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STEALING IN CHILDREN

Sometimes children are very confused about property rights as they are about truth. Within the family, there will be a lot of things that belong to everybody, few that are "private possession". Quite often, it's told to a child that it's okay to keep the little ball you found in the bushes in the garden, but its not right to keep money.


Why does one steal ?

This question often props in everyone's mind.
The following are the reasons for stealing :
a.

It is an attention seeking method resorted by children who are older and who are feeling neglected and unloved.

b.

Children steal when they feel " I deserve to get this ", and have not got it.

c.

To rebel against any injustice they perceive.

How to tackle this problem ?

a.

Parents should not overreact, although you do need to correct it. Explain it to the child.

b.

Offer the child what he needs and often it is emotionally related.

c.

If the stealing goes on, you would probably be sensible to ask for help from a child psychologist. They will help you to see the problem calmly and to sort it out.


Role of Parents

a.

Some parents condemn the child and brand them "thief". Instead of overreacting, explain to the child that you cannot take someone else's possession. For instance : If a child has shoplifted a toy, explain to him by saying that people have to pay money for the toys. Take the toy back to the store and return it. Don't buy it or else the child will figure out a way to get his things. Rather explain saying that people cannot always buy what they want in a store.

b.

Stealing in a symbolic way, may be trying to take something that a child feels is not being given. it is probably love or approval that he feels short of. Instead of being upset and making him feel disgraced, you could try to offer what he needs.

 


CASE STUDY

Past History
Anjali, a student of the 4th standard was taken by her parents to the counsellor, as she had the habit of stealing pencils, rubbers or anything new from her friends compass boxes that fascinated her. It was revealed that she brought to class large amounts of money, which she spent lavishly during breaks. It was found that her parents were too busy working and she had an old grandmother whom she spent a lot of time with. She had been an outstanding student, appeared to enjoy school and was popular among her classmates. Her behaviour changed when she was caught with her stealing habit. She became quite moody and would be sad and withdrawn. Her classmates began to ignore her and she became less motivated towards schoolwork.


Treatment
Counselling revealed anxiety and strong negative feelings were expressed in her drawings and in the stories she related. Her parents had taken her for granted and gave in to her demands. This had made her very authoritative over other people's objects. She started stealing slyly when objected to. Soon she became withdrawn because she had to please the teacher and the other students, whereas at home she was a queen. At school she became more withdrawn.

It was suggested to the parents that they help by giving a limited number of hours of individual tutoring sessions to help her catch up with her peer group and reinforce her positive behaviour.

Stealing had become a habit, but basically it was accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, rejection and lack of attention from her parents which actually added to an increase in her degree of low self-esteem.

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