By Alma Gill
A Niece with Sticky Fingers
About six months ago, my sister moved back to our hometown with her daughter, who is 10 years old. They don’t live that far from me, its walking distance. I recently noticed when my niece comes by to visit without her mother, after she leaves, a few of my things have been missing. Never any money, mainly jewelry. I’ve never see her steal from me, but I know it has to be her. I’m hoping she isn’t a kleptomaniac and I’m not sure how to bring this to my sister’s attention. I know she misses her Dad, since they moved back and maybe she’s doing this to get attention. How would you suggest I handle this problem?
Hey now Carla,
Once a thief, always a thief, or so that’s what they say. Yea, right, we both know that ain’t true. This email takes me back to the 1970s. I’m gonna pause a minute to tell the truth and shame the devil. Since we’re all over 50, I’m naming names – lean in close, while I whisper. I remember once Neasy, Andrea and I, got caught stealing earrings from Zayre Department Store. OMGoodness, I was scared to death! All three of us were probably 11 or 12 at the time. The thought of going to jail terrified me. Let’s just say, I never did that again, LOL.
You know it’s no secret, I have a soft spot when it comes to our kids. Don’t run and tell her mama just yet. Take the time to talk to her directly. You’re her Auntie, you got this. Your sister, I’m sure would be appalled and so angry, she’d probably punish her for life. So here’s what I’d suggest, the next time she’s over, fix a light meal and step to her directly. Place a necklace around her neck and say something like this, “Hey potato chip, have you been pilfering through my things? If you wanna borrow some of my jewelry, just ask.” I think it’s important to talk to her and use the word “borrow.” Politely ask her to return your items. Discuss how stealing is wrong and how it invades a person’s privacy. Let her know how that choice of action will not allow you or anyone else to trust her.
I’m asking you to take this route because she’s only 10 years old. There’s more to this behavior than meets the eye – she’s clearly calling out for help. I agree with you, that she may be missing her dad. Either way, this is your teachable moment. Become the support she needs right now. It will build an unbreakable bond the two of you will share for a lifetime.
If she dives off the deep end, tell her you’ll have no choice but to mention this to her mother. I’m keeping my fingers crossed all’s well that ends well. Be sure to let me know what happens. I can’t wait to hear.
Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.