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Nancy, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 746
Experience:  ABD for a PhD in Psychology, Psychotherapist for over 20 years
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I am wondering if my daughter is a kleptomaniac or if there

Customer Question

I am wondering if my young daughter is a kleptomaniac or if there is another issue going on. We had suspicions in the past that she was stealing things (not just from stores, but from other people as well) when she would come home with things that we hadn't purchased. We recently confirmed that she is in fact stealing things. Our problem is that she refuses to admit she has stolen things, she insists that everything she has "taken" she either won in a game at school or that somehow she was given the item by another person. I have checked into the symptoms of kleptomania, and most of them state that klepto's steal things that have no value to them. She is taking things that she wants to play with and use which have a high degree of value to her. The behavior isn't chronic (that I know of) and seems to happen randomly.   She also can't admit she is stealing, in her mind she didn't steal. Should we take her to see a therapist right away or is there another approach we could try 1st
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Nancy replied 8 years ago.


How old is she?


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
She is 6 now and we estimate is has occurred approximately 5 times over the last 8-9 months.
Expert:  Nancy replied 8 years ago.

Kleptomania would not be diagnosed in a child of this age - what we would look at is any other symptoms, like, if she is cruel to animals, if she understands right from wrong in other situations, and if none of those are present - we'd work on teaching her about stealing in several different ways.

Allowing the negative consequences to play out is effective, imposing consequences of your own is effective, and demonstrating how it feels and why it is bad to steal is effective.

If those other symptoms are an issue, you'll want to have her evaluated and treated by a child Psychologist. Behavior like (all) that at 6 usually leads to conduct disorder later in childhood and through the teen years.


Nancy and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
She isn't displaying any of the other symptoms described (cruelty, etc.) I am just wondering if imposing consequences of our own will work since she won't admit she is stealing and seems to honestly believe her version of how she got the item.
Expert:  Nancy replied 8 years ago.

The next time she comes home with an item you suspect to be stolen, WITHOUT SAYING A WORD ABOUT IT FIRST, bring her back to that person's house, and ask the other child how she was able to come home with this item.

Allow the other child to answer first. If it is stolen, make her giveit back and apologize. Also have the other family (mom and child) tell your daughter how it made them feel to be stolen from, and then consequence her by cancelling the next event on her schedule.

You have to nip this in the bud - sometimes a grand show like this is all it takes, sometimes you have to do this several times.

I am leaving my office right now... but will be back on later. You can send me examples of what has happened in the past (or typical scenarios) and I can send some other ideas back to you...

Lastly - don't by into her "really believing" - ignore that and deal with what you need to do regardless of her reactions.

Nancy :-)