When Your Child Steals

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By Lauren Kolacki

Every decision we make as a parent contributes to the person our children will subsequently become. When I was two years old, I pocketed a paint brush while my mom was picking out paint for our new house. When she realized, she immediately brought me back to the store as she urged me to apologize to the owner. I was nervous, I was mad, and I was in hysterics, but I learned a valuable lesson that day.

When your child makes the decision to steal you must remember this is not a reflection of your parenting. However, how you choose to handle the situation not only becomes a reflec- tion of you as a parent, but also your character as a person.

Dealing with this situation when your children are young is a little different. They aren’t fully aware of the difference between right and wrong yet, so this is a good opportunity to teach them. Explain how they should ask for what they would like and the importance of sharing. In addition, teach them how to apologize for what they have done, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have taken that without asking.”

As your child ages, the problem should be addressed more seriously. They should be told that they cannot just take something because they want it and they shall not be allowed to keep what they have stolen. In this instance go over alternatives of what they can do if they want something and don’t have the money for it.

Like my mother required two-year-old me to do, it is important your child brings back what they stole and apologizes for what they done. This will teach them that their actions have consequences. With technology today, it is very easy for children to buy a game with credit card information that is already locked into a site. If this situation occurs, be sure to have them do something extra to pay it off, such as, chores around the house or in the yard.

If stealing continues as your child enters his/her teenage years it is important to look for other indicators. How is their mood, their personality? Is there a possibility they are stealing to pay for something illegal? When deciding your course of action in this instance, remember that a child who is never held ac- countable, never learns from their mistake.

One thing to keep in mind while punishing your child, is that if they are not admitting to doing anything wrong, then they should not reap consequences. You wouldn’t want them to think that you do not trust them or believe they are capable of showcasing such behavior.