Dealing with Stealing

When to Worry

Persistent stealing is often a cry for attention. "Try to look at the big picture," says child and family therapist Meri Wallace. If you're getting divorced, a new sibling has arrived, you've just gone back to work full-time, or someone in your family is ill, stealing may be your child's way of saying, "Remember me?" Once you realize this, you might say to your child, "I know I've been very busy lately. I'm wondering if you stole because you're mad that I'm not around as much. Anyway, I'll be sure to pay more attention to you now."

If you can't stop your little thief with repeated discussions; the stealing is occurring in conjunction with other antisocial behaviors, such as lying or cheating; or your child seems to be stealing in order to buy friendships, the problem may require help from a therapist.

Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the May 2001 issue of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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