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Young children and stealing

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#1 Guest_popsandpolly_*

Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:25 AM


I am hoping for some advice or suggestions as we are at a complete loss as to how to manage my DD's behaviour.

She is the youngest child, 4 yrs old and very smart and on the ball. She has recently started to steal things. Initially it was taking things from her siblings and hiding them but we have had one instance of her taking something from a shop and another taking a toy from a drs office.

It is definetly a deliberate act as she knows to hide the item and is very sneaky about it.

On all occasions we have made her return the item and apologise once we found out, she has also been punished on the spot by missing out on a fun activity (one of which happended to be a birthday party that happened to be on the same day.

We have had talks about why it is the wrong thing to do and yet it continues, and we are just at a loss as to how to tackle things from here. We never have had this problem before with our other children who are older and are so embarrassed that this has become more now than just a once off.

So what would you do in this situation and how can we manage the problem moving forward?

#2 tothebeach

Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:30 AM

My just turned 4 child stole a chupachup from the shop last Friday - though he proudly showed it to me as we left and assured me that he would keep it till later and not eat it now.

We took it straight back and he apologised to the teller.  But he really didn't understand why it was wrong to take it - he just kept saying: 'but I wanted it'.  And then said:'next time, I'll ask the lady first'.  When I explained about needing to pay, he got downcast: 'But I don't have any money and I wanted it'.

We've decided that perhaps it's time to start introducing pocket money so that he gets the understanding that you need to pay for things.

I didn't feel the need to punish any more than I did but instead to reinforce that we don't take things that are not ours, whenever it's appropriate.

Edited by tothebeach, 11 November 2012 - 10:33 AM.

#3 Guest_popsandpolly_*

Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:33 AM

The problem we are having though is that she appears to know it is wrong as she goes to great lengths to hide what she has taken?

#4 DrFeral

Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:35 AM

Sounds like you are doing the right thing... just keep being consistent. The one thing you could probably point out to her is how she would feel if her things were stolen and that is what she is doing to someone else. Eventually it will click but she does need to understand that others see and think differently to her- this is called "theory of mind" and at 4 they are really just starting to understand this.

#5 EsmeLennox

Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:36 AM

A 4 year old is old enough to know that this is wrong, especially if it has been a repeated action. Tough one OP, I think you have to continue with consequences, but perhaps giving her pocket money and allowing her to buy items might help? If it continues I think I would consult a professional.

#6 DrFeral

Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:38 AM

She is hiding things because she knows you will be upset with you but does she really know this is wrong or the consequences to others (probably too much to expect from this age).

Oh and I forgot to mention I had  friend whose DD did similar things at this age... even when she visited our house.  Her mum learnt to always check pockets and bags before she left and return things with an apology (very smart, clever and cheek/fun girl too). After a while it just stopped.. Just thought I would let you know that it will stop and you will laugh about her "kept" tendencies when she grows up. :-)

Edited by LeSm, 11 November 2012 - 10:56 AM.

#7 --binda--

Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:52 AM

My 3.5 year old is a sneaky little thing at the shops, I need to watch her like a hawk.

At the chemist one day, I was paying for something, and had NFI that down near my ankles were freddo's.

We walked out of the chemist, and I noticed she was holding her "gina", asked her if she needed to go to the toilet, told my DH to take her, and she throws the chocolate into the pram!

Sneaky little bugger, the day before I noticed a freddo there too, but had nfi where it came from, so I made sure we took the freddo back to the shop, told her it was wrong, etc. Paid for the one from the day before, and left the other one there.

As far as I know, she hasn't done that again - but when we go somewhere, she's always sneaking rocks, and everything into the pram.

#8 mumofsky

Posted 11 November 2012 - 11:52 AM

You can usually find a natural consequence to most things. For me in that instance it might be that she isnt allowed to have treats at home if shes not going to wait until they are bought and paid for, and maybe that she has to hold your hand all of the time until you can trust her. Which might be a pain in the ass for you, but it may work.

You can usually find a natural consequence to most things. For me in that instance it might be that she isnt allowed to have treats at home if shes not going to wait until they are bought and paid for, and maybe that she has to hold your hand all of the time until you can trust her. Which might be a pain in the ass for you, but it may work.

#9 Soontobegran

Posted 11 November 2012 - 12:04 PM

I don't think that most 4 year olds have any idea of the consequences and I don't know that there always has to be a rational reason why they steal? I also don't believe they look at it as stealing but simply that it is something they want so they take it to satisfy that need or want.
Like MC I think I'd be exploring whether there is something troubling her that is making her act out?

I vaguely remember when this has happened with some of our kids, even if it was from each other I made them pick out their favourite item and I confiscated it for a certain time so they could see how it hurt to have something they really wanted taken away.

#10 Guest_popsandpolly_*

Posted 11 November 2012 - 02:46 PM

Thankyou so much for the suggestions and the reassurance that hopefully it is something she will grow out of.

As for possible causes for her behaviour, her two other siblings are very close and often exclude her, and she has quite a fiesty personality anyways so we are going through a showing off and acting out stage anyway. So this probably just all ties in. My DP runs a shop and we have talked a few times about how it would feel if someone stole from DP too.

I like the suggestion of the consequences being linked (we are doing something similar with the showing off behaviour) but will also have a chat with her to see if I can get any more info out that may help with the "why".


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