Do you remember the first time you stole something? Am I hearing from some of you that you have never stolen anything in your life? How about time? How about someone’s right to justice? How about bringing items home from work you didn’t pay for? How about someone’s honor, respect or reputation? We all do it unless we are conscious that stealing is wider than objects, not that it makes it OK.

Why do people steal? It’s because they want something somebody else has, or they want to benefit from somebody else’s weakness or oversight. It is all part of our human imperfection. I remember the few times I can recall when I stole something… like fruit from someone’s orchard, a book from school in my initial weeks in Kindergarten, a coin from my parents. Those are the ones I remember, but I wonder what other more subtle things I did that could still be justified as stealing.

Why do our kids steal? For the same reasons, because they want something they haven’t got. When it happens, what do you do? I was working for a friend in Atlanta and staying in their home. One night I was asked by his wife if they could put 3 year-old Jaydon to sleep in my room until they went to bed. Now, on top of my chest of drawers was a box of scrumptious chocolates I had been given. Jaydon had been a bit restless settling in to go to sleep, but all of a sudden there was stone silence. Thinking that he had fallen off to sleep his mother popped her head in the door. She saw the lid of the chocolate box on the floor. “Have you been eating Brian’s chocolates, Jaydon, she queried?” With an absolutely guilty-looking, chocolate–covered face he said, “No, Mommy!”

I was asked if I would go into the room and speak to him about lying and stealing. He knew exactly what I was saying. Guilt is not always an extrinsically learned pattern. We seem to have a built-in apparatus that is present at birth, a thing called a conscience. This prickly little device needs constant encouragement to stay strong for our sake and society’s betterment.

What should we do if we find our child has lied?

Face the child up with your discovery that they have lied.
Tell them why it is wrong and that this is the one and only warning you will give.
Explain that you won’t tolerate stealing in your home or elsewhere.
Outline the consequence for any future episode of stealing. (Create a consequence).
Assure them that if they want something they need to ask for it, not take it.
Sometimes they steal to get your attention. Keep the communication lines open.
Be a great model and ensure you don’t steal or they’ll think they can (even in taxes).

Enjoy your family this week and thanks for the great job you do. It’s not easy being a parent.

Written by Brian Burgess, School Counselor, Nashville TN. [These opinions are just mine, not those of PPE].