies R US to get an additional magnet. We do have to hide the magnet as said 6 yr old once unlocked it and got into nailpolish in there. i was so sick as he didn’t touch any meds. So now we keep the magnet in a coffee mug far away from the cabinet….

    Our house is like Fort Knox. My mother in law once got herself locked in a jack and jill bathroom as we have locks above..alarms on kids doors..some of the locks on opposite side of door of what you would expect..the other kids were taking a bath with my husband and grandpa in another room and she was yelling from the jack and jill with our 4 yr old..crazy..but a bit funny and typical of our home

  7. Dawn

    We have all kinds of things locked up around here. Our dd with RAD and FASD is always taking something. It drives us crazy at time. Her room always looks like a tornado hit it too so it is hard to find missing things.

  8. Katre Alva

    If you can’t find any reasonably priced safes, maybe improvise with metal tool boxes and combination locks? Ugh, our all too-human natures.

  9. dawnelle

    We bought a trunk for our oldest, from Container store, that uses any type of lock. I think it will be good for years- great for college someday, etc. Worth the $ and holds all her special things (and candy, and gum) Same problems going on here with 2 of the smaller kids, one in particular (we have 7, 4 adopted).

  10. Susan

    Same goes on here. My just turned 7 yr old is currently on a 3 day suspension for stealing an ipad from school. His then 9 yr old brother was suspended for stealing an ipod from school last year. Less that a week later, the then 10 yr old attempted to steal a gumball machine from the AR store by putting it under his coat. I just don’t get it. I get so angry. They too “know better”, or so I thought. Not only do they steal, but they lie like a rug when confronted. We have also resorted to foot locker plastic containers with pad locks. But do we do that forever? At some point shouldn’t they be able to control themselves? Ugg. I am so frustrated. Let us know if you find something that works!

    • liz

      we never had the big stuff as my son only went to a private Montessori pre school and some K and is now home schooled. He would at age 3 come home with “little treasures” in his backpack. “smelling work”…little thimbles that had different smells, rubber bands on his K things got a bit bigger like stuff that hung on the outside of backpacks. Again like I mentioned above he would just kinda hoard it….never really using it. He did take stuff out of lunch pails at times too stating that someone “gave them to him”. The teacher would not be able to find her pencils…Again I think alot of this was just impulsive crazy ADHD stuff…not that we didn’t address it..but traditional discipline didn’t and still doesn’t help..

      A little off topic , he would hide his wholesome lunch he brought no where to be found at K and con the teacher and lunch ladies day after day that he had no lunch. The lunch bag would magically appear at the end of the day. We had to put a freeze on his account even though there was no $$ in it..they still over rode it many times:(

  11. sarah

    We use a simple a simple tool box with a combination lock for all kids over 6. Or a fishing tackle box. It was around $10 total. Don’t worry you’re not alone. :).

  12. Suzan

    I have three and only two at home and theft happens. On my birthday someone stole my present! I have things locked and tried all kinds of strategies. I have even found said child in my handbag with my wallet in hand. It seems there is a huge sense of entitlement. You are definitely not alone.

    My latest tactic has revolved around sending the offender to live with its father. Someone has had a very boring Easter break as their dad does not have internet etc.

  13. Mrs. Taft

    I have had some success with curbing that kind of behavior by having the kids memorize scripture about lying/stealing. Not in a punitive way, mind you. I didn’t say “THIS IS YOUR CONSEQUENCE”. It was introduced as part of school. Memorizing scriptures about the negative consequences of those things, how God hates them etc. and memorizing about the positive consequences of honesty and integrity. Sort of the idea from Psalm 119…hiding His words in our hearts that we might not sin against God. I don’t know if that would work well for you guys, but I do know of several other people it’s helped. Sort of a guerilla tactic.

  14. Dorothy

    All of my older kids have a footlocker with a combination lock. They work great for keeping siblings out of their yu gi oh cards, special lego sets, etc.

  15. Wendy

    i am so sorry you are having to deal with this silliness. kids are selfish & full of sin nature…wait….just like us adults! it can be so discouraging when we find out our kids have issues. it depresses me. you are not alone. but i bet you know that. still praying for you all. this will pass. they will grow up to be wonderful, God serving people.

  16. C Smith

    I sooo understand what you’re going through. One of my children, who is not adopted, suffers no other issues, and is otherwise obedient and well-behaved, is a terrible sneak. She has spent years sneaking and hoarding food, money, other children’s toys, even craft supplies. We have talked about privacy, thievery,and respecting other people.Gradually, it seems the message has sunk in. It helped to have her not only replace the items but also offer further “payback” in the form of a special favor for the offended party (an apology note or taking over a chore). We told her that was to help repair the hurt feelings and damaged relationship it causes when you disrespect someone by taking their things. I also did regular, announced inspections so she knew she couldn’t get away with hiding things. I think the safes are a good idea, we did that with foot lockers and made sure she also had one to keep her own special treasures in. It really seemed to help.

  17. Anna

    I had a sneaker too… she also had a hard time owning up to things and apologizing. I won’t assume that the sneaking and lying are a result of adoption or RAD or anything like that because it happens in kids from “normal” families too. I’ve come to understand that I was such and sneak and a liar so I could recognize sneaking and lying in my stepdaughters before their behavior got them in serious trouble… The most important thing my husband and I ever did was present the smallest target possible; we caught our sneaker all the time and she never figured out how we knew everything! We figured once she knew our source of information, she would change her tactics and we would be in the dark again. So instead of saying, “We know you are planning on sneaking out of youth group to meet boys because we read this note we found in your garbage,” we said, “We are going to visit Grandad for the weekend, sorry you will miss youth group.” We are still unsure of her honesty, but we did our best to prevent her from damaging her growing brain in the teenage years. The rest is up to her I guess.

  18. Jenny

    I’ve had this as well. My oldest daughter is putting a little fridge in her room because her slim fast shakes (that she drinks at work in place of meals) keep disappearing. The problem with so many kids is not even knowing who is doing it! I have a locked storage room – works great for extra food, candy and Christmas presents. It’s odd to me since I was basically an only-child, but it’s been a great stress reducer!

  19. Alex

    I understand your frustration. I’m having the worst problem with some of my second grade students at the school I work at in China stealing things. I have several students who will flat out lie, and say that I didn’t give them a color-by-number (even when I just saw them hide it in their desk). Some feel guilty after the first time they are caught, and others have to be caught out again and again.

    It’s frustrating to no end, since I have run copies during my breaks, and can only run off so many (I have just over 800 students—42 per class). I’ve now had to resort to passing out one copy directly to each child, so no one can claim that they didn’t get one. Students who “lose” their paper (by turning it into origami, hiding it in a backpack, or making it into a paper airplane) have to stand by the wall quietly and sit out the rest of the activity.

    Crayons and markers go missing, so now the entire class has to wait to be dismissed until every marker is returned. I’ve had to close the computer desk (with my bag inside) when I walk around the classroom, so that the students don’t “help themselves” to stickers. Keeping inventory definitely helps, and making it very clear that I know exactly how many markers/color-by-number sheets/pieces of plastic fruit that I have.

    I hope you have luck with the lockers!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      The lockers have been awesome! I really need to do a new blog post about them. The best part is, I no longer have to micromanage possessions, because everyone has a safe place to keep things.

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