We have a 16 year old granddaughter that has been stealing money from us. She is a 4.0 student, athletic, loving, caring, always willing to help us, help out at school, work with the younger kids in school, etc...she is the last one we expected but after several "traps" that we set we cleared all of our grown kids, friends, and other grandkids and their friends. We now know it is our granddaughter. She does not know that we know. We don't want to do something that will ruin her life but she might need help since her parents are financially okay and we don't have money worries so we think she's stealing for some reason (I don't think it's drugs). Do we approach our daughter and her husband and tell them what happened (they will be devastated just as we are) or do we approach our granddaughter?
I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I just went through a total failure of my computer with both of the hard drives dying at the same time. Ugg!
I can relate to your problem because it is something that I went through as a teen of about the same age about a thousand years ago. I was a good student, civil defense rescue trained, eagle scout, doing OK in high school, faithfully attending religious school and stealing from stores.
I was finally caught in a dept. store when I bought a baseball mitt and stole the ball. Fortunately for me, the store just called my Mother. After a talking to, I never stole anything again. For me there were two reasons that motivated the shoplifting. The first was as a desperate measure to fit in to a group of kids that I thought was vital to my existence at the time. They were doing it, so I did it. The second was that it was adrenaline producing and fun. I don’t know if either of these is
what is motivating your granddaughter, though know that there is probably some reason behind the actions.
I would think that, if you have a good rapport with your granddaughter, the first thing to do would be for the both of you, to sit her down the next time she visits and gently confront her with your discovery and invite her to talk to you about the why’s. If you come out of concern and not condemnation, there is a chance that you will get her to open up as to what is behind the stealing. If she cops to doing it and is forthcoming about what is going on, I would arrange with her a process to make amends but repaying you the amount stolen either in hard cash or in being of service to you by working around your house or possibly a combination of the two. If some of that is being of service, that will mean she will be in more contact with you so that you can possibly do some more parenting.
My favorite question, after one of these times with my kids when they messed up was, “What did you learn from this experience?” Getting in that conversation was way more important than extracting a pound of retributive flesh.
As to whether or not to involve her parents, there are a number of ways to go with this. If you think her parents would let you do what I suggested above before they got at all involved, then I would consult with them and get them to just be on standby in case your efforts got nowhere.
Or you could use telling them as a hammer ( means to get cooperation) by letting your granddaughter know that you hadn’t told her parents and wanted to hear what she had to say first. (notice my wording: I didn’t promise not to tell them, I just said I wanted to get her answer first.) If she directly asks if you are going to tell them, I would answer that it depends on what happens in the about to be had, conversation.
The third alternative is, if you are sure that the parents can stay out of the above and let you have a crack at it and not talk to their daughter, you might let them know of your suspicions and get their pledge to keep quiet about it until you had done your magic. Assuming you got full cooperation from your granddaughter, I would get her to let her parents know what happened either with you all there with her or on her own. I would get her to do that after she finished making her amends.
My last suggestion is for you to go to Amazon and obtain a copy of a book called Parent as Coach. It is short, inexpensive and will change the quality of the conversations you have with your granddaughter. Both of you ought to read it and get a copy for her parents, too.. I know Diana Sterling, the author. She is a coach of teens and the book was written as a result of that work and her raising a teen herself. There are two versions of the book. Get the most recent version although both have basically the same information. You might also find that my other writings on the blog of my parenting website might be useful; http://TheParentsCoach.com/blog
I hope this has helped. You can always reply with additional questions or need for clarification if you want to.
Jason Wittman, MPS