Posted On : 28 Sep 2007 Total Views : 8711 Previous | Next

Stealing is the taking of things or being in possession of things that belong to someone else without their permission. Stealing is a common behavior in young children. Stealing is often more of an embarrassment to parents than an indication that a child is bad. Many parents who have caught their children stealing worry that their children are on the road to becoming hardened criminals. These parents should be relieved to know that the vast majority of children who occasionally steal grow up to be law abiding citizens. While stealing is often considered a normal or common behavior in young children, it must still be addressed and corrected.


Why Children Steal


Stealing habits differ from child to child.There may be many reasons for it.
  • Parents who do not punish their children when they take things that do not belong to them may be reinforcing the behavior.
  • Children learn by watching their parents. Parents who take things that do not belong to them, for example, parents who take supplies from the office for use at home, may be teaching their children that in some instances stealing is all right.
  • Children who don't have their own money to spend may steal what they want.
  • Some children begin stealing because their peers are doing it and they want to be accepted by a certain peer group.
  • Some children may steal as a symptom of some underlying problem.

 Here are some things that parents can do to prevent and deal with stealing behaviors in their children.


Stealing is a common, normal behavior in pre-school-aged children. Under the age of six, most children have difficulty understanding the concept of private property. They are too young to understand that they don't have rights to property that belongs to someone else. Most pre-school aged children do not yet understand that stealing is wrong, it is usually not a good idea for parents to punish them for stealing. Instead, this is an excellent time for parents to begin teaching their children about ownership and the concept that stealing is wrong.


School-Aged Children

By the time children are about the age of six, they are beginning to better understand the concept of ownership. They are also beginning to understand that stealing is wrong. Once children begin to show an understanding of these concepts, parents should begin setting limits on stealing behaviors, and providing punishment when such behavior occurs.


There are many things that parents can do to prevent the onset of stealing behavior in their children.

Parents should make sure that their children know why stealing is wrong. Parents can point out that stealing means taking something that rightfully belongs to someone else.

While children are very young it is a good idea for parents to begin teaching their children what ownership means. Parents can explain that people have a right to their own property, and that it is wrong to take something that belongs to someone else. Parents can use examples, such as, "How would you feel if someone wanted your favorite stuffed animal and just decided to take it?" Parents can also use examples that occur in everyday life, such as by explaining to children how one pays for things at the store and borrows books from the library, by pointing out things in the home that belong to different people, what gifts are, etc. 

Parents should teach their children how to get what they want without stealing. For example, parents can suggest that children ask for things they want, save up their money to buy the things they want, etc.

Parents should set a good example for their children by asking before they borrow things, by not taking things that don't belong to them, and by being open and honest.

Parents should make every effort to communicate effectively with their children. Children who are close to their parents are much more likely to take on their beliefs and values than children who don't have a close relationship with their parents.

Parents should make every attempt to praise their children for being honest. The more parents praise their children's honesty, the more likely they will continue to be honest in the future.

Now it is important how to deal with child who steals something. Here are some suggestions for it.

  •  When child has stolen something it is very important that parents should not overreact. It can affect self-esteem of their child and should deal with stealing behaviors in as matter-of-fact a manner as possible.
  • Just as it's important for parents not to overreact, it is also important that parents don't underreact. When parents find out that their child is stealing, they should confront and deal with the stealing immediately. The longer stealing is allowed to continue uncorrected, the more difficult it is to correct later on.
  • Parents should decide what the specific consequences are for stealing, and apply them every time stealing occurs. Parents should inform their children of these consequences before they are used. Consistency is very important. Here are some suggestions:
  • Immediately correct the behavior. If a child stolen something Ask him to return the thing to concerned person. If returing the thing is not possible, Ask him to pay the price by that money which is earned by having to do extra chores around the house.
  • Different children steal for different reasons. Because of this, it is important for parents to try to find out why their children steal. Asking a child why he or she has stolen something will probably not give parents the answers they need. They may need to look at what's going on in the child's life, what personal problems the child may be having, etc. Once parents find out why, corrective measures can be taken to eliminate or minimize the behavior.
  • Parents should not force their children to admit to stealing. Children often lie to protect themselves.
  • Parents should try not to make their children feel guilty for stealing. They should also try not to call their children names, for example a thief or a liar. Such tactics can be very damaging to children's self-esteem. Instead, parents should let their children know that they are disappointed in their children's behavior, but this does not mean that they are bad people. They should then apply consequences and treat the situation matter-of-factly.
  • If stealing becomes a chronic or significant problem, parents should contact a mental health professional for assistance.
And finally, don’t bring up the subject again. Once the matter is settled, it’s not reasonable to try a child for the same crime more than once.

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