So there I am at the store picking up a few items and I have my, then, 5 year old daughter with me. Now usually I am watching her like a hawk because of my innate fear of someone walking off with her or her picking something up and dropping it (I really don’t want to have to pay for something that I can’t use), but this particular moment I looked away from her for 5 seconds to put my items on the check out counter. That 5 seconds is all it took for her to help herself to a piece of candy and stick it in her pocket.
Have you been in this situation before? I bet you have or you wouldn’t be here right now. I am going to give you a little secret on what to do when your child steals like this, a secret that worked beautifully for me and maybe it will help you as well.
What Was I Going To Do?
So I finish up paying for my items and go out to my car. At this point I still haven’t found that she has taken this candy yet.
I get her all buckled up and put my items in the back of the car and start to head home. I like to occasionally look back at my children through my rearview mirror and that is exactly what I had done as I am driving down the road and I notice that she is trying to pull something out of her pocket.
“Honey what do you have in your pocket” I ask her. “Nothing”, she replies. I can see her messing with something, but I am driving so I can’t turn around and look.
We get home and I get out of the car and notice that she has a pack of gum in her hand and had not figured out how to open it yet. “Where did you get that?” I ask her and she replies back, “At the store, mommy”.
OMG! She has stolen a pack of gum from the store we were just at because I know I did not buy her anything. What was I going to do? I mean your immediate thought is to punish your child and get angry because you know you have taught your child that stealing is wrong and yet your child still stole something.
The Wrong Reaction.
While I am staring at this item that she stole from the store I am getting angry, embarrassed, and completely confused and disappointed. I am pretty sure I had every emotion I could think of going through my mind as I am yelling at her asking her why she took that without asking and of course it didn’t help me keep my cool when she tells me because she really wanted it.
This is, of course, was the wrong reaction, in my opinion. I should have remained calm while asking her these questions and come up with a better solution to teaching her that what she did was wrong because now she is upset and isn’t hearing anything I am saying to her.
The Way I Stopped My Child From Stealing.
After calming down a bit and getting her to calm down I had come up with what I felt was the best solution to solve this problem. In my opinion it was THE best consequence I could give her without inserting anger because anger doesn’t solve a problem with a child and alot of times it just makes it worse (anger is the hardest thing for me when it comes to my children and is harder to control than most people think).
I told her to hold on to the candy and don’t open it and I closed the car door and got back into the driver’s seat.
Here is the best kept secret I found to solving any future thefts from my child……..
I drove her back to the store, got her out of the car and made her walk up to the cashier, hand her the pack of gum, and apologize for stealing it. Yep, I embarrassed my daughter the way that I felt embarrassed even though no one saw her do it. You see I have two children who are older than her and had learned awhile back that children don’t like to be embarrassed at all. I know I didn’t like it when my mom did certain things in front of my friends that was embarrassing so I thought maybe the same thing would work for this.
The cashier handled it so incredibly well and just looked at her and smiled and told her it was okay and thanked her for bringing it back. However, she did look a little shocked and confused at first. LOL!!!
Embarrassment was the key!
I can attest that my strategy may have sounded and looked horrible to others in the store, but unlike a lot of other parents I never had to worry about my child stealing again and I wish I had thought about that when my two oldest went through that phase.
It worked so well that the following year or two we had gone to the store and she had forgotten to put her drink up on the counter so that the cashier could ring it up and I, nor the cashier, had noticed. We walked out to the car and my daughter was crying as she climbed in and when I asked her what was wrong she started bawling that we didn’t pay for her drink.
Now don’t get me wrong I felt bad for my daughter because she was so upset that momma had forgot to pay for her drink, but at the same time I was so proud of what I had accomplished and knew that I would never have to worry about her stealing again.
I did comfort her and tell her that it was okay because she didn’t mean to steal it and that this time it was mommy’s and the cashier’s fault for not paying attention.
It doesn’t always work.
I tried this on my second child and he continued to steal for several years later (including from me) but I think that was because I tried it out on him at the wrong age (too late). It is better to do this trick when they are very young because it sticks in their mind.
However, I still don’t think that just because a child steals when they are kids means that they will grow up to be thieves because he is now 16 years old and hasn’t stolen since he was about 12 years old. So I firmly believe that sometimes it is just a phase they go through to see how far they can go before getting caught and in trouble. In his case I proved to him that I knew it was him and how I knew it was him and he learned that there wasn’t a way to get around it and I made him pay it all back.
So please don’t completely blame yourself for not teaching your children correctly. Believe me I know that feeling.
As for my daughter, she stole that one time and that one time only because now that she is 13 years old, having to go back to the store would be an even bigger embarrassment for her and she remembers how it felt back then.
So the next time your little one decides that they want that candy or toy so bad that they decide it is okay to take it whether you say they can or not, take them back to the store and make them give it back and apologize for stealing. They have to do it, you can’t do it for them.
This may sound a bit harsh to some out there, but, what is harsher yelling and screaming at them and whooping their behind or showing them a little embarrassment?
What have you done to deter your children from stealing? Was it embarrassing them, scolding them, or scaring them in to submission?
Let us know in the comments below.