Overcast   31.0F  |  Forecast »
Edit Module

Dealing with Stealing

What could be prompting your child to steal – and what you can do to stop it

Are children born kleptomaniacs? If you've ever left a store only to find your kid clutching a piece of candy or a toy that you didn't buy him, you might think so. And in some ways, it is how a parent handles these moments when their child is very young that determines the child's behavior later on.

When they're young

In the seminal book Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, childcare expert Dr. Benjamin Spock says, "Small children of 1, 2 and 3 take things that don't belong to them, but it isn't really stealing. They don't have a clear sense of what belongs to them and what doesn't."

That's why that piece of candy from the store becomes such a valuable opportunity for learning. Parents can choose to ignore it, which sends the message that the behavior was acceptable, or parents can explain to the child that taking something is wrong, then go back to the store with the child and return the item.

Problem age

Once a child reaches about age 6, he or she should know that stealing is wrong. If he or she steals, says Eric Herman, a child/adolescent psychologist at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, it is a sign of externalizing behavior.

"Children communicate through their behavior when there is a breakdown in the parent/child relationship," he says. "These behavioral symptoms can be broken into two general categories – internalizing and externalizing. Stealing is an example of externalizing behavior."

Younger children may be unhappy or lonesome or lack self-control. For older children, stealing may be a way to relieve stress, get a thrill or attention, make friends, or rebel against parents, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).

What to do

Whatever the reason, a parent's reaction should depend on whether it's the first time or whether there's a pattern. Make it crystal-clear that stealing is not acceptable, and that it's a crime.

When school-aged kids steal, follow up with strict consequences, such as meeting with a store's security department and having the child apologize. Repeat offenders may need professional help.

"The cure lies in a clear-cut reprimand and making sure that the parents aren't modeling this kind of behavior by talking (or boasting at times) about such things as cheating on their income taxes or charging personal phone calls to their business phones," notes Dr. Spock.

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Holiday Ham Recipes

Holiday Ham Recipes

Still looking for some ideas for your big holiday dinner? This year, try a new recipe for your Christmas ham – thanks to these ideas from Taste of Home, Pillsbury and more.

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

If you're celebrating the holiday and looking for quick and easy crafts for kids, this fun and affordable little keepsake is a great way to display family memories.

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

British dad pranks his kids with bad Christmas presents, but didn't get the reaction he was expecting – and it's pretty sweet.

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Does your family have paper cups, Legos, plastic spoons or toilet-paper rolls lying around? Transform them into angels, snowmen and even a chimney for Santa!

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

What's the best way to bathe your child? How can you keep them safe in the tub? A pediatric doctor at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit has tips.

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Who doesn't love Frosty the Snowman? Kids will enjoy making – and eating! – some of these adorable and delicious snowman recipes.

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Crafty company Stampin' Up offers a variety of fun stampers, punches and paper that transform into cool gift tags, cards and other fun DIY projects.

Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement