Oh, No! My Kid is Stealing!

by Patrice on September 20, 2011 · 0 comments

in Hard Questions

It’s important for the single mom to try to find out why her kid is stealing. There is usually a reason that is deeper than the first thought that you are raising a juvenile delinquent. Pick a time when it is calm and try to have a heart to heart conversation with your child. Let the conversation happen in private. The other kids don’t have to be involved in the conversation, even if they were the victims of the theft.

Kids under 5 take things because they simply want the item, and may not understand that it’s okay for them to take the pots and pans out of the cupboard to play with, but that they can’t take sisters bracelet to play dress up. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore the behavior. Work to identify the boundaries of the family. Have the youngster return the item taken and apologize. No disciplinary action is needed because the youngster didn’t understand the ‘crime’.

Once the child is 5 years old or older, they can understand the difference between right and wrong and the need to accept responsibility for their actions and the consequences involved with making a wrong choice. If this is the first time the child has taken something that didn’t belong to them, don’t wait to take action. The child should immediately return the item to the owner and apologize.

Remember that you cannot control the reaction of the injured party as your child admits that they have taken an item. Some business place have a no tolerance approach to any kind of theft and an apology and offer of restitution will not be enough to prevent further action. Be prepared to face the possibility that the consequences may be harsh, but don’t let it be a factor in not taking the steps needed to address the stealing situation.

An older child should be able to distinguish between right and wrong, understand property rights and be able to accept the concept of consequences of their actions.

If this is the first time that the older child has stolen, address the situation calmly and tell the child that it’s wrong to steal. If the child needs help in returning or paying for the item, be available to help, but make sure that they are not benefiting from the theft in any way. Let the child know that this is not acceptable behavior in your family or within society.

Don’t lecture when addressing a first time theft. It doesn’t mean that the child is a thief or headed down the road to ruin. Once the matter is addressed with the victim it should never be brought up again, unless the behavior continues.

Another important thing to remember is that you should be the main role model for your children. If you get your own office supplies from your place of employment, you’re sending a message that in some cases it’s okay to steal. If you brag that you got an item for free because it was hidden by another item at the checkout, the child will be quick to see the advantage of ‘getting away with something’. Don’t be the cause of those ‘hard question’ situations.


About Patrice

Patrice Campbell is a freelance writer working from the Denver area. Campbell started her writing career in the 1980’s, working for several Wisconsin local papers as a news, human interest and features writer, as well as a photographer.

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