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Daughter, 6, took money - what should we do?

Dear Dave,

I gave my wife $350 for Christmas shopping. While she was at the store with our six-year-old daughter, she cashed her bonus cheque to put with the Christmas money. When she tried to check out, the money was gone. My wife even asked our daughter if she took the money out of mommy's purse, and she said no. Later, we found the money in our daughter's coat, and she didn't seem sorry at all for having taken it. How should we address this?

Jonathan

Dear Jonathan,

Most children that age really have no idea something like this is such a big deal. But this is more than just a money thing. It's something of great value, and it's someone else's stuff. Not only that, but she took it, lied about it and then showed no remorse. I've got a really short fuse when it comes to lying, but the lack of repentance and sorrow associated with something like this are my biggest problems.

First of all, you and your wife have to present a united front when you talk about this with your child. This is an incredible example of a teachable moment, but you two have to be on the same side and treat it with appropriate seriousness. You have to make your daughter understand that what she did was wrong and why it was wrong. Perhaps you could also use an example of someone taking something from her — something that was very valuable to her — and ask how she would feel in that situation.

Lots of times this approach, especially with little kids, will touch their hearts and help them realise the magnitude of their actions. In a case like this, I think I'd hand out very little in the way of punishment. Regardless, you have to nip this kind of thing in the bud immediately. This is the kind of violation you cannot allow to happen unaddressed. And whatever the consequences of her actions end up being, you must make sure she clearly understands why she's being punished and why what she did was wrong.

—Dave

****

Dear Dave,

My husband and I both lost our jobs over a month ago. I've been interviewing, and he started a two-week training programme for a new job the other day, but right now we're in survival mode. We just cashed in an annuity, and were wondering if we should pay down debt and reduce the money going out each month, or just live on it?

Veronica

Dear Veronica,

Right now, it's raining and you need an umbrella. If it were me, I'd just sit on the money for the time being. Don't misunderstand me. You need to be honourable and pay your debts, but you may have to put that on hold for a while. Right now, it's more important to have food in the house and keep the heat on. This kind of situation is scary and can be really stressful, so make sure you hug and hold on to each other a lot, too.

It's been rough for you guys, especially right here during the holidays. But it sounds like things may be taking a turn for the better. Your husband is about to start making money again, and you may have some possibilities on the horizon.

Through this stretch, honest communication can make a huge difference. Make sure your creditors know what's happening. Let them know that you want to make things right, and that you will make things right as soon as you can.

God bless you guys!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America's trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than eight million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Young thief: A child must learn the consequences of their actions and understand why they are being punished and what they did wrong

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Published December 20, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm)

Daughter, 6, took money - what should we do?

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