I rarely stole when I was a child, but when I did it usually led to lying. Children don’t have quite the same sense of morality that many adults have. They rarely realize the full consequences of what they do and why it is wrong to do something bad. This can mean that they sometimes behave better than adults do and at other times it results in them behaving in much worse ways. The point, however, is that you need to let your children know that lying is wrong and obviously that stealing is wrong. When a child gets caught stealing the chances are that they don’t realize that they have done anything really wrong. They might think that stealing is bad, but they might not think it is wrong. What is the difference? The difference is that something is bad when they are punished for it or when they are simply told not to do it. It is wrong when they realize why it is bad. So if the child thinks that stealing is bad but not wrong the chances are that they will steal. The same will probably be true with lying. If I steal something and am then asked about what I have done I usually lie about it. I don’t understand that lying is wrong, just as I don’t understand that stealing is wrong. If this is what your child is thinking, which is probably the case, you need to correct their thinking. The first step is to honestly explain why stealing is wrong. Tell them that by taking something from someone else they make life harder for the other person. Most children, when they recognize that what they have done is wrong will feel some sorrow. They might desire to make some sort of reparations. Then you need to explain, in similar terms, why lying is wrong. However, if the child just thinks that stealing and lying are bad they will think they can get away with it.
Once you have intervened and really told the child why stealing and lying are wrong, you need to express some love for the child. Help them to know that they can come to you and confess anytime they have lied or stolen something. This doesn’t mean that you will be so understanding that you won’t reprimand them, but it does mean that you will be there for them. An expression of love after a reprimand is very important because if the child fears you they will continue to lie to you.
Another reason why kids lie about stealing is that they really want the thing they have stolen. This could be a little piece of candy or something really expensive. One way to help to change this situation is to give the child ways to earn the things that they want instead of stealing them.
You need to make sure that your children know that stealing and lying about it are things that they cannot get away with. They need to realize that there are some serious consequences for doing so. This is really the bad part of the whole thing. They also need to know that it is morally wrong to steal. Rely on their innate sense of moral right and wrong to guide this process. A little explanation can go a long way with a sensitive child. If you can be honest with your children about why lying and stealing are wrong they will understand and respect what you have said. Give it a try and you will see the results immediately.