4 Simple Steps to Stop Stealing Forever if Your Child Steals
What was your first reaction when you came to know that your child steals? Well, let me tell you: Shocked! Angry! Even I was shocked and angry to know that for my 7-year old child. While this is an obvious reaction, it is certainly not useful or fruitful if you want your child to improve.
Children continue to develop physically, mentally, and socially. So, it is common for them to inadvertently nourish a wrong habit such as of stealing. It is we as parents who are supposed to bring them on the right track by imparting moral values.
It is possible to play this responsible role only with pure love. However, in reality, our behavior is completely opposite. We end up tackling such a situation with anger, punishment, threatening, and insistence. The impact of such a strategy on children is adverse. They simply do not listen to us and become more adamant.
Fortunately, I learned four practical steps for improving my own child who steals without knowing its adverse consequences. In these steps, there is no place for anger, panicking, blaming, scolding, punishing, and scaring.
You may have a question here as to how can you improve your child without these emotional weapons. Well, as a reply, kindly read my own experience ahead, which reveals the steps of how to stop a child from stealing.
Step 1: Maintain Equanimity Inside and Show Disapproval Outside.
Do Not: Yell, blame, scold, or punish!
My Wrong Approach
Just like most parents, I believed in scolding and punishing my child for stealing. However, I soon realized that such a step is making my child more aggressive and defiant. After all, my goal was to improve my child, not to spoil him further.
Most parents scold or punish because they are worried about their social status or they want to control their children. I am sorry to be so frank but this is the reality. Even I was the same. Well, this is not true love and kids improve only through such love.
The Right Approach
According to a book I read on ‘Generation Gap’ released by a charitable institution called Dada Bhagwan Foundation, there are two reactions for parents to make here. As the first reaction to the stealing act, parents should oppose or disapprove the act of stealing verbally. At the same time, the second reaction is to maintain equanimity or remain undisturbed internally. This truly worked for me.
In short, start by ensuring that you do not become merciless or ruthless and remain calm to deal with the situation. Here is how to do so when you come to know that your child has stolen something:
- Emotionally detach yourself from the wrong act of stealing. You can do so by understanding that your child steals due to lack of understanding, and not because of your not-so-effective parenting skills. Your parenting skills are adequate; just that it is time to teach him some more moral values.
- Do not see your child at fault. This is because the root cause of this wrong behavior is the lack of right knowledge of why one should not steal. Right now, the small one believes in stealing, which is the effect of wrong opinion that stealing is good.
- With the above two points, have patience inside and remain undisturbed. If you do not do so, your behavior or speech can be harsh and ruthless while handling your child. No parent or child would like this, right?
- Now, orally express a strong disapproval. Tell him clearly (not rudely or in anger), “No, stealing is not right. I cannot withstand this behavior by someone whom I love the most in this world!”
The fact that your child is stealing is a mere effect that you cannot control. The cause is the wrong belief or understanding that stealing is good. Now, what you can do is simply make him understand why it is wrong to steal.
Step 2: Make the Child Understand Why It is Wrong to Steal in More than One Way.
Do Not: Get angry if the child does not understand or retaliates.
My Wrong Approach
Whenever I thought of how to stop a child from stealing, I always felt that it is important to keep interacting until the child understands. Thus, I kept interacting with my child to give a clear understanding of why stealing is not right.
However, I started doing so as a lecturer. It was like controlling my child with the weapon of sharp words. The result? My child said, “Stop hammering me. Just leave me alone. I am tired of these daily unwanted doses from you.”
The Right Approach
Luckily, I soon realized my mistake! I stopped giving lectures and started conversing with him just once in a while instead of everyday lecturing. I did so as a friend who cares to know what he feels and why he should improve. Here is the key to overcome this common mistake:
‘Creatively educate him about the consequences of stealing, through means of stories, online videos, and examples of losses that he would incur.’
Here is what I did when I knew that my child has come home with a precious watch of a friend without taking his permission.
- Putting Oneself into Other person’s Shoes (Principle of Humanity): I asked him, “How it would feel if your own school friend took something of yours without asking you? Wouldn’t you feel hurt and lose trust in him? Alas! You will break your friendship with him, won’t you?
- Making Him Recognize the Losses: I further continued with the conversation – “So, now if you think that stealing is good and you should keep doing it, don’t you think all your friends would leave you alone soon? See what a great loss you have made! With this, all people surrounding us will start telling you a robber. This is true even if you steal from a shop, as the shop owner will come to know about it soon. So, would you like to be called a robber throughout your life? Remember, the first impression is the last one in this society. Even worse, the policeman will put you in jail for this act. Who would like to have and upkeep such a negative image that no one likes? I would seriously not want my beloved child to be like that.”
- Conveying the Universally Applicable Principle of Karma (Deeds): After explaining the above losses, ask him, “Now, you only tell me whether stealing will give you happiness or unhappiness?” Recognizing this due respect given, my child replied, “No! Stealing will end up hurting me and my friend.” At this point, reveal the principle of deeds (karma):
- “A stolen thing will always give you unhappiness, as it is not rightfully yours.” Then explain, “The watch would be yours, either for some time or forever if you had taken your friend’s permission or brought from a store by taking money from me. When you take away forcibly what is not yours, you are just inviting unhappiness for yourself. So, who is at loss? It is you, right? Did you gain any profit or happiness?”
- “You will get what you give to others. So, if your friend is sad and unhappy now, you too will be unhappy. You just recognized the losses of stealing, right?
This is an example of only one-time interaction. Next time, you can instill the same good understanding of ethics by stories and cartoon videos. Even videos showing real-life consequences would be effective.
Make your child step into the shoes of that person whose thing has been stolen as well as recognize the losses of stealing.
Find Out What You Have Done Until Now
Have you ever tried to talk calmly with your child when he has done something wrong?
Step 3: Strengthen the Child’s Changed Opinion/Belief through Apology and Resolution of Never to Steal.
Do Not: Impose belief or opinion.
My Wrong Approach
At this stage, I had actually imposed my opinion on my child. I told him the following with insistence:
“Now, you are not going to steal no matter what happens. I do not want to see that my child steals shamelessly and become a smart robber in a couple of days. After all, we have a good social reputation. So, do not spoil it.”
Hearing this, my child said:
“Mom, you are only concerned of the society, not me. So, stop forcing me for anything. I will decide what to do.”
The Right Approach
Once again, I knew that I was wrong. It was my social pride and insistence (force) that were spoiling my child. Well, these are the major flaws in parents due to which children do not improve. So, I removed them. Now that the child understands that stealing is wrong, it is time to make it a strong opinion. Here is what I did to rectify my mistake:
- Confess or Apologize: I asked my child to confess the mistake. I told, “I confide in you; so, do not be afraid to admit in front of me.” This made him confident and fearless. This step was essential, as people, whether adults or kids, only admit before someone who is noble and trustworthy. Thus, I wanted to be such a person for my child.
- Repent: Next, I asked my child to repent for his wrong act by reciting the following short prayer.
3. Resolution: Finally, I took a promise of not to steal again. Then, I told, “Ask for strength of not stealing again from God.” You may now think how asking for strength is useful while stealing is still likely to happen again.
The Science of Resolving Not to Steal and Stealing Again, Revealed!
Asking for strength to stop stealing means the opinion of ‘Stealing is good’ has changed to ‘Stealing is wrong’. This change is itself the subtlest but greatest accomplishment. With this, one ceases to be the offender in the eyes of Mother Nature. Further, sincerely asking for strength makes one accomplish the ultimate state of humility. This is how a permanent improvement is ensured. Rebuking, embarrassing, or scaring even if your child steals again and again will only deteriorate your child.
4. Rectification: I then encouraged my child to apologize to the friend in person, explain what and why it happened, and return the stolen watch.
Stealing is a bad action (behavior), while apologizing and resolving never to steal is the right belief or opinion. While the former may happen again, the latter will reduce it to nil with the passage of time! Remember, any action has its starting point with the belief (faith). So, changing the belief means getting rid of any behavior or action from its roots forever. With this approach, your child will improve certainly. It is only a matter of time that shall go in this process.
Step 4: Ask Your Child to Never Defend Stealing.
This is the final step. Here, I asked my child to avoid defending this wrongdoing through mind, speech, and behavior. I also justified this statement by saying that defending shall only reinforce that wrong behavior, which means stealing shall continue even if the determination was to stop it.
Lastly, as a sign of care, I told, “I am watching you for your actions. Doing so will help me restore the lost trust for you soon.” Such a statement is likely to keep children motivated, as they know their parents still care for them and that no disappointment should now come to them.
Defending any wrongdoing never removes it but extends it despite apologizing and resolving.
Recognize You Child's Habit to Defend
Have you ever seen your child protecting the committed mistake by clearly defying it?
A child’s mind is like a flower that is still grooming. If you know to handle with love and care, there is no wrong habit that you cannot break forever. The aforementioned steps work on the basis of these two virtues.
With these steps, I have also revealed the mistakes that we can commit in the Do Not sections. Don’t you think that these steps are worth trying?
Now if your child steals, would you like to perform these steps and see? Do share your thoughts or experience here.
© 2019 Dipali Gandhi