31 answers

7 Year Old Stealing

My sister's daughter is 7 and she has a stealing problem. Her mom is always finding little things she takes from other kids at school or daycare. She asks her daughter why she stole and the daughter will just say because "she liked it" or "it was pretty." My sister makes her take the things she steals back to who they belong too, but she needs to know how to stop her from doing this. My sister has tried everything she can think of to dicipline her daughter but nothing seems to work. My neice doesn't care if she looses privleges or has to sit in time out or anything. Nothing works. She acts like she doesn't care about what punishment she gets, she is very bratty about it. Does anyone have any ideas on how my sister can help her daughter?

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Most likely she is looking for attention. Try positive reinforcement by giving her alone time once a week for not steeling anything. Something simple that doesn't cost a dime or very little! It's about the time being spent together. Play a game, bake a muffins, or go to the park are just a few ideas.

D. S

Gently get the police involved. Police usually have no problem helping parents stop this behavior. They have age appropriate tactics to let a child now that this behavior is unacceptable. They will do it in a matter of fact way, but kindly at the same time for younger children. They will also expose her to what will happen if this continues. Usually it will shock the child and you will never have this type of problem again. (and it may even help her be on her best behavior always) If it seems to harsh, you could start with letting her know that the next time she does it she will have to go to the police station, but definately follow through. Good luck.

I made arrangements for my 6yo son to do "community service" at his school when he stole something. He had to give up his recesses to help in the classroom he stole from.

More Answers

Hi A..

I suggest that when your sister makes her daughter return the stolen item, she also makes her 'give up' one of her pretty things. It could go into a box to give to charity, or a box that she has to earn back by good behaviour (ie not stealing), or it could simply be given to the child she stole from.

That way, she learns how it feels to lose something pretty or something that she likes. I imagine it'll stop pretty quickly after that...

Good luck!
C. x

Hi A.,

My feeling is that something is seriously wrong here. I think she needs professional help before her daughter is older. Some character problems can be reversed if they are dealt with early. The fact that she does this repeatedly, with no remorse or embarrassment, even when made to give them back, is a red flag to me.

I wish your sister well.

V.

Hi A.....

I know what she's going through. My daughter use to steal when she was young too. One day she took money from me (a $100 bill), took it to school...and told the teacher I gave her "a dollar" for snacks. SHE WAS 5 AT THE TIME!!

What I did may seem extreme to other moms...but it was all I had to go with. I took her down to my local police station when she was about 8....and told them to arrest her. They took my daughter in handcuffs...and put her in a holding cell. Then I pretended to leave. I could hear her crying and begging to come out. The officer even shut the lights out on her. She only stayed in there for 15-20mins. but it was enough to make her think 10 times before stealing (or disobeying) again. I had tried EVERYTHING before and nothing worked. She refused to stop. She's a teen now. Though I'm not dealing with stealing....I AM dealing w/lying and sneaking. My husband has a friend who is a Sheriff. We plan to have him come in over the weekend while she's resting so soundly, and have him take her to a day of bootcamp. We'll see what happens after that.

Don't know if your sister wants to try this....but it helped me at a time when I thought all hope was going to be lost.

Take Care!!

There can be several reasons for a child that age to (Take things,that don't belong to her.I should hope, your sister doesn't refer to her daughter as a thief or stealer. If she punished right away, rather than calmly explaining to her how inapropriate the act is,then she may continue to take things,out of spite. This should have been taken care of (Calmly) I don't know your sister,or if she is a SAHM or works,but alot of times, children will act out like this, when they feel neglected or insecure.They find instant gratification,when they find something pretty,and so she probably is being truthful with her mom, as far as the reason she takes things. Alot of times they will do things like this, when something has changed in their life, like a move, or a new school, New boyfriend or a divorce.Why don't you suggest to your sister,that she sit her daughter down,and (Teach By example)explain how it can hurt your feelings if someone took your favorite doll? or favorite shoes?or favorite necklace that someone dear gave her.Tell her, if she finds something pretty or that she likes,to ask mom if she could get one like it.She needs to know, that asking is the way,not taking,Mom needs to also do some soul searching, and try to figure out, why her daughter is feeling so insecure right now.The best to your sister,and her daughter

Hi A.,

The main reason your niece is stealing is that she is not getting enough of attendion from her mom, and unfortunately bad attention is better then none. It is an unconscious process. As a therapist, I can tell you that you guys need to look beneath the surface of the problem.

Make a reward system, so she can spend some quality, one-one-one time with your sister. As a suggestion, both of them can make a list of activities they could do. Then cut it up and put in a box, and YOUR niece would draw one at a time from the box/hat. That way she can be involved in planning her time with mom. You could also do some research on line to show your sister, that young children steal because they are crying out for attention.

Take care and Good Luck,
N.

A. - your sister needs to get her daughter into counseling, this sounds like a piece of a larger puzzle.

L.

Dear A.,
Have a Police Officer speak with her!!! They will be HAPPY to!
C. S.

Sounds like your niece is just try to get her mommie's attention. It doesn't sound like your sister is a SAHM so maybe they need to spend more time together. Or there must be something else going on..are there problems at home?...with the dad, or a new sibling? Your sister needs to find out what is really bothering her daughter.
Good luck.

Good morning A.,

Hey, has anyone tried "stealing" your niece's favorite things to see how it feels to have something you really like go missing? Just put something favorite of hers away for a day or two to see if she gets the message. There is always the tried and true message of "What would Jesus Do?". Find a good children's book of Bible stories and read them to her. Also, the Berenstein Bears book series has some good value books on stealing. Good Luck!

M.

I made arrangements for my 6yo son to do "community service" at his school when he stole something. He had to give up his recesses to help in the classroom he stole from.

Hi! A.
Well ask your sister to steal (take away)what ever she likes the most of hers. Take it away from her and when she asks her where it its tell her that's how the children she steals from feel when she takes their most precious stuff. As a last resource make her admit to that child or person that she stole it and was returning for its wrong to do that.

D. K.

This is major and must be nipped now. I know from experience that is way more than a passing phase. Get professional help, and make sure when they interview they find someone who has experience with this. If you are near the Valley, I highly reccomend Briar Grossman or Dr.Chris Fulton, ###-###-####. The parents must get parenting help, and they have a lot of experience in this area. If they're not in the area perhaps they can call for a referral. This will not resolve itself, it will only get much worse. I know I sound harsh, but the window of opportunity to deal with this is small and it must be addressed.

Hi A.,

Definitely counseling. I think stealing is a symptom of a need to acquire things and exert control in a life situation where maybe she isn't getting what she needs emotionally. I am sure your sister is loving and trying, but her daughter clearly needs some professional help to help the family meet her needs better.

Best wishes.

To your sister - She does care, if she is persisiting and is Bratty about it you need to toughen up whatever you are doing as discipline and stick to it. The taking stuff is a cry for help - so you'll also need to have close time and find out what is wrong.
Don't ask point blank, or if you are embarrassed or angry at the time. make separate special time when she is good and read stories about various possible problems and feelings... asking what she thinks that person feels and why etc etc and what people in the story should do about the problems etc ... so you go about this the side way to start off with. Really listen. You will find out a lot. Then you can start making necessary changes with her.

Be consistent, in taking away your daughter's privileges, until you see improvement in her behavior. For example, no television, no play dates, etc.

I like Michelle B's idea about having to give away one of her own things (or throw it in the "trash" (recycle/charity bin) for every time she steals something.

I would definitely do this with my own kids if they ever steal. I would also make her return the item WITH an apology to that person - as someone else said. Hence, she'll not only end up with not having the item she stolen, but she loses one of her own things too. And in the end, if she ends up with nothing left to have/play with; she will see that it's her own doing.

Haven't they decided that this is an addiction problem to some. yes some people do it to see if they can get away with it. But to some it's an actual addiction. Check with your local police dept. Maybe they will know of something,or check with some counseling places. Look on line for theif addictions. Good luck! J.

Well I dont know if this will help you or not as each child is different. My friend had a child that did the same thing at this same age and your case isnt the first that I have heard of. She had asked me what I would do or my thoughts, as a parent of two, on this subject. I had given her the idea of sitting down her child and really explaining what stealing was and how it effected the person that they stole the item from. After that was done and if it happened again the punishment was to return whatever it was that he stole in addition to something of his own that he really liked. The first time she found out he had stole again after explaining how it made her feel and the other person, she simply took him to his room and asked him what was his favorite thing in his room to play with and to bring it along (like it was a game or something) so he did. She took him back to the daycare where the child was still there and she made him return the toy and then told him to give the child the toy that he brought. He put up a fuss and cried and she told him that was what it felt like to the other child that you stole from. She told him that if he continued to steal from people that he was going to return it and give them something of his to show he was sorry.

Needless to say he didnt take anything for about a month or so and he did do it one other time that she told me and she did the same thing, had him return it along with something he like...but this time he tried to pick something not so good and she told him to pick fair or she would and he wouldnt like it and so he did. Her son was also 7 at this time. As far as I know he hasnt stole from anyone else again since that last time.

I hope this helps as she had also done the time out and privileges taken away.

Also on a different note, maybe it is to find out if she is stealing for attention. Bad attention is better than none or is trying to get attention from people around her.

Most likely she is looking for attention. Try positive reinforcement by giving her alone time once a week for not steeling anything. Something simple that doesn't cost a dime or very little! It's about the time being spent together. Play a game, bake a muffins, or go to the park are just a few ideas.

D. S

I had the same thing happen with my neice many years agao, I took her to the police station. Have your sister talk to the police officer first to let him/her know what has been happening and then have the officer talk to your neice in a stern commanding voice telling her what can happen to people who steal no matter how small it is. Also what ever is her favorite things each time she takes comething make her give away (donate) a special thing of hers. It may take a while but soon she won't have anything left and will realise stealing doesn't pay off.

This might seem a little childish, and some people will tell you that I am crazy, but try stealing from her. Find something that she likes, something that is important to her or that she wants all the time. Steal it for a little while, not too long so she forgets about it, but long enough that it troubles her and she gets upset. If she doesn't have any one thing she likes that much, steal several things, days apart. Then show it to her, ask her if she wants it back. Tell her that you stole it from her, just like she stole from others, and ask her how that felt. Was it fun? Did you want it back? Were you mad at the person that took it from you? How would you feel if I didn't give it back at all? Then tell her she will have to earn it back by not stealing from others for a period of time. Tell her that for every item that she takes from someone else, she will have one of her items stolen. She will have to earn each item back by not stealing for say, 4 days. You could get quite a pile-up of things, but keep going. Withhold the most important thing for the longest. If this doesn't work you could also try making her do special things or buy presents with her own money for people that she has taken from. She could go to their house and do their dishes or weed the garden. Explain to the other mother that you are trying to give your daughter a punishment that she will learn from and I am sure the other mother won't mind offering a little extra labor for her to do. No amount of yelling or time out will teach what experience can teach in one day.

Hi,
I don't know if this will work for you sister's daughter, but this is what i did to my 7 year old. She did not steal, but she did lie. I had her wear a tag on her neck saying "I'm a liar". She had to wear it only inside the house for one day. We told her that next time she lies, she will wear the tag outside the house so everyone can see it. It has worked.So, far no signs of lying Maybe you could have your sister make a tag and say I steal and have her wear it...
Good luck.

Gently get the police involved. Police usually have no problem helping parents stop this behavior. They have age appropriate tactics to let a child now that this behavior is unacceptable. They will do it in a matter of fact way, but kindly at the same time for younger children. They will also expose her to what will happen if this continues. Usually it will shock the child and you will never have this type of problem again. (and it may even help her be on her best behavior always) If it seems to harsh, you could start with letting her know that the next time she does it she will have to go to the police station, but definately follow through. Good luck.

Hello A.,

Maybe your sister could try having her daughter do some chores around the house or at your house and pay her a little hourly wage, then after she earns her "pay" take her to a dollar store or wal mart and let her buy whatever she wants and can afford with her own money. If she can show off with pride what she earned, maybe she will not want to steal and not be able to enjoy what she stole because she has to hide it. Maybe the contrast will help her see the difference. Be sure to praise her for earning her stuff instead of stealing it. Let me know how it goes.
R.

Hey A.,

Wow!! That is a bit of a problem!! I work at a Elementary school and a few weeks ago a boy of about 8 was doing the same thing and his Mom called their local Police station and ask for some advice from the Police Officers there and they suggested the next time it happens, well bring him in and she did and they gave him the tour of a cell and so forth and guess what never happened again!! Harsh, but affective!! Kids sometimes need to know the consiquences behind their actions!! Good Luck!! V.

Hi A.: You said your niece is in daycare. If she spends a lot of time in daycare plus her time in school, she may be stealing to get some attention from mom. Sometimes even negative attn is better than no attn at all. Is there a dad in the picture? She needs one on one time with her parents. Does she go to church with her to teach her that stealing is wrong? Hope it works out OK.

Mary

A 7 year old stealing is most likely an indication of some emotional problem that she doesn't really know how to articulate. I would strongly suggest that your sister look to some counseling to see what is going on here. It may be bigger than just bad behaviour.

If the child doesn't seem to care about punishment, I would hit where it hurts. I would start taking toys or things of importance away from her. Things that she really cares about, just make them disappear. When she asks where they are, just tell them someone else liked it and wanted it. She is old enough to understand and this will really make an impact. Start with her most prized possessions or else it will go unnoticed and it won't mean as much. Sometimes they need to learn by example and to feel the "pain" of the "deed" they are doing and be on the recieving end of the "deed" so they will understand. Do this for a few things and your point will come across clearly. Trust me, I have three boys and if I really wanted a behavior to stop, there were a couple of times that I had to show them how it feels, and they don't do it anymore. It may hurt to see your little one hurt, but you must be strong. Wait some time before giving it back too. Maybe until you see the behavior stop, then you can reward them with their possessions back.

Good luck!!!!

It might not hurt to seek a professional opinion on this. You don't want it to escalate as she gets older. Do you make her return the item to the person she stole it from with an apology ?

Number one...who is in charge? Consistency is the key. Since my son was about 6, we would go to Starbucks and have "meetings" with a planner and everything. We would talk about upcoming events and if there was a discipline problem, we would discuss consequences. Kids are harder on themselves than we are. Maybe she would return the item and then do something as a compensation for what she did. She could tutor the other child at lunch, or take notes for her when she's absent. Then she should have her doing some charity, like donating things to a local shelter and actually meeting the kids. Raise money by washing the car and donating it to someplace. Consequences HAVE to match the crime. I see so many parents in these types of situations say, "You're in trouble for a year". That doesn't fit the crime. Then she could post the consequences and discuss them with the teacher. Make sure your niece signs it.

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