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#AskAlyson: Sneaking Around

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Hi Alyson

Our 9 year old son has always been an early riser. Lately we have been finding evidence of him sneaking things before everyone else is awake, like Coke or juice boxes or sweets, or breaking into my phone and watching YouTube videos.

We have left snacks out for him in case he is hungry. We have discussed it at family meetings. Each time he promises he’ll never do it again, but then a week later, he’s back snitching something different. We’ve made sure there are things to keep him busy until we’re awake. Nothing seems to be working.


Dear Parent of Early Morning Snitcher

I am so happy to hear you already have family meetings to discuss such things! Wonderful!  When kids make agreements and then break them, you can discuss what should happen when people don’t keep their word.  Basically, have them create a suitable consequence at the next family meeting.

Since you can’t MAKE him not take things, you could suggest that if he is unable to use self-restraint in eating and drinking items that are not allowed, then you are unwilling to have them in the house.  Or, (since there is never one right solution and the best solutions come from kids themselves) you might suggest that since he is sneaking, he is voting with his behaviour that the current rules about snacks and pop need to be re-visited and perhaps you need to adjust some of the rules to allow for more flexibility.

Tech can be protected with apps that block access to YouTube if that is an issue.  But again, it may be that he has creatively decided to sneak around the screen limits because he feels they are unreasonable, and you may find that if you open the discussion about screen time again, you might find that giving a bit more access during the day, that he doesn’t have to work around the rules by sneaking.  The good will of saying “how about 10 more minutes in the evening” could result in curbing the 30 minutes of unsupervised morning YouTube sneaking.

Ultimately, we want to win a child’s co-operation rather than force their compliance to rules. He has to truly be willing to work with you as a member of the family, feeling that he is respected and heard, and invested in helping the family work harmoniously.  That feeling is something that transcends this one issue.  Is he heard? Do you have too many rules? Do you give too many orders and compliance requests? Does he have reasonable autonomy?  If he is feeling powerless or undervalued, he will be less willing to get along with you across many situations – food and tech being just two.

Hope this helps!


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

One Response to “#AskAlyson: Sneaking Around”

  1. Catherine Reid

    What if one of your children is sneaking/stealing food/candy from their sibling? This has become a real problem with my 8 year old daughter taking and eating treats that belong to her older sister.


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