How Do You Teach a 6 Year Old Not to Steal?

Updated on February 16, 2013
D.Q. asks from Irving, TX
7 answers

We've been having issues recently with our 6 year old son taking things that don't belong to him. If he sees it & wants it, he takes it. From school, a friend, the store, where ever. He knows it's wrong bc he tries to sneak it past me or his teachers. If he's lucky enough to get it outside the store, for instance, I make him take it back inside & tell the manager or worker that he took it w/o paying for it. Needless to say he becomes very embarassed. If I catch it before we leave the store I scold him, make him put it back & remind him yet again that just bc you want something doesn't mean you can take it w/o paying for it.

He does get a weekly allowance if he completes his chores & when he's trying to buy something I help him w/ what he can or can't afford. But it doesn't seem to be sinking in that if you can't just take it bc you want it. HELP!!!

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answers from Indianapolis on

This happened to me with my grandaughter. We got home and I noticed she had something we didn't buy. I confrounted her about it she admitted she took it. I told her she would have to return it. So my husband and I took her back to the store while he took care of her inthe store I went to the service desk and talked to the supervisor. I explained what happened and told them I was willing to pay for the item. I asked them to talk to her firmly when we brought her over and she was not to know that I was willing to pay for it. The supervisor got the security guard person to handle it. He did a great job & explained to her what would happen next time. She left crying but it has not happened since.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Hey You are not alone :) my 5 year old was having the same problem and it was eating me alive.
I found this great article that helped me deal with My feelings and then helped me deal with my son. \

I think you have to cut and paste. Youll find that it is very common and with effort children learn and grow from this :)

My guy has been theft free for a while (that I know of) and i think this article helped me to help him

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Try taking away one of his favorite toys so he can see how it feels to lose something that isn't his. Every time he steals, he loses a toy, even if you catch it and he returns it.

My SD did this for a while when she was six. She would take things of mine and put them in her purse. Like magnets off the refrigerator, my scissors, etc. If she saw something she wanted she just took it. It's like she didn't understand ownership.

We would go over the rules of the stores before we went inside--don't take anything that isn't yours. She had to show me her pockets before we left and she wasn't allowed a purse. Finally we saw a program on TV (It think it might have been Cops-LOL!) where some teen was getting arrested for stealing. I explained that was what was going to happen to her since stealing is against the law. It never happened again after that.

You could also take him to the police station and have a police officer explain it to him. They could explain how it's a crime and they'd come and arrest him (he wouldn't be arrested at 6 but it might put some fear into him!)

Good news is he'll see the light soon! She grew out of it and is wonderfully honest now.

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answers from New York on

I'm in the same boat. My 6 year old has stolen from friends, family and a grocery store and lied about it. (He even used the "it fell into my pocket" excuse!)

I have told him he is not allowed at friends' houses anymore because we can't trust him. But I feel he has to learn to go into a store and not steal. My husband has threatened to make this a public issue with his grandparents and essentially line them all up to lecture him. I'm not sure that kind of humiliation will be effective, or whether it will just give him excess attention and encouragement to do it again.

We are considering using his allowance ($1/week) to pay for the things he's stolen or the gas it takes to return them. I'll keep you posted. :)

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answers from Victoria on

I would have him return it & apologize. i would then have him also give what allowance he has to the manager with the apology, that way he is out. I would then let him know next time he will loose allowance plus a toy. Next time, 2 toys, etc...until he gets the picture that crime doesn't pay. It is short term gratification with long term consequences... Have faith that he is a quick learner & I would also start doing room checks of his things, so if you find things he starts taking from friends can implement same procedure.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

How get my six year old granddaughter to stop stealing


How get my six year old granddaughter to stop stealing



answers from Cincinnati on

Just having to return it and apologize would never be enough of a punishment for my son. The embarrassment would work for the moment but not be enough to make him not want to do it again. Missing a whole recess at school would do something to my son, getting sent to the principles office and having to sit in there for lunch or recess would do something to him, and/or being grounded at home from tv, DS, mowing and vaccuuming would all do things for my son to make it memorable.
We get a weekly allowance too. I feel that a weekly allowance is like a job--if you go to work you get paid. He gets paid for going to school and doing well in school. His chorus at home are expected to be done without being paid. The allowance is not taken away b/c of punishment outside of school b/c they are unrelated.
Good luck!

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