You just came back from your best friend’s house after an afternoon session of gossip with coffee. You are feeling relaxed after a good chitchat and thinking that it was a good day. But suddenly you notice that your 4 years old is playing in your garden with the toy helicopter which your friend gave to your son while you were at her house.
Relax! Stealing toys or things from friends, relatives or shops may be a very bad habit but it is not uncommon among kids. Stealing is taking things that belong to others without their permission. When a child or teenager steals, parents are naturally concerned. Habit of stealing is very common in kids from age two to nine and even ten year old kids. Kids of all ages from preschoolers to teen can be tempted to steal for different reasons:
reasons why kids steal:
- A two year old child might take something they want without understanding that things cost money and that it’s wrong to take something without paying of it or asking from the owner.
- Six or seven years old kids understand rules, regulations, to some extent, and consequences. The intention of stealing is to test the limits.
- Preteens or teens know that they’re not supposed to steal, but might steal for the thrill of it or because their friends do.
Some other reasons for children may steal are:
- They want an adult’s attention
- They have not been taught that stealing is wrong.
- They have observed the adults in their life take and keep things that did not belong to them, for example father bringing home office supplies or mother keeping incorrect change when the store clerk made a mistake.
- They crave what others have but they cannot buy.
What Parents can do when kids steal?
- With very young children, parents need to help them understand that stealing is wrong and that when you take something without asking or paying for it, it hurts someone else.
- If a preschooler takes a piece of candy, for instance, parents can help the child return the item. If the child has already eaten the candy, parents can take the child back to the store to apologize and pay for it.
- With school-age kids, too, it’s important to return the stolen item. By the first and second grades, kids should know stealing is wrong. But they may need a better understanding of the consequences.
- When teens steal, parents should follow through with stricter consequences. For example, when a teen is caught stealing, the parent can take the teen back to the store and meet with the security department to explain and apologize for what happened. The embarrassment of facing up to what he or she did by having to return a stolen item makes for an everlasting lesson on why stealing is wrong.
- If stealing money from a parent, the child should be offered options for paying back the money, like doing extra chores around the house. It’s important, however, that a parent not bait the child by leaving out money in the hopes of catching the child in the act. That could damage the sense of trust between a parent and child.
- If you suspect your child is stealing to support a drug habit get professional help. This is too hard to deal with alone.
- If stealing is becoming a habit with your child or teen consult with a doctor or therapist to get to the cause of the behavior.
- It is also important to regularly monitoring your child’s behavior keep your child away from situation in which stealing is a temptation and establish reasonable consequences for stealing.
- Don’t label the child ‘bad’ or a ‘thief’. Let the child experience a fresh start.
The children are so sweet and innocent, they should not be made to feel guilty about having stolen things. Instead, they should be encouraged to take corrective actions as above in order to imbibe positive values.