Tips for Dealing with Stealing in Children

Tips for Dealing with Stealing in Children

If you catch your child taking some sweets from a shop or stealthily hiding a sibling’s toy car in his jacket, then you may have a pickpocket on your hands. On finding out that your child steals can be an upsetting experience for you as a parent. But there are some tips to deal with this and ensure that your child refrains from this habit in the future.



Why Do Children Steal?

Kids can steal from their friends, siblings, parents, or even shoplift. Here are a few reasons why kids resort to stealing:





1. Lack of Control

Lack of control over his actions may make your child steal whatever appealing thing is there in front of him. A child may involuntarily do it without thinking if he finds something appealing.

2. Pressure from Peers

If your child has a bad company at school, i.e., if he has friends who have a habit of stealing from others, then he may even develop this habit of stealing. In the beginning, he might hesitate but later seeing his friends doing it frequently, he may develop this habit, too.




3. Lack of Attention

If your child feels that he is not getting enough attention from you or from a teacher at the school, he might resort to stealing to get the attention he thinks he deserves.

A girl stealing candies

4. The Desire to Get an Expensive Object

If you tell your child that you cannot buy some toy that he wants desperately, then he might end up stealing it out of that want.





5. For Fun

Your child might feel an adrenaline rush to steal something and may continue doing it simply for fun.

How Can You Stop Your Child from Stealing?

If you have seen your child steal multiple times, then don’t shout at him as it won’t help. Stay calm and patient so that you can make your kid give away this habit. Punishing a child for stealing money or anything else may not be the right solution. You have to teach a child a lesson about stealing in a non-aggressive way. Here are a few ways in which you can deal with it and slowly make him get rid of this bad habit:




1. Be Patient

If you see your child stealing something, then don’t hit him or scream at him ever. Stay calm and make him realise that it is wrong, without forcing him to say sorry. Forcing him to say sorry won’t do any good. He may agree for the moment out of fear but continue stealing later. So, be patient and talk to him in a gentle tone.

2. Tell Him That it Is Wrong

You have to let your child know that such actions are wrong. Make him realise that stealing is wrong and could land him in jail in future. Tell him the consequences of it in the long run and he will understand that it is an unacceptable act.





A mother talking to her son

3. Don’t Accuse

Sometimes, it may be false or just a misunderstanding. So don’t ever point fingers at your child unless you have yourself seen it or heard about it first hand from someone you know and trust. This will make your child stay away from you or distrust you.

4. Steer Him Clear from Tempting Situations

Once you have seen your child steal once, make sure you don’t get into situations that might tempt him to do so again. For example, hide your purse, keep your money and other expensive items locked.




5. Spend Time with Your Child

Deepen your attachment with your child by spending quality time with him. This can help your child feel loved. He may even open up to you about his needs and stop stealing. Especially if it is due to the feeling of neglect.

6. Practice Forgiveness

Even though it might be hard, you need to forgive your child and give him a hug and kiss. This can help the child stop stealing if he gets that extra attention and forgiveness from you.





7. Find the Root of the Problem

Do a little digging to find out the root cause of your child’s stealing problem. Talk to his teachers and find out if your child is in the wrong company at school. Observing your child’s peers is the first hint to such habits.

8. Ask Your Child to Fix the Mistake

Once you catch your child stealing, ask him to apologise and return the item to the person who he stole it from. This experience can humble your child and make him stop stealing. You can accompany him to apologise to the concerned person or help him write out an apology letter.




A mother explaining her child

9. Compliment Your Child’s Honesty

Praise your child for his honesty if he admits that he stole. Make it like he found your lost item and tell him you expected this honesty from him.

10. Tell Him What is Ownership

Teach your child about sharing and also the concept of someone owning something. Tell him that he has to ask before touching anything that belongs to someone else.





When to Worry

The habit of stealing in children may start out small but must be curbed before it turns big. In the beginning, you can let it go with a warning but if it continues, you need to know when to step into a bigger role in dealing with your kid’s habit. It might be because of a recent change in your life which makes you give less attention to him. Like a divorce or a new sibling or a new job. Your child may also have a rare disorder like kleptomania which makes him compulsively steal. If you notice that your kid is stealing repeatedly, then maybe it’s time to consider the following options:

  • Consult a counsellor or a family therapist.
  • Visit your family doctor who can point you in the direction of a good counsellor.
  • If these offences happen at school, talk to the school’s counsellor.
  • There are several groups online which offer support to kleptomaniacs and shoplifters. You can consider joining them with your child.

A professional counsellor can definitely help in talking to your child and suggesting strategies to help him and quit the habit of stealing. This may be in the form of activities or workshops in which you can also participate. This will help strengthen your bond with your child. If you pay attention to your kid, he will listen to you and realise that what you say is right since you only want the best for him.




Whatever the case is, your child needs to learn that stealing is a crime and that it is unacceptable. You can follow the above tips and also monitor your child’s behaviour so that you can keep him away from situations that tempt stealing.

Also Read: How To Break Your Kid’s Bad Habits