Barbara, I give my grandchildren the run of the house. When my 9-year-old granddaughter, who is the oldest of eight, comes to visit, things go missing. Sometimes I find a missing object buried in some fabric on the top shelf of a back-room closet, sometimes something will reappear after being missing for a year. This child definitely has a mean streak and a queen bee complex, but her parents are very sensitive to criticism. How can I handle this tactfully?
From: Tessa, Greenwich, CT
I always try to consider questions from a developmental perspective, so in this case, I'm wondering, why would a 9-year-old "hide" her grandma's objects? This is not typical behavior. The simplest answer is that she wants to be discovered for the attention discovery would bring her, but because of how well hidden the objects are, that's probably not the case. More likely, her behavior is a sign of unhappiness.
Have you talked to her about this? Don't ask her if she is taking objects; she'll deny it or maybe not even remember and you'll be in a no-win struggle with her. And you certainly don't want to be accusatory or angry. Try something like this: "I've noticed there are some things of mine that are missing. We need to talk about it because I'm worried about you."
That may or may not get a conversation going but at the very least she will know that you want to help her. There must be some reason this is happening at your house, right? (And by the way, I'm assuming you are 100% certain there is no other possible explanation for these "found" objects.)
Of course, your question wasn't about talking to your granddaughter, it was about talking to her parents. I would simply tell the parents about the conversation you and your granddaughter had in a, "I thought you might want to know" kind of way. That's informational rather than confrontational. The bottom line is that it sounds like your granddaughter may benefit from some professional help.
Meanwhile, if you haven't already, put objects that are valuable -- financially or otherwise -- in a safe place.
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