Regarding children left to their own devices for long periods of time, conditional food shelter etc will mess them up big time.

If you have a child who has been left up to their own devices for long periods of time, you may have someone who doesn’t feel safe without a stash of provisions. It’s even in the descriptor- ‘squirrelling away’ small food items (so the squirrel doesn’t starve in the winter).


Established rules are well and good, but be open to change. Rules are arbitrary, intellectual things that don’t really help satisfy emotional needs. S/he may need goods on hand in order to feel safe, and she may need a hidey-hole because she’s used to other people (i.e. legitimately hungry siblings) raiding her ‘stash’.


To me it seems that getting rid of the the real problem (unhygenic food storage and garbage) is important, but not at the expense of the feeling of being secure, which she will doubtlessly find a way to satisfy anyway. Traditionalism needs to be met with healthy adaptation. Have you tried something like a cheap minifridge? Maybe even with a small lock? A place for her to store food, and a maintenence check every few weeks to ensure things are being kept safely.You can’t really ‘punish away’ kleptomania. It has a variety of different influences and factors. It soothes a drive. It manifests in trauma, uncertainty, anxiety and depression. That isn’t to say it vanishes completely without those factors, but the feelings are often reduced in environments of comfort and clarity (which is often a catch 22, as hostile social environments are created by in-house theft).


As far as punishments go, I would probably stop focusing on the absense theory of punishment. It’s common to take away things, but if you’re dealing with a child of neglect, living with nothing or going without has already been normalized. Active punishments, like extra chores or duties or more likely to result in rehabilitation. Letters of apology for theft (I’m sorry I did x, I realize that made you feel x, and I like it most when you feel x. I am willing to do x for you, to show that I am sorry.) for example, force a child to think through the consequences of their actions, and come up with positive ways to socially interact with others.Taking away things simply enforces the idea the neglected child’s security and wellbeing are precarious, and that emotional support and affection may be revoked at any time (as was likely the case in reality). Promote consequences (if you do x, then y will occur) but ensure that those consequences are pointed towards meaningful contribution.Try to stay away from the ideas that love, affection and (basic) food are conditional, and dependant on behavior. Trust reduces anxiety, and reduced anxiety leads to less testing of one’s social framework.That ring story is very interesting. It’s tempting to simply lay down the ‘family law’ in regards to a child, and expect them to comply in order to find acceptance in the new structure. Always remember that the opposite is in play, that even though a person may have been debilitated by powerlessness, they still have rules and the ‘law’ that must be followed in order to have the new family be accepted by the child. To me the story of the ring is the child showing that the new family, at least to some extent, has been accepted as family by the child.


I’m not sure if you have ever had the experience of truly living on charity, but it is not a pleasent one. And yet, you cannot expect a child to maintain feelings of obsequiousness at all times, as growing children need to develop independance, identity and autonomy.Just a note to enure that the idea of full acceptance is being given more promotion and effort than ‘you exist here only at our grace, remember your place and where you came from’. One tends to produce socially secure children, and the other deviant, manipulative sociopaths who learn how to milk the system to ensure they are cared for.