How do you see the stealing

When children steal ...

Alina goes to the shelf and picks up something. How nice it is. Alina gets longing eyes. That lies around in your hand and is getting bigger and more beautiful. And then the thing is in her pocket. Just slipped in. Almost by itself.

There are many children like little Alina, protagonist in Mirjam Pressler's book “Das Ding oder der Verflixte Diebstahl” (see book tip). But they don't have to get on the wrong track if they let something go. At least that's what the psychologist and educational advisor Andreas Engel, deputy chairman of the Federal Conference for Educational Advice in Fürth, says: “We live in a property-oriented culture. Children still have to learn the concept of ownership. ”This norm, which is abstract for children, is formed from around the age of five. Before that, the principle "What I hold in my hands is mine too" applies to the next generation.

Stealing is particularly common between the ages of five and ten

Because in the family there is only common property: the table, chairs and sofa do not belong to anyone - at least from a child's point of view. “With the use of their own toys, children gradually develop an idea of ​​property,” says Engel.
However, this notion does not necessarily mean that the rules of adults have become entrenched. If your own child steals and fools, this is - at least from a developmental point of view - a very differentiated achievement. “The child who was previously an open book to his parents learns to have secrets too. A stupid child would not be able to come up with fantasy stories, ”explains Engel. The child perfects this ability by around the age of ten. Therefore, thefts from children mostly happen in this development phase. And “it will eventually pass,” says the educational advisor.

Don't just tolerate wrongdoing

This may reassure many parents. However, the misconduct of their offspring cannot simply be tolerated. "Parents should deal with the child in any case," says the psychologist and psychotherapist Thomas Lindner, head of the advice center for parents, young people and children of the Caritas Association for the city of Cologne. It must be made clear to the offspring with great sensitivity that stealing is wrong and that one is disappointed.
It is also important to find the reasons. “As a rule, the motive for action can be read from who has what was stolen from,” explains Engel. Could it be something the child desires from the heart? Is it a test of courage? In both cases, the motive can be explained by the fact that the child wants to belong, says Engel. Some offspring steal so conspicuously that they inevitably have to be caught. "This often conceals a rebellion behavior against the parents and their norms or the desire for more attention," explains Engel. The latter is the case, for example, when a new sibling is born and the older one feels put back: "It then takes what it believes it deserves anyway." It is also about more affection if that is the case Child, for example, steals money from their parents' wallet - material needs are seldom the reason.

Parents fear for their reputation


Once the motive for action has been identified, parents and their offspring can consider how their wishes can be better fulfilled in the future. “At the same time, however, the child has to learn that not every desire, such as that for a new toy car, can be fulfilled immediately,” explains the psychologist Lindner.
Parents should also think about making amends with their child. It is important that the offspring first try to put themselves in the shoes of the stolen child. “After all, nobody wants to be robbed themselves,” says Lindner. It is not uncommon for parents to fear for their reputation if their own child makes long fingers. It is the same with Mother Ella. In an Internet forum she wrote in horror: "That my son stole is bad enough - what should the other parents think of me?" If you would like to sink into the ground in front of them, you should remember one thing: says Lindner: “Almost all adults took something away as a child. Therefore, one can usually hope for understanding. "

How should a child behave if they are robbed themselves?


If your own child is stolen, experts advise you to stay calm as well. Above all, parents should not act over the child's head - after all, the child must learn that they can defend themselves against injustices. “How it solves the situation should be discussed with the child. For example, it can ask the thief to return the item in question, ”advises Engel. If this does not help, parents can cautiously intervene in the background, for example by contacting the respective parents or educators. “The exchange with others can also help to overcome one's own shame,” explains Lindner.

Parents should worry if stealing becomes chronic in their child. In such cases, for example, an educational advisor or the youth welfare office can help. In Cologne, families can, among other things, contact the staff at the Caritas advice center. This is where those affected sit down and look for possible causes together. The experts do not want to know anything about punishments. It is sufficient that children learn that they have done something wrong and also have to correct their behavior. “If the child no longer steals because they are afraid of being punished, this does not make sense. The child should see that stealing is wrong, ”says Lindner. Especially the confrontation with the robbed often works miracles in terms of moral education, so Engel. However, the child should not be overwhelmed: "Sometimes it is enough to put the stolen property back."

And that's what Alina did too. Together with her mother, she brings the stolen goods back to the department store. Now the thing is back on the shelf. Simply put down. Almost by itself.

Help for those affected

The following advice centers are available in Cologne:
Catholic counseling center for parents, children and young people
Tel .: 0221/60 60 85 40
Caritas advice center for parents, young people and children
Tel.:02203/5 50 01
Family counseling from the city of Cologne
Tel .: 0221/56 05 10
Possibly Education, marriage and life advice center
Tel .: 0221/2 57 74 61

Book tip

In the book “Das Ding oder der Verflixte Diebstahl”, Mirjam Pressler tells the story of little Alina with empathy. While shopping, the girl discovers just as much a beautiful thing as Jule had with her in kindergarten. But her mother doesn't want to buy it for her. So Alina just takes this thing with her. She only realizes that she has stolen it at home. Together with her mother, she finds a solution to make amends for her theft. The picture book designed by Miriam Cordes offers a charming opportunity to talk to children about the sensitive topic of stealing - and above all, to use Alina's example to see how one can get out of this situation.

Mirjam Pressler and Miriam Cordes: That thing or the darn theft
Verlag Heinrich Ellermann, 2009, 32 pages, ages 4 and up, 12.95 euros.


References to this article:

Melina A. Ulrich, Kölner Stadtanzeiger from March 28, 2011
in cooperation with Thomas Lindner, Caritas educational counseling center Cologne-Porz