Stealing is taking something from someone else without the permission of the other person . It is an inappropriate behavior that repulses us all, but it occurs relatively frequently in childhood. 

Not surprisingly, it is estimated that almost all children occasionally steal something in their first years of life , to the absolute bewilderment and concern of their parents, who do not know how to act.

If this is the case with your little one, we will tell you what are the reasons behind this frequent behavior in childhood and how we should act to correct it.

Why do children steal?

If you’ve caught your child stealing things or discovered something in their backpack that isn’t theirs, you’re probably worried. It is logical. Stealing is reprehensible behavior, and no one wants their child to do it.

However, almost all children will steal something at some point in their childhood, but even if it is a common behavior in childhood, it must be corrected.

elow we analyze the reasons why children steal , according to their age:

Children from three to six years

At preschool age, most children find it difficult to understand that they have no rights to things that belong to others , and therefore stealing is a behavior to be avoided.

As we have seen on other occasions, children of this age experience an egocentric stage in which they are unable to lose focus from their own exclusive vision. This can lead them, among other things, to seize the belongings of others without permission , simply because at that moment they want them to be theirs.

Children from six years

From the age of six, children already begin to develop abstract thinking , they are able to distinguish between good and evil , reason and draw their own conclusions.

From this age, children begin to be aware that stealing is improper behavior that can even harm other people.

However, until they are eight or nine years old, they are still not very clear about the value of things , which is why they can exchange properties with other children without being aware of whether the other has lost or gained from the exchange.

The causes that could be behind a child who steals at this age are varied:

  • Imitation , either because it is a behavior they see at home or among their friends.
  • Urge – When you see something you like and are unable to control the urge to keep it to yourself.
  • To impress others. It occurs, for example, in the case of children with low self-esteem , inferiority complex or children who do not have friends and believe that with this behavior they will capture the attention of others.
  • Due to group pressure or as a way to fit in with the peer group.
  • Because they want something and they don’t have money to buy it .
  • In some cases, stealing could be indicative of other types of emotional or affective problems , as well as a clear lack of limits.

What to do if my child has stolen something?

If you discover that your child has stolen, the first thing you should do is remain calm and approach the subject in a respectful and positive way so that the child understands that his behavior has not been appropriate .

We give you the keys that could help you:

Don’t stay on the surface

To begin with, it is important not to stay on the surface ; that is, do not go round and round to the improper performance of the child. We already know that stealing is wrong, but what interests us is trying to find out the reason why our son has stolen , to correct his behavior based on that reason.

And it is that, as we mentioned above, it is not the same that a three-year-old boy has stolen a toy that has caught his attention from another, than a nine-year-old boy has stolen due to a bet between friends or a need to get the attention of their parents .

Explain that stealing is wrong

It is the job of parents to educate our children from an early age in their moral and ethical development . This means that, among other things, we must teach them the importance of respecting others and their belongings , and being honest and empathic with those around us.

Thus, it is necessary to make them understand that stealing is an improper act that in turn leads to several harmful behaviors:

On the one hand, things are not achieved by stealing, but rather require effort and dedication . On the other hand, when someone steals he is ignoring the feelings of another person, without caring about the suffering that the theft of his belongings may bring.

Punishments do not solve the problem

Remember that punishment is not the educational way to solve problems and correct children’s behaviors. Our children must learn to assess the consequences of their actions in an educational way, through our accompaniment, example and guidance.

positive communication

There are a series of enemies of communication that we must avoid at all costs if we want to communicate and educate our children in a positive way .

These “enemies” are shouting, sermons, labels (“thief”, “bad person”…), emotional blackmail (“I didn’t expect this from you”, “you have let me down” …), sermons (children better understand clear, direct and brief messages) or future wishes (“my son will be a thief all his life”…).

Help him fix his mistake

The mistakes that children make are a wonderful way of learning , because they help them understand that every act has consequences for others, and that once these consequences break out, they, as the responsible party, must help repair it.

In this way, we will encourage them to begin by asking the affected child for forgiveness , and then we will help them solve the problem, including, of course, returning the stolen object.

How can we prevent this type of behavior?

Once again we insist on the importance of our example , because parents are the mirror in which our children look at themselves and everything we do leaves them with life lessons, both positive and negative.

Thus, if our children see us bring things from the office to use at home or hear us bragging about the mistake the supermarket cashier made by turning around, we will not be educating them on the importance of being honest with others.

But in addition to taking care of the example we set for our children, it is recommended to:

  • Talk about the importance of respecting the property of others .
  • Educate them in empathy, respect and concern for others .
  • Teach them to value and appreciate what they have , and not so much to focus on what they do not have.
  • Teach them that things are achieved with effort, responsibility and savings .
  • Always seek a positive, listening and trusting climate so that our children feel free to come to us when they need it. 

When to see a specialist

According to experts, if any of these situations occur, it is advisable to consult an expert to help us solve the problem:

  • If the one who steals is an older child who does not feel bad about doing it.
  • If it is a behavior that is repeated frequently .
  • If in addition to stealing, the child has other behavioral problems.
  • If we believe that this behavior may be a call for attention on the part of the child or that it denotes another type of emotional problems.
  • When this behavior arises in the midst of a complicated family situation, such as a divorce, the loss of a loved one, a major conflict…