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Trying To Get You Child To Stop Stealing

By Noel Swanson

Children steal for a variety reasons. Some steal for comfort, others to impress a group of friends, get back at their parents, or to get the things they want. Sometimes they steal just because it is exciting. Probably as many as one in four children have deliberately stolen something at some time. Most, of course, never do it again. But those who do, do so for one reason: it works. Whatever their core need: attention, money, or excitement, the stealing provides it for them.

Sometimes, the excitement generated by stealing is motivation enough. As many as one in four kids have stolen something - although most will never do it again.

Along with this, your main emphasis needs to be on promoting honesty. Use everyday events, such as stories from television or school, as a starting point for talking about honesty, integrity, and family morals.

The best way to prevent stealing from happening is to find another way to meet their needs. Once their needs are met, they won't have to continue stealing.

Your primary emphasis is on promoting honesty. You can use everyday events, such as stories from television or school, to begin to instill the values of honesty, integrity, and family morals.

If you do catch them stealing, stay calm. Losing your temper will not help, and may even act as a reward for them. Secondly, do not tempt them to lie their way out of it.

Keep your eyes on your children. Catch them in the act of being good instead of focusing on when they are doing something wrong. Children respond to reward and praise for their little acts of honesty. This helps promote a culture of honesty in the home.

Give the stolen goods back to the owner, with the additional compensation and a heartfelt apology.

If taken from a stranger, confiscate the goods (perhaps hand them in at the police station) and impose a fine.

Bring the item back to the manager of the shop, school child, or teacher, along with some compensation and an apology.

If taken from a stranger, remove the items (perhaps hand them in at the police station) and impose a fine or loss of privileges.

If the item is no longer in the child's possession and the money has been spent, ask the child to sell some of their own favorite items (even to you) to pay for them and the fine. Make sure what is sold is gone for good.

Another option that has an effect is to arrange for some "community service" for the theft victim or, if you don't know their identity, for the family or neighbors.

The final point is to let it go once the event is over. Go back to work at rewarding right behavior and quit concentrating on the wrong. What we all should strive for continually promoting honesty. Your child isn't your enemy, the dishonest behavior is.


Dr. Noel Swanson, Consultant Child Psychiatrist and author of The GOOD CHILD Guide, specializes in children's behavioural difficulties and writes a free newsletter for parents. He can be contacted through his website: This article is copyright. You are encouraged, however, to freely copy it provided this signature block is included without modification (other than the addition of your own affiliate link)

About The Author

Noel Swanson

If you could do with some tips about your children's behaviors, take a look at Dr. Noel Swanson's excellent website, He also has a free newsletter that is packed with free advice: parenting newsletter


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