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My Daughter Stole from Her Sister

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have an 11-year-old daughter who stole makeup fom her older sister. I had her sister punish her for this; she had to write a research paper on stealing. My husband says this was an ineffective punishment. Was I wrong?

A: Although well-intentioned, a research paper is neither a natural consequence of stealing nor a punishment that will offer helpful discipline. Your 11-year-old daughter took her adult sister's makeup because she either wanted to experiment with it on herself or because she wanted to cause her sister some distress. In order to discuss this incident, it's important to talk to your daughter about what she's feeling. At this stage in her development, she is confronting many confusing questions concerning her entrance into adolescence. Use this incident to discuss her fears about growing up. As for your husband's belief that she needs a harsher punishment, I would disagree. Rewards and punishments really don't work as instructive discipline techniques--logical and natural consequences are the best route to take. An appropriate consequence for the theft would require her to sit down with her sister and explain why she took the makeup. Additionally, she should replace the makeup she used at her own expense. If this is one in a growing series of thefts, you must address her compulsion to steal. If this is an isolated incident, use it to connect further with your daughter.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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