Hello, I am hoping someone can help with an issues we ahve been haveing for over 2 years. My 6year old is a great kid, very smart and has mild ADHD. Our issue is food stealing/hoarding. She stealls constantly 24/7. Tae this moring for example she had breakfest ( cearl, milk, bannana, and 1/2 bagle) then not 5 min. later she asked to go upstairs and watch cartoons, I asked to see her hands just because she was hiding them and she had a 1/2 lb of cheese. The night before I found a whole box of ritz crakers that she had stole some time and ate about 1/4. We have taken her to a child spec. in gentics and she does not have any gentic chromosome issues, our family dr. thinks this is a "phase" but its way more than that. We just don't know what to do. We are now in the process of putting a sliding door with a lock on our kitchen and I feel so bad. Our friends think we are so crule doing this. When she first started stealiong we would sit down explain why its wrong asked her why she did it, we have tried time outs, looseing things she likes( computer time, tv time, baby dolls ect) but NOTHING seems to effect her. We ahve now had to lock our door going upstairs so sje cannot steal food. She doesn't always eat what she steals. She has stolen everying thing from hamburger from the freezer to boxes of pop tarts, canned foods, popciles, everything. She seems to think about food constantly. We are all over weight in this house but are not ones to diet. there is food to eat anytime she wants its with out stealing and hiding it. Please if anyone has gone through this please help.
Hi there. I wonder if you took a different tactic if it would help. What if you told her "oh, you have the cheese. Okay, you want some?" And then offer to cut her some of the cheese right there. Tell her "mommy will get you what you want if you are hungry, all you have to do is ask." Don't act mad but rather that she is fine to have the food, just keep it in the kitchen. Tell her how meat will go bad and cheese will go bad if she puts it in her room. It will stink it up and bugs will come. So we have to keep some food in the frig and the rest in the food areas of the house so the house stays nice. But she is welcome to it there. Tell her that she can have crackers but let's put them in a bowl next time and leave the box in the food area. Bugs.
I am wondering if she might benefit from a psychologist at this point to discuss some obsessive behaviors?
I think I've read that a child stealing food and hiding it is a special category, but am not able to find the topic in any coherent way online (mostly only on chat rooms, where amateurs answer with their own biases).
One of the wise ladies who writes on this site once commented that children steal to fill a broken heart, and it makes sense to me for general theft, but the part about hoarding food -- it seems that I recall it has much more to do with survival fears, and nothing to do with being defiant or disobedient. I did find the following list on another site, but it wasn't about food specifically. I encourage you to keep digging, and also strongly suggest you see a therapist who specializes in children's issues.
"Motives for stealing can differ from child to child, and any one child can steal for a variety of reasons. Children may steal because:
- They lack family closeness and feel neglected; a stolen object might serve as a substitute for love
- They are suffering a form of abuse and need help
- They are expressing displaced feelings of anxiety, anger, or alienation resulting from a major life change such as parental divorce, moving to a new school, or being rejected by peers
- They are rebelling against authority
When you have talked to her and asked her why she is doing it, what does she say? Does she say she's hungry? Obviously, she is eating enough, my concern would be a possible medical condition that's causing her to either feel hungry and unsatisfied after eating...or some psychological reason she's obsessed with food. Does she steal and hoard anything else, or just food? How about drinking? Does she hoard drinks too?
Have you guys ever tried strict diets where all or some of the members of the family were severely restricting food intake? If so, how old was she, and did the dieting include her?
When you took her to the doctor, what kinds of tests did they do? I would maybe look into taking her to a pediatric endocrinologist to rule out a medical cause, this could be a hormonal or endocrine related problem. Does she display any other negative behaviors? Temper tantrums? How does she react when you take the stolen food away from her? Is she accepting of it, or does she throw a major fit?
I think specialmom gave some GREAT suggestions on how to handle this until you can look into this a little more thoroughly. I'm not sure the answer is putting the kitchen on lockdown. That may send a message that you don't trust her (which I understand that you don't, for good reason...but I just think, until you've exhausted other methods, it's just too much).
A psychologist could be helpful in offerig some suggestions on how to use behavioral modification to deal with this, and also look into whether there is a deep seeded reason she is doing this (once a medical cause is ruled out).
I was thinking about prader willi syndrome as well. I actually worked with PW kids VERY early in my nursing career. That's why I was asking about the behaviors. PW children display a SEVERE amount of aggression when it comes to food related issues.
When we would assist them in the cafeteria for lunch (Pittsburgh Children's Institute), EVERY single day we would have to use a sheet technique to safely remove a child after they would flip out. Literally, we would drag these kids out on a sheet kicking and screaming, punching, spitting). Because of their size, it would take like 10 of us to handle them. They have a lot of cognitive deficits too. Sadly, a lot of them ended up institutionalized long term.
I would hope that the genetic specialist ruled that out.
Don't be afraid to look into prader willi though if it hasnt been ruled out as there will be variability in kids. The unusual habit of stealing and hoarding food fits the profile but these kids often 'eat' it as well. So, I just thought I'd throw it out there in case you haven't asked the physician about this and it got missed with her other neurological/developmental issues. Better safe than sorry. I do wish you luck.
Nursegirl, that sounds like a difficult and challenging job! Bless the nurses that help children in need.
There is a good chance that her ADHD is part of the problem. Kids at a younger age with ADHD don't have those filters that tell them "no". Consequently, they do things without thinking much about consequences. This is one reason that normal punishments don't work. The child never has time to think about the punishment.
Your breakfast tale sounds like an example of this. Now, if she is on medication, then she should be able to resist the temptations better. But, I am assuming that she is not since you said she has mild "ADHD". By the way, after years on the ADHD forum, I'm not sure there is such a thing as "mild" ADHD. Oh, and if you have any questions about helping her with her ADHD - please post here http://www.medhelp.org/forums/ADD---ADHD/show/175
The big problem is why she always going for food. You mentioned that you are all overweight. How overweight is she? There are certain medical conditions (I believe) that can cause excessive weight gain and thus an obsession for food. I know you have consulted with a genetics doc - but has she had a complete blood panel check? And I would also check for things like Diabetes as intense hunger is a symptom of type two.
Finally, I like specialmoms ideas. Certainly worth trying. Kind of makes me wonder when you say, "there is food to eat anytime she wants its with out stealing and hiding it." Not sure what the difference is between food anytime she wants it and taking (stealing) it. Heck, for all of the trouble you are going through I would put a mini refrig in her room and keep it well stocked. Well, kind of kidding there - but thats why I like specialmoms ideas. Do check her out medically. Best wishes.
I have actually heard of children doing this because the are concerned about their family's health. On tv a lot of show discuss how being overweight has health issues, even sesame street, so then some kids get it in their head that if their family doesn't lose weight that they will get sick or die. Leave it to the media right? lol
Well I hope things get better for you guys. Best of luck.
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