Q&A: How do I stop my son from stealing?
A reader asks, “I am having a problem with my 8 year old stealing things. He takes small things from people at school as well as things from his little brothers. A few weeks ago he took one of my diamond rings to school. I need some advice on what to do to help him see that this is wrong. Thank you!”
Wow, that’s hard! A multi-pronged approach is usually needed when you are seeing a pattern of sin like this.
First, some instruction. Over the course of several days, we would sit down with him and study what the Bible says about stealing. Read him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5). Explain that coveting and stealing hurts other people, too. (The story of Achan is tough, but it illustrates this pretty thoroughly in Joshua 7). Tell him that Christians are supposed to put this stuff behind them (Ephesians 4:28). Reading the Bible is really important, because God’s Word can reach their hearts when our words seem to be completely ignored. A great resource for this is For Instruction in Righteousness from Doorposts.
Second, we’d try to spend some time really talking and listening to him and see if something is going on at school that is tempting him to act out. Is he trying to impress someone? Is he trying to appease someone? Is he being bullied? Does he have friends? See if you can figure out if there is something beyond the sinful nature we all have that is egging him on.
As hard as it is to be consistent, we would discipline him every single time for something like this. Some good, solid Biblical discipline is completely appropriate here. Stealing is sin and we need to “nip it in the bud” as Barney Fife used to say in The Andy Griffith Show.
“Intense discipleship” can really help with something like this. That is, pretty much keep him with an adult all the time for awhile. “Son, I’m sorry, but you have shown us that we can’t trust you. Until we can, you’ll need to stay with one of us all the time. I know you want to be off doing your own thing, but you’ve got to learn to resist temptation in order to do that.”
Then talk to him about practical ways to resist temptation. You could even role play some ways he might be tempted.
We had a child who sometimes struggled with this and with honesty. It wasn’t easy, but he’s now a grown up who is one of the most completely honest men we know. He never even shades the truth. We pray the Lord would help your son to overcome this just as thoroughly!
For more on teaching practical ways to resist temptation and to handle discipline, I think our book, Raising Real Men, would be a real help to you. You can get it here.
Hal & Melanie