When kids steal

Dear Diane, My son has a history of stealing. At kindergarten he was always taking other children's toys. I ...and, apart from a couple of minor incidents

Dear Diane,

My son has a history of stealing. At kindergarten he was always taking other children’s toys. I warned him it was wrong but it didn’t worry me too much and, apart from a couple of minor incidents when he first started school, I thought he’d grown out of it.

But the other day I got a call from his teacher to say he and another boy had stolen another child’s lunch money. I’m really distressed about this turn of events and would love to get advice on how to stop it happening again. I’m worried he might be on a slippery slope that will end up with him in prison, or worse. It’s a bit embarrassing when I go to school to drop him off or collect him as I feel sure the other mothers must be talking about us. Please help!

Sue, Tauranga


Dear Sue,

It’s quite common for preschool children to take things simply because they want them. our job as parents is to catch them, make them return the object to its rightful owner – no matter how small – and apologise for taking it in the first place.

If we do this every time they take something, they learn not to take things that aren’t theirs and internalise a conscience that stealing is wrong.

What I would do is embark upon a positive programme, in which you teach your son that you expect honesty. Every morning for a fortnight before he goes to school, check his school bag, lunchbox and all of his pockets to ensure he only has what is rightfully his.

Then do this again every afternoon when he comes home from school. Anything that comes home that isn’t his you can assume is stolen and has to be returned, under supervision of you and his teacher, preferably immediately or first thing the next day.

Once he’s absolutely certain he will be caught, he will give up on the behaviour.

If he manages five school days without any theft, it’s worth a small celebration of his honesty, for example you could take him out for a milkshake or an ice cream.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: [email protected]

Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

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