Hello, I have a daughter who is now 16. Recently, she has stolen from me twice but I did not confront her about it. She stole before, when she was in preschool but minor things like candy and a school supply. Other than that, she does not steal now. However, she used to cut up her sisters clothes or hide them or break their jewelry when she was mad at them. She was always remorseful it after she did it and that also stopped on its own. She was about 13 when she did this. One last thing. Now when she gets angry at our parrot for making a mess or being too loud, she hits the cage but never the bird. She also held its feathers back a couple of times to see if it could still fly. I know she did not want to hurt it though and I know she cares for it because when it got sick she thought it was going to die and burst into tears. She also once, at age 8, had a pet fish she would used to hold out of the water to play with but as soon as I told her the fish could die if she kept that up she stopped. Other than this, she is shy and very nice and well behaved. Her teachers love her and she has great behavior. I think some of this behavior may be learned from her father. He has anger issues and used to tear my clothes with his hands. Please let me know what you think. I looked at the conduct order symptoms and really don’t think she has it, but she used to cut clothes which falls under destroying property. A response on how to handle this and what you think would bring me great peace of mind. Thank you!
Though it’s impossible to diagnose over the Internet, your daughter having conduct disorder seems unlikely, though possible. Young adults with conduct disorder tend to be aggressive, violent, have significant issues with anger management and struggle with school and home life issues. Many individuals with conduct disorder are also involved with the criminal justice system. From your correspondence, your daughter doesn’t seem to be demonstrating this behavior.
Though she might not have conduct disorder, her stealing from you is a problem that should not be ignored. I don’t think you need to “confront” your daughter but you do need to have a frank discussion with her about this unacceptable behavior.
She also struggles with anger issues. As you suspect, she may be imitating what she has observed from her father. Both the stealing and how she manages her anger need to be addressed.
You can speak to your daughter about these issues and I would encourage you to do so. Also, you should consider family therapy. A family therapist can facilitate these difficult discussions, work to strengthen family relationships, improve your communication and overall reduce conflict. Ask your family doctor for a referral to a family therapist. Books about tough love would also be helpful. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle