How do I curb stealing in my child?

Shikha Batra
7 to 11 years

Created by Shikha Batra
Updated on Jan 04, 2020

How do I curb stealing in my child
Reviewed by Expert panel

CASE 1:  7-year-old Shruti comes back home hiding a scented eraser in her fist which had her favourite Disney princess character Elsa on it.  Her mother sees it and recalls that her daughter was desperately wanting to buy this eraser after her friends bought it. Her mother casually her asked about it. ‘It was gifted to me by one of her friends,’ was Shruti’s counter.

CASE 2: 11-year-old Rohan is busy playing Gangster Ville (a shooting video game) in his room with doors closed. Rohan’s father clearly remembers that even after repeated requests from his son, he never gave in to buy Rohan this game CD. So how come her has it now?  ‘It belongs to one of my close friends’, Rohan tells his father. 

Were Shruti and Rohan misleading their parents? Were those,  eraser and CD, actually given to them by their friends? Or were these children lying to their parents – and if so, what should the parents do to bring the truth out of them? How should the parents react when they realise that those things were stolen by their children? And most importantly – how to ensure that it never happens again? This blog is an attempt to answer some of these relevant queries.

Why do children steal things or money?

Watch for these risk factors that could lead to stealing:

a) A School-going child lacks enough self-control. They want what they want  no matter how they get it.

b) Poor self-esteem.

c) To fit in with their peers. Their friends have it, so they want it too.

d) Just for the thrill of it. Their friends have been stealing so they feel they too can get away with it.

e) Older children might steal as a way of rebelling.

f) They want your attention. Stealing would help them get their due share.

g) They may steal as a cry for help because of the abuse they are enduring.

h) Change in family situation such as divorce.

How to establish that your child is lying and has stolen a particular item?

Practice “attachment parenting”. Children who are connected with their parents, are sensitive, more likely to understand parents’ advice and values, are better able to understand and respect the rights of others. These children feel remorse when they have done something wrong and find it harder to lie about

their actions because they develop a finely-tuned conscience sooner than less connected with other children. Also, these parents know their children so well, that can read their body and facial language cues. They can sense if their child is upto some hidden misbehavior.

How to react once your know your child has been stealing?

Once it is established that your child has been stealing, there is a sense of betrayal that parents feel. Address the issue openly after screening the emotions out of it and avoid making a major song and dance of it as labeling, yelling and name-calling does not change the behaviour. The child should not steal because of your fear but because its is immoral and hurtful to the person whose trust is violated.

How to curb stealing in your child?

When a school-going child resorts to stealing, there are many factors at play. The two main factors that prompts a child to steal are the lack self-controlrol and poor self esteem. So when you realise that your child has been stealing, here’s what you can do: 

Get to the bottom: Keep the two factors mentioned above in mind and try to understand from your child what is the trigger. Once you have identified the trigger, and know for sure what prompts your child to steal. Now work on those factors and help your child deal with these. See a counsellor if you must to weed out psychological factors. Spend time and make efforts – reconnecting with your child should help you curb stealing effectively. 

Teach ownership: A child must learn to control his/her impulses, delay gratification and respect the rights and property of others. A school-going child knows what is hers and what is not. So teach her what the consequences can be if her friend found out about her stealing habit. Teach them that stealing is not right and you may also teach the logical conclusion that ignoring these rights is wrong.

Wrongs must be made right Encourage the child to return stolen goods and apologise for it. This should teach the child that not only stealing is wrong, but that the wrongs must be made right.

Praise honesty: Always appreciate your child for speaking the truth. Teach her that honesty is the best policy. Convey the message that your child did just what you expected.

Although, it is hard not to get angry once your child is caught stealing,watch your reaction. Your child will not open up to you if you intimidate him or her with threats of grounding him/her or punishing in other ways. View your child’s stealing as an opportunity to teach her right from wrong. Give your child a chance to confess and once she acknowledges, find out a way to repair the situation by correcting it. It may take several incidents for your child to get the behaviour out of her system. Know this: Stealing is just a phase, so don’t panic; it too shall pass.


Dear readers, please share any related incidents and add more value to this blog. We shall be glad to receive your feedback and comments on how you or family/friends in your circle may have dealt with the ‘stealing’ issue. Write in and help other fellow parents to curb this habit in their child.

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Feb 02, 2017

hi Samar! thanks for sharing your experience. I appreciate it and the way you tackled the situation is commendable. even after knowing the truth u didn't scold her or overreact and explained to her in the way she understands best I. e. in the form of a story. I think one day when she would realize it's her father who used to gift her and not the fairy, she would be thankful to you for letting her believe that our good deeds come back to us and so does our bad deeds in such a simple yet effective way. keep it up! thanks again for your feedback!

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| Feb 02, 2017

Hi Shikha, Thanks this article is v helpful. I want to share an incident of my daughter. One day while returning back to home from school she took somebody's water bottle ( pink colored with disney princesses printed on it). When I asked her about, she replied " My teacher gifted me the same. " I was shocked to hear such a clean and confident lie from her. Since it was a old and used bottle, I want to react but controlled myself. Same evening I pretending her like I am calling her teached to thank her for the gift. She scared & stopped me and told me the truth. I observed that she feel ambaraced. During bed time I tell her a story about a fairy and her admirer Gannu bappa (Ganesh ji). I told her that whenever anybody is doing unethical activity then they are surely watching them to give punishment in the form of small injury (like regular injuries). Genrally, On alternate Sunday mornings I put a small gift near her pillow to appriciate her for doing good i school activities - stating that "Its a surprise given by a fairy during your nap for your good work" Thats it.. She understands but sometime I got a fear that by doing such may be I am promoting her to live in a dream land. Hope I am wrong. This application really helps parents like me to act properly with our kids. Thanks & Regards Samar

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| Nov 26, 2016

nice article.. even schoolconnects also provide similar article , which is very useful

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| Nov 24, 2016

thank you all for your valuable feedback. I am glad to hear your kind words! thank u once again!

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| Nov 24, 2016

Hi Shikha! Your blogs are a delight to read and gather information on child psychology. Keep writing girl! :)

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| Nov 23, 2016

Nice information

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| Nov 22, 2016

awesome shikha......

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| Nov 22, 2016

Very nice Shikha... thanks for ur blog ...its very helpful

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