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Anne Cawood


Posted by: Melissa | 2011-05-23


5 year old stealing

What causes a 5 year old child to steal? My boyfriends daughter steals money, make-up, toiletries, toys, basically anything she takes a liking to. She doesn't steal from a shop or anything, but if she comes to visit you, she will walk out with something hiding under her jersey every time. She also steals from her mother to the point where her mother now locks things away. I have a son of the same age and I personally feel they are not really dealing with it in the proper way, parents shouldn't have to lock things away from their children! Is it something she is lacking or looking for, which is causing her to steal things and lie about it?

Expert's Reply


Anne Cawood Anne Cawood
- 2011-07-21

Children do often go through a stage of taking things they want. But this needs very firm handling. It can be an indication of an unresolved need – or of attention seeking.

Parents should be very firm. Tell her that it is not okay to take things. She needs to talk about the things she really wants – and then wait for them i.e. for her birthday. They then need to make it very clear that, if they find she has taken things again, there will be a consequence e.g. she will have to take it back – and say sorry. Or do without sweets or some other treat. Try not to ask the child why she does it – or if she has taken something – that is, when a parent knows that she has! Just say something like “I see there is a toy in your bag that is not yours. We have spoken about this and now you know what will happen. There will be no sweets after supper – and you will have to give the toy back”  At 5 a child does not yet have a developed conscience – this takes time. The adult reaction to the behaviour is the crucial issue as to how the behaviour will develop in the future. My book “Children Need Boundaries” may help you with these issues.

The information provided does not constitute a professional diagnosis of your problem. You should consult a health care practitioner, lawyer or other appropriate professional for formal advice. Parent24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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