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djbar
djbar asks:
Q:

What do I do about my 6 year old stealing repeatedly?

My son keeps stealing from school, rather it be a toy from a classmate which he has not done for a while but now he is stealing from the classroom!! He has gotten all of his toys taken away, he's been grounded, we had a police officer talk to him, etc and yet nothing has worked. He always says he forgot, or doesn't know how it got there, or someone gave it to him. What do I do?
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Hand in Hand
May 7, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Djbar:

I can understand how shocked and dismayed you must be! This kind of behavior is hard for parents to understand, and it's hard for your son to understand, too. He literally doesn't know why he does it! He makes up reasons, but he doesn't know why.

Please try to remember that he's a good boy. He's trying hard. And he wants your love more than anything else in the world.

When children steal or lie, it's a sign that there's something they need that they're not getting, even though you're working hard to give him everything he needs. Sometimes, parents love hard, but it doesn't quite get across to the child in just the way the child needs it.

The best thing to do is to power down your worries, and work on strengthening his sense of closeness with you. It may be that he's feeling scared, or inadequate, or left out, or alone at school. When children don't feel good, their judgment shuts down, and they do impulsive things that are "not them." What you want is for him to feel close to you, secure in your love, so that his mind works well at school. Children don't talk about their troubles much, or they do, but we don't know to take those troubles seriously. Their behavior offers clues that things are "off," and stealing is a clue. Treat it as the symptom that it is--not as a sign that you have a "bad" child or that you haven't parented well.

What will help is for you and the significant others in your child's life to offer regular "Special Time," in which you set aside 10 to 30 minutes for him, when you do whatever he wants to do (with a limit on whether money can be spent or not). Let him have fun in Special Time, and offer your delight. Don't tell him what to do or how to do it. Don't try to teach him anything. Just let him have fun with you right there, paying close attention. Laughter, if he can get to it, is great! When it's over, give him a big hug, and tell him when the next Special Time will be.

Often, after Special Time, a child's inner feelings, the ones that have been causing trouble at school or elsewhere, will bubble up in the form of having a cry or a tantrum because Special Time is over, or shortly thereafter, beginning to cry about some very small thing. Welcome this. It's a sign that your child is trying to get out from under emotional tension that's been troubling his behavior. Stop. Get close. Don't correct him or judge him or try to make him "grow up." Listen. Let him cry. Don't change anything, don't fix it. Let him have a big cry over that small thing. We call this Staylistening. It works wonders for a child.

Crying and tantrums are the way children offload feelings that cause their behavior to go off track. If you listen, he's going to feel supported by you (even if he is begging you to take the jam off his toast and replace it with another jam, or is mad at you because you won't give him a second cookie!). He needs to "be irrational" in order to release the pressures that drive him to take things that aren't his.

Give him you. During Special Time, and during the times he is crying or having a tantrum. Give him your warmth and your approval. His behavior will straighten out as soon as he feels more of your support tucked under his wing as he goes off to school.

Here's more about Parenting by Connection.

Your attention and warmth has the power to change things around entirely for your son!

Yours,

Patty Wipfler
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Additional Answers (10)

dgraab
dgraab , Parent writes:
So sorry to hear you're having this issue with your son. This is actually a common question in JustAsk, a challenge for many parents. As you await a response from an Education.com expert in this area, or from other members of the community, you could also review the previous expert answers other parents received to see if you can glean some insight for your situation too:

http://www.education.com/answers/search/?searchTerms=stealing

I hope you are successful as you work to resolve this.
> 60 days ago

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kidtherapist
kidtherapist , Child Professional writes:
Stealing is a compulsion.  Your six year old does not even know why he is stealing.  There are underlying reasons that he is stealing and I recommend to you seeing a good therapist with children in your area to determine the root of the problem.  Compulsions can not be solved by threatening, punishment, etc...  You have to figure out the reason he is stealing.  What does it do for him??  Hope this helps.  I have alot of experience with this particular issue in children.
> 60 days ago

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deepakh
deepakh writes:
u can give advice to him.
> 60 days ago

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mum2009
mum2009 writes:
My son has come home with stuff from school in his pockets before, I have put it in his book bag and told him to return it or I take it in and give it to the teacher. what he is doing might just be a general mistake and he has put it in his pocket and forgot about it. I told my son that taking stuff with out asking is wrong and that he could get into a lot of trouble for doing this (he has taken money from a friends house before and was made to return it which made him embarrassed) if he says someone has given it to him just say but it still belongs to that person an that he needs to give it back or if it's school property tell him that it belongs to everyone in his class and that he has to return the item.
> 60 days ago

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mariah8227
mariah8227 writes:
You should spank your son. Or try crying in front of him. Maybe if he learns that stealing makes you sad, he will stop.
> 60 days ago

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REALPARENT
REALPARENT writes:
First we must ask ourselves why is this generation and the world in the worst shape it has ever been in history? The reason is because we take way to much advise from so called EXPERCETS and the Goverment and not enough form our past generations of parents. If you grew up to be a law abiding citizan and are doing the best as a parent as you possible can with what you have then your doing good. If your child does wrong then they should be punished, not that I am saying dont try to talk to them about why they did what they did such as stealing, cheating, lying, or whatever but if they did something bad then they need their butts lit up so red that the next time they will remember. Do you realy think that if the situation presents itself for a child to lie, steal, backtalk, so no respect, or cheat someone that they are going to remember how nice of a talk they had. NO they are going to remember that if I do this when I get home I am getting my butt tore up!!!!! I am not saying beat your child but I am saying that the reason our youth is in the shape it is in is because they are not getting the right decipline!!!! My father whoped my butt as a child growing up and it made me from what I was becomming to what I became. A loving Husband, and father of the the 2 most wonderful boys I could ask for. I am a very successful Realtor and try to raise my children to know Jesus our God and know right from wrong and they do however they know if they steal something and I find out just like my father told me (It there butt).
> 60 days ago

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gr18
gr18 writes:
Take a toy or a object that your child has.

Get children bible books on stories. Teaching not to Lie, Cheat, Steal, Teach your child about the 10 commandments.

Why dose the child steal? for attention?

Is the child, being treated fair? equal?
> 60 days ago

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EyeC-Datruth
EyeC-Datruth writes:
u might not be the type but physical punishment(whoopen) might be the answer to your sons problem. If he repeatedly continues this behavior, that means he doesnt take what u say seriously! He's still young too. You should definetly enforce your upper hand now before its too late. Whooping your child doesnt make you an awful person, but abuse does and most people get the difference confused. U should let him know who's in charge and stealing is wrong. It might hurt your feelings at first but you did it out of love.
> 60 days ago

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Mem105
Mem105 writes:
It must be hard on both of you guys .My mom talk to me why stealing is bad .Talk to him mabay he wants more attention for you
> 60 days ago

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daugherty6
daugherty6 writes:
Every time one of my 4 children have stolen something from a store or a person, I explain to them why stealing is wrong. Then I make them return it immediately and  I make them apologize for their offense to the proper person. They have never had the problem of stealing twice.
> 60 days ago

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