Dear Lola,

I was cleaning my daughter’s bedroom the other day while she was in school. She normally maintains her room without help, but I needed to organize spaces for the new Christmas toys. I came across a hidden trove of candies and small toys that were not purchased by me or anyone in the family. She is only 10 and does not have her own money to go to the store herself. When I questioned her that afternoon, she admitted she took it from the store near our home. She wanted the items but knew I would say no, so she took them.

I am mortified. This is a small family run business that struggles to survive against the other larger chain stores in town. I immediately told my daughter that what she did was wrong and that she was grounded. She has lost all her television privileges and cannot play with her friends for a month. However, my husband thinks we should have done more. He wants to march her down to the store and have her tell them what she’s done. He also wants to make her do chores for the store owner as repayment for the cost of the goods. I disagree because I think she’s punished enough and that the embarrassment of confessing will just pile the shame on. What do you think we should do?

The Mortified Mum

Advice for humans. They need all the help they can get.

Dear Mortified Mum,

Oh boy, we’ve stumbled upon an issue that every Hominid Wrangler in existence dreads – the moment their Miniature Human steals something. Immediately the Wrangler starts to wonder if all of their parenting has been a complete waste of time. The doubts and questions begin and within just a few minutes you are convinced that your Mini is on a path to career criminality. A career that is arguably harder than all the standard ones taught in school.

No matter how glamorous the movies make it seem, heist jobs are actually a lot of work.

How you handle this will set the tone for all your Miniature Human’s decisions down the road. No pressure. I think you have bungled this just a little bit, but it’s never too late to fix it! When your Mini confessed to stealing the items, you disciplined her with methods that are commonly deployed for less serious infractions. At the core of this I think you know why. You are mortified.

You don’t want anyone to know what your Miniature Human has done.

It is embarrassing and you’re worried people will judge your parenting. All of these are very valid feelings, but parenting is full of feelings and you must deal with them. There is a Miniature Human who needs to learn how the world works and what happens when you misstep. Instead of focusing on correcting the undesirable behavior, you chose a consequence that has absolutely no correlation to it.

You Miniature Human harmed another family and caused them suffering, even if in a seemingly minor way.

How exactly does losing play time with her friends fix that? I do think you should talk to the family who owns the store in private, without your Mini Human present. Let them know what has happened and ask if you can come to an agreement on rectifying the situation. This will allow you to gauge how they will respond to your daughter and come up with an age-appropriate consequence.

No need to march your Miniature Human down there if they intend to scream at her.

Then, once you’ve reached a decision on her repayment, have your Mini Human confess to them what she’s done. She should not know that you’ve already done the heavy lifting or get the impression that mommy will fix everything. Your Miniature Human must learn to face her mistakes head on and deal with the consequences.

You will be mortified, but that’s what parenting is all about.

You did mention a worry that shaming your Mini Human could harm her. I agree. However, a consequence is not shaming – it is a natural response to undesirable behavior. You will not be parading her down the street wearing a sign (that is NOT ok). You aren’t making her go door-to-door to tell the entire neighborhood what she did. You are merely making her rectify her mistake with the people she has wronged. And since you talked to the store owner first, you ensured her consequence was within the bounds of her emotional development.


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43 replies on “Dear Lola – The mortified mum…

    1. Definitely send them in! We are always looking for questions. My first book is being published, hopefully by February 1, and it is a round up of Dear Lola columns with additional ones that were never seen on the blog. I am also working on a parenting specific dear Lola book. So obviously, I desperately need questions related to parenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m afraid I’d go for the make them feel bad and shame them route over grounding and loss of TV. Whatever squashes it most is good, which is probably different for different kids. It is serious and you need to squash it young. Trust me, these issues are worse when it is a teenager. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mhm an interesting one. in kindergarten i once hit my friend with a toy on the head – my mother made me go to her house, apologise and probably giver her one of my toys. she is still a very good friend of mine and probably my oldest friend. (in case that helps in the decision making process 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with some of the above – she should go and admit to what she has done. It will teach her to be responsible for her actions and she will never do it again x #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a tricky one, and I think the fact that the father thinks they did not do enough says a lot. It’s very easy to under react to your child’s misdeeds, or to overreact. Both parents need to be comfortable with the decisions they make for discipline.


  4. Love your phrase “You will be mortified, but that’s what parenting is all about.” How true. The store owner should definitely be reimbursed. You are right, Lola. As usual! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I honestly feel that making restitution is a good way to teach a child that what she did had a cost to another person. Imagine that store owner’s family not being able to eat dinner that night…


  5. Memory triggered of coming home to find my daughter has taken a toy pink phone from the supermarket. Told her off and she was tiny but did not take it back as felt so ashamed and also was in grip of post-natal depression so running away at that time from just about everything. Also memories of me emptying a tin of money that was a holiday spending money fund for me as a teenager and not understanding why my mum was so cross if the money was meant for me anyway. I know now. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every situation is different, and it sounds like you handled the toy phone in the best possible way for your scenario. It was a one toy incident, and it obviously didn’t repeat itself. I think that’s what I wanted the letter writer to understand – that the issue needed to be addressed. her daughter had obviously stolen on more than one occasion and knew it was wrong because she was hiding it.


  6. Oh, this is very interesting. It really does make you think, What would you do in that situation? I am not too sure what I would do in the situation but do feel the store owner needs to be reimbursed otherwise they are the ones being punished. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Absolutely sound advice, Lola. The punishment should fit the crime, and while loss of privileges is, I suppose, one way of driving home the message, it’s so much better for the child to make restitution and to face the people (actual people who have to make a living by selling the things she has stolen) she has wronged.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow a tough one. I’m putting myself in this situation right now as a mom and asking myself is this what I would do? And yes, though it is not a nice one to have to carry out, I would go down this route too. Otherwise will she ever really understand the consequences of what she has done? Probably not. You are really practising tough love here today Lola! #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What brilliant advice. I definitely think it’s always a good idea to show zero tolerance for these type of incidences. Checking the way with the store before the little one confesses to wrong doings is a great way of ensuring that it’s dealt with swiftly and fairly. Thanks for being a fab #DreamTeam host Heather xx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mistakes are good, it’s how we learn BUT, we only learn something if we understand how and why it was a mistake, and the consequences of that mistake. Don’t be too mortified, it’s a common occurance, and the reason why we see ‘only two school children at a time’ signs up in small local shops!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This miniature human should take ownership and responsibility for her actions. Nip it in the butt now before it spirals out of control. However it is nothing to be ashamed about – it can still be rectified #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

  12. When I was 4, I saw a whistle inside a giant chocolate Easter bunny at the grocer. As a Jewish kid, I knew that bunny wasn’t coming to my home any time, ever. I just really wanted that whistle! So, I poked my stubby little finger in the package and whistled myself, strutting, down the aisle. I was immediately scolded and forced to tell the manager what I did. He rewarded me by giving me the whistle, along with the said giant chocolate beast. Now, how I am not living a life of swindling and thievery? My mom gave me a good what for, too! Lola, great advice, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

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