In the 2,587 days since I first heard CHT’s name, stuff has vanished.

Precious, irreplaceable things. Money. Stupid, irrelevant stuff, food.

I find piles of dry pasta and walnuts hidden by her pillow. Egg boxes full of cocoa powder under her bed, packets of unopened green cheese in her covers.  Once, a vast haul of 24 empty bags of crisps wedged under the sofa cushions. Pots of jam – empty; sugar bowls – drained. Hoards of hair bands, my perfume. My christening bracelet; gone forever. And the money; it runs into hundreds of pounds, perhaps thousands.  I think it gets mostly given away, or spent on sweets and shared with friends.

The stealing cycles through peaks and troughs in intensity, but never goes away.

My intuition, my reading and research on the topic lend insight that fuels my empathy. I have not once punished her for it; never set up a consequence. I have calmly discussed it, come up with plans to navigate this stealing. Tried to side step it, handle it, reduce it, end it; none have ever worked. I have also – surprise surprise – snapped. Lost it, shouted, ranted, cried, said terrible, regretful things. In other words, totally screwed up.

Over the seven years, this is the thing that has consumed me with frustration, with fear, with concern. Living with it has taken it’s toll: on our relationship, and on my resilience. It pushes me way out of that essential TP Zone, and leaves me dipping into the Magic Porridge Pot of empathy, only to find it empty. It has eroded our trust in each other. Worse, it has hardwired me to a sensory hyper vigilance that – wherever I am in the house – I register that sudden quiet of deceit. The creeping; the slow creak of a cupboard door, the zip on my bag. These sounds buzz like a wasp; leaving me on edge, and questioning her every move. I react to her as if she has become like an intruder in her own house.

A call for help; answered. One tweet to @janeparenting suggested talking in a new way; to ask what she feels taking things – before, during, after.

Immediately, words were there where before there have been none.

“All the stealing makes the same feeling as being taken from my Mum”. And then “I want you to know this pain of being stolen from my Mum”.


Empathy pot now overflowing, I tell her how sorry I am; sorry that she was stolen like that. Sorry for the times when my pain from this stealing made me cross. Sorry for not always being understanding. She puts her hand on mine, tells me it’s ok. Tells me it wasn’t me who stole her. Tells me she wants so bad for me to trust her, and my heart crumples at the stark-faced truth of how much I have let the problem take my focus, and not the child. Tears rolling, I tell her I love her.  That I always knew there was a message in her stealing, and I am so proud and honoured that she could share it with me so clearly. I ask her what she wants to do, and she decides to try and tell me when it happens, and asks me to simply tell her if I feel suspicious. We decide to put our trust in each other, and look at the problem as separate from us. We embrace. The whole conversation lasted just a few minutes.

I walk away. Reach up, grab hold of those horrid, problem seeking sensory antennae, and rip them from my head.

They will try to grow back. But I’ll be waiting.

Follow the amazing @janeparenting

Read her linked blog on Stealing.

15 thoughts on “Stealing

  1. I love your writing and once again a fantastic and empathetic post. Stealing is a situation I am very familiar with. Beeswax goes through periods of being a light fingered squirrel. I agree consequences are not the answer (although I definitely found that out the hard way).
    I have gone through every emotion imaginable and the TP parent certainly left the building more times than I would have liked. I had tried everything and although he hates empathetic dialogue, I have been able to talk to him at times about why he feels the need to do it. But, because he is shame levels are permanently at a ridiculously high level we use a ‘Oops box’

  2. Amazing writing as ever. It’s so frustrating when things go missing and soooooo hard not to take it personally. CHT’s explanation is powerful and humbling and sad and understandable. Love to you both xx

  3. Beautifully written post!

    I fear we’re just entering the realms of this with baby girl so I will save this in my mental tool box for when she’s a little older and more able to answer those all important questions!

    Thank you for sharing :)

  4. Beautifully written and it hits home hard and true. We are in just the same place with hoarding and stealing but haven’t ever managed to get to the nub of it, mainly because it always seemed secondary to other worrying behaviours. But it isn’t really, is it? I am so happy to have found you Mumdrah. You almost make up for losing Family Futures – an inspirational light through the darkness. THank you x

  5. I was that stealing child amdwish someone has treated me with such respect, thanks for sharing and for Jane parenting. I now have the same problem with my middle daughter.

  6. Wow! CHT is insightful! My hope is one day my children will be able to communicate their feelings with their words (rather than just their behavior). There is so much to learn from them, about them….I long to know them better. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story! Hopefully I’ll be more empathetic the next time my children steal.

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