When Your Child’s Friend Steals

One of your child’s favorite toys has turned up missing, or that $5 bill you had sitting by the telephone is gone. Suspecting our own child of stealing is one reality many of us have had to face at one time or another, but what if the prime suspect is one of our children’s friends? How do we handle the situation if it turns out that the child’s friend is stealing?

If you happen to catch the little guest pocketing something while he or she is in your home, you can try the direct approach and simply ask for the item back. This might go over fine, or it might turn into a power struggle if the child denies it. If the stealing is more than a one-time blooper, there really is not any way to avoid talking to the child’s parent(s) about the matter. The important thing is “how” to have that conversation.

I think it is important to stick to the facts and try to remain value and judgment free: “We had an issue today with X taking a $5 bill off the kitchen counter and putting it in his/her backpack.” or if you have not actually witnessed the theft and only suspect, it is better to be as sure as possible before broaching the subject: “My child, Y has mentioned that the last few times X has been here, he has found a couple of his baseball cards missing. We are definitely not accusing since we don’t have all the facts, but perhaps you could help us look into it?”

Making unfounded accusations, implying or saying that the child is horrible and not welcome at your house, or any other judgmental reaction will likely make things worse. Instead, we can operate on the assumption that if we work together with the child’s parent(s), we can likely address the problem and provide some education for the child in the process. Think of how you would like to be told if someone suspected your child of stealing something…

Also: When a Child’s Friend has Bad Manners

Borrowing Vs. Stealing