What to Do If Your Child is Stealing Money from You

If you come to realize that your child is stealing money from you, you must take a breath before initiating a confrontation. First, be absolutely certain that your child stole the money. The only real way to do this is by catching the child in the act. Otherwise, there's room for doubt. If you are sure your child is stealing money from you, then you will need to approach the problem calmly and set appropriate consequences for your child's actions.

Deal with your feelings. Do not go after your child in a rage. You will need to be calm and in control when interacting with your child. Remember that you should always model proper behavior, and your child will learn anger management from you. Your child will respect you more if you are confident and authoritative. Losing your temper is going to put your child in the position of facing your anger first and your words and their meaning second. Your words and their meaning are most important here, so start by getting your emotions under control.

Consider the reasons that children steal. These reasons can include lack of self-control, a need for control of a situation, a craving for attention or pressure from friends. You can expect that the child's reasons may be related to one of those. While none of these is an acceptable excuse, it can be helpful to deal with the issue behind the action when dealing with the action itself.

Begin by telling the child that you know he took money that was not his to take. If the child is under age nine, don't ask why he took it. That makes him choose between lying or telling the truth and getting punished. Most children would choose to lie. Instead, tell him it was wrong to take money instead of asking for it.

Ask the child to explain himself. If the child is over age nine, you can ask him to explain his reasons for taking the money. Listen to his reasons without interrupting. Tell him that his actions were wrong, regardless of the reason, and ask him what he could have done instead.

Don't call your child a thief, a liar or other names. Name-calling can make the child believe that he is these things, and he will continue the behavior.

Discuss expectations. Provide an appropriate consequence that includes earning back the money to return to you. The punishment may also involve a loss of privileges until the money has been returned. Do not remove the consequence until it has been fulfilled. Consistency shows your child that you mean what you say and that he can rely on you.

Consider the long term. If you suspect he wanted attention, work out a way for you to give him more time with you. If friends pressured him, talk about the meaning of friendship, and limit his interactions with these "friends." If he wanted something he couldn't buy himself, think of offering a way for him to earn the money he wants for making purchases.

Keep your money in a safer place until your child earns back trust. Do not eye him with suspicion for weeks afterward, as it will make him feel he is not worthy of trust. All the same, remove temptation for a while. Giving him another chance will help you both move on.

Don't blame yourself. You're a good parent if you deal with the situation in an adult manner by setting expectations.

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