I Steal Money From My Kid

steal moneyRecently on Facebook, a mother posted that she had reached rock bottom when it came to parenthood. This is because her child’s tooth fell out that night and she had no change. So what did she do? She took money from her own child’s jar of coins to pay her kid his tooth fairy money. I kind of laughed at this because most of the comments were like, “I’ve done that.” Well, my friends, I’ve done this too.

Not only “borrowing money” from my daughter for the tooth fairy, but also taking money from her wallet to pay the pizza delivery man, or to run out and grab a coffee when I’m too lazy to go to the bank machine first. I always imagined that one day my daughter would be taking money from my wallet, without my knowledge (what teenager hasn’t done this?). But I never imagined that I’d be taking money from her without her knowledge.

It’s so wrong, isn’t it, stealing from loved ones? Not to mention stealing from loved ones who are six to nine years old. Oh, I have excuses. Sometimes I really don’t have cash on me. Sometimes the tooth falls out at night, and it’s either give her a $50 (which, come on, is way too much money for a tooth, and the Tooth Fairy, as we all know, doesn’t give change back under the pillow.) Or I just need tip money for the pizza man and I don’t have five dollars.

My daughter’s wallet usually has about one hundred dollars in it. It’s money I must have given her because I don’t know anyone else who gives her money and she doesn’t have a job, even a part-time one. It’s hard not to feel a little guilty taking money from your own child – especially a child who has just lost their tooth. But isn’t it better to steal or “borrow” money from your own child in this instance when you have none on you? After all, the only fun in losing a tooth IS the arrival of the Tooth Fairy with money in the middle of the night.

Wouldn’t they rather get some money even if the money is coming from them (and they don’t know it)? It’s not so much fun, I think, to get a note from the Tooth Fairy that says, “Sorry. I have to go to the bank machine. I’ll get you tomorrow for sure!” Young children, usually, don’t keep track of their money or how many coins they have collected in jars or piggy banks anyway. Take two dollars from them and they won’t notice.

I’ve taken money from my daughter numerous times and she’s never once noticed. But what I mean by “take” is “borrow.” Because every so often, like every three months, she’ll look into her wallet and say, “I used to have a hundred bucks.” And I’ll tell her the truth, which is that I borrowed the money, and then I’ll tell her I’ll get it back to her later that day. Which I always do. I go to the bank to repay my daughter. (Thankfully, she doesn’t charge interest. Or doesn’t know what interest is.) Then the hundred bucks is back in her wallet, totally forgotten about until three months later, when she looks into her wallet again and asks, “I think I had a hundred dollars in here.” And, again, I’ll say, “Oh I borrowed it. I’ll pay you back later today.”

My daughter doesn’t mind because she knows I always keep my promises of repayment.

Last week my daughter spent time with her father in Aspen skiing. He sent me an e-mail saying, “Rowan just bought her first purchase. It was a t-shirt with a ski patrol symbol on it.”

I wrote back shocked, “With her own money?”

Her father wrote back, “With her own money in the sense that I gave her the money.”

So how bad, really, in desperate times is it to “borrow” money or change from your child’s piggy bank, especially when they are so excited to lose a tooth? Especially when we buy them so much stuff? I don’t think it’s the end of the world. In fact, maybe a learning lesson? Yes, you can borrow. But you have to pay back, that is if they even notice. What worries me the most is what the Tooth Fairy thinks.

(photo: Andrey Burmakin / Shutterstock)

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You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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  • hailey

    So, you only pay her back if she notices it’s missing??

    • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

      That is pretty sleezy. Really borrowing (replacing BEFORE the person notices) a small amount without telling is OK to do the tooth-fairy gig (although it seemed rather overemphasized here – do ALL her teeth fall out on nights when she has no money, hmmm?). However, if it is needed for the pizza or lawn guy, you TELL the kid that you borrowed it and replace it within a day or two. That is respectful and that is what I’d want my kid (or husband) to do if they borrowed from me.

  • gwen

    This made me laugh! I used to borrow from my son’s piggy bank from time to time. One day, after he had been saving for a while, he asked if I would take him shopping (he was about six). He was so proud because he had saved $42.00. I went to get the money from the piggy bank for him and found it empty. Clearly I had borrowed and forgotten to replace, so I went into my own wallet and got out $42 and handed to him. He lit up, reached into his own packet and said, “Wow! Thanks! This with the $42 I took out of my bank this morning makes $84!!!!”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton


  • meg

    This is messed up.

  • Jenn

    as someone who used to get torn open birthday cards because my brother stole from me constantly, I think this HORRIBLE idea and sends a bad message.

    Borrowing is fine if you ask first – and the child learns HOW to borrow instead being entitled to just take what they want. There’s might come a day when they “borrow” from the wrong person (a roommate, boyfriend, etc.) and the other person will not put up with it.

    • meg

      Exactly. You’re not teaching your child a valuable lesson about sharing, you’re teaching her that people in powerful positions can just take what they want, anytime they want, and are entitled to do so without consequence.

      Most people call that “stealing.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

      It’s sadly a pretty realistic lesson though :(

  • Annie

    Dick move.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

    …not a great message to be sending.
    “sure, take what you want, if they mark notices it’s missing, replace it later.”

  • Kelly74

    Am I the only one who was wondering why a 6-9 year old would need/have a hundred dollars in their wallet in the first place?
    When I was a kid, if I had money, it was from relatives for a birthday, or from picking up dog poop in the yard for a quarter/per bag….not fun!
    My college allowance from my mom was $100/per month because I needed it for food…not sure what I would have needed that for in elementary school.

    • Jenn

      I was wondering that too…..

    • Andrea

      I don’t know about “need”, but my kids have been known to rack up pretty good savings. It comes from all kinds of things: birthday presents, the tooth fairy, earned money through doing chores, sometimes my dad pays them to help him catalog his library.

      They are good at saving it too. My youngest saved up over 200 bucks for a game system that he wanted.

    • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

      Was a bit stunned myself. My grandparents gave birthday gifts and I only had one aunt so it would have taken me 4-5 years to save the amount. Plus, my parents wouldn’t have allowed me to have it in my possession if I just left it lying around and didn’t notice when it was gone. Of course they wouldn’t steal it either.

  • Blooming_Babies

    I do this, it’s usually the mowers I always forget to get cash for the mowers…

    I do ask first but generally I run up a tab before I pay him back. Then again my mom matches all his bank deposits so mostly he just wants me to take it to the bank. If that makes me a terrible parent so be it.

  • nikki753

    Um, I kind of don’t think this is how to teach responsibility, much less fiscal responsibility. Nevermind the fact that it’s pretty rude considering that $100 to us is pretty minor compared to what $100 means to kids – shoot. I remember my first $100 bill. I spent the summer digging dandelions for 3c each (with an enterprising business model where I convinced my parents to pay on a sliding scale based on how much root I could get 5″ of root scored 25c) each to earn that.

    Get your ish together, replace her money (even if you gave it to her… you GAVE it to her), and create your own little home emergency money bank filled with small bills and change. When she first starts talking about a loose tooth, check your bank to see if you can pay out or if you need to get some cash. Otherwise you’re really teaching her to spend when she doesn’t have the money and to borrow, borrow, borrow.

  • Andrea

    I’ve been known to borrow it because I need it for the pizza delivery guy or something the school is having the kids need it like THAT DAY, but I always ask and I always pay it back. They keep really good track of their money, so they would notice. Being the sons of a CPA mother, they are very good with their finances.

    Seems kinda douchy to take it and not pay it back. Even if you were the one that gave her that money, it was probably as her allowance, or a gift, or money for some chore, so it really was HER money not yours.

    • Jenn

      I would have completely lost respect for my mom or dad if they did this. I know I didn’t have any respect for my brother when I found out he stole from me (and my other siblings). He NEVER got respect from me because he was so douchy.

      (actual borrowing is different – shows respect)

  • Katie

    Big difference between borrowing and stealing.
    Do I borrow from my daughter? Yes.
    Do I steal from my daughter? Absolutely not. Why would I want her to think that theft is okay?

    Kids learn by example, “I can take because I can” is not a good example. “I can ask if it is okay to borrow and give it back later” is a good example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

    I think that the fact that you’re not ASKING your daughter first before you take the money and only pay her back once she notices means that she will do precisely that as a teenager. Just take the money from your wallet when she feels the “need”… but the problem being that teenagers often get out of hand and exaggerate, which opens the door that potentially she will be “borrowing” without being able to pay it all back, which would make mom potentially very angry. I would perhaps encourage you to adjust your method so that your teaching opportunity entails more respect and less potential for exaggerations later on…

  • Rachel

    My husband and I are going to live up to our Jewish stereotypes. Any loaning of money within our home, whether we borrow from our kids or vice versa, will be subject to interest rates. In the “real world,” there is no random source of money you can just dip into at will without consequence. That mentality is how people wind up mooching off their parents their entire lives or embezzling funds from organizations/businesses.

    If kids are old enough to be handling money, they’re old enough to be taught the proper way to manage it. Obviously, it’s important to teach them charitable “loaning” when you’re essentially just gifting money to a friend or relative because they’re having a hard time, but that has to be a conscious choice.

    This examples in this article are weird to me in that it insinuates the majority of financial transactions for your household take place via credit/debit cards (otherwise there’d be a plethora of change/smaller bills available), and yet ordering pizza online (that would allow you to electronically leave a tip upon delivery) is apparently excluded from that.

    • StephKay

      As a Jewish mother that, while my kids are too young to understand money, doesn’t use credit at all and divides every penny remaining at the end of the month into college, retirement and emergency funds even if it means making 5$ bank transfers, this made me smile. Hey, not all of our cultural stereotypes are so bad after all! Now if only I were better at sports, it’s a shame my big nose is always getting in the way :P

    • Andrea

      I’m not Jewish and I reach my kids all about financial management, including saving, borrowing, interest, charitable contributions, etc. Maybe it is a stereotype, but I call it being “responsible”.

      PS: I also do the same thing StephKay does at the end of the month

    • Rachel

      Andrea – I know there are non-Jews who are responsible with money, as well as Jews who are very poor at managing it. I was just making a joke.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      I totally agree with your method and your sentiment! However, I thought it was interesting that you tied it to your religion. I studied the Old Testament for many years as a teenager at a religious school, and I seem to remember more than one verse instructing the Jewish people not to charge interest to their brothers, or poor people, or anyone if they wanted to be REALLY good.

      Maybe I am mis-remembering, or maybe it really had a different meaning? If you see this, please let me know your take on it! :)

  • Monica

    This is exactly the kind of article that makes me feel bad about objecting to anything else Rebecca Eckler writes. She’s not stealing from her kid! She’s not failing to pay her back. She’s honest with her daughter, who clearly doesn’t have a problem or she would either say something or keep her money somewhere else. She hits a spot where she doesn’t have cash, borrows it from the person who does, and pays it back. It’s not great that she waits until her daughter notices instead of remembering at some point on her own, but it works for them.

    Yet all these people are jumping all over her! I’ll bet this is much more common than these readers think. I haven’t borrowed from my daughter, but that’s not to say I never would. I would hate to teach my daughter that borrowing money is some horrible, forbidden practice – especially if it’s a simple case of cash when credit cards don’t fit the situation. It’s not like she’s borrowing money for something she can’t afford.

    Here’s the difference. My mother once ‘borrowed’ from my sister – $75. We were in junior high and babysitting for $3 per hour, so that was A FORTUNE to us. When my sister realized it was missing, my mother admitted that she had taken it to cover the cable bill . . . but she never paid it back despite still calling it a ‘loan.’ That was stealing. That was breaking trust. What Eckler’s doing? Not even close.

    • Rachel

      It’s hard for me to sympathize with the author when she intentionally uses controversial language in her titles to elicit more viewers. Plenty of authors are successful without those tactics. Regardless, the author herself calls its stealing, and it’s not the readers’ jobs to disagree with her.

      And no, the retroactive label of “borrowing” doesn’t make it okay. That is theft. Theft is still what occurs when resources are taken without permission even if they are ultimately recovered. If it were actually borrowing, the daughter would be informed about it ASAP and repaid before having to notice herself.

    • rebecca eckler

      If your were an author, then you’d realize that authors don’t make up headlines.

    • Rachel

      The language in your articles reflects the headlines applied to them, so it’s not like whoever does write them is doing you some sort of disservice by attempting to seem controversial for no reason. I’ve never finished reading one of your blog posts thinking, “well, that title sure was an exaggeration of perfectly rational musings.” It’s fine that it seems to be your style, but it’s silly to act like it’s unintentional.

      I do apologize for my lack of familiarization with the intricacies of the e-publishing world. My interest in writing articles waned after high school, and I became an intelligence analyst instead.

  • Mandi

    This is just disgusting to me. I’m almost 20 years old and I had to open a new checking account because my mother had access to my first one and she just couldn’t resist “borrowing” $200 from me when she was short for the month. Without asking. It’s not okay to do this to your kids. Ask first and don’t be a dick. You’re not entitled to their money.

  • lin

    For this family, I am sure it doesn’t matter. She takes her daughter and a friend on $1000 shopping sprees as a playdate, gives her money whenever and has nannies and housekepers that do everything. I am sure she only wrote this article to stir up controversy and once again point out how privileged she is. It is her thing. Her daughter didn’t save up this money, it was just given to her, the same way I would hand my kid a quarter.

  • Jessica

    My parents did this to me as a kid- I really think it’s wrong.

  • lea

    “taking money from my wallet, without my knowledge (what teenager hasn’t done this?)”

    I’m sure plenty of teenagers haven’t stolen from their parents.

    I, for one, never did.

  • Laura

    My dad used “borrow” money from me to buy beer. One of about a thousand reasons I don’t talk to him is because he never paid back a dime of it. It’s not borrowing if you don’t ask first and only pay it back when your kid notices it’s missing.

  • Sarah

    When I was a kid, I grew up in a financial problem family, I save up my money and I thought that it was fun counting it and to see how much was in total. Until my parents take my money without asking and I get up set. When I get up set my mum gives we the guilt trick. I have learnt interest by the time I was 9, Until reality kicked in and I wanted to check my bank account which I have saved money when I was 6. Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me and I was getting pretty annoyed. Until I found out they stole that to. I had roughly $300 in there and it has been 10 years since I haven”t touch that bank account, but only my parents >:(. I was soooooo mad about what they have done stealing from me at the age of 6. And when I was a kid I was mad to mum and dad that they stolen from me. And the thing is not all kids are the same, I counted my money to see what I had. To this day I’m still mad for what they have done…..

    • Sarah


  • Pathetic, Stealing, Sleezeball

    This is beyond sleezy, this is pathetic. Not only are you stealing from your own child, but you only pay her back when she notices, and don’t ask for her permission first. Whether she notices or not, you are basically teaching her that stealing is okay if you’re in a position of power.
    Wonderful way to teach them not to steal and be honest. How did this even get published? Oh yeah, crazy people get pageviews…

  • NeedChangesInMaconNow

    My mom took money from me all the time. But she never paid it back. She blamed my sister. I would babysit several times a week. My sister never did – she was too wild. So she would steal money from me. But then my mom did too. I complained to my mom and she said she would do something about it. My mom was OCD and we did not have anything that was truly private in our house. She knew where I kept my money. I said one time after my “sister” had again stolen form me – that I was going to hide my money somewhere ELSE. My mom looked at me in a conspiratorial way and said “Ok, as long as you tell ME where you are going to put it.” I didn’t think a thing about it – not realizing that not everyone’s mom dictated where they put all their private things. Just last year, my mom was loose with her lips and LAUGHED at me saying you know, I took money from you too. As I’ve thought back about it – I was sickened. I realized that she wanted to know my new hidey-hole because she didn’t want to lose her access to my cash. Its sick. She never stopped “borrowing” from me – even to the point she borrowed $4200 for my bothers college tuition – - even though she refused to even sign paperwork so I could get a LOAN to go to college. no college for me. It was a shock at the time – I realized that her and my dad were just hoping I’d screw up somewhere and not be able to go to college. But when push came to shove (I graduated high school at 16) – they said as long as I got a job that had health insurance (even though I could be on my dads insurance until I was 25 and in school) – they required ME have a job with insurance – AND (2nd requirement) I supported MYSELF, THEN I could go to any college I could afford to pay for myself. Hum. So a big fat NOTHING. My brother, 9 years younger than me – got the full meal deal. Out of state college tuition, for 6 years (maybe 7) – brand new vehicle, apartment, the works. So back to the $4200. She said it was so he would pay me back. We knew he wouldn’t. I asked for the money back and she started whining and moaning – - her money hadn’t done well, she didn’t have it, I just wanted her to be OLD and POOR. (My dad had died a few years before). SO, I figured, well, she’ll be there for me if I ever am stone cold broke. Said WHATEVER. She took that as DON’T PAY ME BACK. Then giggled and said “well, its not like it was for ME anyway!”. I think I’ll never get over the shock at my mom’s greediness. Just last year, after the fourth surgery on my back – and I was never able to go back to work – - (I worked for 28 years at a pensionable job) – - I needed money. My mom said “NO MONEY”. I had forgotten about the $4200, but then remembered. She of course does not remember. but then I realized she DID. I’ve asked for it back – but not heard back. This isn’t the only instance she’s screwed me out of money – but as I’ve looked back on my life – I’ve realized how awful she has been to me. She has hoodwinked money out of me since I had my own money. Whereas my brother – well, just through the last 10 years I figured she’s spent at least $500,000 on him. And she can’t give me the $4200. Or the $5000 she stole from me when she was helping me “recuperate” or give me the $10,000 she promised me to help me buy a car – - she had a moment of guilt when she offered this, but by the time I called her to gel the money she changed her mind – couldn’t afford it. The next year she spent another $8000 on my brother to buy him a vehicle after he didn’t take care of the brand new one she had bought. Last year, she also paid $50,000 to have her basement “finished”. I can’t get over her treating me this way. I’m constantly depressed. I don’t know why I was never good enough. Or why she thinks its ok to steal from me – - she doesn’t admit stealing the money from me to my sister or her best friend – her sister in law. Instead she has told them I have mental issues and don’t remember things well. (Having all those surgeries – after anestisia – I’m quite NOT OK – - so she tells them I’m just mentally ill. I want to scream from a mountain to tell these people that she is the one mentally ill. How do I get over this? I sent her a letter two days ago asking her to pay me the $4200, the money she took from me during surgery and ASKED that she honor the $10,000 offer – - – as I’ve accumulated bills that I’m having trouble paying now that I can’t go back to work. I know she won’t pay me – but that little girl inside of me has that dash of HOPE that my mom will realize what she did is wrong, that I did nothing to deserve to be treated this way – - and that the RIGHT thing to do is to pay me back the money she took and to honor her offer (a peace offering in my mind when it was offered).

  • Geo

    My mother is always stealing money from me or borrowing and she always have this smart tactic of giving me the money back little by little so she would confuse me and in the end giving me much less. Last year she took from me 50€ and told me she would give it back in a few weeks,every time I was asking her about the money she would tell me to wait for a couple of days,if I ask her now about the money she would say she has no idea what I’m talking about or say that she gives me food and that I expect too much. Let me tell you there is no child in this world more loyal,good and hardworking than me,I never took money from my mom without telling her,not even a cent,let away the fact that I never ask her for money,I buy from my own money my clothes,sometimes my school lunch,school supplies and much more. So don’t you tell me that it’s okay to steal from your kids just because”y’know,all kids steal from their parents wallets when they get older”because that’s bullshit.

  • Daniel White

    To the Author: Your a thieving POS.

  • Leigh

    It’s not borrowing if the person doesn’t know about it.

  • Leigh

    I don’t have a kid so I’ve never had another form of income I could pull from. I’ve always had to either be prepared or not buy what I wanted. I have had a person in a position of power (my mother) take money from me. Which led me to this site. I was googling “parents stealing money from children” to see what would come up. What’s the legal recourse for it. Could I have gone to the police to report the person? Just wanted to see what would come up through google before I got a lawyer.

  • S.

    I realize that it probably is not a huge deal now, but it has the potential to be. the “borrowing” (which is not borrowing at all. it is stealing. you do not borrow without expressed permission and you should teach your child that before it becomes ingrained in her mind that this is how borrowing works. i highly doubt that she actually “forgets”) can, and probably will, get out of hand. “borrowing” is where my mother started. from there she progressed to actually borrowing, but never paying back (and becoming irate when i so much as mentioned that 2 or more months had come and gone without reimbursement because, like you, she rationalized that “well i GAVE you the money!!” which is true. she gave it to me. and thus it became mine and no longer hers. that is how giving works.). once upon a time, i had a college fund. i remember, one day, my mother became angry with me (i cannot remember what i did) and said that “for that [she would] spend [my] college fund”. i was about 8 at the time. and she did it. when i had access to the account ten years later, there was only about a dollar and seventeen cents inside. all of the money that my grandparents had put in was gone. now, as an adult, she steals my money pretty consistently and doesn’t even register it as wrong. she does not even see it as an issue. she sees my anger as misplaced and suggests that i need medication because it is strange for a person to be as frequently angry/upset/stressed out as i am. she bought me a car when i was 20 and told me that she would take a portion of every check from the job i had at the time and use it to help with bills and that this would be my payment to her for the car. this seemed perfectly fair to me. i managed to pay half of it off before i had to leave the job (due to high anxiety and depression). later, i found another job and was hit from behind on the way to work. the car was totaled. the person responsible paid what they owed and, after replacing the car, my mother took the remainder “as payment for the other car”. i had already factored in a little more than i owed from what was left of the insurance money after buying the car. i should have been able to pay her the remaining half of what owed her and had $1000+ to put into my savings account. she told me that she never said that i was paying her back while she was getting a portion of my check every two weeks. and then she called me ungrateful for her help. she has borrowed at least $100 from me this year, that i will never see, and she took all of my tax return, spent it without my knowledge or consent, and told me to “be thankful” because *some* of what she spent will benefit me. i am saying all of this to tell you that “borrowing” is where this garbage begins. what you are doing is wrong, and justifying it with imagining her one day going into your purse without your permission because “what teenager hasn’t?” (hello, hi. i have *never* taken money from anyone without asking. not as a child, teen, or adult. because 1) stealing is wrong and 2) i like my teeth where they are) is moronic. all you will do is ensure that you either raise someone who believes that “borrowing” is okay, or a daughter who loves you to bits but ultimately resents you.