As any parent can attest, children and stealing can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Perhaps money is missing from the wallet. Or a loot of un-purchased treasures has been unearthed while putting away the laundry. Any of these situations can bring a parent to question how well we are really handling this sometimes difficult task of parenting. What does this mean? Is our child on their way to becoming a delinquent? Have we missed the mark? Are we “bad” parents?
In Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology & Education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, article on “Why Does My Child Steal?” he states that the majority of clinical research has determined that most children steal for one or more of the following general reasons.
- The child is attempting to satisfy a need, stealing as a symbolic replacement of parental love, attention, respect or affection.
- He has received some direct or indirect approval for stealing.
- He is in some way attempting to attack his parents by embarrassing them or forcing them to give him more attention.
So this, then begs the question: What can we as informed, loving, responsible parents do to help curb this behavior? Below are some parenting tips that can help you curb and deal with your child’s sticky fingers!
- Evaluate: Take a few moments before confronting your child to honestly evaluate the situation; taking into account your child’s age, what was taken, the possible reason behind the theft, and if this is an ongoing problem. Next, outline what you are wanting to say and achieve. If you are feeling hurt and upset, wait until the initial sting has worn off.
- Avoid Asking If They Have Stolen: If you know your son or daughter has stolen, there is no need to ask them. Most children will feel compelled to lie to cover it up, which in turn can further frustrate you and dig your child into a bigger hole. Instead tell your child that you know they have stolen and you are not happy about it.
- Discuss Motive: Many times this is when, as parents, we make the age-old mistake of asking “Why? Why for the love of God have you stolen little Timmy?!” 9 times out of 10 the answer will be “I don’t know.” In situations where lying can take precedence over honesty, ask your child to examine what they were thinking or feeling just before taking the action. It may take some prodding and an abundance of parental patience, but the self awareness that comes from your child when they acknowledge their own thoughts and feelings is priceless.