My 10 year old stepdaughter is turning into someone her dad and I barely recognize anymore. She lies about EVERYTHING--and it's stupid stuff too not just the big stuff. She has stolen from us-not major stuff candy or earrings and we think some money but not sure and when we said we were going to start locking the door-she said she would just find a way to unlock it. We have tried talking to her, one on one, to try and figure out why this is happening and she said she doesn't know why she does it but she doesn't care that she does. She has the hardest time with personal space--she will literally follow her dad and I around so closely that we have ran into her when trying to turn. Any time we try to have a conversation, she is right there interrupting or trying to give her dad a hug. We have 3 other children, 5, 7, and 9 and they are losing out on our time because we constantly have to deal with her. She gets so much one on one time with us that there doesn't leave anytime for us to have time alone or us to have time with the other kids. It has gotten to the point that her dad is looking at sending her to a day care after school and leaving the other kids at home with me so they can have some attention from us. I don't want to do that but it's affecting everybody in a negative way. We have sat down with her multiple times to talk and she has even been to a counselor but all she would say is she didn't need to be there. Please help before everyone loses!
This sounds like such a frustrating situation for everyone. I have many questions reading your post: How long ago did her parent's divorce? Has she always lived with you and your husband, or did you move in relatively recently? What is the quality of her relationship with her mother? With her father?
I ask because she sounds like a girl who has a lot of deep anxiety about important relationships in her life. She may know, intellectually, that her parents and you will always be there for her, but her actions suggest that, emotionally, she feels like she could be abandoned at any minute. Paradoxically, children with these kinds of insecurities often behave in ways that garner the rejection that is their ultimate fear. They test relationships over and over again, generating anger and resentment on the part of others. The stealing is consistent with this kind of testing motive. Her desire to always be with you and her husband, seek out hugs is a more explicit call for attention and closeness that she desires.
You mention that you have talked with her a number of times about her behavior with little change. I think it is important that you and your husband know that she will require constant and consistent reassurance that you will always be there for her. For example, if she steals from you again, sit her down, let her know that the behavior is unacceptable, generate consequences for the behavior (e.g., she will have to give over her allowance for the next two weeks to repay the amount that she stole), and explain to her that you do not like her behavior, but you love her very much and you will always be there for her. When possible, make a distinction between her and her behavior, reassuring her that there is nothing she could do that would stop you from loving her.
Her following behavior reminds me of a young toddler with separation anxiety. When she is following you around, let her know that you are going into the other room, and you will be close by. Explain to her that people need a little space from one another, and although you would like to spend as much time with her as possible, you need to do things and have time for yourself. Let her know that you will take care of you and the things that need taking care of, and you will be back to spend time with her later. Try not to be too negative or punishing. Her sense of connection to others is so tenuous that she needs to be physically close to reassure herself.
Your job and her father's job is to help her develop a more stable sense of connection to others that isn't dependent upon negative attention or physical connection. This will help her to foster more positive relationships with her siblings and peers, too, as well as romantic relationships in the future.
Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Child Psychologist
Education.com JustAsk Expert