For an incident to be called stealing, the child must have the knowledge that it is wrong to take the item without permission of the owner. Minor incidents of stealing in early childhood can be quite common. Incidents of stealing tend to peak at about ages 5-8 years and then tend to taper off in frequency.
If stealing persists after about 10 years of age, it may be an indicator of emotional disturbance in a child and parents are advised to seek professional intervention to assist. Stealing in children tends to worry parents, as parents tend to view it as criminal behaviour, and also fear that their parenting will be judged by others. Children steal for a variety of reasons, for example to compensate for something lacking in their life such as love, attention, respect or affection; to follow the example of others or gain approval by peers; to boost self-esteem as a display for others; to enjoy a sense of excitement and adventure involved in stealing; to take things out of need because they don’t have the items; as a way of acting out against parents and embarrassing parents; as an attempt to relieve inner stress such as a depressed mood, adjusting to change in the family or home, anger; or as a result of a low frustration tolerance which makes it difficult to resist the temptation to take things the child wants for themselves.
The content which follows is intended for general informational purposes only. The information contains general guidelines and is not intended for managing specific individual circumstances. This information is not a substitute for professional intervention. If you have any queries about a specific situation, please consult a professional practitioner.