Does your child has sticky fingers and insists on having ‘found’ things or been ‘gifted’ odd things by his/her friend? Yes, your child is probably stealing, especially from other children. But you do not need to be worried about it; this does not mean that he/she will grow up to become a thief or for that matter a deceitful person. Many children, of all ages, go through this problem. It is perfectly normal and also fixable. It can very well be said that it is part of growing up. In very young age, stealing is an impulsive act performed by a child but as children start to grow up and are in the process of developing a conscience, stealing becomes more of a planned act. Children in school age steal and convince themselves that they should be ready to keep a secret. The whole procedure of anticipating, hiding and justifying the ‘new object’ in the house needs a bit of planning which confirms that these children make a conscious decision to steal and do not just steal in whim. Although, it is a natural thing to happen when a child is growing up but it can be seriously upsetting for parents. Therefore in all of its normality, stealing should be addressed and corrected. But since we are talking about children here, therefore it needs to be addressed with tenderness and sensitivity. By the time children reach the school going age, they start to understand the concept of possession. They can internalize and understand that stealing is not right. But there are children who steal thinking that they can get away with it, even when their parents have already set punishments against such behavior. Sometimes when parents do not reinforce punishment on their children for stealing, it ends up encouraging them more. Or, there are cases where children have wrong role models and they can learn stealing behavior from these role models. There are so many factors involved in children’s stealing behavior, but you can fix it as soon as you get to know the root cause of it. Here in this article we will discuss some of the probable reasons that lead to inculcation of stealing behavior in children of school age.
Why Do Children Steal
Lack of Proper Understanding
Small children are naïve and cannot differentiate between things that belong to them and those that other children own. They may take someone else's things thinking it to be their own. In such a case, children are unaware of the fact that they are doing something wrong. They sometimes think that what theirs is theirs and what is someone else’s is also theirs. But, you expect more out of the children who are in school going age, because they start to understand the concept of ownership. If your child shows lack of understanding of boundaries and discretion, then it is time to sit with them and make them understand it properly. In this case, you should not use force or punishment; just a simple explanation will be okay to put your child on the right track.
Lack of Self-Control
Lack of self control is also one of the reasons for stealing. Many-a-times, it has been noted that children get attracted to things that they not own. The urge to have it makes them steal. They do this without realizing that taking someone else's thing is a misdeed. This kind of greed in a young child is normal, since children are always drawn towards things that they do not have. The things that they have, they get bored with it very easily and then to keep their minds involved into something, they need more stuff. If you think this is the reason why your child is stealing, then try to buy him things that he/she wants and keep his/her energy involved into something constructive. Let your child know that he/she can come up to you anytime and ask for something, under reasonable circumstances.
Jealousy or Desire
The feeling of jealousy develops right from childhood. The desire to have things that are beautiful or flashy may cause kids to steal. Some children are also jealous of their classmates who have attractive things, say wonderful pens or latest lunch boxes. In order to have the same thing, they resort to stealing. This sort of reason for stealing should be dealt on priority. You have to counsel your child and make him/her understand that living under one’s means is necessary and not everything in the world can be owned. You should teach your child to value his/her own things and try to find happiness and satisfaction with his/her own stuff.
Peer pressure and the need to fit in is also one of the main causes of stealing. Some children get depressed when they are boycotted from a group, just because they come from a relatively poor family. The need to fit into a group with members the high class society makes them steal. Peer pressure can be more daunting than what it sounds like. Children can be under so much pressure that it might be difficult for parents to understand its true intensity. Your role as a parent here should be to make sure your child survives in an environment like this or change his/her environment because if it is forcing him/her to steal then it must be denting his/her psychology as well. Teach your kids the kind of value that will help them to retain their morals and make them better human beings.
Anger or Revenge
Children find stealing the best way to show their anger and revenge. When they are upset with someone who is more powerful than them, stealing comes across as the best option to make the other person suffer. If your kid knows for a fact that you will get angry on him/her for stealing and you have gravely upset him/her, your kid will resort to stealing just to wind you up. But this is nothing but acting out of emotions and you can deal with it in a very simple way. Do not get angry on him/her; instead let your child know that you are aware of the reason why he/she has done this. Talk to your child and let him/her vent out his/her emotions in front of you. Reassure your child that you are there to listen to him/her and stealing is not the only way to reach to you.
Sometimes, lack of attention from parents, forces children to steal. They know that by stealing they would be able to get their parents attention. Sometimes, children also indulge in the act of stealing to impress their peers. In such a case, be more attentive to your children so that they will not have to invent these negative ways to make you notice them. May be your child is very lonely and needy of your love that he/she risks everything and steals so that you can scold him/her. For them any attention is good attention.
Feeling of Excitement
Stealing is a daring act and some children do it just to get a kick in their life. There are many kids who steal things just for the adrenalin rush and enjoy the fun of not getting caught. The act gives them a thrill. Channelize their energies into something more interesting and encourage them to do more positive things. This would need a bit of understanding the true nature of your child; if you think he/she is doing it for the rush of it then make sure your child has other options in his/her life to get excitement and adventure.