To Curb A Thief
by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC
Since Madison was just over two years old she has been taking home from her daycare toys that do not belong to her. In itself, this is not unusual behavior since small toddlers really have no concept of what is theirs and what belongs to someone else. However, now she is over four years old and not only takes other kids' stuff, but she also is stealing from stores and lying when confronted about it.
Madison's mother has tried everything she knows in the way of corrective action. She has made Madison take the items back to the store and apologize for taking them. She has confiscated Madison's own toys and also put her in time out. Madison shows no remorse whatsoever and her mother is at her wit's end. What can she do?
Obviously dealing with the behavior itself is not working. There has to be a cause and that, most often, is rooted in insecurity. Here are some suggestions:
- Parental tension. Whenever there is a shake-up or split between parents, kids of any age become afraid and may become insecure. However hard parents try to hide it, kids' radar will always pick up tension in the air. Children who overhear them arguing never forget angry words thrown back and forth between warring adults. Mending fences, takes much longer than breaking them down.
- Newly blended families. A child who has been enjoying the undivided attention of a single parent can become insecure when a new relationship begins. Suddenly another adult is taking all of their parent's time and they become afraid because they think the close tie they had will never be the same, and it won't. They may resort to desperate measures to retrieve that prior connection with their own parent.
- Abuse. Sometimes a child doesn't know how to express their fear and anxiety over being physically or emotionally abused. When they cannot stop or talk about what is hurting them, they may transfer their frustration onto something else as a cry for help.
- Jealousy. When kids feel they are being unfairly treated through unbalanced favor shown to other siblings they may take the law into their own hands and just take others' stuff to make things even (in their minds).
- Inappropriate or inconsistent role modeling. When a child sees an adult stealing things, they will automatically think it is OK to do the same thing. Even if a parent says, "Do as I say, not as I do" kids will copy what parents DO. As the saying goes, 'Actions speak much louder than words'. The words, "just don't get caught" make me cringe. This is very selfish thinking. It is not teaching a child the effect their action may have on a victim or that there are serious consequences for such actions. Parents need to instill a conscience in their kids, so that they know right from wrong.
- Peer pressure. Older children, especially teens, are often very influenced by what (they think) their friends think of them. They may try to gain acceptance by daredevil or bizarre behavior such as stealing, lying and acts of violence.
In Madison's case, it is imperative that the cause be isolated. She needs urgent help because corrective actions are not working. If none of the above suggestions seem to apply then the parent and the child need to get professional counseling as soon as possible or Madison's reputation will be spoiled for a very long time.
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