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Ten-year-old stealing and being dishonest at school


My 10-year-old daughter is a good student and is well-behaved at home. But over the last six months, she has been acting up at school. She is lying, cheating and taking classmates’ possessions. Do we handle this change in behavior ourselves or does our daughter need professional help?



It is best to figure out WHY a child is behaving a certain way first in order to address HOW to change the behavior. Is she stealing because she wants things and can’t have them? Is she cheating or lying because she thinks she is “slick” or smarter than others? Is she acting out as an attention-seeking device?

Once you figure out what she is getting out of the behavior and what its function is, you can then substitute a positive behavior that generates the same feeling as the negative one. 

It may be advisable ​to have your daughter see a counselor in order to explore the why and what of these behaviors. Your family doctor and/or school counselor can usually provide referrals. The Boys Town National Hotline also has a referral database at 1-800-448-3000.  

As a family, focus on teaching honesty and respecting others’ property by asking permission to borrow an item. These are social skills she will need for a happy and productive life. Also, monitor her closely. Be sure she receives negative consequences when she is caught stealing or for being dishonest. Also offer positive reinforcement when she makes good choices.