Children commonly try to steal toys, food, or money from parents, friends, or a store. Before age 4 or 5, children don't understand "ownership". Prior to that they consider everything "mine". Fortunately, they can't conceal stealing well during these early years. If your child steals something, respond as follows:
- First: Clarify your expectation. "Don't take things that don't belong to you, because the person they belong to will miss them and feel sad."
- Second: Have your child take the stolen object back to the teacher, storekeeper, friend, or other rightful owner. The embarrassment of doing this, especially with you present, often prevents future stealing.
- Third: If the stolen object has been broken or the food has been consumed, help your child think of ways to earn money to pay the owner back.
- Finally: It's smart to be suspicious when your child suddenly "finds" a new possession. And it's good if you catch your child stealing at a young age. The sooner he learns that stealing doesn't work, the easier it will be for him to give it up.
If you have other questions about stealing, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.