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Advice about Kids Stealing
My 8 year old son has been stealing things- he is attracted to little things like office supplies (pencils, stickers). He has also stolen money from our wallets. He hoards the items he steals in his desk drawer and never uses the items. He has been caught many times and appears to be extremely ashamed and remorseful. We have had many talks and have disciplined him by taking away his money and privileges. We have also made him deal with the consequences of his actions by siding with others who accuse him and lectured him about how he earned his reputation through his actions. No matter, we believe he is continuing to steal. His identity is that of a ''good boy'' and he thrives on the approval of adults so the stealing behavior is in conflict with his overall personality. We believe he has done this for a while but his behavior worsened after he went through some serious losses. Does anyone have any experience with such behavior your child? How does one deal effectively with such behavior? Does he sound like he has kleptomania? concerned mom
Behavior that seems off track or out of character is often a throwback to an earlier age, developmentally. And the''consequences'' do little but add to his shame and secrecy.
My advice: First accept that your child is a good boy, and he is not going to grow up to become a kelptomaniac. He is just going through a difficult period and needs some extra attention and help with this, from a loving and understanding place. It's not a big deal now, and you can address it so that it doesn't become one.
Because he is 8 you can talk with him. ''I know its tempting to take things you really want. I want to help you with that. Let's go choose some great pencils to buy instead. I can give you the money for the things you really want.'' Give him that experience regularly, proactively, so that he has an alternative to ''taking''. Another tool is to talk about the ''parts'' of him that want to take something, and how he can remind his hands, or the ''taking parts'', to do something else. He can learn to interrupt the behavior and become proud when he thinks about wanting to take something, but is able to make a different choice.
Most importantly, he will be able to talk with you about this challenge because he knows you understand. And that will provide you both with a framework of trust for solving whatever challenges come next. our kids are not bad, they just need some help
Even though I have a Psych degree, I'm not a therapist. So I would go with my spouse/partner to see a family therapist who specializes in working with 8-year olds. After meeting first with the therapist, ask if you can bring your son in. There are therapists who specialize in working with children who are really great. Some do art therapy, play therapy, or sand tray, to name a few approaches. If you want some referrals, feel free to email me.
All the best for your family. Barbara
My 8 year old boy has been stealing little trinkets from his friends' homes, classroom and off of other kids' backpacks which he accesses by asking to go to the bathroom during class (thereby being alone in the hall with all the backpacks). He tries to pass the small goods off as ''something he found on the playground'' but when I ask him if he stole it and give him ''my look'' he quickly confesses.
I have explained about stealing, that he wouldn't want something special taken from him, that people trust their things will be left alone and stealing is breaking that trust, that if people find out he steals, he'll be known as the kid who steals and will lose friends and yes, hellfire and brimstone - in a moment of desperation I told him it was a sin against God and some people believe that sinners go to the opposite of heaven. None of this seems to matter when he's staring at the shiny object with nobody around.
My question is, do I go hardcore and make him confess to his teacher or the Principal and try to nip it in the bud by having him have to experience this humiliation? If I do this, I'm afraid that the consequence could result in him being labeled a bad kid, or possibly losing friends (which he doesn't have many of to begin with.) Would doing that just cause him to hide the items more and not confess to me when confronted? What should I do? stumped
I'd recommend an evaluation by a good play therapist. (Play therapists don't just play with children, but use play as a medium of communication.) Phil Gross, M.D. is good and is frequently recommended here on BPN. His wife, Mrs. Miriam Gross, is a clinical social worker who helps the adult(s) in a child's life help the child. This is extremely useful. I don't recommend play therapy without additional help for parents to help their children. Adding cooperative parents to the team makes psychotherapy for children so much more effective. Do ask your pediatrician for a referral. Your son will benefit. Judy
I would talk about the trinkets. If they are crafts( like lanyards or something kids make, go to a crafts store with him and get supplies so that he can learn to make them. Get enough so that he can give some to friends or have playdates in which the kids make them socially)
Try to see what's behind the stuff he takes. Is this that he likes ''branded'' stuff, stuff from people's trips, small toys, crafts, the things that are ''hot'' among the 8 year-old crowd so that he can be part of the ''cool'' kids? Depending on what drives it, the conversation with him is different and what you might do is different. If all the ''cool '' kids at school are making friends thru trading Mighty Beanz, then consider getting him some and starting a dialog on when trading is ok ( not in class etc) and what healthy trading is like vs un-equal trading. JM
One of the kids in my daughter's 2nd grade class had stolen something of hers, and when the teacher found out about it, made him return it to her. I think it was good for the kid who stole the item. I think it was good for my daughter. I really don't htink that at this age anybody is going to get labeled unless he continues the practice. Then the kids will do the labeling regardless of your efforts to hide it (the kids usually know who's responsible even if the adults don't), and the other parents will think better of it if they know that you are busy nipping it in the bud--rather than what would appear to be your casual acceptance of your son's misdeeds. Plus,my experience w/ this age is that the ''trinkets'' are often small precious items that the other kids have, and your son may have not yet learned to devalue ''things'' - or he may be coveting the fact that these kids ascribe special qualities to them. Whatever the cause, he should be experiencing more severe consequences now, so you don't have to deal with it later. If it were me, I'd be bringing him to the other kid to return the item (and if he claims he ''found'' it, I'd be asking the other kid if he ''lost'' it), and I'd probably do something like take one of my kid's own trinkets away for every one he ''finds.'' You can also present it as a really nice thing to do when you find something: e.g., this special item may belong to someone. Can you help me figure out who it might belong to? And give him some brownie points for helpign you return it to its rightful owner (even w/o consequences in some cases, if you are having difficulty proving to yourself that he stole the items). Some combo of those things should help. Many kids go through this stage before they've developed empathy and impulse management.
My daughter has been taking money from her younger brother's piggy bank ($30-$50 gift cash), putting it in her own and claiming that she's been saving her money. I also believe she's taken cash from my wallet for the same purpose. I've always given her an allowance ($1 per month from every year - currently $7) in an effort to teach her the value of money, but she truly enjoys spending money. My main concern though is the stealing and lying. When I confront her with these thefts she passionately denies taking the money and it's hard to argue or provide consequences without real proof (yes, I want to believe her!). Her behavior is likely a cry for attention from me (we're two working parents), so I will work harder to give her that attention. But are there other strategies I should try? I'm so worried about her. Thank you in advance for any advice you may offer. anonymous
This Sunday our seven and a half year old son took $30 from his dad's wallet. The next morning our son announced that he had a lot of money and then told me an elaborate tale about receiving a $20 bill and a $10 bill as party favors at a birthday party several weeks before. Sounded fishy. My probing brought forth three or four more elaborate stories about the source of the money (each of which involved his friends or adults he knows), ending with ''Dad gave it to me.'' A quick call to dad established that he had taken the money without asking. My son and I then had a long (and amazingly calm) talk about not taking things that don't belong to you and not telling stories about other people that aren't true, the consequences of stealing, of lying, etc. I had him write a note to his father apologizing for taking the money. I had him deliver the letter to his dad personally (he had wanted to just leave it somewhere where his dad would find it) and to apologize personally in addition to delivering the note. I asked my son what he thought would be an appropriate punishment for taking something without asking and for lying about it. He came up with a good idea -- that he not be allowed to buy anything from the camp store when we go to Tuolmne family camp next week (buying a treat a day a the store is a very important part of his camp experience). His dad and I discussed the idea and modified the punishment to not being able to buy anything for two days (out of six) and for having to pay for anything he buys after that from his savings. I felt we had handled the whole thing well, discussed the issues clearly, impressed our son with the seriousness of what he'd done and chosen appropriate consequences.
So, today we had a long play family play date with a family with whom we are close friends. On the way home, my son said ''I want a digital watch for Christmas'' I said we'd discuss it later. Then, when I went to say good night to him, he said, ''Oh mom, I forgot to show you what I got today.'' He showed me a digital watch that I had seen earlier in the day at our friends' house. He said one of the kids gave it to him. My initial comment was that the child shouldn't have given it to him and we'd need to give it back. A bit more talk disclosed that his friend had not given it to him, he 'd just taken it. I told him this was not okay, that I was taking it back to our friends' house right away (they live nearby) and that we'd discuss it further in the morning (I'd have taken him with me, but he was already in bed; I wanted to go right away because this evening would be my last chance to see the parents in person to discuss it for several weeks).
I've returned the watch. It belongs to his friend's younger brother. Tomorrow I plan to have my son write a letter of apology to be personally delivered (by my son) to the watches owner. And we'll discuss not taking things without asking, not making up stories, etc. again. And probably add another day or two of no treats at the camp store. My husband and I don't know what else to do.
There are two spearate issues here: stealing and making up stories about it. We didn't ''catch'' him taking things or even suspect things had been taken; both times he's volunteered that he has his ill gotten gains, acompanied by some creative story telling. How do we deal with this? Worried Mom
My son turned 5 in late October 2006. In December 2006, he stole a tube of lip balm from a local store. When we found out about the theft, he was punished with a time out and loss of video watching privileges. My wife also made him return the lip balm and apologize to the store manager. Just last week (February 2007), our son stole an inexpensive bracelet from a department store. While we will make him return it in person and talk to the manager of the store, we clearly need to do something else to help him to change his behavior. For what its worth, he asked for some other similarly small thing at the department store and was granted his request. I’m looking for suggestions on appropriate consequences so that until he is old enough to understand the moral reasoning involved with “why stealing is wrong” he at least knows that negative consequences will be forthcoming if he steals again. Thanks. concerned Dad
Hi- My 4-year-old son has been caught on a number of occasions stealing things- he has pocketed little toys and candy from stores and toys and knick knacks from friends' homes, etc. We have reprimanded him consistently, explained why it's not okay to steal, punished him by taking away his belongings, etc. Despite this, he continues to steal things! What to do? Anyone have experience with this embarassing and annoying problem? Help!
I've been having a problem recently with my 4 year old daughter stealing from stores and sneaking around. A few months ago at her preschool, my daughter started putting trinkets, like little farm animals, blocks, and miscellaneous small toys in her backpack. As soon as I would discover them, we would talk about it and I would make her return the items to her school. Her school's position was not to make a big deal about it and just thank her for returning the objects. NOW, I've been having a problem with her taking things from stores, like bubble gum, which she knows I won't buy from her, and hiding them in her pocket. She's very crafty about it and one time even put the gum in her cowboy boot. When I discovered it in her boot I immediately walked her back to the store and had her return it and apologize. Once we walked out she started bawling. I assumed that was the end of this problem but now she has done it two more times. I'm very perplexed as to why she keeps doing something that she knows is wrong and gets punished for (like no TV, no playing for the day, no sweets). She only can tell me she wants the item that she has taken (and I've recently let her start chewing sugarless bubble bum as a way to diffuse the situation). I've been told just to ride it out, I'm handling the situation appropriately, and it is just a stage. Still, this seems so far from her normal behavior and I would like to know if anyone else has had this problem and how they dealt with it. Thank you. Frustrated mom. anon.
I grew up in a middle class home where we had plenty to eat, appropriate clothes to wear, lots of enrichment lessons and family trips abroad. Despite this, I stole regularly from a very young age all the way through high school, when I finally got caught in a way that landed me in serious hot water.
The atmosphere in my childhood home was pinched and angry. My parents didn't get along, and my mother constantly carped about the fact that my sister and I didn't understand the value of money (my parents never taught us how to handle money, nor did they ever discuss their salaries or the costs of various things we bought). She used to call me profligate (when I was 11!).
I think I began stealing early on--as in your daughter's age--because I felt a need to reward myself with something nice that I couldn't seem to get by asking. Now, in a deep psychiatric way I may have been looking for the love that wasn't present in my home...but if you don't want to go looking that far for an answer to what prompts your daughter's stealing, you might just take time to consider whether there's something missing from her life that she doesn't have the wherewithal to ask for or even name.
Of course, I could be wildly off base in terms of your child's experience, but that's how it was for me. I felt bereft and was trying to assuage my sense of lacking.
Good luck to both of you. Anon
My daughter attends a new school and I asked the new teachers to be on the lookout for this (who indicated that it was not uncommon and they would assist me). This school allows no toys in so it has not been a problem so far. One day my daughter came home in flashy, sparkly barbie underpants. I addressed this with the teacher who kindly took my daughter aside and had her return them . I don't know fully what she said but I know she provided a safe place to allow my daughter to admit she had taken something and to return it without feeling condemned.
We have not had an incident since. In fact my daughter stresses the need for honesty in all topics- even if difficult. The things I think I learned- 1) it is not unusual. It is certainly not unusual in mass mediated culture to want all the things around us. It is obvious as a child who has no buying power that if she wants it she needs to ''appropriate'' it. I also think part of the ''appropriating'' was a spontaneous grab and only afterwards did it become a ''lie''. In our case the lying came in laregely because of the way the teachers handled it. Give your child a safe place never to have to compound the action with a lie. I have given my daughter ways to earn money for things she wants which I will not buy (I thought this was too early at age 4- I was wrong and I could not cave to buying her things I did not approve of). Also focus on your daughter- don't surround her with too many temptations if you can avoid it while her own ego is developing. We switched schools (mainly for other reasons at the time)but the no toy policy and the focus on work has been fantastic in many ways. Perhaps you could go shopping largely without her.
If it continues and you are concerned, counselling may help you have better insight as to how to turn the craftiness and desire (for those are good qualities) to better ends. Stealing from a store does alarm me- fortunately our daughter has not done that yet- though I imagine all kids do at one time or another (I once stole a pack of gum. My mother marched me up to the security guard to tell. This only instilled sneakiness in me- would have been better to give me a way to get what I wanted). I don't think ignoring and having it blow over will work. It seems too easy to learn that taking is an easy way to get what you want- a ''quick fix''. We have also focused on books about being good friends (teatime for Francis), sharing, trickery and feelings. These have helped.
While books I researched in the library did not cover ''stealing'' they did cover ''lying'' (sears) These promoted the blow over theory. Books on moral development were generally more helpful-focus on developing rather than eliminating.....''taking'' can become ''achieving'' or taking can become ''stealing''. The child might (will) do the action but we can help channel the means, definition and outcome. good luck
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