Stealing. Stealing is something that all parents hope their children will never do. Unfortunately, we can’t always predict if our child will take something that doesn’t belong to them. If you have discovered that your child has stolen something, what should you do about? In this article you will find a few tips on how to handle your child stealing something.
Toddlers & Preschoolers – The age of your child can make all the difference in how you handle the situation of stealing. Toddlers and preschoolers–between the ages of two and four–are known assailants when it comes to stealing. At this age they are experimenting with what is theirs and what belongs to other people. Therefore, it is very common to hear about children of this age group stealing things from siblings, classmates, preschool classrooms and others, or to even find little “treasures” in your child’s pockets at the end of the day.
Appropriate Consequences for This Age Group – If you are dealing with a thieving toddler or preschooler one of the best ways to deal with the situation is to have a face-to-face, firm conversation and make your child return the item(s) and apologize for their actions. Making sure that your child understands that it is highly inappropriate for them to be taking another person’s item will help the situation. By making them return the item and apologize they are learning that their actions have consequences–that they probably won’t enjoy.
Young Children – During the ages of five to eight years old your child may decide to take things that you won’t let them have. For example, the two of you are in the grocery store and your child asks for a pack of gum at the checkout counter. You tell them no and then proceed to deal with unloading your grocery cart, making sure prices ring up correctly and pay for your purchases. All the while you think that your child is just standing there next to you, pouting because of you reply to their question. When you get home you see your child chewing a piece of gum, gum that you know they didn’t have before your trip to the store. That’s right, they stole it. Your child knows that they shouldn’t have stolen the item, but they wanted and you wouldn’t buy it for them so they justified their actions by their own child-logic.
Appropriate Consequences for This Age Group – This age group has a few more options than the younger toddler/preschool group. This age group KNOWS that they’ve done something wrong and yet they seem to always find a way to justify what they’ve done. For this age group you can still use the above mention “return to owner and apologize” routine, but you can also add a more severe punishment into the mix. Always talk to your child about their actions and why they are wrong–no matter how old your child is–but you can also use punishments like groundings from their favorite activities, games, computer usage, etc. and possibly a visit to the local police station to a conversation with a policeman/woman. Most local police officers will be happy to talk to your child about what happens to people who steal.
Older Children – In this age group, ages nine to twelve years old, your child KNOWS better–or at least they should. When a child in this age group steals there could be numerous reasons; peer pressure is one of the biggest reasons. Children in the age group will steal to fit in (but not always). They see something that a friend has and that you won’t (or can’t) buy for them so they take it. Items can range from a special ink pen to anything that they can get away with taking. Some will resort to simply taking money from you to buy the items that they want. In this circumstance you will need to make sure that they have only taken cash and not checks or credit cards.
Appropriate Consequences for This Age Group – Just like in the previous two, you should have a stern conversation with your child about their actions. Thievery should never be taken lightly, but once your child is older it should be taken a lot more seriously. Let them know that you are highly disappointed in them and that they will have to earn back any trust that you had in them. Make them take back the item and accept any consequences that the store’s manager sees fit to act upon. You could make your child use their own money to pay for the stole item also. This is the best age group for making introductions with your local police department. The police officers there will be happy to assist you in correcting actions such as stealing. They would rather see your child scared of jail–it makes them less likely to be put in jail later in life.
Teens – Teenagers, ages thirteen to nineteen, usually steal as an act of rebellion. They do it because they know that you don’t approve of it. Many will also steal because of peer pressures. They act like they are their own person, but in reality they still want to be accepted by their peers. Teens will steal anything, but most focus on the bigger ticket items like money, credit cards, checks, the family car, more expensive products (make-up, radios, etc.) and some even go so far as to steal your Social Security number.
Appropriate Consequences for This Age Group – Consequences for this age group should be determined by the item(s) that were stolen and what the victim thinks they should do about it. Consequences can range from you grounding them up to the victim wanting to press charges against your child. The consequences just depend upon what was taken and who it was taken from. The teen years are a hard stage of development for both you and your teen. These are the years that will mold your child into adulthood. If you don’t take a stand NOW then your child may be faced with a very hard life in the future.
It doesn’t matter what your child’s age group is, stealing is a major thing and should always be treated as such. Even if your child never steals a single thing in all of childhood, you should make it known to them that stealing is wrong and that thieves will always be punished for it. Let them know that you appreciate honest people and would be highly disappointed if someone you love were to be dishonest and steal. In the end, parents need to pay close attention to their children and immediately correct any issues of stealing as soon as they arise. Sometimes it’s hard being a parent, but you will be thankfully that you dealt with it when you child grows up to be a happy and productive adult.
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