Stealing is often something children try, at least once. Sometimes, it is because they do not think it is wrong. Other times, it is a personal challenge to see if they can get by with it. In other situations, stealing may be an indicator that your child is struggling with a sense of loneliness, either not feeling close to the parents or lacking friends. For older children, they may be dealing with peer pressure and battling with a dare.
Thinking your child may be stealing is hard for every parent. If you notice, your child has things but you know he or she does not have the money to buy them, this could be one indication. As one parent stated, “every time we would leave the convenience store, I would notice later that my daughter had a new pack of gum that I didn’t buy.” Okay, so it was a .50 pack of gum. Just keep in mind that no thief started out stealing cars. They all start out small. This is why it is important to nip this little adventure in the bud.
If your child is going to experiment with stealing, they will usually start around age six. By this age, your child knows right from wrong and if they take something, there is no doubt in their mind that this was wrong. Confirming that your child is stealing is often a judgment call, you know your child better than anyone does. If you have been shopping and you notice your child, carefully making his or her way to the bedroom where they act very secretly, that would be suspicious.
Children usually try to hide something they have stolen until they get up enough nerve to take it from its hiding place. If you suspect that your child is stealing, you can pretty much be sure they will deny it when confronted. Sometimes just asking a child if they are stealing is enough to make them stop. However, for other children it takes a little more effort. Finding the hidden object while cleaning or putting things away is how stolen items are often found.
What can parents do once they are sure their child is helping his or herself to something that is not theirs? First, if you have suspicions, quiz your child. If they have any conscious at all, they will break. If they confess to taking something, take your child with the object back to the place where they stole it. Then, have your child apologize to the store manager. If the item were something eaten or broken, your child would have to pay for it. While this is humiliating for your child, this is a great lesson that will quickly teach them that maybe stealing is not such a great career choice after all.
If your trip back to the scene of the crime does not do the trick and your child continues to steal, you need to determine what is causing your child to steal. This may require a trip to a counselor to get to the underlying issues. Making your child accountable is one of the hardest lessons growing up. However, by sticking to what is right and making your child face the bad choices being made is actually building confidence. While they may have to deal with some embarrassment and punishment, they are learning self-control and self-confidence.