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Is Our Son Borrowing or Stealing?

Question:

Our six-year-old brings items home from school that are not his. He says that his friends give him these items or that they let him borrow them for a few days. We encourage him to return everything the next school day, but he often forgets. When I question my son, he sticks to his story but knows I'm not quite sure I believe him. How do we find out if he is telling the truth? How do I know if he’s borrowing or stealing?

Answer:

Young children can have difficulty telling the truth. Sometimes it's just an attempt to avoid conflict, punishment or embarrassment. However, it is important to deal with the behavior as soon as possible so that it does not get out of hand.

Talk to your son in depth about the nature of his “borrowing” behaviors. Try to keep your questioning neutral so that he does not resort to lying to avoid punishment. Help him explore what he could do differently in the future. For example, before accepting anything from another child, instruct him to clear it with you first or be sure that the teacher is aware of what is going on. Meet with the teacher about your son’s behavior. It well may help determine a course of action.

If your son doesn't have a hobby, you may want to explore the idea with him. He may find it fascinating and become more focused on his own collection then picking up things at random, or bringing things home that belong to other children. Anything ranging from rocks to baseball cards are a collector's dream, especially for young boys. Let him give it a try; you may be surprised at the change in his focus.

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