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How to stop my daughter's habit of stealing?

The following is an actual conversation between an iCliniq user and a doctor that has been reviewed and published as a Premium Q&A.

Answered by

Dr. K. V. Anand

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At May 11, 2016
Reviewed AtJune 21, 2023

Patient's Query

Hi doctor,

My daughter has just turned seven. She has a strange habit of stealing. She steals at school, in grocery stores, and at home. She is not allowed to go to a friend's house because I am afraid she will steal there too. She steals stupid things like candy bars, gum, erasers, pencils, and lip gloss. She will go through other kids' desks while they are doing activities to steal things. When caught she will call the other student a liar and say that the item belongs to her. She blames her little sister for theft at home. I have tried everything from buying her extra stuff to grounding. It is so embarrassing and I am very afraid if I do not help her now she will do it throughout her life. Please help me. I do not know what to do at this point.

Answered by Dr. K. V. Anand

Hi,

Welcome to icliniq.com.

Please do not worry. Many children in your daughter's age bracket steal. Those children do not know that the act is called stealing and it should not be done or it is socially embarrassing, etc. For them, they are taking something which they liked, of course, without asking anyone. This act is mostly voluntary. In very rare cases it could become involuntary and then it is called impulse disorder. In your daughter's case, the issue is a simple behavior disorder. Now, you have to teach her that the issue is bad, forbidden, and should not be repeated. Children learn from their parents. Teach her using methods like punishments and rewards. If you catch her stealing then make her keep the thing back and say apologies. If you caught her later then ask her where she stole and make her return. Give her some small punishment and ask her to say apologies. Four or five such punishments should change her behavior.

Thank you.

Same symptoms don't mean you have the same problem. Consult a doctor now!

Dr. K. V. Anand
Dr. K. V. Anand

Psychiatry

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