Q: When I caught my 8-year-old taking money from my purse, I sent her to her room. A week later, it happened again. What can I do?
A: When your child is repeatedly taking things that aren't hers, the problem you need to address probably isn't stealing. "Children this age are old enough to understand when you explain to them that sneaking money is wrong," says Jerry Brodlie, Ph.D., a child psychologist in private practice in Greenwich, CT. "If they try it a second or third time, you can assume that there is more going on than meets the eye."
Before you confront your child, however, do your homework and ask around, says Dr. Brodlie. There may be a simple explanation -- maybe all her friends are running to the candy store after school or buying some new fad item at the mall. If your child wants the money for something specific, you could work out a plan for increasing her allowance.
If nothing turns up from your initial search, then it's time to move on to step two: "Try asking her what she was thinking and feeling when she took the money," Dr. Brodlie says. "If you listen closely -- and don't lecture -- you may eventually hear the true reason for the stealing. It may be something obvious ['I hate bringing bag lunches. I want to buy my lunch at school like my friends do'] or something more subtle ['Alex gets all the attention from Mom and Dad, and no one ever listens to me']." Chances are, if you find a way to clear up the underlying issue, says Dr. Brodlie, the stealing will disappear, as well.
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.