My daughters sneak all the time, how do I make them stop?
We have two daughters that are adopted from a foreign country, they are 7 and 8 years old and came to us at the ages of 4 and 5. They constantly sneak things that they are not supposed to...take dress shoes to school, take toys to school, sneak food, get up at night and play with toys, sneak nail polish and the list goes on. They are not the best at it because they usually get caught. We just can not make them understand that it isn't acceptable. We have taken away privileges and toys and electronics....nothing seems to work. They both speak very good English and understand us when we tell them not to sneak. We think they developed this behavior at the orphanage and it is a habit. We worry that it will escalate as they get older.
We really think its great you took the time to open up and reach out for some help and support with your parenting issue. While any parent would share your frustration when their children have been misbehaving, sneaking around, and now following instructions, please remember that looking for some help and guidance whenever you can't unlock the solution to a parenting issue is always a great step to take, and a strong sign of parenting ability in its own right!
While it might not appear to be so on the surface, children do best when they have a routine. As such, it sounds like a lot of the childrens' problems occur during times of day when they would benefit from having this type of a routine (getting ready for school, bedtime, etc.). As such, it may be helpful to practice the routine of getting ready for school (waking up, taking care of hygiene, dressing, eating, preparing for school). Part of this routine could be that you help them double-check their school bags before heading off to school, as this would provide you with an opportunity to look for any food or toys. Setting this routine, practicing it (and rewarding that practice) and sticking to it are all important parts of the process.
When you catch the girls misbehaving, make sure to use each instance as a teaching opportunity, we call this process Corrective Teaching. By this, we mean to teach to the behavior. Say you catch your child sneaking a treat when they are not supposed to. Instead of getting worked up, yelling, and saying something like, "Why are you doing this?!?" take advantage of the opportunity to teach your child appropriate behaviors. Calmly have the child place the treat back where it is supposed to go and calmly talk with them about the behavior (what did they do that was wrong, why was it wrong, and what should they have done differently). Then, practice this more appropriate behavior (how to ask nicely for a treat, for example). After completion of this practice, praise the practice and then install a consequence for the behavior (such as no TV for a certain period of time, or no playing with toys for a certain period of time). Being firm and consistent with this approach is also key.
I think the whole idea of talk calmly then punish is not building a relationship conducive to stopping sneaking. I like the attached resource as a guide. I think at the heart of the concern is the need to build an open, honest relationship, which is something I struggle with my own children too. I can understand food "sneaking," when I was really hungry and growing (ie.pregnant) I needed the security of a Luna bar in my purse to know I could have nutrition whenever my body said it was hungry- so I can fully empathize with wanting to have food in one's backpack. I am not a fan of food schedules- I consider food a shared commodity for the entire family and instead guide choices. http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/parenting-is-contact-sport/201103/teaching-your-kids-be-honest Good luck!