Children Stealing or Shoplifting

Stealing in an 8 year-old


I have a beautiful, mostly cheerful, intelligent and well behaved eight-year-old who never seems to put a foot wrong. However, I have recently discovered she has been stealing and, on two occasions, shop lifting. We have made her take the items back to the store, pay for them and apologize but she has admitted that “She has trouble controlling it.” She rarely keeps the items and gives them away to friends and says she does it when she feels angry and upset (although this doesn’t necessarily tie in with the circumstances). How do you think we should address this issue? Therapy as soon as possible but what sort of therapy should we be looking at?


 Dear J.,

 First of all, congratulations on doing a great job responding to the shoplifting.  You have done everything that I would suggest as a starting measure. It is not unusual for children to steal on one occasion.  Usually if parents deal with it appropriately, the behavior stops.  It sounds like your daughter has not been able to stop so your idea that you seek some therapy is a good idea.  I would look for a therapist who is adept at doing play therapy.

 Children’s actions are usually a communication that can’t be expressed in other ways. They are more likely to “play” things out than to put feelings and thoughts into words.  A play therapist can help your child get to the bottom of the stealing and help resolve the issue.  It is important that you find someone who you feel is a good fit for you as well.  Working closely with parents and supporting them through the process is one of the most powerful ways of helping children so look for someone who will use a “team” approach to working on this issue. 

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