First, ask yourself why your child has committed this theft. Without dramatizing, without making them feel guilty. I know, easier said than done! Don' t judge him either. Judge his act. Above all, do not stigmatize him.
Then react according to the cause, over the longer term. If your child has stolen to fill an emotional need, try to fill it. Prevent the causes upstream- and lead by example. At the same time, react, in all benevolence certainly, but firmly. Although this is a normal stage of a child' s development, it is essential that he understands that theft is not acceptable.
The importance of example and prevention
The young child does not seem to have a moral conscience (distinction between good and evil) before the age of 6, according to a study published in 2016. To acquire it, it absorbs its environment. Also, it is essential to show him the importance that you give to honesty.
As with lying, your exemplary nature is therefore essential. Show him, by example, that property is self- respecting. Do not take money from your spouse' s wallet, if only to go get bread, without asking him. Get in the habit of getting your eldest friend' s approval before borrowing her scarf for the evening. Teach your child to ask before they take what is not theirs. Whatever it is. Indeed, where is the limit between using as you want in the business of mom to dress up and not to take the toys of his brother without asking? Likewise, always return what you borrow! At the library, for example: make it a point of honor to return borrowed books before the call to order. . .
It is also a subject that you can tackle on a fairly regular basis, through examples from everyday life. Also through books on this subject. Or mini- discussions, to be adapted according to the age of your child of course.
The reaction when your child is " caught in the act"
Whether it' s small toys brought home from school or a theft from a store or a friend' s house, be very clear: stealing doesn' t happen. It is not allowed. But be careful, do not turn your cherub of yesterday into a " dirty thief" of today! Don' t humiliate him.
Indeed, if it is essential not to let the theft pass, there is no better way to encourage the " relapse" of your child than to throw at him " you are a thief" . . . Like all these " phrases- tags " , these 4 words will mark your child, who will end up behaving like a thief, since his brain will have interpreted this as an order. Underline and judge the behavior, never your child.
Likewise, immediate punishment, following his confession (when he has confessed), is not a good solution either. It is a safe bet that between recognizing his theft, which in return earned him a punishment, and hiding the truth in the hope of escaping your wrath, your child will quickly have to choose. . . Do not threaten him to go to jail either. or call the police. . . You dramatize, you use fear, harmful to his developing brain. . .
Be careful, once again, I am not saying above all that you should not react when you catch your child in the act of theft! But the way you react will have consequences on the likelihood that your child will start over. . . Saying nothing will make him think he can do it again. Either because he will think he can do it, since you are not saying anything. Either because you will not have noticed the root cause of the theft, which is then only the symptom of a deeper illness.
Be firm, stress that this behavior should not take place. Explain why. Try to help him find the consequences of his act: " What if all the children took toys from school, would you have any left? " Use empathy: " And you, if your friend took your doll from you and didn' t give it back to you, how would you feel? " "
Then tell him to give back what he took. So that everyone is better, including him. Help him in this process, make it easier for him, which is already very difficult for him. Support him in his approach, with kindness. Do not make it a matter of state, by warning family and friends…. Your reaction, while firm, should take place in privacy. And do not go back on it: the incident, once repaired, is closed. Trust him- which does not prevent you from checking whether the toys in the classroom have indeed disappeared from the binder. . .
Finally, if you have identified a cause other than theft as part of the child' s development, address that cause as well (or especially! ) Rather than the theft, which is " only" the symptom. Give your child more time (yes, it is sometimes complicated… but there are always solutions). Listen to him. Fill his emotional reservoir.
If the symptoms seem important to you, do not hesitate to talk about them, to seek help. Especially if the theft recurs, frequently. No, it is NOT shameful. No one has to judge your parenthood because your child has, for the first time, stolen an item. Emotionally separate yourself from your child' s theft action.
Do not hesitate to leave in comments about your experiences with your children. How did you experience this, if it took place?
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