Written by Doctor G

10 Year Old Steals Password, Lies About It

file7741245032825I am struggling to deal with a new situation with my 10 year old daughter. We have learned that she looked on my ex’s phone, discovered a passcode, and has been downloading applications without permission onto her i-touch. When asked about it she denies it and when given the consequence of a month with no devices she became irritated and said ‘I’m not telling you anything til the month is up.” I am pretty blown away by this. The looking on someone else’s phone, being belligerent when she caught and still denying it. Any thoughts about how to move forward instructing her about breaking trust, invading someone’s privacy and taking responsibility? Thanks. This is new territory!

Pam, in MA

Pam, I’m sorry your daughter is struggling, and causing you pain. My guess is that she is in some pain as well, and this may be how she is expressing it.

You’ve really explained well exactly what she’s done wrong. She broke your (and your ex’s) trust by downloading apps without permission. She invaded her Dad’s privacy, and she is not taking responsibility (or showing remorse) for her bad behavior. I think the best way to help her with each of these is to address them separately with her. Here are some suggestions:

1. Prioritize the issues.  Decide with her Dad which of these is the biggest concern, and which is the smallest. The consequence for the biggest issue has to be the one that makes the biggest impression.

2. Separate the transgressions and give her a consequence for each. One lump “no devices for a month” does not teach her any particular lesson. As parents we teach best when we choose consequences that have something to do with the problem. Like:

She broke your trust. Now, you may lock her device so she can’t download without you there to put in the new passcode.

She invaded her Dad’s privacy. What would make him feel more secure? Maybe she needs to spend a weekend always being in the same room with him except once she’s asleep. This might also give them some good time together to bond – “punishments” can have good consequences too. She’ll still get the point.

She won’t admit accountability. You may stick with the 1 month grounding, but also require a 5 page paper from her in order to end the grounding. That paper could be about her own experiences with people not taking responsibility for breaking rules. Or she might write about a society in which nobody ever admits to being wrong and how that would go. Be creative!

3. Talk to her about her feelings. If this is a big change in her behavior, there is a reason. Let her know that respectful, honest communication may help you decrease her consequences. Remember to respect her emotions, and not try to argue with her about how she feels.

4. Explain that how she feels is not as important as how she behaves. When kids and teens are going through something painful, they often believe that these feelings justify breaking the rules. Help her understand that you have empathy for her feelings, but that you will still hold her accountable for her behavior.

This is not the last time that your daughter will break rules. Set up a pattern of handling her rebellion with some empathy, but also with clear, consistent consequences. Then she will know what to expect from you. Even better, she will know better what you expect from her!


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2 thoughts on “10 Year Old Steals Password, Lies About It”

  1. “How she feels is not as important as how she behaves.” I love that, because I think sometimes people (even adults!) use their emotions to justify doing what they now is wrong (I know I’m guilty of it.) I think it’s something that needs to be explained and worked on — acknowledging the feelings but still trying to make the right choices.

    1. Angela, I think you’re right! We can show empathy while “holding the line.” It’s not that we don’t care how our kids feel. But we set them up to feel shocked and betrayed if we give them the idea that the world will care more about how they feel than about how they act!

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