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Little Miss Klepto?

September 1, 2010 - Betsy Bethel

Anyone else ever have this problem? Emma, who is 4 1/2, has sticky fingers. And I'm not talking about what happens when she eats apple dippers with caramel sauce.

I've tried to explain that stealing is wrong. That you don't take things that don't belong to you. It's against the law, it's against God's law and it's against our family's law.

She still does it.

I've tried asking her how she would feel if a friend came over and took something belonging to her, without asking and without her knowing. She says she would be angry.

But she still does it.

How big of a deal is it? I don't know.

Here are three examples of Emma's trespasses.

One day we popped in to visit the new moms at Nursing Mother's Support Group at Harbor of Hope Church in St. Clairsville (fourth Saturday of the month, ladies!). When we headed to the car afterward, she was walking funny and holding herself. I asked if she had to go potty and she said no. When she got in her car seat, she was still wiggling, etc. Then it dawned on me. I reached down her pants and there was a small toy from the church. I marched her right back in and she reluctantly put it back. I was chagrined. She was just mad she didn't get to keep the toy.

Last week, after her last day at her former preschool, she got home and whipped out a tiny Abu figure (the little monkey from "Aladdin"). "Ta da!" she said proudly. She had stolen it from school. I still have it in my purse to give back next time I'm up that way.

And right next to "Abu" in my purse is a "new" toy I confiscated from her yesterday; she called it a squinkie or something like that. It was a tiny little plastic thing that looks like a pink present with a purple bow, encased in a clear plastic globe. She showed it to me on the  way home from her first after-school play date with friends Kameryn and Colton.

(OK, I googled Squinkies, and there are millions of them. They are collectible little pencil toppers.)

When I asked her where she got the Squinkie, she said it was Kameryn's. She told me she asked Kameryn if she could have it, and Kameryn said yes, but "her mom said she probably didn't understand." Which, to me, meant Emma took it secretly, against Kameryn's wishes.

I put it in my purse and said the next time she sees Kameryn, she has to give it back. This morning, she begged me all the way to school to see it. "I just want to hold it for one second!" "No way," I said. "You don't get the pleasure of playing with something you stole."

Now here's the kicker — perhaps the reason I am so distressed about this behavior. I was a little thief when I was a kid, too. One of my earliest crimes was stealing cookies. I was caught red-handed on 110 film reaching for a box of animal crackers from on top of the refrigerator when I was 4 or 5. When I was a little older and could fit in my sister's clothes and shoes, I stole her stuff all the time. I also took money out of her piggy bank to buy candy bars at the Convenient store across the street. Even as a teen, I pilfered change out of my parents' "trip" jar to spend on junk food or makeup.

It took me way too long to learn my lesson. I want Emma to get it through her brain early on that having sticky fingers is intolerable, unkind and unsavory, not to mention illegal. It's not as if she's stealing big ticket items, but if the mentality continues, who knows where it will lead? I do NOT relish the thought of seeing my daughter arrested for shoplifting, even if it is the "in" thing with today's celebrities and celebutantes.

Any advice would be much appreciated!



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