Some children steal because it’s a habit that parents ignored from an early age. Margaret Tumusiime, a counselling physiologist notes that theft starts with stealing sugar and other small things at home. The habit grows and with time, they lift big things.
Tumusiime notes that parents should know that children have needs at differed stages of development they are supposed to fulfill to have them develop normally. If these needs are not met, the child will be vulnerable to any negative behavior to get their needs.
Stages of growth
From 0-3 Tumusiime says that a mother should fully breastfeed their child to avoid negative habits when they are grown. She says some of these vices come as a result of missing out on some stages breastfeeding being the key factor.
3-6 is time when a parent should train a child to relate with opposite sex and peers. This is the stage to promote self-esteem in children and teaching them not to steal will be fruitful.
6-12 a parent should provide scholastic material because this is the time a Child’s brain is eager to learn, teach them about Ten Commandments and how stealing and other bad habits are not good.
How to tame theft tendencies in children
Trace the root of the behavior
Sometimes parents concentrate on treating the disease without looking at the root cause, Annet Nakazibwe, a counselor and teacher advises parents to first look at the reason why their children steal. She says some children steal because they can’t ask for what they want and the only way to have it is to steal.
“Sit down the child and ask him or her why they are stealing, be free with them and get to know all their reasons. Don’t be rude to them as they will get intimidated,” she adds.
Nakazibwe adds that after discovering the cause, you can now teach the child that stealing is not good. Ask them for the possible solutions they can do to get rid of the vice. Teach them with mental examples like incase a thing is stolen from you, how would you feel? Give them time to think over it and guide their answers accordingly.
Be free with them
Tumusiime notes that some children steal because they aren’t free with their parents, whenever he asks for something, the parent gets rough especially the luxury things.
“I handled a case where a child stole just because her mother would shout at her every time she asked for something. She said that she felt stealing money from her mother to buy what she wanted saved her that stress,” she says.
She adds that parents should learn to speak to their children calmly whereby if a child asks for something and you don’t have money, explain to them the situation or promise when you can provide.
Punish where necessary
Taking something they have stolen back to the owner is enough punishment to put them in line. They will feel ashamed for what they have done and will never steal again because they know you don’t tolerate theft. Shakila Katuutu, a mother says that some children will continue to steal if they bring things that don’t belong to them and you don’t ask where they got them from.
Know their peers
She adds that some children steal because of the people they stay with. As a parent, take time off your busy schedule and know who your child interacts with. If they have a bad peer, consider guiding them.
Teach them the consequences
Tell your child the consequences of stealing, give him or her examples of people who have stolen and what has happened to them, with this, Nakazibwe says the child will not stop stealing for fear of being punished.
If theft persists
Tumusiime says that when a child reaches kleptomania, a parent should reflect on his or her side, if children depict behaviors like aggression, constant lying and stealing, it means that they missed some stage in development and it needs to be fixed. This is a message that your child is crying for help.
Tumusiime adds that there is a theory which states that if a child has any constant behavioral challenge, it’s a communication that something is wrong in the family. So he advises the family to check on how they handle the children. “Is there balance on how you provide for the children, and any other issue happening at home that could affect them?”
He adds that a child should be taken through therapy to show them the implications of stealing, give them awareness and other professional aid.