Home > Kids > Behavior and Discipline > Behavioral Problems > Why Kids Steal -- and What to Do About It

Why Kids Steal -- and What to Do About It

In This Article:

Page 2

Little Kids and Stealing

Tales from the Parent Zone

Tony's mom Roxanne discovered that Tony had stolen collectable comic books from a local store with the reputation for having a “no-tolerance” policy for theft, that is, they reported all shoplifters to the police. As Tony's parent and ally, her job was both to discipline (teach) Tony not to do it again, and to protect him. Before he walked in to return the books, she called the store to find out its policy about returning stolen goods. As a parent, she had to decide if an arrest, trial, and possible record was the best thing for Tony (in some cases, though not usually, it may be). Roxanne talked with the store manager and “made a deal” for Tony to make restitution that taught him the desired lesson but didn't have lifelong consequences.


Five-year-old Hannah came into the house, a pack of gum in one hand, an eyeglass repair kit in the other, and a hangdog expression on her face. Her crimes had just been discovered by her dad as he got her out of the car. It was late—there was no time to go back to the store that night to return the booty, so her parents let her know that stealing was unacceptable, illegal, and wrong, and removed the stolen goods.

“People who steal things can go to jail,” her mother told her. “Not if they're little kids, and not usually for small things, but you could be arrested.”

Hannah's eyes grew wide and scared. The next day, her mother took her back to the grocery store. On the way, they planned their approach.

“Will you say it, Mommy?” Hannah asked.

“Yes, but you'll hand back the stuff you stole,” her mother said. At the cash register, Hannah listened as her mother said, “Hannah took this yesterday without paying for it. She is sorry and won't do it again.”

Unfortunately, the clerk didn't understand the lesson. “That's okay, honey,” she said to Hannah, “We didn't even notice they were missing.”

“It's not okay,” her mother corrected, firmly. “It's illegal and it's wrong.”

Then the clerk understood. “Thanks for returning these things,” she said to Hannah. “Don't do it again.”

Despite the clerk's slow response, Hannah was deeply affected by the experience. Hannah had tried a behavioral experiment and the results had alarmed her. Because the feedback wasn't enjoyable, Hannah hasn't stolen anything in the three months since the incident.

<< Previous: Page 1

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks