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Young child is stealing


The 7-year-old daughter of a friend is living with my family. She has stolen both money and toys from us. Her father does not think it is a problem, but her mother is upset. How do I address this behavior with the little girl?



If this behavior is not addressed, it will continue and likely get worse. Stealing is wrong. Period. She needs to hear this loud and clear. She needs to be taught respect for other’s belongings and ask permission to touch someone else’s belongings.

First, she must give ​everything back that she has taken and apologize to the owners of the belongings. Her actions have made it impossible for you to trust her at present. She now can only play where she can be monitored 100 percent of the time.  

When she leaves, her pockets, book bag, purse, etc., should be emptied and checked for stolen items. She needs to know that she will not be trusted until she can prove that she is trustworthy by not having anything that does not belong to her on her person.  

Dishonesty, if not addressed now, can develop into a bigger problem when she is older. She can lie about her whereabouts. She can move on to stealing from stores and incurring shoplifting charges on her record. If this happens, she will be banned from stores and her parents will have to pay for the items stolen.  

We encourage you to share this response with the child’s mother as well.