When a child comes home with strange items, it is normal for parents to worry and demands to know where and how he got the items; no matter how little the item may appear. It is common with children especially toddlers to come home with people’s item, they always believe everything is theirs. To children, coming home with people’s item does not mean stealing. Children under four years of age have difficulties distinguishing things: between “mine” and “yours”. To them, everything is ‘‘Mine’’. Also, most children have this greed in them to have everything they see. But children of five years to seven years can differentiate between something that is theirs and that of another child. They can understand the idea of stealing. At that age, they can begin to understand the right and wrong of taking things that do not belong to them. Whatever the situation, if your child starts coming home with people’s items, don’t panic yet, you can handle this common problem by simply following the steps below:
1. Even if you understand that stealing is part of a developmental stage, you still need to make it clear that theft is wrong in order for your child to stop doing it. Start this teaching right from kindergarten age. Express your displeasure over seeing people’s property in your home, even the ones he borrows from his mates should not be exempted. Educate your children on how to always be contented with the things they have. And let them know the implication of stealing.
2. Always praise honesty in your home. Praise your child whenever he is honest to you; for example, you can praise your child for bringing your forgotten balance to you when you send him on errand. You can also try your child’s honesty. A parent can deliberately throw some money or valuable things around the house. If your child brings them back to you, praise him because it is a remarkable behavior that most parents overlook. You can also send your child on errand without asking for your balance. If your child returns your balance to you, such child needs to be praised. If he does not, educate him more about stealing, don’t relent. And never imply that your child is bad. Stealing is bad, not the child. Do not call your child a thief, dishonest, or a liar or any other name that you do not want him to become. When you give a child a label, he will grow to fill that label.
3. After the act of theft, parents should create time for further counseling. They don’t have to counsel only when the act is done. They can even counsel such child when they go for strolling. Such counseling is necessary because the child is not in a panicky state; he is well relaxed, unlike when he is caught in the act of stealing.
4. Visitation to prisons will be of help too. This will give your child the idea of what thieves go through when they are caught and prosecuted by law.
5. Be a model of honesty too as a parent. Children learn by watching their parents. You should show concern about the property rights of others. A parent who brings office supplies home or boasts about a mistake at the market where the seller gives her excess change, teaches his child that honesty is not important.
6. Try to always give the child attention, and also his necessary needs. If he needs certain things to be part of his peer group, make sure that he gets them. Children are completely dependent on their parents for their needs. A child whose needs are not met will use any means to get what they want.
7. Watch the kind of friends your child is going out with. If you notice that your child’s friend is stealing, try to separate them. This is because a child learns more from their peer group, and sometimes a child may steal to prove bravery to friends. So, as a parent, be very watchful of your child’s friends.
8. Find out the cause. Sometimes, anger, poor self esteem and boredom can make a child steal. Knowing the cause and trying to solve that cause can help too.
In conclusion, it is important to curb stealing in children right from when they are small. You can start by stopping a child who is fond of bringing people’s items home right from kindergarten. Bringing people’s items home is a common problem among children and you should view it like any other mistake your child makes. See it as something that has to be corrected; it is not more than that. If you handle it rightly and calmly, you can correct this problem easily. And more importantly, continue to trust your child. If your child is stealing, it does not mean he is bad or a thief. You don’t want your reaction to make him that way, do you? Your child will fulfill that which is your expectation of him. If you view him as a thief, bad or dishonest, then he will grow into that label. Think positive and be optimistic. Your child is your future.