What Do You Do When Your Child Steals?
How do you react when a young child steals when they are still beginning to understand what stealing is? What would you do if they were older and already understood that it is wrong?
My daughter was 7 when she stole a package of balloons for her brother's birthday. I didn't realize that she had them in her pocket until we were just about home. I pulled over and sat with her to see why she thought it was okay to take them without paying. All she said was "because I know my brother would love them". She then realized that she was wrong and started to cry. I explained to her that nothing is for free, that you need to work to earn money and then you can buy whatever you want. I took her back to the store to apolize to the manager. (who was very nice). However an older woman who was behind us in line spoke up to me and patted me on the back for doing what I did. She said that children today have no respect for things and they always want and want. She told me to keep up the good work raising my daughter. It not only tought my daughter a lesson to never steal, it tought me a lesson that I was doing the right thing.
I know we had this situation with my oldest one time with another child (not a store)...we took him back, made him apologize, return the item, and offer an additional item of his own (something of value, not something they don't want). It only took one time for him to learn that it costs more to steal than to find an honest way to get it...good luck!
when my oldest first stole we made him bring it back to the store, then when he got a little older he stole again, at the school santa shop for christmas he was caught , but when he got home my husband took him down to the police station, and they talked to him, and they even fake arrested him and did everything that they normally do to criminals, he hated it.But i want him and all of my kids to know that they have to work hard for what they want and its not okay to steal from anywhere.
If they were older and he/she knew what they were doing, I would 1st ask why? Then after they've given their explanation I would then give them the opportunity to do the right thing and hopefully they just might see sense and learn from the experience. If it were to continue I'd probably take them into the police station my self and let them have a chat about what can happen if this behaviour continues.
I like that everyone is showing the child consequences (apologizing, possible arrest and what that would look like, etc.) What I would like to add is a lesson in empathy. I tell my son "How would you like it if someone did that to you?" For stealing, I would say "How would you like it if someone stole your favorite movie? Or your favorite stuffed animal?" The other reason for this is to show him that something might be irreplaceable. I also try to have him buy things with his own money so he will know how it feels to work for something. Material things mean more to him when he earns them (he picks things out at the toy store more carefully and with more planning and thought) than when someone just shells out cash and hands it to him. He is beginning to understand the value of a dollar and true-blue ownership of something. I think sometimes kids steal when they're young because they have no clue about money or earning something.
After I made my daughter return the item to the store manager and apolize and promise to never do it again. Then a few days later my brother-in-law came over and he had all of his gear on. He is a security guard. I had him actually put his handcuffs on her and explain to her how the whole works when someone steals. That scared her so bad that we never had any trouble with stealing again.
As I have posted elsewhere, I have found that routines work best when children are young as they need structure and feel most secure when they know what is expected of them. I had visual schedules (which they got to help make & colour) as well as Morning, After School and Bedtime Check Lists. I also ensured that every Check List (with no more than 10 items on it) had the following message at the bottom:
"Remember, if you wouldn’t do something if I (or another adult) were standing next to you, then it probably means that it is the wrong thing to do."
For me, this message was the key to teaching about both stealing and bullying!!
I also utilized a Time Out Learning Sheet for undesirable behaviours before it became it's own management tool. Basically, s/he would be sent to his/her room with a sheet and was not allowed down again until it was done. When they were really young I would follow them to their rooms after about 1-2 minutes of "alone" time and I would work through the questions with them while scribing their answers. Eventually I could look at them and simply had to ask, "Do you need a sheet?" and all would be calm again! :) I will try to add it below.
For me, this learning sheet was the key to teaching about both consequences and choices!!
Finally, I stumbled upon a fantastic resource "The Family Virtues Guide" (http://www.virtuesproject.com/family.html), which was extremely beneficial in teaching my children the language and intent of the virtues outlined within the book and enabling them to make moral decisions.
Hope you find this helpful!!!
TIME OUT LEARNING SHEET
1. What was happening before the problem occurred? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. What was your behaviour when the problem began? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
3. How did you feel? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
4. What other things could you have done instead? Name at least 3 that would have been more appropriate. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
5. Which one of the 3 behaviours you listed in # 4 would you like best? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
6. Why would you prefer to do that? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
7. What are the consequences of the problem behaviour? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
8. How are you feeling now? __________________________________________________________________
9. Did you make any good decisions in spite of the problem? What were they? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
10. What can you do now to help yourself have a good day? ________________________________________________________
My daughter was about 5 and took a candy bar from the local grocery store. We drove back, I made her take the candy back to the store, apologize to the store manager and I took away her favorite TV shows for the weekend (it happened on a Friday evening). That seemed to quash the issue for several years. When she turned 13 she wanted to go to the local mall with friends (supervised by her friends mom) She started begging me for money so she'd have pocket money and I agreed to give her twenty dollars, but she had extra chores that had to be done to earn it. When I went to bed that night, I took some cash from my pocket and put it on my dresser. The next morning it was missing. I was very upset, we were on a fairly tight budget at the time and we'd been through all of the talks about lying, cheating in school, taking things that aren't yours, etc. I grounded her. no mall, no phone privileges, no computer time, and no friends at our home and she (grounded) couldn't go to theirs for two weeks, to be extended if she complained, whined or tried to evade the consequence. Being a teen who wants nothing but clothes, the mall and loss of contact with her friends via phone, internet, seemed to make the strongest impression. Now she asks me for extra chores to earn the money she needs. I know there are times when she is still tempted, but we haven't had anything missing and she doesn't turn up with items she didn't have the money she earned to purchase.
Make them return the item, spank them, if they steal from a relative, I give that relative the opion of spanking them. One of my brothers is a police officer, we could have that talk. If it were to happen again, repeat as necessary, adding consequences. Usually a spanking stopped that particular behaviour
Hi,I remember I used to steal when I was young.To buy things for class mates or show off what I had.I had very low self esteem and I supose it was my way of buying attention.I had cross eyes and warts so kids were nasty and not my friend so it was my way to be popular.I would speak to your child and ask why they felt the need to steal and not ask for something.It could be just a case of I wanted it and u wouldnt get it but just incase there is more to it xgx
I agree with the others. When I was a kid I stole a piece of candy from those fill you own bags they use to have in the store. My parents made me take it back, explain what I did, apologize, and give the store a quarter for it (yea a lot of money in the 90's for a kid!) I NEVER did it again. I also got grounded and such. Def worked for me I felt horrible!
Serious topic I know but there is a funny story in my family about how my grandfather handled a similar situation, after bringing the thief back to the crime scene he told the manager, "If my child is in your store, I want him whistling and clapping."
When my son was younger, I made him return it to the store and apologize. He was so embarrassed I couldn't believe that he did it again a couple of years later. This time I caught him before we even left the store and made him put it back. I told him that if I EVER found that he had taken something again, I would call the police myself. I told him what would happen then. He has not taken anything since(so I must be good enough with follow-through that he believed me and hasn't tested it! WHEW!)
With our older child who was a teenager at the time we actually had to press charges and make him go to court. He was an extreme case and the last straw was when he stole our checkbook and used it online. His brothers were easy. We explained to them that is was wrong to take without asking or paying for the item and made them return it and apologize. Now granted they are only 10 and 5 but we haven't had any problems with either of them so far :)