One of the most dreaded times in parenting is when your child comes home with a friend’s eraser or a chocolate from superstore.
You can find solace in the fact that stealing is a developmental process and all kids at some age steal. But by the age of 6 years, kids know the rules and understand that stealing is wrong. Yet they haven’t yet internalised it and challenge it when tempted.
However, it is best to stop it before it becomes a habit.
Make a plan
If this is the first time your child has brought home something without permission, talk to him about that it is wrong and a reasonable consequence. You might take him/her to the owner of the item and have your child apologize. But you need to carefully handle the situation without downing your child. You need to make them feel responsible for the wrong.
Do not punish
Giving punishment is not an effective strategy, as it does not help in disciplining or imbibing values. Help them to develop a conscious and understand that stealing is wrong. But if he/she is repetitively caught in the act, you need to take a closer look at the root cause.
Do not let your child keep the stolen item
If you let your child keep it after having him serve the punishment, you are telling him/her that it can be a way of getting away with the thing he desired. You need to weigh all the pros and cons carefully if you let your child go without apologizing and returning. However, even if you decide not to return the item due to fear of social pressure, do not let the child have it.
Understand the reason
Kids sometimes steal to get attention, emotional stress, show they are equal or just out of impulse. Talk to and teach your child that everything is not his/her, to respect ownership rights and take control of their impulses.
Do not tempt your child
Putting a 10 rupee note to catch your child red-handed will jeopardize the trust he/she has in you. If you want to see if your child has grown a conscious or want to confront him/her, you could say to your child “I can’t find my 10 rupee note. Have you seen it?”
If you know that your child really wants a toy, but resists the temptation of picking it up from the store, appreciate him/her. If the toy is not very expensive, and you might tell him/her that he can earn the toy by helping with more chores at home or helping younger sibling in some way.
Be a good role model
If your child sees you bringing stationary from office or not paying for an item your brought, you are setting the wrong example. While they are still learning the concept, it might be difficult for them to see why taking chocolate from a friend’s house is wrong.