We all think it can’t happen—not to us—not our child.  But too often, it does happen. Our precious child steals.  Maybe they’ve shoplifted cosmetics or taken their brother’s Ipod.  Maybe they’ve used aggression and violence to get a school mate’s camera or coat.  Or maybe they pocketed candy for the corner store.  Whatever the situation stealing is wrong and psychologists tell us, how parents react is paramount in establishing a sense of right behavior in the child.

Consequences Alone Are Not Enough

Most parents immediately impose consequences when they discover their child has stolen an item from a store or another person.  Psychologists agree that consequences are a good first step. Consequences such as grounding, removal of a favorite toy or gaming system, requiring the child to return the item and face the victim, are all good choices.  But that alone, experts say, is not enough.

The key is to address the child’s faulty thinking. Children tend to justify their behavior by thinking that the store has lots of candy or lots of money and they won’t miss what I have taken.  “I just wanted a little bit,” they say to themselves. Children and teens are able to justify their bad behavior with an alarming number of inner thought scripts.  In order to prevent future stealing incidents, parents need to get to the faulty thinking and help the child see the act for what it is.  Help the child see that:

  • Stealing hurts people.
  • It hurts people financially.
  • It hurts people who trust them.
  • It hampers their ability to have friends and to go places.

Stealing and Violence—A Dangerous Cocktail

When a child uses violence and aggression to steal from another person, the consequences must be severe and immediate.  This is a symptom of antisocial behavior and indicates a deep- rooted problem that may require professional intervention.

Our job as parents is to be sure children in our care understand that stealing is always wrong. The challenge is to change their thinking while letting them know that we still love them and always will.

 

 

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