My 7-year-old daughter is currently on vacation from school until this Monday. Yesterday, she was in "camp" - a full-day version of the after-care program we usually send her to. At some point, she went into the backpack of one of her friends, took out the friend's slime that they had both been playing with, and put it into her own backpack. The friend told a counselor that our daughter had taken it. The counselor called my wife who searched the backpack and found the missing items. Our daughter at first vociferously denied taking them but finally owned up to it. My wife made her apologize to the counselor for lying, and my wife and the other kid's mom came up with a plan for our daughter to "make it right" with the other girl.
We had discussions with our daughter, about how stealing is bad, and that she was betraying her friend's trust. The agreed-upon punishment was that my daughter would write a card to her friend, apologizing and telling her why she valued her as a friend. I recommended that slime never be allowed in the house again, so that we'd know that if we saw it, it was stolen. But, we made it clear that that was only something we were considering. We asked her if we should mention this to all of the friends we'd see that night. She really didn't like that idea (and neither did we, so we didn't do it). I bring this up, because it implies to me that she knew that what she had done was wrong. My wife at some point that evening talked with her about trust and how important it is, and she seemed very contrite and sorry for her actions.
Today, we went to a store. My daughter and her younger sister were not behaving perfectly, but not horribly. They played with some toys in a small toy section with our permission. I kept within earshot, but wasn't watching every minute of what they did. At some point, my daughter found some slime she liked, that was apparently already removed from its outer packaging. She put it under her shirt and successfully snuck out of the store with it. We didn't find out until an hour or two later when my wife walked by her room and she tried hiding it. When my wife saw what was in her hands, we recognized it from the store. At first, we yelled a lot, about breaking trust, about how could she do something like that, especially after yesterday's events. Then we called the store manager, brought our daughter in, had her apologize and do whatever the manager wanted. The manager told her "don't ever do it again." Then we had her pay for the product with her allowance money, and as soon as we left the store, we had her throw it out in a trash can. We've also had someone we know who has worked retail loss prevention describe to our daughter what happened when she caught people stealing at her store.
I very seriously considered contacting some police friends we have and asking them to put my daughter in handcuffs for an hour or at the very least talk with her about her actions. We haven't done that yet. We're being as careful as possible to describe her actions as bad, and refer to it as theft and stealing, but not overly refer to her as a thief. We want to be sure to say that the actions were bad, but that she isn't. We definitely don't want her to identify as a thief, but have no problem rubbing in that she's someone who committed theft.
After repeatedly asking her why she did it, she eventually said, "Because I wanted the slime." She does have more than enough allowance and gift money to be able to pay for this $3.50 item (or even to pay for the $7.00 it said on it). For a while she was not allowed to buy slime - she begged us to buy some for her in October and promised she wouldn't ask for any more for the rest of the year (her choice to do this, not us asking) but we did hold her to it. She knew that her promise expired as of the first and we had even talked about her getting slime.
My wife and I both feel betrayed by our daughter doing something that we feel is abhorrent. My wife has been asking me, "Where did we go wrong?" I told her, "We haven't. She knows what's right and wrong. She's exploring boundaries." I would really like to believe this, but I don't think I do. What can we do to make sure these two incidents of stealing are all she does?