Should I tattle on a 14 year old thief?
September 30, 2008 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I think my friend's adolescent daughter tried to steal from me. Do I tell on her?

I am in between apartments right now (waiting for the new place to be renovated) and staying with a dear, old friend. Her partner is away on business so she is happy to have the adult company and help around the house.

She has two kids - a 6 year old and an early teenager. From what I've seen, she is an excellent mother, and their father is an excellent father.

Recently I took the girls out for a special day of shopping and eating, to give their mom a break. Their mom gave me 20 dollars to feed them. We blew it almost immediately on cocoa and cookies. Later in the day, the girls were hungry again, so we went to the food court at the mall. I gave the teenager a 20 dollar bill (of my own) to buy her Asian meal, while the younger sister and I went to McDonalds.

Later in the afternoon I asked the teenager if she had the change for the food. She said "no." And I didn't follow up - I couldn't believe that she was actually lying about it and considered that perhaps there really was no change.

As we were heading home we stopped at a movie rental place to pick up movies. I had to pay cash for the rentals, and I was short by a bit, so again, I asked the teenager for the money, because otherwise, we would not be able to get the movies. She very slowly pulled 8 dollars out of her pocket, with no acknowledgment of having previously denied its existence.

As background - she is a bit of a strange girl. She doesn't look like the other kids and has recently discovered anime, to the point where it is all she talks about or "does" (going online, reading books, buying accessories, and spouting off long, loud soliloquies about anime). She is very boyish and hates anything girly (any time her mother or I wear makeup or heels she'll say something nasty).

I am torn about telling her mother about this incident. The pros are that her mother will know what her daughter is up to, and can deal with it. And the daughter will, I hope, not try to pull a similar stunt.

The cons are that I am not 100% sure it was intentional - maybe she forgot? Maybe she thought the money was hers? (she didn't know that it was my own personal money). Plus, it would devastate her mom and could potentially make things very uncomfortable around the house. I thought that she and I had built a rapport, as I was an outsider myself during my adolescence, and can relate to what she's going through.

I don't have kids, I don't deal with kids in my job, and most of the children I spend time with are under the age of 5, so this is a foreign territory. I realize that early adolescence is tough and that kids that age tend to immerse themselves in alternate realities, but her intensity seems extreme, and part and parcel with the attempted theft.

Now, a small bag of costume jewelry of mine has disappeared. I am hoping I just misplaced it, but I just don't know what to think.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
As background - she is a bit of a strange girl. She doesn't look like the other kids and has recently discovered anime, to the point where it is all she talks about or "does" (going online, reading books, buying accessories, and spouting off long, loud soliloquies about anime). She is very boyish and hates anything girly (any time her mother or I wear makeup or heels she'll say something nasty).

Sounds like you're making an excuse for her behavior here. This, to me is irrelevant.

In my opinion (I've raised a child to 22...successfully, I think...with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old to follow...God help me) you've not got enough information on which to base this accusation. As you've said, it could be intentional...or not. I'd let it go for now, but keep a watchful eye. It's really all you can do at this point.

P.S. My own kids try to pull this move all the time with not returning change. It's potentially woven into the very genetic structure of children.
posted by chaosscontrol at 1:27 PM on September 30, 2008


Did you tell her you wanted the change back after handing her the twenty? If not, it's probably a miscommunication. I f a grownup handed me a twenty and didn't mention it again when I was a kid, I'd assume it was just a bonus. Teens can be real tightwads when it comes to handing (what they assume to be) their own money, so maybe that's why she said she didn't have any. But if you told her you wanted the change from the lunch money back, by all means tell her parent.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 1:33 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


For the money thing, I wouldn't bring it up to the parents right now.

For the costume jewelry, ask your friends if they've seen it around. Don't accuse anything, don't mention the kids. Perhaps it was misplaced, perhaps either kid "borrowed" cool jewelry they found laying out somewhere (especially a 6 year old girl - shiny dress up toys are awesome). But that way the parents know to be on the lookout for it, and if this is an ongoing problem you don't know about, they can address it as such.
posted by shinynewnick at 1:40 PM on September 30, 2008


14 is a really weird, hard time. And yeah, when my mom gives me cash for food or whatever, I tend to hang on to the change unless she asks for it back. But then, she nearly always tells me to keep it when I offer change back in those situations. Perhaps that's how your friend and her husband do things as well? It doesn't seem like this girl really actively made a plan to steal... she did produce the money later, after all. That doesn't really excuse it, but it kinda makes it seem like going to her mom would be overkill at this point. And again- 14. I did a lot of dumb things that make me cringe now (at the wise age of almost 19... god knows what I'll feel find to feel dumb about later), most involving clothing, friends, and being awkward and anti-social. So don't worry about it unless it becomes a pattern, or your friend brings up concerns about similar behavior.
posted by MadamM at 1:42 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


She may have thought, in her teenage mind, that the 20 that you gave her was the 20 that her mom gave you, so why do you keep asking for the change when it was her mom's?
posted by lee at 1:43 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kids Can Be Weird. Especially kids that live kind of in their own world, and might not have the best people-skills, especially strange-adult-skills.

Like when a kid does something and you ask them why they did that, and they say, "I don't know." Repeatedly. I don't have kids (yet), so it's taken me a long time to learn that children are actually not finished developing, so they just don't function normally yet. That is, not as we expect mature adults to. Because they're not.

It would have been best if it had gone like:
"Do you have change from that $20 I gave you?"
"No."
"Wow, that lunch cost $20, really?" (Mock surprise/incredulity)

Dunno what would happen after that, but the kid might have just been lost in her own thoughts, might have felt uncomfortable with strange-adult, might not have understood that the $20 wasn't hers to keep and didn't know how to deal with it, etc.

Although, again not having kids, I tend to *think* that this kind of behavior makes more sense in a 7 year old than a 14 year old, but still. 14 is a dirty rotten age. You've got the not-yet-mature aspect plus the teen-jerkface component.

It just doesn't seem like serious thievery to me. It seems like a mix of a lot of other stuff. In the end, I'm glad you got the change back, just to show her that she can't get away with everything.

Don't let the costume jewelry bag go. Look for it, and mention it to your friend, preferably in the presence of the kid. Find it before you move. Have your friend help you look for it, and if you can't find it, she'll then be convinced that someone in the house must have taken it, and *then* you can have the thievin' issue discussion with her, if it exists.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:47 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Um, no. Bernt Pancreas, chaosscontrol, maybe "a lot of kids" do this kind of thing, but it's not honest, and it's not normal to "assume" that when someone hands you a $20 for a snack, that you get to keep the whole thing. Even it this _was_ customary, when change was requested, it should be given back immediately. That said, I admit that it's possible that the girl misunderstood, or was temporarily thrown off by an unfamiliar situation.

But: saying or implying that "all kids do this" is upsetting to me. I didn't. Lots of kids don't. AND the attitude that "everyone just takes and keeps whatever he can" is not a healthy attitude for any society. I dearly hope that the vast majority of people wouldn't stand for this, particularly with a child who is still learning about the world. If it's "accepted" then they'll not only assume that they should operate that way, more importantly, they'll assume that _everyone else operates that way_, which leads to a spiral of mistrust and various shades of cheating behavior.

Do I need to spell out where that leads? Read the news lately?

HOWEVER I don't think this means the girl needs to be handled roughly, nor her guilt assumed. Just talk to her, first, and see if you can learn anything about why she'd do such a thing. See if you can keep her trust; she could probably use a sympathetic friend. But don't lose sight of the fact that you're an adult; don't look to her for approval or try too hard to be "cool". Just show that you care about her, even if that's by bringing up something that's painful or awkward for you both. Especially so, because so many people seem to be unwilling to have difficult conversations.
posted by amtho at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


As background - she is a bit of a strange girl. She doesn't look like the other kids and has recently discovered anime, to the point where it is all she talks about or "does" (going online, reading books, buying accessories, and spouting off long, loud soliloquies about anime). She is very boyish and hates anything girly (any time her mother or I wear makeup or heels she'll say something nasty).

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything but did you actually talk to the child about it? Something like, "why didn't you give me the change earlier? That was dishonest."

I certainly don't think this rises to a "tell the parents" offense. I did this all the time when I was that age. Got some pretty good candy and cassette tapes out of it. And I did not grow up to be a hardened criminal.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:51 PM on September 30, 2008


did you actually talk to the child about it? Something like, "why didn't you give me the change earlier?

Ditto. Why talk to us before you talk to her?
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:57 PM on September 30, 2008


Perhaps you were exaggerating for dramatic purposes, but I think referring to her as a "thief" based on this single incident is really harsh. If you do bring this up, don't approach it from that angle or call it theft. I would take a "Hey, I was really surprised that your kid didn't give up the change right away when I asked" tone.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:03 PM on September 30, 2008


Their mom gave me 20 dollars to feed them

she didn't know that it was my own personal money

- - - - - - - -

Did she know her mother had given you a 20 dollar bill? If so, my guess is that she thought you were giving her the money her mom had provided for them, without thinking about any other money you had spent. No matter how you approach this with her mom, you're going to come across looking like you want to be paid back. Do you?

Next time you're all together, ask if anyone's seen your costume jewelry. It's easy. Just ask. "Has anyone seen that little bag of jewelry I had on my dresser? I can't find it anywhere."
posted by iconomy at 2:08 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think you don't like this kid very much, and it might be coloring your perception of events. Imagine if you liked this kid and she had pulled the same stunt, what might your reaction have been? It's stressful living with other people's kids - please take that into consideration before jumping to conclusions.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:12 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think you're over-reacting. When I was a kid I would have assumed the whole 20 was mine. Now everything you lose will, in your mind, be theft.

Let it go. Kids have enough problems.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:14 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Uhm, telling her mom is not the same as accusing her of anything. Let her mom know what happened, without making any assumptions or jumps to judgement, and let her sort it out.
posted by YoungAmerican at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2008


Actually I think that part about her not looking like the other kids, being boyish, hating displays of femininity, and generally out of mainstream culture *is* important. Is there a possibility that her gender, burgeoning sexuality and personal interests are a topic of conversation, to the point of her feeling ostracized, even at home? Is there a possibility that your presence has disrupted her life, her relative anonymity at home (just trying to get through the days), or has it otherwise been annoying for a non-cookie-cutter teenage girl to deal with her mom's friend now butting into her time and business? When maybe she was hoping for her mom by herself, with her dad out of town? And not having to deal with judgments such as those you (briefly) mention? Whether they're silent or not, intentional or not, she absolutely feels it -- from you and all the rest of the "normal" kids around her.

Which isn't to say she "took" the money to get revenge, but maybe it was one minute aspect where she felt in control again. Yeah, you're in the house helping her mom, and you took them out to give her mom a break, but was it something the teen actually wanted to do? She might have been resenting it, and pocketing the change was either a subconscious payback, or a deliberate screw-you.

Instead of telling her mom, or even giving her the old college "don't steal, kid" or silently continuing to judge her non-normal, possibly queer, definitely different self, here's what I would do. Tell her you're actually interested in learning about anime. Did you know there are lots of kinds? Does she like graphic novels or films or fanfic or something else? What era? What style? Some anime and other non-90210 culture is really feminist, eye-opening, ironic and smart. Of course some of it is rubbish. But why not ask her what she likes? And why she likes it? Tell her you have $30 burning your pocket and you're so boring, and want to try something new. So you'd love to take her shopping to whatever store SHE likes to buy this anime stuff, and have her pick out a few things she's been dying to have, and have her pick out one small thing for you. THEN READ IT. AND TALK ABOUT IT.

You will get much better results than trying to punish for thinking about swiping the change left over from a fast food mall meal, when she probably didn't even want to be there. And I absolutely guarantee she'll remember that gesture and perhaps her faith will be restored: she'll be reminded that she has worth, isn't just spouting off useless anime facts, and is valued by those around her.

Which message would you like to send? And yes, it's your decision.
posted by barnone at 2:19 PM on September 30, 2008 [15 favorites]


What exactly is she "up to" ? (That's a serious question.)

I think you give your dear friend's daughter the benefit of the doubt. It seems reasonable to me that she assumed that the $20 was from her mom and was hers to spend. It seems equally reasonable that the jewelry might have been misplaced - I agree that when you're all together you should casually ask about it.

How she dresses or what kind of things she reads (i.e., anime) doesn't seem to have much to do with the other issue.
posted by KAS at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2008


Here's a short answer: No, don't tell your friend. It won't teach her daughter any life lessons, it will just make her dislike you.

What you should have done: When she didn't give you change initially, you should have said "Oh, maybe I wasn't clear, but I did want my change from that $20, and I assume your meal costs less than that." I definitely would have pulled the "what change?" routine at that age. No, it's not honest, but it's typical teenager behaviour.

What you should do now: Let it go. If something like this happens again, confront the girl firmly but politely, in the moment.
posted by emd3737 at 2:28 PM on September 30, 2008


I agree with everyone else here that there's probably more to the situation, and that this probably isn't a product of maliciousness. You really should have said something to the kid about the change at the time (about it being yours) but clearly that's in the past.

If you want repayment for the $20, you could gently bring it up with the mother. But don't "tell on her" because it's not clear that this was more than a misunderstanding.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:29 PM on September 30, 2008


Leave it, it's not worth the issue you will create. Kids do things like that.
posted by mattoxic at 2:32 PM on September 30, 2008


As a parent, I'd want to know. I've had neighbors pull me aside to tell me things they've seen my kids doing that were questionable and I've always appreciated it (even if I sometimes thought they were just being grumpy). How am I supposed to correct bad behavior if I'm not even made aware of it? If a child is behaving in a way that may be of concern to a parent, I think the parent should know.

While I agree that not giving back the full change from a $20 bill doesn't necessarily equate to a girl destined to a life of crime, I think it's up to the parent to decide whether or not this is a transgression worth disciplining, not a friend.
posted by The Gooch at 2:38 PM on September 30, 2008


I think you were unclear with her about your expectations.

You should either a) let it go, or b) talk to the girl and clarify what an ethical grown-up does with other people's change.

Going to her mom and saying that she stole from you seems like an unjust overreaction to a legitimately ambiguous set of circumstances.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:57 PM on September 30, 2008


She should have given you the change, but I don't think she was intentionally "stealing". We have no idea how her Mom has taught her to look at money--does she understand the value of a dollar, really? Does her Mom say, "Here's your lunch money for school," and just hand her a five-dollar bill and never ask for change back? When you said, the first time, did she have change, did she think you meant spare change, like coins?

And there's a question about the twenty--did she think it was her Mom's money to be spent on her?

Or was she being evasive and dishonest? Maybe. Probably, even. But you don't know.

You should have taken it up with her at the time, maybe said at the movie store, "Why didn't you give me my change before?" But you didn't.

So now, I don't think you should go to the Mom unless you speak to the girl about it first. And if you do go to the Mom, I wouldn't say, "Your daughter's a thief who tried to steal money from me!" Instead, I'd say, "Hey, so-and-so and I had a misunderstanding about some money, here's what happened, how should I have handled it?" Because I think that's a lot closer to the truth, isn't it?
posted by misha at 3:00 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, speaking as someone who was the "strange" 14-year-old girl who loved anime, wore (semi-)boyish clothing and had zero tolerance for clothing (chunky heels were and are okay; I will now wear minimalist make-up because I've gone girly-girl), I really hope you mean, "This girl is slightly unconventional and maybe she is acting out under peer/family/societal pressure," and not, "This girl gives me strange vibes due to her unconventionality and that's why I'm inclined to suspect her." Because otherwise, well, I don't have much nice to say, so I won't say it. Hey, the kid has some respect for her ankles, that totally makes her a thief, amirite?

I agree with everyone that you're overreacting. Even if the money was deliberately taken, that's about the mildest form of theft I can imagine, and as far as the jewelry goes, have you even asked anyone about it yet? Do that first before you jump to conclusions.
posted by bettafish at 3:02 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't have kids, I don't deal with kids in my job, and most of the children I spend time with are under the age of 5, so this is a foreign territory. I realize that early adolescence is tough and that kids that age tend to immerse themselves in alternate realities, but her intensity seems extreme, and part and parcel with the attempted theft.

If she was intensely girly, would that strike you as extreme? If she was a soccer player who was intensely into sports, would that strike you as extreme? Sorry, but I've got to side with those thinking that labeling the girl a thief and thinking about what she's "up to" and all of this suspicion is a little harsh.

I like misha's reply a lot and think that she does a good job explaining just how much possibility there is for misunderstanding. Good approach to bringing it up with Mom, too.

For what it's worth, maybe she just throws you for a loop with her adolescent attitude, but you really do come across like you don't like her much, or at least that her attitude intimidates you. She's a kid and you're an adult, but maybe put yourself in her shoes a little bit?
posted by desuetude at 3:44 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


But: saying or implying that "all kids do this" is upsetting to me. I didn't. Lots of kids don't. AND the attitude that "everyone just takes and keeps whatever he can" is not a healthy attitude for any society. I dearly hope that the vast majority of people wouldn't stand for this, particularly with a child who is still learning about the world. If it's "accepted" then they'll not only assume that they should operate that way, more importantly, they'll assume that _everyone else operates that way_, which leads to a spiral of mistrust and various shades of cheating behavior.

Quted for truth. Thank you. Geeze, the fourteen year old inside of me is embarrassed by the thought of being looked at this way. She would have never tried to do this with a family friend's money, and the idea of her peers doing this horrifies her. Way to take advantage of other people's generosity, guys!

(And I was geeky and into anime).

Which isn't to say she "took" the money to get revenge, but maybe it was one minute aspect where she felt in control again. Yeah, you're in the house helping her mom, and you took them out to give her mom a break, but was it something the teen actually wanted to do? She might have been resenting it, and pocketing the change was either a subconscious payback, or a deliberate screw-you.

Oy, cry me a river. Someone disrupted this kid's life by buying them cookies and cocoa. Poor thing.

That being said, I'd just talk to the teenager instead of the mother. Ask her directly if she's seen your jewelry. If she says no, ask her to help you look for it. While doing so, bring up that the issue about the money bugged you. Don't be accusatory or bring up her weirdness, but rather talk about the behavior and how you wanted to do something nice for/with her and felt taken advantage of. You know, use "I" words. See how she responds to this, and if your jewelry shows up. If you treat her with respect, hopefully she'll rise to that and do the same. But if you go behind her back and rat on her to mom, there will be no chance--you're just going to be another lame adult to rebel against.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2008


Later in the afternoon I asked the teenager if she had the change for the food. She said "no."

I don't know why everyone is trying to make excuses here. You asked her for the change and she lied to you.

Honestly, though, I did that kind of stuff as a kid too. I was trying to see what I could get away with, really. I never stole from a store, but I would snag quarters off my parents' dresser, stuff like that. Partly it was because I was 'being bad'- I didn't usually break rules, so it was thrilling- and partly it was just because I plain wanted money.

I would talk to her, not the mom though. Don't accuse her, just ask her if the money she gave you was change from the 20, and if she says yes, ask her why she did it. Tell her up front that you're not mad and won't tell her mom, and she'll probably admit it. She just needs to realize that people notice and are affected by her behavior.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:02 PM on September 30, 2008


from the original poster:
Thank you all for your insight. Kids of this age are a mystery to me, so I have no way to gauge their intentions and no idea of how to respond to their actions. I hope that the majority is correct in saying that I am overreacting. Talking to her seems to be the best way to deal with it.

I just want to emphasize that the money is not the issue - I wanted to sponsor the day but their mom insisted on giving me some money.

And I also want to clarify what I meant by her being "strange." It was the wrong word, and for that I apologize. Her behavior just doesn't make sense to me, and I am happy to attribute that to my own lack of experience with people this age. It's not her interests or her being different that strike me, because I was EXACTLY like that when I was her age (boyish, obsessed with books, not like anyone else in school). It's the way her interests and being different play out.

If she were giving loud, long speeches to noone in particular about soccer or makeup or tetris (or whatever these crazy kids like today), I would still find it unusual. If she were saying nasty things about me wearing jeans, boots and no makeup (which is most often the case), I would still be bothered. I would never attribute the possibility of her stealing to the fact that her interests are not the norm. Honestly, objectively, I would think just the opposite!

I think I just don't understand 14 year olds and realize that I have a lot to learn. But everyone here has been a great help. Thank you!
posted by mathowie at 4:14 PM on September 30, 2008


My kids are younger, but it's fairly common when we're watching each other's kids for us to say to each other later, "By the way, this happened...how do you want me to handle it when that kind of thing comes up?" It's not accusatory, it's not, "Your rotten kid drove me nuts all day," it's a request for help from the knowledgeable parent.

I second emd3737, though, that at this point, you should let the $20 go--you missed your opportunity to address it when you were out shopping, because you weren't expecting any confusion. Learn your lesson and speak up next time.

Also want to second the non-accusatory, "Will everybody help me keep an eye out for my jewelry? I can't find it anywhere."
posted by not that girl at 4:15 PM on September 30, 2008


I agree with barnone- I don't think of this as a big deal and certainly not an offense that is worth engaging her mother on.

I have to agree with barnone in terms of the possible disruption to the 14 y/o's life that you moving in is. When I was 14, I wanted to be left alone as much as possible. Has she had to give up her room and move in with one of her sibs in order to make room for you? Are you sleeping on the couch, normally her prime location for late-night covert reading? Is the 14 y/o usually home alone for a little while in the afternoons between school and her mother getting back? If so, are you home during those times?

I'm just guessing here, but it sounds like perhaps you may be staying with them while you are between apartments to economize on money, which might mean that the $8 might seem like a comparatively larger deal to you.

If the money is important, why not take them to non-pay places in the future if you go off for a day? I love barnone's idea of you taking the kid to an anime shop (this is how I bond with my niece, of the same age and similar disposition) and I was astonished how the sullen girl I'd found largely tiresome to be around turned into a lively, energetic entertainer.

Her soliloquies about anime indicate she has some interest in converting you- why not go along? Spend an afternoon in an anime shop, tell her to pick the One Book that will make you love anime forever, then read it and discuss it with her. Or rent an anime movie- there are some really awesome ones, that I would have never known about except for my niece.

If you'd rather not go that route, why not pack some sandwiches and a bottle of water and take the kids on a hike, to a park, to fly kites, to the library, on an urban walking adventure- anything and everything that could be had for free.

I think your jewelry is either currently being worn by the younger sister, along with Mom's heels and a dress from Mom's closet (remember, the 14 y/o has no interest in girly things and even berates you when you dress up- she isn't going to want any sort of jewelry, especially costume jewelry) or is somewhere in your things that you haven't thought of.

Thirding the non-accusatory "Will everybody help me keep an eye out for that bag of costume jewelry? I know it is somewhere around here."

If it was misplaced, four sets of eyes are better than one. If it was taken, it is a gentle suggestion that it has been missed and should be returned.

But don't squander this precious opportunity to get to know genus Fourteenyearoldus animegirlii in the wild! Chances like this don't come frequently.
posted by arnicae at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I knew the family well -- like, I was teh equivalent of an uncle/aunt to the kid, I'd sit down with the kid one on one and talk about it. She might not say much, but you could say how you liked going out with her and how the change thing felt weird, ask her how she felt in that situation, and afterwards tell her that you're glad it's cleared up.

This reinforces what's normal and moral without putting her back against the wall, and let's her know that you noticed and that you care.
posted by zippy at 5:46 PM on September 30, 2008


Perhaps you were exaggerating for dramatic purposes, but I think referring to her as a "thief" based on this single incident is really harsh.

Uh, actually no. She knowingly took something that was not hers. You asked for your 8 dollars back. She lied to keep it. Thief.

I probably wouldn't mention it to her parents unless it happens again. However, I also would not give her any money for any reason. Trust is earned. She sold your trust in her for 8 bucks.
posted by 26.2 at 8:30 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


She sounds like she has absolutely no manners and is spoiled rotten. If I had made a rude comment on one of my mother's friends clothes at that age I'm not sure what would have happened but it likely would have involved bread and water and not trips to the mall and cookies. Her parents are the ones who've raised her though and either they are well aware they've got a monster on their hands or they are clueless. Either way they don't need to hear it from you. You don't need to spend any more time or money on their obnoxious kid either though.
posted by fshgrl at 9:47 PM on September 30, 2008


In terms of the change, it sounds like she was just testing your limits - you are an unknown factor now residing in her home. Step 1: try just keeping the change and see what happens. Step 2: casually lie about the change, see what happens. When you ultimately (and granted, somewhat inadvertently) called her out about the change both of you knew she had, that's when she decided not to go to step 3, keep denying it in the face of escalation. I would guess you would have had the same outcome if when she initially denied the change you had pressed her for a receipt, or walked over to see what a bowl of noodles cost.

Generally speaking, I'd adopt a somewhat more assertive tone. In the change example, going with "I'll need that change back now" vs. "Do you have that change?" Obviously you probably won't be giving her money anytime soon, but other situations are sure to come up.

I'll agree with many here that pocketing change and hoping it is forgotten about is pretty common (especially if she thought it was her mom's money), but actively lying about it if asked is not.

Regarding the jewelry, you don't have any evidence and certainly might have misplaced it. On the one hand, it wouldn't make much sense for her to steal it - she's not going to be able to trade costume jewelry for much money anywhere. On the other hand, if this is the start of her fledgling career in thievery, she would not realize this. Either way, I'd at least ask everyone to keep an eye out for it and assume that she did not take it.

You mention she is suddenly into anime and is buying books, accessories, etc. This can be expensive. How is she paying for it? Does she have a part-time job and/or generous allowance?

I'd try and talk to her directly ("hey, what was up with holding back on my $8? Do you need money for something? in trouble with the mob?") but don't be surprised if she just shrugs it off. Going forward, just be assertive and call her on any nonsense she might try to pull.
posted by mikepop at 6:10 AM on October 1, 2008


I would say that her returning any of the money - is a weakness you can exploit. She might be a thief and a liar but she lacks... some key element at any rate! Figure out what motivated her to return it (she is stupid and she fell for your bluff or the gapping hole in funds was now very clear and the paper trail led straight to her so she decided it was best to cover her ass and return a few dollars ect.) and then work her over from that angle.

Just a thought (that makes them sound like terrible parents.. jebus) but - Is it possible that it was the little one, and the two events are completely unrelated. 14yr olds will push their luck and 6yr olds will do naughty stuff and maybe you just got hit with both in one day.

Toss your house so you are 100% sure!! Then tell your friend, firstly about the money and then the missing jewellery. Quickly follow up with that you don't want to point the finger because maybe the little one picked it up or maybe neither of the girls had anything to do with it at all! So if she could just do a little discreet investigating, while you pursue other possibilities... Maybe ask the girls if they saw it even?

Ugh! I do not envy you! Such a delicate situation.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 6:56 AM on October 1, 2008


I'm not a parent (I want to be clear on my lack of bona fides), but I've had to deal with a fair number of kids from the neighborhood pulling stuff like this, and I usually just treat them like they're adults. I mean, if one of my pals did that, I'd give him the "What the hell, man?" treatment, or at least, "Dude, c'mon." It's not a huge deal, but it's a moment where you can call out someone on their lack of maturity, and by so doing, show them how adults deal with a problem like this.

Obviously, the hot moment has passed, but a word alone where you explain that, hey, that's not cool, and the consequences of doing something like that are that people trust you less and won't want to treat you like an adult.
posted by klangklangston at 1:03 PM on October 1, 2008


Trust is earned. She sold your trust in her for 8 bucks.

Wow. This is a pretty hard-core attitude for an adult to have have toward a young teenager. I mean, if trust can be sold for the change from a mall food-court meal, how much is charged for forgiveness?
posted by desuetude at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


One final question- is it possible that she had $8 from something else? I certainly wouldn't have volunteered that I possessed my own money when out with an adult- I hoarded my allowance, but took it everywhere with me.

Might she have indeed used it all on lunch and then when you insisted you needed money later, reluctantly given you $8 of her allowance?

I don't think we have clear proof that the $8 was your change, without a more detailed accounting of what was eaten and bought.
posted by arnicae at 2:20 PM on October 1, 2008


Later in the afternoon I asked the teenager if she had the change for the food. She said "no." And I didn't follow up - I couldn't believe that she was actually lying about it and considered that perhaps there really was no change.

First of all, it sounds like you might have asked about this in a way that made it a leading question. She´s a young teen (and I have worked with young teens as well as younger kids), not an adult. This is a leading question like asking a little kid if they knew what happened to the cookies, or who spilled water on the floor, when you know very well what happened. ¨Was there any change?¨ or ¨Do you have the change from the food?¨ is not a good option, ¨I need my change from the food¨ is better, and best would have been to tell her to bring you change when you gave her the money. Young teens can handle far more responsibilities than children, but far less than an adult. I would characterize what she did as a lie, but not a serious one, it´s a lie like ¨I don´t know what happened to the cookies.¨

You may well be the first adult to have ever handed this girl money and wanted some of it back later on. It´s not surprising that she would say ¨no¨ to a yes or no question about it. Younger teens sometimes have paying jobs, but you would generally not put a younger teen in a cash handling position.

Secondly, you don´t seem to know what the food cost. If you were able to spend $20 on some snacks earlier, it´s quite possible that she spent all the food money. She may have had the $8 with her when she left the house that morning.

I wouldn´t mention this to the mother, I don´t think it´s at a level where that needs to be done, and it would be detrimental to your staying at the house.

As to the jewelery, you may have misplaced it yourself, so you shouldn´t assume it was stolen or assume anyone took it.
posted by yohko at 7:40 PM on October 1, 2008


I mean, if trust can be sold for the change from a mall food-court meal, how much is charged for forgiveness?

Fair enough, but she didn't ask to be forgiven. If she said, "Hey I did a dumb thing" my immediate response would be, "No problem, but please don't do that again".

However, she didn't do that. Yes, she's a kid, but even kids need to know that stealing/lying/sneakiness will have repercussions. I'd much rather have this conversation about 8 bucks, than about some larger more dangerous lie.
posted by 26.2 at 9:08 PM on October 1, 2008


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