Sunday, February 6, 2011

How do I stop my child from stealing and lying?

Ms. Dorothy, 
How do I get my 4 almost 5 year old to stop lying and stealing? She has seperaration anxiety because of issues with her biological mother (I'm her stepmother but her full time caregiver as well, have been for 2 years) and that in itself has challenges with tantrums and such, but the stealing and lying has carried into school and visits with other relatives. Can you help?
- Mom and Stepmom

The first thing you'll want to do is to make sure you aren't taking her offences personally.  These behaviors are attention seeking, and are not about you, but about her pain.

It may seem as if this is about what she is taking, but it is really about what she is needing.  

She is trying to fill an emotional hole with physical things. If you can address this now, you may save her many years of struggle later.  

Try reading the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today with her and talk about how her actions impact others around her and also come back to change how she feels about herself.

While you work on the real underlying issues, talk to family and friends and school about how what she is doing is not malicious, but is misguided. Explain that anything she takes she will return, and that you are working with her on changing those behaviors.

If it isn't about punishment for her, you can devise a way to talk about what she has taken that she needs to return, each day. Together you can come up with ways for her to make it up to the people she has hurt.

When you focus on what she can do to feel content, rather than on the superficial actions she is taking, she will need these behaviors less.

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