Stealing in toddlers
Till the age of 4 years, if a child brings home anything that doesn’t belong to him, it’s not with the intent of stealing it. That is because they are too young to understand the concept of stealing. He basically wanted something, found it with another playmate, and simply brought it home to play with. That’s it. Do not get anxious. And most definitely do not punish your child at such a young age, for something that he doesn’t understand. Instead, talk to him about how it is not the right thing to bring home another child’s things. You might also want the child to think about what would happen if another child took home his toys. This situation will make him understand how precious something maybe for its rightful owner. And stop him from carrying other people’s things at home.
Stealing in older children
By the age of six, children know that they are not supposed to take things that belong to others. They are aware of the incorrectness of this behavior and yet may indulge in it. It is fairly easy to forgive a younger child who brings home something that does not belong to him because of their age and not having enough maturity for their actions. But stealing from children who understand what they are doing may have many reasons depending on their age and situation.
Stealing – the reasons
- The “revenge cycle”-Some children feel that they are not loved and they feel hurt because of this. So they think that they have a right to hurt others in return.
- They may feel a need to be at par with peers who have more pocket money and may steal money from a parent’s wallet to match up to their peers.
- Some children steal from siblings out of jealousy.
- They may feel lonely, and use the money to buy gifts for their friends in an effort to gain their friendship.
- If the parents are restrictive in their approach to parenting and deny the child things that he wants, children may steal things they desire from friends.
- Just like lying, a lot of children steal out of habit as well. They may already have a pen at home but may steal one from a friend or a stranger. In this case of habitual stealing, talk to your child. Ask him why he or she is doing so. Many times the underlying reason is want of attention.
- They lie or steal because they over-predict a reaction. Maybe in reality you would have asked them a lot more questions about their need for something before agreeing to buy it for them.
Stealing – some solutions
- The reasons for stealing can be manifold and it is of the utmost importance for the parents to think openly and clearly and arrive at the correct reason. Only once the reason is known they can try and address the stealing problem.
- Make your child feel loved and wanted, no matter what.
- Do not ever make your child feel that he has been set up for stealing.
- Do not try to frame him. This makes him hurt and gives him a lot of pain to think that his parents actually set him up. Instead, try and rephrase what you think might have happened and ask him if that is the truth. Also gently but firmly ask your child to return the thing that he has picked up or stolen.
- Focus on a solution. Tell the child that you know that they have stolen something and used it up. So now she should have a plan for replacing it. Work out a plan which may even involve deducting some money from her weekly allowance to replace the stolen item.
- Don’t make it a power struggle-When talking to your child about stealing, never make it a power struggle. By doing so you may be actually making the situation worse. If the child thinks that you are trying to win over them then their deceptive behavior will only increase. Try not to use the words lying or deception when addressing your child. Instead, be positive and ask the child if he or she has left out any detail that you should know about. Ask them to be honest with you. This will set a more positive atmosphere for your child to open up.
- Show empathy to make them feel better. Say that you stole once in your childhood and felt terrible and felt very scared. And you know just how she must be feeling. This way your child will not lose her self esteem just because she has stolen once.
- Help them by going along to return the stolen goods. Be sure to tell the person to whom you are returning the stolen goods to show compassion and be positive about the act.
- As the child grows bigger you have you make the limits and boundaries you have set for them negotiable. That is the only way you can stop them from predictable stealing.
Lying and stealing are behaviors that can be easily brought under control by certain measures. Be involved with your child and his and her activities. Don’t be overpowering while monitoring them. Keep your communication lines open. Try and be your child’s friend more than anything else. When your child does lie, be sensitive and understanding and at the same time do let them know that they have done the wrong thing. Through practice, allow your child to see that lying or stealing is not required.
Top Questions on Stealing in toddlers and older children