Finding a stolen item from a child is usually a very difficult situation for parents. They are terrified, make a fray to the child, over-control them or constantly engage in talks about the impropriety of theft. They are also devastated that their upbringing has turned out to be ineffective, they reproach themselves for this. One thing is certain, however: the theft must not be ignored. So, how to behave in a situation where a child brings home other than his property. My baby is stealing.
Why does the child steal
Let’s start with the age of the child. When we notice that a 3-4-year-old toddler has taken some trinket from a friend’s house, we do not call it theft, because at this age the child may not yet understand what it means that the items belong to someone. Parents should then start discussing ownership,
Respect for possession, and when the child takes something else’s, lead to giving back and expressing an apology to the owner of the thing.
The situation is different when it concerns a 7-8-year-old child, and even different when it is done by a teenager. Usually, children steal because they are not able to master their urge to have something. They want something so much that they can’t help themselves (usually they are small things: gadgets, small toys, sweets, hairpins, pencils or crayons with the theme of favorite cartoon characters, etc.). Sometimes they are not even able to recognize that something is not theirs, because they have worked so hard in their imaginations that they perceive the object as theirs.
Teenagers try to steal more consciously, but the mechanism is usually similar: they have no means of their own, and the power of desire is so great that they cannot resist it. Of course, the reasons for awakening this desire may be more complicated at this age. For example: the need to impress or equal one’s peers, an attempt to “buy into” a specific group, retaliation against unpopular friends or girlfriends, or looking for a way to become independent from parents. Thefts can also be a signal to parents that a child is involved in addictions: gambling, alcohol, nicotine, designer drugs, drugs.
How to react when your child steals something
There are many reasons for reaching for other people’s things, so parents should start by analyzing the situation to understand the legitimacy of theft. Understand, not account, make fights, introduce severe punishments or regime. This is usually ineffective and blocks communication with the child. The basis of working with a child should be showing him unconditional love and offering help.
With the toddler, let’s consistently talk about respecting someone else’s property, let’s show examples of his attachment to toys or other favorite things. Let us emphasize the fact that he himself would not be happy if any of his colleagues took his things from him. The same applies to items in kindergarten: they are shared property.
Must Read: How to breathe properly while running?
With children in early school classes, we use similar conversations, but we also take action to help satisfy some of the desires of a young person. Let’s support the habit of saving for a dream goal, even by investing ourselves in order to shorten the saving time, so that the power of desire is not too great. Let us support the child in understanding the mechanisms of coexistence in a group, let us show that one can impress with other qualities, it does not have to be having a specific thing. Good cooperation with the school can also help, with the class teacher who, while working with the group, should introduce threads regarding the principles of social coexistence, emphasize values other than material, help the group build rules of life.
What To Do When Your Teenager Steals
It will be more difficult with a teenager, because it is strongly dependent on our relationship with the child. If we have built trust before, we have allowed the child to make independent decisions, we have provided support in difficult situations, we are in a better position to start a difficult conversation and try to find the cause of the theft. Even if our relations are far from ideal, such an attempt should be made. How to do it? First of all, take it easy. During the time dedicated only to such a conversation (telephones turned off, TV set, without the presence of e.g. siblings or other household members), we inform the child that we have found the stolen item, at the same time we give a clear message about our love and willingness to help. Let’s say that such a conversation starts like this: “Ania, taking your sweatshirt to wash your clothes, I found a bottle of very expensive perfume in my pocket. I know you didn’t have the funds, so it bothered me a lot. I love you and I want to help you, but first I need to know how. We can talk?”.
Of course, this does not immediately guarantee your child’s honesty, but it is a good start. Even if Ania does not tell us clearly where she got this perfume, we can lead the conversation to the goal, which is to find out why her daughter had to reach for such a drastic measure. Observing a child, engaging in discussions about connection, self-esteem, signaling love and appreciation for efforts can all be a good way for your teen to feel that he or she doesn’t need the theft for anything.
How to prevent theft
Everyone has desires. So is the child. The sooner we teach them to manage their own money, the easier it will be for them to meet their material needs honestly. Of course, the toddler does not understand the value of money, so our actions – apart from giving him a money bank – should focus on teaching how to spend the accumulated funds and showing that the more he has, the greater the joy of spending.
For older people – permanent pocket money. What amount? It would be helpful to talk to your child about what the money will be spent on (an article on financial education can help). The more you spend, the greater the amount. However, the rule should be that what is necessary (lunch, travel to school) is paid by the parents, and the pocket money is for the child, so he can spend it on satisfying his desire for possession. Then we talk about new acquisitions, but do not comment. It has saved, so it can spend the money as it wants.