More and more children are now stealing from their parents, from shops and even from friends, to the despair of their families. But what makes children steal, how can you tell whether they are and what can you do to stop it?
Why do children steal?
They have no control
This is more likely to be the case when a young child steals something as they can have trouble controlling their actions. Usually, younger children will simply grow up and learn right from wrong as well as self-control, reducing the likelihood of them stealing again.
They feel they have no choice
If a child’s basic needs for food, water and shelter are not being met, children will be far more likely to steal from shops and other homes. The items they steal will normally not cost much and will serve a purpose there and then, such as food.
They feel pressurised
Sometimes a child or teenager can fall into the wrong crowd at school or become friendly with someone who has loose morals and who already steals. These people can sometimes put pressure on other children to steal and do other things unacceptable to society. Your child may feel she has no choice, and has to steal to be included in the group.
They want attention
One of the most common reasons a child will steal is because he wants to gain attention from someone he feels is not giving it. This could be his peers at school, a teacher or his parents. It will be difficult to stop this behaviour unless the child’s need for attention is met. Sometimes there can be a whole host of emotional problems that need to be tackled.
What should you do if your child is stealing?
Do not accuse your child
Unless you have caught your child in the act or have found out from a very trustworthy source, you must not accuse her of doing anything. She may be a victim of tell-tales or a misunderstanding and, before you approach her about it, you must be sure she’s done it.
Make it clear to them that they are wrong
Children need to realise they have done something which is not acceptable. They need to know the difference between right and wrong and that stealing definitely falls into the “wrong” category.
Make sure you don’t raise your voice, get angry, point or jab at your child and refrain from smacking or slapping. It is important you remain calm and take control of the situation.
Make sure your child puts it right
If you are sure your child has been stealing, he needs to apologise to whoever he stole from. Sometimes this alone can be humiliating enough for him to never do it again. It will at the very least offer something to the person he stole from.
Forgive your child
Make sure that it is clear to your children that you forgive them, still love them and will help them on the right path in life. If they have stolen for attention, they may only need a cuddle and reassurance from you not to do it again.
Find the root cause
The most important thing to do when your child has been stealing is to find out the cause and make sure you do everything you can to prevent it from happening again. If it is because your child has been pressured by a group at school, alert the school immediately and make sure she doesn’t come into contact with the other children. On the other hand, if it is attention your child wanted by stealing, make sure you give this to him.
More on children
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Should children wear makeup?
Is it okay to discipline other people’s children?