Child Psychology and Behaviour

How do I curb stealing in my child?

Shikha Batra
7 to 11 years

Created by Shikha Batra
Updated on Mar 21, 2017

How do I curb stealing in my child

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.

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| Nov 16, 2017

Agatha Suantak Haokip u took the right step by not showing your anger and creating a scene as that would have spoiled the case. i appreciate the way u behaved maturely and dealt with the whole situation tactfully. thanks for sharing.

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| Nov 16, 2017

one day we went to visit my sister with our children. my eldest son 5years old brought with him one of his cousin toys and I saw it only after reaching home. without getting angry I spoke to him and asked him whether his aunty or cousin knows about it when I learned that he took it secretly I did my best to make him understand that it is bad habit although it was difficult to make him understand as he raise lots of questions and excuses but at the end he listen to me and we return back the thing with apologize....

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