What to do if your child gets caught stealing…oh the challenges of parenthood! We are all trying our best to raise honest, good kids but the learning process to get to that goal is often bumpy. What do we do about those milestone lessons like what to do when your child steals is a common problem so if you are in that situation you are not alone.

child stole something
When your child steals…

What to Do When Your Kid Steals  

This week on our Quirky Momma Facebook Page, a question caught my interest: “Our child stole something… what do I do?”

That was a question that one of our readers asked — one of those hard parenting questions that no one ever wants to have to ask. I knew that if this mom had gone through it, a few others have (or would), too. 

After asking this question, our readers gave some great answers (like always). Here is some of our reader wisdom – please add yours advice in the comments below…

Strategies to Try When Kids Steal

1. Apologize & Make Right

If you find that your child has stolen, walk them back into the store (while you are right there with your child) and return it.

Does your child have money?  If so, have her take her money to the store and purchase it after she has talked to the store clerk.

Walking her into the store with you by her side and making her return it, is what I see as the right thing to do.

“I went to the shop prior to getting her to return it and apologized. I explained to the shop owner what happened and that I would be bringing my daughter in to give it back. Shop owner was great, it wasn’t over the top but my daughter did have to accept responsibility, say sorry and the shop owner and give the item back. The owner just reminded my daughter that stealing was not ok, but that owning up was a big thing to do.  It was great for my daughter to take responsibility. Yes, she was embarrassed but it taught her a life lesson. I’ll always support her but she has to own up to her mistakes. And as I went to the shop prior to taking my daughter, it went smoothly.  I may have done the same thing back when I was her age in the same shop! And my mum took me back and made me return it too!!! 30+ years on and I still feel guilty when I leave the shop.”  

~Anna Sherry

Write a letter to the store and send money and the product.

Have your child volunteer in the store, cleaning or tidying up.

What to do when your child steals something - Kids Activities Blog - child sitting against wall
Let’s chat about stealing…

2. Have a Conversation About Right & Wrong

Talk to her about why she didn’t feel she could ask you for the item.  Whatever happens, give lots of reassurance alongside the disappointment and any punishment.

I remember I did this as a child. My mom got so embarrassed , she asked me why I had decided to take something with out paying ? I had no answer, she then walked back in the store paid for the item and with a red embarrassed face handed it to me, with watered eyes she told me that we would be walking home because she needed to think where she had gone wrong in raising me to think that what I had done was right. It was the longest mile I had ever felt to get home, she was just walking next to me quietly thinking. I will never forget how I felt, like I had let my mom down. To this day I still have the item I took to remind me of the biggest lesson I learned that day and how I had shamed my mother. I will always be grateful the way my mom decided to teach us right from wrong.”

~Maria Montel

Ask your child how they would feel if someone came in and took things from their room, without asking.

Parenting advice because parenting is hard - Kids Activities blog - child and parent chatting on edge of bed
Growing up can be really hard! Parenting can be really hard.

3. Hard Lessons to Learn & Teach

One person told the story on our Facebook page, about a time when the store called the police and filed charges against the parents.  They were given the same punishment as someone who had done the stealing themselves.   The lawyer suggested finding an appropriate punishment at home.

Donate money to a charity and return the item via the mail.

Talk to the counselor at your child’s school, with your child, and come up with a plan.

“I stole once when I was about 7 or 8. An earring from Claire’s. My mom made me take the earring back and then took me to visit a jail (just the local police station with one cell type deal) and showed me what happens to people who steal and break the law. I never took anything that didn’t belong to me from that point on. Sounds crazy but it worked.”

~ Nikki Branham

All children make mistakes… and it is how we handle those mistakes that will teach them how to handle it in the future. We have opportunities like this to make an impression on our child.

Find out the reason and then handle it.

Talk to your child and get involved.

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