Q: Every time I go shopping with my 7-year-old grandson, he steals something from the store. Last week it was a candy bar, this week it was a package of gum. He doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. What can I do about this behavior?
A: It is best not to call him a “thief.” In this case, punishment is not the answer because he may not understand that his actions are wrong. Children can only conceive of the idea of property “belonging” to someone at about the age of eight or nine. Children that are immature for their age may be even slower at understanding this concept. Although your grandson truly may not understand what he is doing, he should be taught, however, to understand that what he is doing is wrong.
The next time he takes something that doesn’t belong to him, take him back to the store and make him return what he has taken. In addition, bring his parents into the discussion. You can share with them what you’ve read here. All of you should strive to act as consistently as possible with the boy to ensure that your grandson learns this very necessary lesson. If you do this consistently, he will soon get the message. If the behavior persists, then psychotherapy is advised.
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