Dealing with a Child Who Steals

Discovering that your child has sticky fingers can be a challenging and concerning situation. It’s important to understand the underlying reasons behind their actions and address the issue with care and guidance. In this blog post, we will delve into the ins and outs of children and stealing, providing you with insights and strategies to navigate this phase effectively.

The Nature of Stealing:

Children often engage in stealing behaviours, which can be a normal and natural part of their development. It is crucial to be prepared for this possibility and respond appropriately. Stealing is not always impulsive; older children may plan their actions, hide stolen items, and justify their behaviour.

Understanding the Reasons:

Children may steal for various reasons, including a desire to keep secrets or fit in with their peers. They may feel self-conscious about lacking certain possessions and succumb to the temptation of taking what isn’t theirs. It’s important to remember that stealing can also serve as a learning opportunity for children to differentiate between right and wrong.

How to Address Stealing:

If you suspect your child is stealing, consider the following strategies:

  1. Open Communication: Talk to your child and assess the situation. Approach the topic calmly and encourage them to express their feelings and motivations behind the stealing behaviour.
  2. Neutral Comments: When you come across stolen items, make neutral comments that indicate curiosity rather than accusation. For example, you can say, “I wonder where this ball came from” or “Gee, I don’t remember buying this.” This approach encourages discussion and reflection.
  3. Managing Impulses: Help your child deal with the impulse to steal by offering alternative solutions. Teach them that they can ask for items or discuss their desires with you rather than resorting to stealing. Emphasise the importance of open communication and problem-solving.

Warning Signs and Underlying Causes:

Repetitive stealing may indicate deeper emotional or psychological issues.

Consider the following factors that could contribute to your child’s stealing behaviour:

  • Divorce or separation
  • Bereavement
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Bullying
  • Abuse
  • Changes in family dynamics, such as the arrival of a new sibling

It is essential to regularly check in with your child, engage in meaningful conversations, and pay attention to warning signs. Their emotional well-being and living situation should be carefully considered and addressed.

Understanding Teenage Stealing:

Teenagers may engage in stealing behaviours for various reasons, including a sense of entitlement, a need for belonging, jealousy, peer pressure, or to fund certain habits. It is important to listen attentively to their emotions, engage in non-judgemental discussions, and provide them with a sense of love, importance, and belonging.

What You Can Do:

  1. Collect Evidence: If you suspect stealing, gather evidence to support your concerns. Take note of any unusual spending patterns or discrepancies.
  2. Confrontation: When confronting your child, present the evidence and give them an opportunity to explain their actions. Encourage open and honest communication.
  3. Discuss Consequences: Clearly explain that stealing is wrong and has serious implications. Emphasise the impact on others, the legal consequences, and the potential damage to their reputation.
  4. Reinforce Family Values: Remind your child of the importance of trust, respect, and moral values within your family and community. Help them understand the disappointment their actions have caused.
  5. Seek Professional Help: If repetitive stealing persists or if you believe there are underlying psychological issues, consider seeking professional guidance from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in child and adolescent behaviour.

Discovering that your child has sticky fingers can be challenging, but with understanding and proper guidance, you can address the issue effectively.

Remember, it is a natural phase for some children, but early intervention and open communication are key to preventing more serious stealing issues. By nurturing trust, instilling values, and providing a supportive environment, you can guide your child towards making better choices and developing a strong moral compass.

If you are unsure on how to communicate or effectively manage this type of situation, please feel free to enrol in our online au pair course.


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