Having a potential thief in your own home, and realising it is your own child, can leave you devastated and worried. You start questioning your own ideals, and keep asking yourself, where your parenting went wrong that it has led your child to be so desperate, that he had to take the path of stealing. There is a sense of self-regret within you, and you may also start losing faith in your child, which ultimately hampers the relationship between you two. Now this is totally unacceptable. Do not run away from the scene by being an escapist. Face the situation. Your child needs help.
Find the root cause.
Have you, or your spouse, or anyone else in the family, caught your child stealing? Are things missing from your surroundings every now and then, and are all proofs hinting at your child? Do not let it pass. Take the possible action right there. Try to find out what made them steal, in spite of the fact that you give them enough pocket money. Talk to your child in a polite manner (NO, don’t rebuke or beat them up), and attempt to discover the reason for their deed.
Teenagers are well known to be deviated from the right track to the wrong one, in a short notice. You wouldn’t even find out, at times. Peer pressure may also be the reason why they end up stealing. They may be a victim of substance abuse like drugs and alcohol. They may be stealing to pay for video games, or to buy expensive items like clothes, shoes, etc. to be popular among their high profile friends. Teenagers are blown away by the idea of love. They may steal to impress their lovers, by buying them gifts, paying their bills, etc. Worse so, your child may just be a plain kleptomaniac (a person who cannot control the urge to steal, even when there is no basic necessity).
What can you do?
- Teach your child to always be honest. For example, tell them stories about honesty, its benefits, and accolade them whenever they do something out of honesty.
- Tell your child about the importance of ownership. Tell them it is okay to share things, but never without the other person’s permission.
- Treat all your children without partiality. Sibling rivalry could be one reason for stealing. Show how you love them all equally.
- Make your children realise how hard it is to earn money. Make them value it. Teach them it is not right to take loans frequently, or to owe money to/from outsiders. Help them manage finances well, even if it is a small amount.
- Connect to your children, and openly talk to them about your concerns/problems, and make them do it too. After all, they learn everything from you. You are their best teacher. Practice attachment parenting.
- Confront your children. Gracefully ask them what made them steal. Do not bestow anger upon them. They may not tell you the truth and deny it completely. It is always better if you have evidence. After knowing the reason, tell them why it is wrong, and make them understand the importance of a corrected behaviour.
Today your child is stealing from home, tomorrow he may end up stealing from public places. He may not even be aware of how big a crime it is. For example, children could shoplift expensive items from malls, pickpocket from by-passers, and if and when caught, would find themselves caught in legal troubles, that could scar their lives forever. Do not let this happen to your child. Counselling is the best way to correct your child’s behaviour. Talk to them, and try to understand their point of view, and only then tell them how they are wrong. It is very important that you listen. Do not jump at actions. Take steps one at a time, and if you feel your help is not enough, consult a professional counsellor or therapist.
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