New to Forum, Looking for Support for adult child stealing and taking advantage of us

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by roughtimejules, May 2, 2013.

  1. roughtimejules

    roughtimejules New Member

    Hello I found this forum today while searching for answers as to why my 21 year old daughter would steal from me even when we were already helping her. A bit of history first. She suffers from depression and ADD, she has bouts of cutting herself although not deeply, she considers suicide but hasn't ever attempted it, she is lazy and unmotivated to succeed. She graduated high school, went off to college (which we paid for) and promptly failed most classes. The 2nd year she had to get student loans to pay for school. She also mostly failed and didn't pay rent which we ended up bailing her out and moving her home. She had been fired from 2 jobs.

    Upon returning home and going through counseling she spend 6 months looking for work, doing little house work or helping me out. When she finally found a job, she found 2. Working full-time with benefits, how great is that? However, she couldn't get up on time and was late to work maybe once per week. After 7 months of working and trying to move out on her own (lasted 3 days before she lost her jobs) she's back home again due to no money and no where to go.

    The last month I have helped her with gas in her car, paid for her medications, food, etc. (about $350) and what happens? She took 2 different credit cards and ran up a total of about $600 in charges. All in 5 days. When I was reviewing my statement I noticed the charges and put two and two together. She denies 2 of the larger charges at a smoke shop (she swears she doesn't smoke or use vapor cigs) but it just doesn't add up. All I wanted to do was call the police.

    However, my husband disagreed with me and instead we had a conversation with her. Mostly she sat and cried and said little. She said she doesn't know why she thinks it's okay to have us just pay for her to do whatever she wants, gas in her car, gas in her friends car, barnes and noble, dinner, whatever she wants. And it's stupid things.

    Everything I've read today says we should call the police and charge her with theft. She's been charged with shoplifting before, it's a problem. She's a liar and a thief. The trust is gone. I spoke with our therapist today and he suggested tough love. Call the police, charge her, make sure she knows we won't take it anymore. He also said that if we can't follow through on the tough love then we can't even begin it because if we cave in it gives her all the power again. My problem is that she does really seem contrite. Maybe I'm just blind. Is there a happy medium where she learns from her mistakes and becomes responsible, dependable and honest with us without us having to kick her out or am I kidding myself. She's not violent, just sad.

    Anyway, we took away her cell phone and she only has car privileges to and from work for a month (she's working as a receptionist in her dad's law office). Maybe we're still treating her like a child. I just don't know what the right thing to do is. She has an appointment with the therapist on Monday morning. We figure we'll discuss our options, see how the session goes on Monday and go from there. We did tell her that if she ever steals from us again we will not hesitate to call the police.

    Thanks for listening.

    Me - 44 year old married mother of 3 (2 sons also, 15 and 13 yrs old) who worried about the impact she's having on the family
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there. Welcome to the board, but so sorry you have to be here. I am assuming, maybe wrongly, that she has dabbled in drugs and may be stealing from you to fund them and may not be able to get up in the morning because she is hung over or high. Maybe you never catch her, but I'll bet she's has this going on as she is behaving just like a young adult who has no motivation and no scruples because she is using drugs, which wipe out the good in anyone. We don't have a background so I can only guess, but that is the biggest issue with most of our difficult children.

    Even if she isn't using drugs or drinking too much, she is 21 and in my opinion her behavior is unacceptable in your house. She is too old to have you paying for everything and not working and getting up too late for her jobs and for setting a bad example for the other kids. You shouldn't have to pay for her stuff anymore. She in my opinion needs to be given a date when she will be asked to leave unless she gets a job and pays her own bills. That means KEEPING the job. She has no incentive to change or grow up if you continue to treat her like she is a minor child. I'll bet she howls if you try to give her a curfew because "I'm an adult." Some of our kids are picky about when they are adults and when they still want to be kids.

    On the other hand, everyone is different and you, and only you and hub, have to decide what is acceptable and tolerable in your house. If this were my daughter, I would have called the police. I called the police on my daughter when she was fifteen and caught smoking pot so this would have been a no-brainer. However, I am not you. If you can live with her stealing from you, that is your decision.

    Most of us have done the tough love bit so that we had peace in our home and because our children were making their own choices NOT to follow our rules. If they had followed our rules, they could have stayed at home. But they pretty much mostly decided to continue the drug use, the disrespect, the stealing, the anger, some even got violent. They refused rehab or therapy. We could not live with our grown children and they in our opinions needed to leave in order to grow up and change.

    Can you give us more background on your daughter? How long has she been a problem? Has she ever even shoved you or your husband or her siblings? Is she verbally abusive? What about the drug issue? Do you know? Has she had any DUIs? Does she seem to have a conscience? That's huge. A lot of our grown kids seem to be lacking a conscience...and that's not good. Is she on medication for her depression?

    Nobody can answer the question as to whether your daughter will mature or not. I think in my opinion she'd mature faster out of your house, but I don't know for sure...nobody does. Some grown difficult children improve, some don't. in my opinion whether she will get better in her behavior has a lot to do with why she is behaving this way (if it's drugs and she kicks the drugs, lots of hope!) and if this is new behavior with a cause or she has always been this way, but again...I don't know for sure.

    Welcome aboard again :) We all have been in your shoes.
  3. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I think it is wise to take your time. Do you "know" that she is doing drugs? Most of our kids who steal are also drug users...sad but true. Personally I don't think jumping into police charges is the right step because you apparently either don't know what's going on with her or are in denial. Many of us have been. Take the steps slowly and surely and absolutely make sure that you and your spouse are on the SAME page. Hugs. DDD
  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi rtj, I'm glad you decided to post your own thread and use a signature, as you can see, we have many wise warrior Mom's here who've been through the ringer in more ways then one...............we can understand your feelings as most other parents of 'regular' kids can't. Welcome! I'm glad you're here.

    This detachment stuff is a process, we all approach it gingerly and it takes time for us to learn how to do it. It requires boundary setting that is strong and impenetrable, boundaries not really required when raising kids without issues. (Incidentally, we call our kids difficult child's, 'gifts from God.')

    When dealing with our adult kids who have 'issues' it requires a new parent handbook, not the one you thought you would be using, the one which says, just love them and everything will be okay. This is not the world any of us here live in. This is the world where we have to learn a whole different way of parenting, one which requires in many circumstances (not all) that we set unbendable, rigid, unbreakable boundaries, police those boundaries carefully, not giving in one inch, make good on our promises of police involvement, or kicking them out, or whatever we have committed to and told them we would do, in regards to their behavior. In this world, you become diligent and you learn how to not fall for manipulations, lying, secrets, stealing, drugs, drinking or any behaviors which you wouldn't tolerate in your home or from anyone else. To the degree that you do tolerate it, you live with it. Whatever you accept becomes your daily reality and then it (likely) gets worse. Not to scare you, just talking from experience and reading others experiences on this board.

    The odd irony is that as you were protecting your daughter from herself and her depression, making sure she didn't do harm to herself, you were in all probability, enabling her, allowing her to behave in ways that you would not usually allow, but because you were trying to protect her, you allowed. Then she gets the clear message that you allow it and she continues to do it. And, pretty soon, that is just the way it is. And, being human, she keeps upping the ante,..... the stolen credit cards. If you didn't stop that, it would likely escalate into something bigger and more difficult for you to tolerate. So, at some point, we stop tolerating it and we're forced to stop the enabling. That's where it gets dicey. You have to become tough and she's used to an easier ride, so there WILL BE CONFLICT. And, you will have to deal with that conflict without enabling, without caving. Not always easy, often quite challenging. But, really, once you are caught in this vortex, it is usually the only way out.

    My suggestion is that you and your husband both get counseling and decide, right from the beginning to present a united front. Any deviation from that will invite manipulations from your daughter using you against each other and we've seen many marriages quake under the weight of an adult child who takes no responsibility for their actions. It would be wise for you to gather your wits together, seek as much help as possible, read books, keep posting here, open the lines of communication with your husband and talk it all out until you reach an agreement which you can both live with..............this is a very bumpy and often treacherous ride and you'll need each other and your therapist.

    I think there can be a happy middle ground between kicking them out and them learning from their mistakes, but it will all depend on you and how much you can let her have the consequences of her behavior. Unfortunately, in the real world, being contrite and sad is not an excuse for illegal activity. She can be contrite now because nothing has changed yet, however, once the tough love begins, my guess is that contrite will quickly turn into more bad behavior and anger at you.

    That's a big dose of reality,............I know........... but I just believe it's good to know where you stand, it's a new universe for you and you'll need your warrior armor and your tools, I'm trying to prepare you early on so you can succeed without falling into the usual potholes I've tripped into. I wish you strength and peace.............and send you hugs too..............hang tough.
  5. Dixies_fire

    Dixies_fire Member

    I don't have an adult child, and I am sorry that you have been going trough this. But I was cut loose at the age of 16 to largely succeed or fail in life by my own volition. It taught me some things, paying bills, earning gas money only shopping when I had money. Bad people steal and I worked butt off for what I had. This girl is totally taking advantage of you. You tried college and you tried nursing her through every failure. If she doesn't have the qualifications to work in your husbands office she shouldn't work there.

    I can understand not wanting to press charges on her but taking her phone is a teenaged punishment this girl is an adult. At 21 I had been on my own for 5 years, had held jobs for multiple years. Earned a GED, accepted to college (couldn't pay for it) been married and cared for my daughter for two years. Not to say the way I did things the best way but guess what? I'm 27, middle class have a nice car, nice home and nice kids.

    Her taking your credit card is a hallmark of entitled behavior. She seems contrite because she's sad as hell she got caught and you might make her work for a living.

    Set a date. Say by the end of summer you need to be out, by xyz date (somewhere in the middle) she needs a car. If she doesn't have a car by the date you set she still needs to be out by the end of the summer. I would not give her phone back but that's up to you.

    She's a grown up.
    She isn't getting better.
    She's getting worse
    And god forbid she does ever have kids she wouldn't know how to take care of them because she can't take care of herself.

    There's a gray area between pressing charges and letting her continue to walk all over you. You and your husband are the only ones who will make this happen. She obviously isn't going to do it. Find your gray area that you are comfy with and get the stress out of your life and enjoy YOUR freedom.
  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi rtj and welcome to the board. Sorry you had to meet us under such circumstances.

    One thing I really want to say is dont threaten anything in anger you are never willing to back up 100% or your adult child will realize you dont mean anything you say. That is a horrible position to be in. I learned that the hard way. My kid was one who would take advantage of trying anything hoping that eventually he could wear us down. Remember when they were little and we told them not to touch the stove because it was hot? Well mine would keep touching it and getting burned until the one day he touched it and it wasnt hot so he took that to mean that it was worth trying because there was a chance that it wouldnt be hot. He used that thinking in most everything he did in life. Sure there were risks involved but would he get caught every time? No? Okay...risk was worth it.

    He did steal from us many times over the years and I let the petty little things go which now I think was a big mistake. I waited until he stole a large amount of money from me when he was 21 and I charged him. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do but it was the best thing I ever did. It pulled him up short and he had to finally realize that the courts werent just going to give him a slap on the hand and let him go. He actually had consequences. Ever since then he has started to grow up. He is now almost 27 and doing quite well.

    Only you can decide how you want to handle things. Kicking a kid out is a hard thing to do. We didnt even kick my son out when he stole from us but that was a unique situation based on where we live and the fact that he was on house arrest based in our home.
  7. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    Recovering, this post is amazing.

  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Recovering is one of our most amazing posters. Honestly, she says it all and with so much love and compassion.

  9. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    Several of the books I have read say we have an epidemic of entitled young adults. in my opinion, it's true. I see so much of it in families around me (and in mine). We all want to help our children to have a great life and some are completely taking advantage of us.

    I have a totally difficult child sister that doesn't drink or do drugs, she is very involved in her church. She is not a dependable person at all. She seems to only think of herself and lives for the moment with no concern about how she is going to support herself. One other sister is supporting her while she trains for a new job. In the last 6 months she was fired from one job and got mad and quit another.

    Now, I know without a doubt my 34yo difficult child uses drugs and abuses alcohol, and that takes their gfgdom to a whole new level. I was financing their parties and concert trips because they were lying to me and I fell for it. I was told he needed money for food to finish the semester and he was homeless, for months he created this lie and I'm jumping through hoops to help him AND IT WAS ALL A BIG FAT LIE! I'm finally fed up with being lied to, manipulated, and treated with disrespect.

    I read recently that Bundy's mother believed her son was innocent until the very day he made his confession. It is extremely hard for parent to see their children as anything but good and we (most parents anyway) keep trying to give them one more chance. My son was clean and sober for over a year and I actually liked him. He relapsed and he is worse than he was before. He is also a follower and the girl (about 38) he is in a relationship with tells him if I really loved him I would be supporting him *in his time of need*.

    I started detaching and as I stepped back I began to see a clearer picture. When we can take the emotion away our judgemnt is not as clouded. The fact that mine appears to only love me when I send money with no questions asked hurts.

    It's so very hard to do, but learn to detach, and let them live their own lives. Mine has gone NC with me when he did realize I was serious about NO more money or anything. Helping them is a whole different topic than letting them steal from us. Hang in there!!
    (((huggs we all know how hard it is, I never in a million years believed I would have a child like this)))
  10. roughtimejules

    roughtimejules New Member

    Hello and thanks for all the kind and supportive words. No I've never seen or smelled or caught my daughter using drugs. She says she isn't and wouldn't. She has drank alcohol before but says she's not anymore. Right now she's here each night without access to any substance. I sincerely hope she isn't, she's just selfish and feels entitled.

    She has always been difficult to wake up. High school was torture, college was even worse. She's a night owl, always has been. I told myself I wasn't going to get her up each day to be to work on time but found myself checking on her and getting her up today. She was still 15 minutes late for work. I've talked to her about finding a night job as she seems to be more alert and maybe that's the way her body is. But she doesn't seem to want to look very hard and since she has this opportunity to work at her Dad's office she's taking it (I know that it won't last if she can't be on time, they'll fire her). I'm considering asking her if she needs me to wake her up every day to be on time, if she wants me to do that, or if I should let her be and let the chips fall where they may. I'll let her decide, and ask how she feels about it. I'm sure she feels badly about herself when I wake her up, I'm not nice about it.

    She is taking medication for her depression and should be taking ADD medications but I'm not sure about that. I haven't seen them although I gave her money to buy them...I asked for a receipt but haven't seen one. I'm just tired of the lying so I stopped asking. She's wearing me out.

    Anyway, my husband and I will be discussing all of this on a continual basis. We're trying to come together as a united front and we're determined to not let her ruin us or the family.

    One more update is that our therapist suggested our difficult child take a financial education course through a free foundation in the city. I've signed her up for the course which is 8 hours over 2 Saturday mornings. There will be no more "but I didn't know that would happen". It's time she understands how the world works and makes a plan for her future. Hopefully she'll take something from the class and make some goals.

    44 year old Mom of 3, an enabling parent trying to learn tough love :)
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  11. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I have not read all the responses yet. I want to welcome you. This is a great place and while we all have advice and opinions from different points of view, we do understand that you can only do what you are ready to do. We make suggestions, present info (often passionately) AND we understand that you will take what helps and leave the rest. We don't expect you to do things just because we said to.

    As a mom, you have AMAZING instincts. Those instincts are what kept us alive in the days before history and working together for common goals. They kept the things that go bump in the night and in the day from eating us. Now we use them to do what is needed for our kids. Follow those instincts for the most part. Not your brain, your gut. Your brain is over-informed and is what gets us into trouble when we want our kids to be happy all the time the way tv etc.... make us think we should. That gut feeling that screams NO when the doctor tells you to try this or that, or when difficult child says "everyone else does" is the part you listen to. The biggest mistakes we make are when we ignore or over-ride those instincts and this goes for life and for parenting.

    You and your husband MUST be on the same page. NOTHING will work if you aren't. Your marriage won't work because you will be at odds all the time. difficult child will thrive in her gfgness if you allow that to happen. MANY of us have ugly tshirts to prove we have been there done that, even if they are just imaginary because they are wayyyyyyyy too ugly to put in our closets.

    Your daughter is being kept as a teen. It isn't appropriate for the most part. Until she MUST handle adult responsibility, she won't. Consequences have to happen and they must be real and logical. Everyone will benefit if you can start to see her as not your child or teen, but as a roommate. NOT saying don't love her, or help when it is appropriate and reasonable and not making your life miserable or complicated. Just expect her to behave more as a roommate - basic chores, self care and a job so she can pay part of teh bills. She needs to learn how expensive it is to have a house, how expensive all her wants and her lifestyle are, and how hard it is to get $$ from a job. She needs to be paying rent every month and have real consequences if she doesn't or is late. Some people take the rent money and save it for the kid to be used for a deposit later, others use it for what they want/need, and neither is wrong. You have to choose what works for you. Even if you plan to give it to her for an apartment, you should NOT EVER tell her that until you give her the money. It needs to be a TOTAL surprise for her.

    You may find some help and info by reading Parenting Your Teen with Love and Logic by Fay and Kline. It may also help your husband with the entire issue. There are many L&L books and I found they were full of ideas and techniques that not only were logical, possible and would help with the problems, but they also allowed my dha nd I to use the same stratehgies and work together. Before we had L&L, my husband was NEVER willing to do more than yell one or two times a year and to tell our difficult child that we were disappointed. He undermined the consequences I imposed and we fought fought fought while our difficult child got away with a LOT fo stuff. husband didn't understand the ideas in most parenting books until we found these. We were able to create boundaries and consequences that made sense (logical natural consequences) and to work as a team. It totally blew my difficult child's mind when he realized that he could not get Dad to undo the consequence that Mom gave him. It made a real difference for us all.

    You can learn more about L&L at I think it would be very helpful if for no other reason than to help you and husband work together. A therapist is also needed when you have issues like this dividing your marriage. Of course we will also be here for you whenever you need/want us!