— Skylight Trust

Stealing is taking something that doesn't belong to you​

Young children will often steal small things because they are enticed by them and they don't know better. Children under four have difficulty distinguishing between “mine” and “yours.” Everything is potentially “mine.”

Older children may steal because of peer pressure, to show "courage", to act out, or get attention, however if it is persistent, it may indicate behavioural or emotional development problems.

Risk factors for stealing can be:

  • poor self-esteem
  • impulsiveness: strong desire, but weak control
  • angry
  • change in family situation, for example, divorce
  • generally bored
  • alone a lot.

It doesn't matter whether it is a big or a small thing that is stolen – children and adults are upset when it happens.

Stealing can have many effects on the person who is doing the stealing.

  • they may feel ashamed and upset
  • they may feel afraid in case of being found out
  • they may have to hide what is stolen in case someone finds out – so it's no use anyway
  • they may get into trouble with other kids, parents, teachers or even the Police
  • people may not trust them in future
  • they could lose friends.

As part of growing up, a child must learn to control impulses, delay gratification, and respect the rights and property of others. It’s important to get to the bottom of what is behind the stealing. If the problems behind chronic stealing and lying are uncorrected, they tend to snowball. With repeated misdeeds, the child convinces himself that stealing is not really wrong. They desensitise themselves to their own conscience and to what they have been taught. The child without remorse is high risk of becoming an adult without controls.

Tips for managing your child's stealing behaviour:

  • attachment parenting
  • teach ownership
  • identify the trigger
  • praise honesty.

For further information on this see 8 ways to prevent and discipline stealing

Resources Available at Skylight

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